[Updated September, 2019] After years of single blade razors with a rigid head, and multi-blade razors with pivots, there is now an upstart group of razors that have a single blade and a pivot. Could it be the best of both worlds?
Shave Consistency With A Razor Pivot
If there is one thing that transitioning to shaving with a double edge (DE) razor ten years ago did for me, it is to show me that I don’t need a multi-blade cartridge that vibrates like a marital aid to get a great shave. A single blade gives me great results, and a lot more cheaply thankyouverymuch.
But one thing I do think that “modern” razor engineering got right is the concept of using a pivot in the razor head. I think a razor with a pivoted head provides a more consistent shave with less effort compared to a razor with a non-moving head.
And it appears I am not alone with that view. Several razors with a single blade on a pivoted head are now available. I have used all these razors for some time and they all have a slightly different approach. Perhaps more importantly they might need a slight adjustment to shave technique compared to a DE razor.
Note that I purchased all the razors in this review.
Focus Dynamic R48
The 100mm handle is anodized aluminum (available in a variety of colors) with stainless steel parts in the head. It weighs a feathery 33 grams.
The R48 uses regular DE blades snapped in half (like some “barber straight” or “shavette” razors). This gives the razor a significant advantage with the wide variety of DE blade specifications that are available on the market these days. Razor head’s spring-loaded pivot is designed to hold the blade at 25 degrees to the skin. Pivot travel is roughly 30 degrees.
How To Shave With The Focus Dynamic R48 Razor
In use, shaving with the R48 is a bit counter-intuitive and “quirky” for me. I have trouble with loading the blade in this razor: the top cap slides off and the blade rests on a couple little pins in the head. Then the top (is supposed to) slide back in place. In practice I find it hard to keep the top cap “snapped” in place and also to keep the blade exposure symmetrical.
This razor is best held with the top cap flat against the skin with a bit more pressure than what would typically be used with a DE razor. For me it seems to help if, in my mind’s eye, I imagine I’m pushing the razor across my skin instead of the usual drawing or pulling motion of shaving with a DE razor.
Shaving this way the R48 is quite mild with a middle-of-the-road blade. It can shave more aggressively with a high-performance blade (e.g. Feather).
- Uses DE blades snapped in half (wide variety of blade options)
- Small, thin head (useful for getting into tight areas)
- Blade exchange can be fussy
- Head tends to clog with thick later
OneBlade (Genesis, Hybrid, And Core)
[Full disclosure: Sharpologist is a OneBlade affiliate.]
Anyone reading Sharpologist knows my fondness for the OneBlade razors.
OneBlade looked at modern cartridge razor designs, particularly those of Gillette, for inspiration. Oneblade and their engineering design firm spent a lot of time and effort on the razor’s pivot and the razor head’s “registration surface” (the distance between the top of the razor head’s base to the bottom of the blade edge).
There are now three models of OneBlade razor: the high-end, deluxe presentation, stainless steel Genesis; the lower-cost, resin and stainless steel Core; and the new mid-priced Hybrid, with a Core handle and a Genesis head. All use the same head design (though Core uses different materials) and both hold the blade at about a 30 degree angle. Pivot travel is another 30 degrees or so.
(And be sure to check out Sharpologist’s special deal for OneBlade razors!)
Genesis dimensions 113.3mm L x 45mm W x 19.4 D at 88 grams; Core is 114.3mm L x 45mm W x 19.4 D at 68 grams; and Hybrid is 114.3mm L x 45mm W x 19.4 D, 70 grams.
Unlike the Focus Dynamic, the OneBlade razors use the Feather FHS single-edge blade (the blade design was originally for the vintage Valet Auto Strop razor). Some have found that a de-spined GEM blade also work.
The Core razor looks similar to OneBlade’s original stainless steel razor. However the Core razor is lighter and it’s center of gravity is further down the handle. Core’s plastic material actually looks and feels pretty hardy. In my experience it can take a fair amount of abuse gracefully: I sometimes use the Core as my travel razor when circumstances allow (e.g. not having to worry about TSA).
The Hybrid has, as I mentioned earlier, a Core handle with a Genesis head (though slightly modified on the bottom surface to interface with the handle). As you might suspect the center of gravity is more towards the head vs. Core.
Both Genesis and Core have gone through somewhat of an engineering evolution of the past few years, with several design tweaks on both razors. The Genesis razor updates involve different metallurgy in the head parts and some redesign of the internal blade-holding mechanism inside the head. The Core razor has gone several evolutionary changes since it was launched including repositioning the stainless steel core for better balance, decreasing the “free play” of the pivot, and a number of resin material changes.
