[Updated October 2019] Just when you think you’ve seen it all in wet shaving, another item emerges that peaks the interest of hobbyists and collectors alike. This time it’s a razor looks like it wasn’t originally designed for this world. Could it be a design that was sent from another planet? Could it be from another dimension? Of course not….right?
The folks at Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) are back with a razor that looks like it’s straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. The Alpha Ecliptic Slant safety razor is unique indeed. Based on a design from the past, Doug and Fran have successfully brought back to life a razor that was all but forgotten and nearly impossible to find. It’s now available for your scientific research or if you just want to shave with it.
PAA has a reputation for really doing their homework. If you’re not familiar with their stuff, I highly recommend you check them out. They are known for bringing back rare, hard to find designs for razors, brushes and scents that would otherwise be impossible for most traditional wet shavers to experience. They are dedicated to bringing back the classics to the industry and look like they are having a lot of fun doing it.
The Alpha Ecliptic is a tribute to a concept once forgotten. Based on the Walbusch & Sohnes “Humpback Slant” the unique design of this razor really sets it apart from any other razor I have seen or used. The unique “hump” on the head of the slant is engineered to help the user find the perfect angle when shaving. Sounds great and all but does it work?
(Ed. note: PAA links below are affiliate.)
The Alpha ecliptic is available in three models all of the same design.
- Bakelite Alpha Ecliptic*
- Composed of Bakelite
- Shorter handle
- Retail is $19.95 usd
- Alpha Ecliptic Anodized Blue 7075 Aluminum
- Composed of Anodized Aluminum
- Longer “Bomb Tip” style handle
- Retail is $75 usd
- Alpha Ecliptic Anodized Antique Bronze 7075 Aluminum*
- Same dimensions as the black model only anodized in a bronze color.
- Retail is the same $75 usd.
While all three models have similar specs in regards to dimensions there is a noticeable difference in using the aluminum vs the bakelite models. We’ll get more into that in the actual review. It’s also important to mention that all the parts between the aluminum and bakelite models are interchangeable, meaning you can mix and match handles, top caps and blade guards to make a truly custom piece.
The Alpha Ecliptic consists of a standard 3- piece design with a Top cap (top part of the razor), blade guard (middle piece that holds the blade)and handle. Easy to assemble and take apart
I briefly mentioned the design in the introduction part of this review. The design is actually based on a vintage concept that did not see much action in the USA. Unfortunately for many of us, this particular design was not widely distributed, so many people could not try it.
Douglas Smythe the owner/operator of PAA is the guy to thank for bringing back this almost forgotten piece of wet shaving history. He has done it with several razors: The DOC, Prismatic and the Bakelite Slant, to name a few, and even expanded his production to shaving brushes revitalizing the Rubberset 400 concept with the Switchback 400. In addition, Doug and Fran have brung back to life several vintage scents so everyone has a chance to experience products of the past.
In short, these guys make tributes to classic hard to find razors and products in addition to newer concepts so people like you and me can actually own one without getting into an ebay auction battle.
The razor itself is a tribute to the Walbusch “Humpback“ Slant by Walter Busch & Sohne. Originally composed of Bakelite plastic, the razor was designed to flex the blade for greater tension, causing it to become more stable, making the razor more efficient. The razor also has an extremely large blade gap from the top cap to the guard which allows for more exposure of the bottom part of the blade. The actual “humpback” design of the top cap was designed to maintain the correct angle when shaving and to utilize the extra gap while maintaining maximum blade exposure. This design also prevented injury due to the increased surface area of the blade by forcing the user to maintain the correct technique.
Now you’re probably wondering besides the design “What makes this thing special?”
Well, here is my *theory.
(This “theory” is of that of the writer and not that of the folks at PAA or Sharpologist)
The design allows for more exposure of the bottom part of the blade, which in turn allows for a more efficient use of it The hairs are cut at a more pronounced angle (around 30 degrees) much like that of a straight razor, leading a cleaner shave with less irritation. The slant aspect allows the blade to stabilize thus leaving it more secure or “tighter” so the it does not flex with the increased blade gap. The humpback design fits into the equation as it forces the user to shave with the optimal angle for greater efficiency and prevents injury with the increased blade gap. In short, all components are designed with each other in mind. Take away one of them and the razor will not work effectively.
