The Janus Razor company was founded with the idea of bringing back a design that has been proven to be one of the most complex, and sought after in the vintage razor world. The Gillette Toggle continues to bring some big dollars during online auctions and is very popular with collectors and users alike. Despite being out of production for 60 years the Toggle is still very much a part of modern day wet shaving.
*Gillette Toggle Original Patent
When I heard that an artisan planned on bringing back the design of the Gillette Toggle I was excited but also skeptical. The Toggle is very complex, perhaps the most complex shaving razor design ever. Gillette built these razors with large scale machines, and a plan to make millions of them. To recreate the Toggle design without the use of a factory seemed impossible, but obviously I was proved wrong.
It took roughly three years for Janus to become a reality. Although there were struggles with production, the Janus made its way to the 50 people who pre-ordered them just a few months ago.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to try a Janus razor as well as the prototype side by side in order to get a true take on the accomplishment. Although I did try both razors I decided to base this review on just the production model as the majority of those who ordered the razor did not get a chance to use the prototype.
I have been in contact with Eric the man behind the Janus since learning of his company a few years ago. We emailed back and forth discussing the progress and when he contacted me to try his production model I was very excited.
First and foremost, whatever your feelings are about Janus, the owner and man behind the concept, Eric deserves a round of applause. He took on arguably the most complex and difficult safety razor design to replicate, and he made his vision a reality.
The Gillette Toggle was a safety razor design that opened the door for the long line of Gillette Adjustable razors that spanned over 30 years. This razor required several dozen large scale machines to produce, making each part and then assembling them in order to produce thousands of razors a week. Eric attempted the same design with several local machinists who CNC’d each of its 36 parts in order to replicate the design.
Although technology has changed dramatically since the 1960’s a modern computer is still no match for the large scale machines that built the Toggle in terms of speed and efficiency. The Janus was built part by part which took time,making sure each part was within the recommended tolerances so they could work together. In short, building it was a difficult task.
*For more information on the Gillette Toggle check out this article
Upon initial inspection of the Janus I was really impressed with the finish. I read initial reviews online and most of them were disappointed with the finish, but I found it to be really nice. The Janus is highly polished, with no visible marks from tools. Even the knurling (grip on the handle) has a beautiful shine. From my perspective the razor delivers exactly as advertised in terms of appearance.
While handling the razor II felt the weight of it to be very adequate, and noticeably heavier than its predecessor the Gillette Toggle. With the entire razor being composed of stainless steel, it’s no question why the razor would be heavier.
When activating the toggle lever to open the silo doors, I noticed it worked exactly the same as the toggle. The blade tray and doors moved in the same fashion and had the same amount of tension when doing so. The toggle lever even works in both directions just like the original.
Although the design is very similar to the Toggle the shave was very different. I found the Janus to be more aggressive than the Toggle, so much so it took a few passes to find the right settings. After a few trial shaves, I found that I could go no higher than setting three without really paying close attention and taking my time shaving. I actually found myself keeping the razor on setting 2 or 1 to work for me. This may be a big deal as I found a setting that works, but it does limit the adjustability concept as I did not venture too much from the mildest settings on the dial.
Once I found the right setting for me, I found the shave to be quite enjoyable. The Janus is solid and the knurling on the handle is quite adequate for slippery hands. Going with the grain required a proper 30% angle and slow, even strokes. On setting 2, the Janus performs it’s best for me with clean strokes and very little irritation. Higher settings I felt the razor to be too aggressive and difficult to use.
Overall I found the Janus to be very usable at settings 1 and 2 but could not venture past those settings as the razor became extremely aggressive and quite harsh. I would have loved to be able to use more of the spectrum, but fortunate to find a setting that works.
[Note from “Mantic59” – I have also tried the Janus razor, both the prototype and the production version, and my experiences largely mirror that of Joe’s. The production model’s design and fit and finish are outstanding. The production model is far more aggressive than the prototype: I get my best shaves with the production model on setting 1.]
At $550 the Janus is on the higher end of the safety razor spectrum making it one of the most expensive razors out there. It’s important to remember that replicating possibly the most complex safety razor design ever, without the use of a large factory and basically cnc machine every part one at a time, you truly are getting a very unique piece. The price is set right and the razor delivers as intended. Although I found the razor to be too aggressive at lower settings, it is to my understanding the next generation of Janus razor’s will be more in line with Toggle settings. The quality of the razor is solid with the razor being built of 316L stainless steel in and out which supports its lifetime guarantee.The opening closing mechanism works as intended although it’s unknown if there will be issues. (Vintage toggles tend to have problems with the silo doors closing properly if the blade guard is out of alignment. This is the reason why I believe they went with the TTO or the twist to open design)
I’d like to see the next generation of Janus razors tone it down a bit in terms of aggression and possibly offer different materials, (Such as brass, copper, aluminium, titanium). The next round of Janus razors haven’t been announced yet but when they do I will definitely be watching.