How To Shave With The OneBlade Razor
Like the Focus Dynamic razor, the angle you hold the OneBlade razor at is a little different than either a cartridge razor or a DE. It may take a shave or two to get the grip right.
And like the Focus Dynamic, there’s a tendency to want to feel the OneBlade’s pivot work by pressing down on the razor. Don’t do that with the OneBlade: just use very light pressure on the razor (like a DE) and “ignore” the pivot. It works but in the background so you don’t really notice it.
Unlike OneBlade’s video, short shaving strokes work better for me than long sweeping strokes.
I think the OneBlade razors are relatively mild, at least compared to many DE razors.
- Well designed and built
- Easy blade loading (compared to others in this article)
- Limited blade choice
- Price (Genesis)
Leaf (With One Blade Loaded)
[Full disclosure: I was involved with testing a prototype of this razor in 2016.]
The Leaf razor is probably the closest thing to a cartridge razor in this article–but, as the Leaf website says,
“The Leaf Razor is unlike anything else. We let you load 1, 2 or 3 blades individually. This allows you to customize the razor to fit your skin and hair.”
- All metal razor
- Accepts 1, 2 or 3 blades
- Pivoting head for comfort and ease of shave
- Magnetic assist to help with loading blades
Like the Focus Dynamic, the Leaf razor uses DE blades snapped in half. This provides a big advantage for finding the brand(s) of DE blade that work best for you.
The disadvantage of the design is a very large head. That can make shaving in tight areas and detail work a challenge. Leaf included a separate, small plastic razor (that also takes a single half-DE blade) for detail work with my razor. Blade insertion can also be a bit fussy.
The blade exposure is slightly different for the bottom, middle, and top blade holders (Leaf recommends putting a blade in the bottom slot if you are just using a single blade). The pivot has the widest range of any razor in this article–about 90 degrees! Although I don’t have an objective way of measuring it I think the Leaf’s pivot is also the “loosest” of the razors here, requiring the least amount of pressure to engage.
How To Shave With The Leaf Razor
(No audio with this video)
For me, shaving with the Leaf is pretty much the same to shaving with a pivoted cartridge razor: I can take long, casual strokes with the razor.
- Most flexible usage (1, 2, or 3 blades)
- Uses double edge blades snapped in half (wide choice of blades)
- Widest pivot range
- Very large head can make shaving in tight areas difficult
- Blade changing can be fussy
This is a single-blade razor specifically made for “emerging markets.” It was originally sold only in India but has been imported into other markets. Gillette uses the cartridge in their new Treo razor, designed for shaving-by-caregiver (more on this razor coming soon to Sharpologist). It’s very light, but I think any DE shaver will quickly find the right grip and (mild) pressure to use this razor. The pivot action is good and the handle grips well even with its light weight.
The Guard uses a proprietary cartridge with a single blade.
The pivot is unlike the other designs in this article, a “symmetrical” (rocking to-and-fro from a central point) vs. “asymmetrical” (front-facing, rocking backwards) system. If you have seen the Gillette Sensor, you will get what I mean. “Asymmetric” pivots can help compensate for putting too much pressure on the razor; designs like the Guard, less so.
How To Shave With The Gillette Guard
Shaving with the Gillette Guard is essentially like shaving with the Gillette Sensor cartridge razor. Light pressure is needed but you can shave around curves without much of a thought. Like the other razors in this round-up, I find the Guard a fairly mild shaver.
- Very inexpensive
- Proprietary cartridge
On The Horizon
Along with the razors described above, there is another on the horizon.
The Broman razor is currently in the development stage after a successful crowdfunding campaign. There have been a few delays but shipping to crowdfunding backers started in July and a limited quantity should be available from their website in September.
Are Pivots The Future Of Single Blade Razors?
“Quirks” aside, I think all these razors shaved me pretty well. I prefer mild razors so I got good results from all of them (though OneBlade is still the stand-out in my book. It’s taken over the various adjustable DE models that have been my preference for years, as my “pry it from my dead, cold hands” razor). Shavers who prefer aggressive razors may not find any of these razors to their liking.
So are pivots the future of single blade razors? Admittedly there are a lot shave enthusiasts who prefer the designs and “vibe” of old school safety razors. But I do think these razors make a great option for those who shave with cartridges but are not happy with multiple blade edges scraping across their skin. A single blade can provide just as good of a shave, and the pivot can make the shave results more consistent with less effort.