Rockwell Razors just recently conducted a phenomenal Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the development and production of a new double-edged safety razor. I first heard about this campaign on the Sharpologist blog. After reading Mantic59’s review of the prototype from Rockwell Razors I was intrigued.
My timing was not great, as usual, and I missed the initial (and wildly successful) Kickstarter backer campaign when it first kicked off. Therefore, I missed out on the awesome introductory price of $49. I read the reviews, I did some soul searching and decided that I’d like to get in on the action, so I put a pre-order in for their razor. The new razor from Rockwell would join the stable with my two other DE razors, a Merkur Futur and a late-40’s Gillette Tech. I liked the claim of the simplicity of a 3 piece, the adjustability of choosing my own blade gap/aggressiveness, and the all stainless steel construction. The pre-order price of about $75 USD was less than I’d spent on my Futur, which I am still very happy with.
I placed my initial pre-order in early January. At the time the razors were to ship in February….guess I’d have to wait a month or so for my new razor to arrive.
While I’ve been wet shaving using a double edge razor for three years or so, I am new to writing reviews of shaving products. I consider myself an intermediate wet shaver. My razor arrived from Rockwell in mid-March, pretty much on-time from the updated shipping date that was on Rockwell’s blog. It arrived via USPS in a small priority mail box. The razor is nicely packaged in a brushed steel, foam padded box. It’s a nice package, that is protective as well. I was uncertain how they would be packaged, and with the extra two heads to keep track of I was concerned about where or how I’d store them….. No problem, each slides into it’s own snug recess in the box. The package also came with a 5-pack of Astra blades. Not my most favorite, but they would do.
The first thing I noticed on removing the razor from the packaging was that the handle was very nicely knurled. Nice big, grippy knurling, not like the fine, but slippery, knurling on my Gillette Tech. The knurling on the Tech is too fine to provide a good grip when my hands are wet and slippery with soap. Grip is not a problem with the Rockwell.
The second thing I noticed was the weight and size. It’s weight is right up there with my Futur. It’s a hefty razor. It feels like a solid, precision tool.
The razor is on the large side, the handle being about as long as the Futur and considerably longer than the Tech. I’ve found that I prefer a longer handle, the Tech, while I like it, feels particularly short for me.
The razor is well balanced, the hefty handle offsetting the thick base plates so that it handles well and does not feel out of sorts. The top cap is comparatively thin, but more than adequate for the task.
Starting with the handle, the afore-mentioned knurling and machining on the handle is superb. Most excellent. It uses the standard thread, so you can interchange any standard handle with the Rockwell head assembly, or use the Rockwell handle on one of your existing razors.
All of the surfaces on the razor are either machined, or ground. The exception to this is the majority of the area on the plates, these are investment cast as I understand it and have a nice finish.
The Rockwell 6S is not “adjustable” in the same way that the Futur or Progress are. It is more correctly “customizable” rather than adjustable by the fact that it comes with three different base plates.
Each of these base plates has two sides. Each side corresponds to a different blade gap, which affects the aggressiveness of the razor. You simply use the base plate with the number that you want, 1 being the mildest and 6 being the most aggressive. As the instructions mention, you assemble the razor and the number that you see on the underside of the base plate, when fully assembled, is the number that corresponds to the aggressiveness that you have chosen.
A little bit of background first. Of my previous razors, I think the Futur is a moderate to aggressive shaver. The Tech is not an aggressive shaver: I would put it at mild to moderate (at best). I found in the past that I like Feather blades in both razors, with my Futur set to about a 3.5 out of 6. These razors provided me with a good smooth shave without irritation, but still aggressive enough to get rid of my full, coarse hair growth. I’ve used a variety of other blades in both of my existing razors and have found that many blades work well, but the Feathers along with a few others work the best for me.
I decided to start my shave with the Rockwell with a nice middle of the road blade with the #2 base plate. This should have given a decently close shave, without being too aggressive. In my other razors this blade is a good, safe bet. Not as close a shave as the Feather, but not requiring as much attention either.
I loaded up the Rockwell with a new blade and screwed on the handle. The top cap and base plates put a fair amount of camber to the blades. This resulted in a little different handle angle than I was accustomed to with my other razors. Nothing too drastic, just that each different razor has it’s own “personality” that must be learned.
Finding that happy angle was easy and I was off. Possibly due to the difference in camber, I noticed that I was getting a fair amount of tugging and pulling out of the new blade that I had installed… I finished out my first pass, but decided to switch the blade out with a Feather that had been in one of my other razors and had a few shaves under it.
I was fairly startled by the difference in how it felt. Much less pulling than the previous blade that I’d replaced. I’d never noticed that much difference in my other razors, but like I said, each is different and has it’s own personality.
My second and pseudo-third pass (I only ever do a 2.5 pass shave, as I’ve never found that against the grain never does my face any good, other than irritating it) things were looking and feeling good.
I believe it was Mark (Mantic59) who said in one of his reviews that the razor provided a lot of audible feedback. He was right! This razor more than any other that I’d used provides lots of audible feedback. It’s not something that bothers me, in fact I think I like it. I can easily tell if I’ve removed all the stubble, simply by the sound that I get. This makes it easier to find those spots that I may have missed.
After the shave I was pleased with the closeness I’d gotten from a first shave. Not perfect but good enough to know that it was going to work for me.
