[Note from Mantic59: This article was originally scheduled to appear in June but was delayed due to an error on my part. Between then and now OneBlade has slightly modified the head of their Core razor so your experience with it may be slightly different than Victor’s in this article. Also, my personal experience with GEM blades in the OneBlade Genesis differs from Victor’s: I was able to use a de-spined but otherwise unmodified PTFE GEM blade in my v2 Genesis razor. However, “your mileage may vary” so proceed with the appropriate caution.]
I’ve come to my conclusion on OneBlade. I think the Stainless Steel OneBlade v2, recently renamed Genesis, is a razor best suited to a person coming from cartridges, who has never experienced DE shaving or invested the time in developing technique (angle, pressure, knowing the direction hair grows.) If you follow the directions from OneBlade (using a fresh blade each time, performing a two pass shave) you’ll get a better than the shave you get from using a cartridge blade for a month, but not as good as a DE shave.
This is why the $50 OneBlade Core hits the sweet spot so well where the $399 version doesn’t. Convincing cartridge users to change to something with such a high initial outlay is difficult. Convincing them to spend on something that isn’t that different from the cost of buying a bunch of cartridges (e.g. 12 Gillette ProGlide for $33.97) is much easier.
I have shaved comparison shaves with the OneBlade and several DE (Gillette Aristocrat non-adjustable, Gillette OLD Type, a variety of Gillette Tech, the RazoRock OLD Type, the Dorco PL-602, Wolfman bar and open comb, GEM Jr. using both PTFE stainless and carbon steel blades) and in every case, the DE beat the resulting shave of the OneBlade. What the DE didn’t beat was the ease and use of sloppy technique. For the new user who has no interest in learning, and confronting nicks (which even experienced DE users get, let’s not kid ourselves), and is going to have non-existent technique, you’ll get a good shave, and be using a better blade than the multi-blade cartridges.
The challenge will be getting the attention of the cartridge shaver that has a lot of options today. There’s Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club, Gillette, Gillette’s club, and Bevel, all vying for attention, and all spending ad dollars on radio and TV. How OneBlade competes is going to be the difficulty. Producing the same good razor at $50 goes a long way, but breaking through the noise, building a following is going to be difficult. DSC built a following on the back of their humorous YouTube videos and talk radio adverts. Harry’s did it on their $15 dollar kits and adverts. Gillette is Gillette. Bevel did it by being a black-owned business appealing to the specific needs of black men (coarse hair, razor bumps, in-grown hairs.) They understand their users’ problems, and their users feel better about supporting Bevel than Gillette.
OneBlade v2 (and Core, presumably) have a head that’s redesigned from v1, using a patent-pending “Active Floating Blade Approach System” (AFBAS). AFBAS claims to allow the blade to float in 3 axes, while preserving blade angle, blade exposure, and blade gap. What they’ve done, I believe, is add a longitudinal pivot point halfway back from the cutting blade to allow the blade to rock up and down during the shave. [Note from Mantic59: my understanding is the engineering of the Genesis and Core heads are slightly different but achieve similar results.] As I think about it, it seems difficult to me that they’d preserve angle when the angle changes due to blade rocking, gap as gap increases due to blade rocking, or exposure (when it rocks up, more blade would be exposed across the invisible line formed between the leading edges of the top guard and bottom guard of the head). I expect the truth is that there are a lot of variables – the blade moving in the head, the head moving in my hand, the surface of my skin deforming no matter how little pressure I might try to apply.
OneBlade claims in testing that they found this increased comfort. “In essence, we have increased the mildness of our razor while increasing the efficiency and closeness of the shave – no other single edge or double edge razor can make this claim,” is what OneBlade sent us in a document.
In practice, I found no appreciable difference in quality of shave from OneBlade v1 to v2. The comfort level was the same. The v1 and v2 both have pivoting heads with a spring. The v2 spring was much stiffer than v1 and made v1 preferable to v2 in use. I didn’t intentionally try and activate the spring, but when I was intentionally sloppy, the v1 spring accounted for it, where v2 didn’t, or did to a much lesser amount. For this reason, I much prefer the v1 OneBlade to the v2. I also can’t discern any benefit from the AFBAS implementation in the head design of v2. I do like the idea of the better quality steel of the v2, but I can’t say that v1’s materials have disappointed me in any real way.
Much has been made of the fact that OneBlade only recommends the Feather stainless steel Valet-type blade. Some wet shavers deride this choice and mock the OneBlade name because it only works with one brand of blade – they value the large amount of blades available in the DE format, and feel this isn’t any better than proprietary cartridge lock-in. What they miss is that the OneBlade isn’t for them. OneBlade is for people who want a premium shave experience without having to fuss with knowing what type of blade to get. OneBlade is about convenience and ease.
Even so, that hasn’t prevented me from experimenting with blades. It was known that you could remove the spine from a GEM blade and use it in v1 OneBlade without much difficulty. I would use an old single edge blade to pry the spine off the fresh GEM and insert into v1. With the v2 head redesign and AFBAS implementation, the head no longer allows GEM blades to be used so easily. For GEM blades to work in v2, a metal nibbler tool is used to remove the top left and right corners on the edge where the spine used to be. You don’t widen the center cutout of the GEM blade, but extend it to the top of the blade spine. It’s not complicated, but it is more work than most people would want to do for a several-hundred dollar razor that was invented with convenience in mind. Others have used a 5/32 punch to replicate the Feather cut out towards the spine.
