It’s been several years since the folks over at Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements* introduced their first safety razor of the double open comb design (DOC). The “DOC” has become a staple in the wet shaving community and is often referred to newbies due to its mild aggression and versatility. They have introduced several variations of double open comb concept but none like their flagship model, “The Evolution.”
The Double Open Comb Design
Before we get into our review let’s go over the history of the actual Double Open Comb design.
The Grand Shave King was the first razor to feature the double-open comb (self-lubricating) design. It was introduced in the in the mid 1940’s by Mr. Joseph Mellon. Mellon designed the razor so that when it used it would retain a small amount of water and lather creating a lubrication barrier between the skin and blade. The result, a smoother more comfortable shave with less irritation.
So how does it work? Mellon designed the back plate with the comb spots arranged in just a way to maximally retain water and to flow evenly onto the face when in use. He then designed the open comb “top cap” to store a small amount of lather which would assist in lubrication. Not only did this razor look cool, it actually worked! Mellon filled for a patent (see picture) on the design on January 29, 1944.
I was unable to find out how long the razor was actually produced but from what I could find in various wet shaving forums and websites the razor was only around for two or three years.
The folks at Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) designed a tribute to the Grand Shave King called the DOC (Double Open Comb)* Safety Razor a few years back. They retained the original design adding their own improvements to the handle and top plate. The result: an extremely mild razor that provides an excellent shave for both wet shaving newbies and pros alike.
The DOC Evolution is a razor is designed for the high-end safety razor market which usually caters to more experienced wet shavers. While it still retains the double open-comb design that’s about where the similarities end. The Evolution is a heavier, more aggressive razor when compared to its slightly older cousin, but I assure you it’s all for a reason.
The classic styling of the box is 100% designed by the PAA team. The image of the razor on the front with a brief description of the product inside on the bottom is functional and artistic. It reminisces a box that was sitting on a drug store shelf in years ago and takes you back in time when classic shaving was well….shaving. The inside of the box is fitted and stores the razor snugly so rest assured your will arrive safe and sound.
The packaging may not be as flashy as some you may see in other higher-end razors, but it is functional and fits the bill.
The Evolution is constructed in the classic 3-piece design that is common with many safety razors. The top cap and base plate fit perfectly and screwing in the handle is precise. It’s made from 304 stainless steel which is tumbled then hand polished to create nice finish that is not overly shiny. Weighing in at 97 grams for the standard handle (3.25 inches) and 104 grams for the long handle (3.5 inches) it’s noticeably heavier than the standard DOC which weighs 56 grams. All processes of this razor including forging are completed in the USA and are backed up with a 30 day-money back guarantee.
*Left PAA Evolution and right is PAA DOC
The handle of the razor is solid and has a nice balanced heft to it. The knurling (grip) on the handle is comfortable and is provides more than adequate grip that prevents slipping. The “bomb-tip” design is relatively new from PAA and really enhances the look of the razor.
There are two options when choosing a handle for the Evolution. A 3.25 inch handle (59 grams) is standard or you can go with a slightly longer 3.5 inch (66 grams) design at no additional charge. When it comes to the size of the handle it’s all about preference although I used the 3.25 inch handle for this review.
The head assembly consists of a top and bottom plate weighing in at 38 grams almost twice the weight of the original DOC head assembly. Just a side-by-side comparison shows how different these razors really are. The blade exposure on the Evolution is greater than that of the regular DOC which gives the user more control of the overall angle when shaving.
Fully assembled the Evolution is heavy but very balanced. It’s easy to handle and looks great too. It’s easy to see there was a lot of time in the design and production of this razor, and that no stones were left un-turned during production.
*It’s important to mention that I used this razor daily for three weeks and used several different blades.
When I first received the Evolution I automatically thought it would be as mild as the original DOC. I loaded up a blade and went at it. During the first pass I could tell this was a different animal. It is very aggressive compared to the original and required a different approach. I found myself adjusting my angle and using lighter pressure in attempt to find the “sweet spot” of this razor.
It wasn’t until the fourth shave or so did I finally figure out the technique to maximize the experience. I found a trick that really worked for me and made it easy to understand the concept behind this razor. I found that if I led the stroke with the second comb (top plate) the angle was perfect! Leading with the second comb and using lighter pressure, totally changed the game. To better describe my method I decided to make a short video on the technique I used.
Shaving with the grain (WTG) is effortless and when leading with the second comb requires almost zero pressure. The extra blade exposure and greater angle almost melts stubble off your face. When properly using this razor I found that 90% of my stubble was removed during the first pass and that I could get away with skipping the second and third passes. The handle on the razor provided adequate grip and was very comfortable. The knurling was just deep enough to maintain a perfect hold and did not dig into my fingers. The weight is evenly balanced making it easier to maneuver even with the added weight.
When shaving against the grain (ATG) I used the same technique only with shorter strokes in order to minimize irritation. This is a practice I do with all of my razors. The Evolution performed flawlessly, although I will caution you to use the lightest amount of pressure possible, and to make sure you use the proper angle or else you will not have a pleasant experience. Let the razor do the work and you guide it.
Clean up is a breeze. Simply rinse and dry. Not a blemish or smudge on the finish. If you do need to clean the razor, a quick bath in some dish soap and water would be more than sufficient and would not pose any threat to the finish.
I find the PAA DOC Evolution to be a perfect addition to any wet shaving enthusiast’s collection. It’s a high quality piece that will last generations and is truly built like a tank. You need not worry about the stainless steel degrading over time or having to polish and clean it regularly. The design of the Evolution is very detailed and you can tell there was a lot of time and effort put into developing this razor. The razor itself is very balanced evenly distributing its weight throughout the whole piece rather than just the head assembly.
In addition, the Evolution is exactly what the higher-end (over $100) customer is looking for. A more aggressive razor that allows the user to use a variety of angles thus customizing the shave to their preference.
I would highly recommend the Evolution to those who have some time under their belt when it comes to traditional wet shaving. The Evolution’s mild aggression requires some practice, so spend some time learning the razor and technique when shaving with it.
*Disclaimer: This review is based on the sole opinion of the author and does not actually represent the opinions of Sharpologist.
About The Author:
Joe Borrelli is a long-time wet shaving enthusiast and collector. He hosts the Wet Shaving News/Talk 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. Check out my YouTube channel for more wet shaving content!
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