Recently I was fortunate enough to try the new “Bakelite Open Comb Slant” double edge safety razor that was introduced by Phoenix Accoutrements just a few weeks ago. While this razor is brand new to the market, the design and concept is not. Bakelite products has been around for years and has claimed its place in “durable material” history. Let’s take a moment to review some facts about Bakelite.
In the early 20th century Leo Baekeland the inventor of Velox Photographic paper and his assistant Nathaniel Thurlow were experimenting with different soluble resins. Their goal, to find a synthetic material to fulfill the shortage of “shellac” a naturally occurring resin secreted by the East Asian lac bug used for insulating electrical wires. As the demand for electricity increased so did the demand for electrical wires. They made several attempts but had no mainstream success.
Finally, In 1907 Baekeland and Thurlow succeeded. They found that heating up a mixture of phenol, formaldehyde and other chemicals in a large heating pot (later called the Bakelizer), created an easy to manage resin that could be molded and set to any shape. After several variations they came up with a product that was strong, had high resistance to heat and electrical conductivity. Bakelite was born.
Baekeland applied for his first patent in 1906 and announced to the world in 1909 of his new creation, a synthetic resin that could be used to insulate wires as well as other commercial and residential uses. Soon after Bakelite found its way into hundreds of products.
Some of its uses:
- Insulation for electrical wires (high resistance to both heat and conductivity)
- Bases for light bulbs
- Distributor caps for automobiles
By the 1930’s products made of Bakelite were in most households. Now that we know how Bakelite entered our lives, let’s check out this razor!
The razor comes packaged in a sturdy box that looks like it’s straight off the shelf of an antique store. It’s fully enclosed and has no window to give you a sneak peak of what lies ahead of you.
The classic styling along with basic color scheme just says “vintage”. It’s a perfect fit for a razor that’s been brought to life to fill a modern need with a vintage twist.
Inside you’ll find a set of instructions that are easy to read, with all the necessary information to operate the razor. It also fits the vintage bill with its black and white coloring, and simple illustrations that look like they’re straight from the 1930’s. Needless to say, no stone was left unturned with the presentation of this razor.
Available in white or black these classic colors fit the description of a vintage Bakelite razor.
At first glance the razor looked light and brittle, but once held I noticed it was very balanced and strong. I was surprised how solid it felt even though it was not heavy. I remember saying to myself “Yep, this razor is the real deal”.
Unscrewing the top posed no threat and it was very nice to see brass hardware used as the nuts and bolts of the operation. Loading the blade required some care (c’mon now it’s a razor) and I nervously followed the directions and socked the blade down tight. One thing to remember, this razor is a slant and the blade becomes tenser when tightening. It’s very important to follow the directions and tighten it all the way. It may feel awkward at first but I can assure you it’s correct.
With the blade loaded I noticed the edge was more exposed than other razors I have used in the past. The reasoning for this is purely functional, and is noticeable in the shave. We’ll go over that in the next section.
Over a time span of 3 weeks I used this razor almost every day. I tried several different blades but kept the soap and brush the same just so I can eliminate any other factors that may affect performance.
Shaving with this razor requires a different approach then you would with your standard Gillette Adjustable or other modern day safety razor. It’s very important to remember that the slant feature requires changes to your technique and your approach. It’s important to shave with the razor level and straight even though your motor skills will want to follow the direction of the slant. I had to remind myself several times to keep the razor in the correct position to fully take advantage of the slant feature.
When shaving with the grain it’s extremely important to use a light touch and no pressure. The weight of the razor is deceiving and human nature will want you to shave aggressively. It’s important not to be human in this particular situation.
Remember the extra blade exposure discussed earlier? You’ll notice it here. After a few shaves, I noticed that I was able to get a different angle toward the hairs on my beard, much like a straight razor. The exposure of the blade allows you to pin point the exact angle that suits you thus a more custom shave. Once I learned that, I truly found the “sweet spot” with this razor.
Shaving against the grain (ATG) requires the same light touch and care. I can’t emphasize how important it is not to use any added pressure and to make sure you do not compromise the slant when shaving with this razor, especially here. Let the blade do the work otherwise you may experience some irritation as you would with any razor.
The Bakelite slant is a solid razor that performs well and is offered at a fair price. It’s built to last for years of continuous use. Although easy to operate, this razor does have a slight learning curve especially for those who have not experienced slant razors. It’s very important to read the directions included in the packaging and to use a light touch when shaving.
I enjoy using this razor and will keep it in my regular rotation for years to come.
About the Author
Joe Borrelli is a long-time wet shaving enthusiast and collector. He hosts the Wet Shaving News Podcast and runs his own self-funded website http://shavestraightandsafe.com/ to help inform the community of new information involving the wet shaving world. Joe holds a BBA from Florida Atlantic University, and currently works for the nation’s largest wine/spirits/beer retailer. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Linda, outdoor activities and collecting wet shaving apparel. Find out more about Joe here.