I don’t normally write blade reviews, because each person experiences blades differently, especially in different razors, with different technique, skin, and other variables I can’t be bothered to think about at this time. For all these reasons, it doesn’t make sense to make blade reviews under normal circumstances.
Here, because I’m using a razor designed for one blade only, it makes more sense in order to highlight what the options are once you start coloring outside the lines, pushing against the recommendations. I accept that this is madness, and that most people who use the OneBlade will never do this, unless they’re already down the rabbit hole on DE shaving and want blade exploration. That’s not who the OneBlade is really for, I believe.
Feather Stainless Steel
This is the recommended blade. There’s no great wonder why – the blade is well-matched to the razor and delivers a reliably consistent shave every time. It’s a perfectly adequate shave, not smooth like glass for me (I can feel stubble when I stroke my face against the grain) but it’s definitely acceptable. One of the things that frustrates people who have shaved with DE is that it lasts for only one or two shaves, and limits choice to one blade after having been spoiled by the wide variety of DE blades available. Coming from a cartridge system, this is a non-issue – with carts, you’re largely limited to the cart that’s made for the razor system.
Feather Carbon Steel (blue carbon steel)
Despite being from the same company as the recommended blade, this blade feels entirely different (sample source). It’s quite uncomfortable in the OneBlade, and I wouldn’t recommend it. I got one shave in, and had to abandon this blade. Immediate dragging, discomfort, irritation. abysmal. It just highlights how even when the geometry is exactly the same that a blade can feel so different. I didn’t think the Oneblade could really draw blood, but with the carbon steel blade, it’s possible. Small weepers, nothing substantial, but still surprising.
This blade was really atrocious.
It looks really very nice in the razor, but the shave leaves my skin aggravated.
Gem Stainless PTFE
I like this blade in a GEM Jr. very much. It shaves well there and lasts for several shaves. In the OneBlade, it shaves equally well, although you’d be right to be somewhat concerned about blade geometry, clipping the back corners, etc.
I can’t understate how much I liked this blade. I hadn’t shaved in four days, and this blade knocked through it like it was nothing in the first pass. There was no tugging, and even with pressure and sloppy technique, it wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s better for me than the proscribed Feather blade.
De-spining the blade was easy, and it really was a treat to use. After the three passes on both sides, I grabbed the RazoRock OLD type DE and did a quick against-the-grain pass on one side of my face and heard hair cutting ever so slightly. Face feel post-shave is the same, and while the DE might get ever so slightly closer, I didn’t feel this was a necessary step. Reflecting on it a day later, there was no appreciable difference between the two shaves. The amount of stubble growth felt the same. If I had never shaved DE, and had gone straight to OneBlade, this would be my perfect combination for life. It’s a strong contender – I’ve reached for it days in a row now, and haven’t felt the need to go back to DE yet.
Unfortunately, most OneBlade users will never experience how great this combination is. Even though removing the spine was easy, that’s already too much of a burden for most people, and that’s before the required corner nibbling / punching of the back corners. More’s the shame that they never will get a chance to experience this good shave.
This blade makes me wish there were a OneBlade that was made to accept GEM blades. That’s how good this combination is.
I ordered this blade, but on closer examination, what I received were more of the PTFE stainless steel blade. I wish I could report more on experiences with this blade, but I’m not heart-broken; The PTFE blade is so good, it just means I have more of them to use.
PAL Blue Carbon Steel (GEM type)
This blade was nearly impossible to de-spine. It also was uncomfortable in the GEM Jr. razor for which it was intended. Due to the difficulty with getting the spine off, and with the great discomfort experienced in use in the GEM razor, forget it. Stay away from this blade as an option for the OneBlade. The measure here is not, what would the blade feel like compared to a DE blade, it should be, what does the blade feel like compared to a cartridge. In all three cases, on its own, compared to DE, and compared to cartridge, it was universally a bad experience. It may seem strange that blades that are all meant to be razor-sharp and all the same size behave so differently, but they do. This blade is made by PAL on their own equipment, where all the other blades are made by American Safety Razor.
GEM Treet Carbon Steel
This (affiliate link) is the other blade I use in my GEM Jr. regularly. It delivers an excellent shave there, and does the same in OneBlade. I get good shaves, equally as good as with my favorite RazoRock OLD type DE, but I have an easier time buffing against the grain for complete smoothness than with that DE. From a 7am shave until 6pm, I felt nearly equally smooth feeling against the grain with the OneBlade as I did with the OLD type DE. I got about three shaves out of the Carbon Steel blade, but this is partly due to my concerns about blade rust. In a GEM, I can remove the blade, blow water off of it, and avoid corrosion for a week and change. In the OneBlade, there are more surfaces that could keep the blade surface wet, and I don’t want to stain the razor head with it. In the forthcoming plastic version of the OneBlade “Core” this wouldn’t be a concern. The reason this blade is a good candidate, especially for users of the v1 OneBlade, is that it’s incredibly easy to de-spine, making it a simple operation to use. The requirement to nibble or punch the corners slows it down for v2 use, but it’s still a very good blade.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, no one has time in the morning to de-spine a blade and nibble the corners to make it fit OneBlade v2 or Core. The experimentation here only begins to work if you have the sort of time on hand to prepare blades well in advance, de-spining and nibbling or punching the corners so that in the morning, the blade is ready at hand. I reiterate, while the Feather blade isn’t bad, I strongly prefer the GEM PTFE-coated Stainless Steel blade, and wish OneBlade were compatible with them with no modification to the blade required. If this were the case, I’d gift friends a Core and pack of blades.