A couple more days of using the #2 base plate and I was ready to move up to the #3. Yes, the #3 was slightly more aggressive, but not excessively so. I did get a smoother, closer shave, with fewer leftover spots. I am definitely liking it. The razor does have a different face feel than when shaving than my Futur or Tech, not quite as smooth and gliding as my previous two razors. I think it’s the geometry of the safety bar and the angle at which the cutting edge meets the surface being shaved. It’s not uncomfortable, but it just feels different in use.
Over the course of a week I’d also noticed that each side of the razor would shave a little differently. This was due to the fact that there is just a little play when loading the blade and this affects the centering of the blade so that one side of the razor was slightly more aggressive than the other. This was not a new concept to me as my Futur has always been this way, the blade sits slightly offset to one side, so it has one side that’s more aggressive than the other. I suppose it’s a manufacturing or quality control flaw, but it’s one that I can live with. I tend to start my shaves on the milder side, using the more aggressive side for my second and clean-up passes. While this slight difference between sides was present in the Rockwell, it’s not as pronounced as with my Futur.
The #3 base plate was treating me well…. I am liking the shave that I get. Lately I’ve moved to the #4 base plate, and again, I noticed that it is incrementally more aggressive. Not too aggressive though… This is an easy razor to shave with, even with the larger blade gap, I was not cutting myself any more than I might with my other razors, just a little knick here or there if I was careless. The #4 base plate I think I like even more. Yes, I have changed the blade to a new Feather blade. I normally get about 5-7 days from a Feather blade before I replace it. The #4 base plate may be a bit much for daily shaving, but it works great for me for that extra close shave when I want it.
I haven’t made it all the way through to the #6 base plate yet, and I might never, but I do like the option of having it available to me if I have the desire to use it.
Some of the features that I really like about the Rockwell Razors 6S:
- The handle and it’s knurling is great. The right length and diameter with a good grip and feel.
- The interchangeable base plates are a great way to customize the aggressiveness of the razor while keeping the complexity low. You end up with 6 razors in one. There’s enough difference in each of the base plates to notice, but they hit the step between plates just right in my opinion.
- The razor itself is manufactured in the United States, designed and sold in Canada.(Yay! I wasn’t trying to buy American, but I’m glad I did)
- The 6S comes nicely packaged. It’s hard to lose the unused base plates. The water proof instruction sticker on the back of the container is a great touch, nothing to loose, nothing to get ruined if it gets water splashed on it.
- 100% stainless steel construction. No rust, easy to care for, no finish to degrade over time.
Before I comment on the things that I found less than ideal there is an update: Rockwell Razors posted recently on their Kickstarter pages that there were some issues with the quality of the top cap on the delivered razors. There has been a change in manufacturing process for the top cap. Rockwell have taken the admirable step of sending out replacements, FREE OF CHARGE, to any of us who received the top caps that they are not happy with. You have to love a company that is willing to stand up for their product and fix it if there’s a problem.
You can read more about it HERE. This post also explains why some of the users report the 6S to be quite aggressive.
If I had to pick a few nits with the Rockwell razor it would be the following:
- While I like the all stainless construction and the rather sparse, industrial feel of the razor, I’d prefer a bit more polished surface finish overall. For the money charged, a bit of polishing would go a long way. I understand from following the blog postings that there were some unexpected challenges encountered during production that necessitated some additional machining and a few changes to the resulting finish. The surface finish is not entirely uniform across all of the parts of the entire razor. There are a few areas, inside the cap for example where there is some machining and it appears that the machining does not contact all of the areas intended….
- This one is really a little nit to pick, but here it is! I love the handle, the only change that I would make to it would be to continue the knurling just a bit higher towards the “neck” of the handle, as I always seem to find a finger sneaking up, just past where the knurling ends near the neck of the handle. If it went just an ⅛” further up, I wouldn’t run into that slippery territory at the neck of the handle.
- The razor had some manufacturing residue left on it and required washing off before the first use. I know, this is probably a wise step to take with any new razor, but you’d expect it to come clean and ready to go.
- The end of the threads on the top cap could use just a bit of bevel…. Sometimes getting the handle started on the threads is a little tricky and it would be possible to cross thread it if you were not paying attention or were ham-handed. My Gillette Tech on the other hand has a nicely beveled end of the threads on the top cap, so each and every time the handle and threads match up perfectly with no effort. Again, this is a very minor refinement to be made, but it does affect the usability of the razor. I don’t have to be careful, or think about what I’m doing with the Gillette. The new top cap may fix this…
- Like my Gillette Tech, the tabs on the ends of the blade stick out beyond the ends of the head, this can result in some scrapes or scratches if you’re careless. By contrast the head on the Futur is so wide, this is not a problem, but getting into tight spaces under my nose is much harder with the Futur.
I would say, overall, that I am quite happy with the Rockwell Razor 6S. I feel that it was money well spent. Yes, it costs more than a Merkur 34C and, no the finish isn’t quite as nice, but it’s good and I think it’s worth the flexibility of having the different base plates to tailor the aggressiveness of the razor to your needs and tastes.
While not inexpensive, I think that the razor is a good value and would make a great gift for that new or newer wet shaver, allowing them the “room to grow” without having to buy additional razors.
For the experienced shaver, you don’t have to try to figure out which models are best suited to your beard and skin, you can pick and choose the base plate that works best for you. It feels to me like there’s enough range here to suit the vast majority of shavers.
If any of my razors got lost or stolen, would I buy them again? Yes, I would replace my Rockwell Razor 6S. In comparison, for the Futur the answer would likely be Yes, for the Tech, maybe. The Tech is a little mild for my tastes, but is easy to use and suited to a great many people.