Several months before the release I was asked by the folks at PAA to be one of the first to try out the Alpha Ecliptic prototype in a pass around with several other wet shavers. We gave our feedback in an online discussion group and had a great time doing so. A few months later PAA sent me the final versions as a thank you for the taking the time to review and record my thoughts.
At first glance I’ll admit the razors look very intimidating. The blade gap is probably the largest I have ever seen on a safety razor let alone a slant. When I first picked up the razor I had a feeling it was going to be very aggressive. I was very wrong.
At first I sort of stared at it for a minute. Sure I saw the pictures and knew the razor was going to look different, but wow! It seriously looks like it’s straight out at 1960’s Sci-Fi movie and that it a robot should be shaving me with it.
At a total weight of 39 grams the Alpha is light but balanced. The larger top cap (piece that connects to the blade guard) does not add any awkward weight to the top of the razor and the handle’s size is just perfect at at around 3 1/2 inches long.
I loaded a slightly mild blade for my first shave. This is a practice I do for all new razors I try. I feel I get more consistent results in this manner but I always remember that mileage does vary.
Shaving with the razor requires very little patience. I found it to be very easy to use after just a few trial runs. Shaving with the grain requires a semi-gentle touch and even strokes (like you would with any razor).
I found shaving with the grain is truly effortless. You can tell that all of the strange components really come together after a few passes. There is literally no blade flex which is important with the extreme blade gap. The hump on the top cap did exactly what I thought it would. It forced the perfect angle for maximum efficiency without the fear of irritation. As previously mentioned, all of these components come together as one and it all starts to make sense. One really cool feature are the stubble “gutters” inside the blade guard. Rinse the razor and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The stubble and cream shoot out of the sides leaving a nice clean blade. I’m not sure if this was intentional , but it sure was cool!
Against the grain is another story. To be quite honest, when used correctly this razor removed 90% of my stubble requiring a very light across and/or against the grain pass. I actually went several times with only one pass and found my face to be perfectly acceptable for society as a whole.
When shaving against the grain I highly recommend using the lightest possible pressure as this razor shaves very closely. If you use too much pressure at this stage the razor will let you know it. Use caution!
Just in case you’re wondering, Bakelite is one of the first types of plastics produced. It was first patented in 1906 and was originally created to insulate electrical wires. This material was used to make 100’s of products with razors being one of them in the early to mid 20th century. For more information about the history of Bakelite check out this article that was featured on Sharpologist some time ago.
The first thing I noticed about the Bakelite model is the weight. At 22 grams the Bakelite model is just over half of the weight of Aluminum version. Extremely light, but solid and well balanced. The handle is noticeably smaller than that of its aluminum counterpart but still sufficient.
The specifications of the rest of the razor seem to be identical as that of the aluminum version. The top cap and guard are the same size in measurement just lighter.
As to shave performance, I would have to say is close,to that of the aluminum models. I did use lighter pressure to make sure I wasn’t over compensating the lighter weight with more pressure. This is something that I personally have done and feel a lot of wet shavers do when using light razors.
I found the aluminum model to be shave a little easier that the Bakelite and it was much quieter if that makes any sense. The Bakelite makes a slight scraping sound and does feel like it has more resistance when shaving. Although the aluminum model felt better to me at around $20 the Bakelite is a great value.
It’s important to note that the Bakelite and Aluminum razor parts are 100% interchangeable. That means you can swap out parts from either models to create your own “Frankenrazor”.
I decided to find out what contraption I could make out of these two razors and to see if I could make them perform differently with different parts. I tried a few scenarios but found that using just the plastic guard from the Bakelite with the remaining parts of the aluminium to be the best set-up for me. I enjoy the feeling of a plastic guard and enjoyed the shave. What scenario works for you? You’ll have to try it to find out!
The Alpha Ecliptic is a unique razor indeed. I find that both the aluminum and Bakelite models shave very nicely and will require a very small learning curve.
Between the two I found myself picking up the aluminum Alpha more often than the Bakelite. I feel it shaves a little smoother and I like the added weight overall. Although at around $20 the Bakelite model will perform nicely and is a great way to try the concept without breaking the bank.
About the Author:
Joe Borrelli is a long-time wet shaving enthusiast and collector. He hosts the Wet Shaving News/Talk Podcast , runs his own self-funded website http://shavestraightandsafe.com/ and operates a YouTube channel 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, reading, writing, outdoor activities and collecting wet shaving apparel. Find out more about Joe here.