In the world of traditional wet shaving, most can recognize the importance of wet shaving history. Preserving it wasn’t the top priority of times past, as shaving was more of a daily ritual rather than a collecting hobby.
The lack of information recorded has left many in the dark about their shaving gear which has become collectable. Writers like myself have spent countless hours researching, sending emails, talking on the phone and even utilizing the old “snail mail” to find out more about them.
This article was written to preserve the history of the Tradere Razor Company and to make it easier to find information for future generations.
The Tradere Story:
The name Tradere (pronounced “trah-dare-ray”) is actually a Latin word that means “to pass on posterity”. The company debuted back in 2012 as one of the first high-end fully stainless steel double-edge safety razors that used a manufacturing process that has become popular today. Designed by wet shaving enthusiast Richard Mason a lawyer from Reno Nevada, the Tradere gained popularity quickly which still holds true today .
Built of 60-80% recycled materials, the Tradere was made using a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine system that has since become very popular with modern razor companies. This process involves using a computer with pre-programmed commands to cut a material in the desired shape rather than forging which invoked the use of liquified metal being poured into a shape. Although the programs can take several attempts to perfect a design, the results are consistent and unique. It’s very difficult to replicate a design to exact specs without the program designed by the maker which makes it easy to spot counterfeits
* CNC machine used to make Tradere Razors
After experimenting with several prototypes, the Tradere was ready for distribution. Advertised as the first 100% stainless steel safety razor made in the USA, the first generation model debuted at $169.99 and came in a black storage case that looked like it should be holstering a 9mm pistol rather than a razor. Back in 2012 this was considered expensive so there was some criticism over the price at first. The reviews were very positive as users were impressed with the build quality, presentation and more importantly the shave.
Since the razor was on the higher price of the safety razor spectrum, Mason decided to offer the option of buying parts individually. Buyers could purchase either the razor head or handle separately opened the door for more people to try it.(All Tradere razors are compatible with most Safety razors).
*Solid Steel bars and some unfinished top caps
The first model was named “OC (which stood for open comb design) was initially received by some users as being slightly aggressive. This motivated Mason to make a few tweaks and debut a modified version called the second generation OC. This razor was a success and the most produced model by Tradere.
The SB or “Solid Bar” consisted of the same top cap and handle but featured a closed comb base plate which eliminated any part of the blade being directly exposed to the skin. This led to a less aggressive razor with a similar feel of its predecessors, and opened the door to a new audience of wet shavers. The SB like the Gen 2 OC was also a direct result of customer feedback, being created by popular demand.
After just two years of production Tradere ceased production due to manufacturing issues. This was one of the final messages posted on their website describing the issue:
“We have had to put a temporary hiatus on production and all sales until we are able to secure more inventory that meets our standards. Our former custom machine shop was unable to deliver our orders due to their own issues and we were forced to terminate our relationship with them.
We are seeking out a new shop and and as soon as we have completed that process we will put razors for sale on this site.
Sorry, for any inconvenience and wishing you all good shaves!”
Just 1,100 razors were made in the two years of production and soon after this message Tradere razors sold out forever. Even though Tradere only produced razors for a short period of time the company still impacts the current market.
Today, Tradere razors are available via second hand sites and buy-sell-trade forums for a premium. It’s not uncommon to see these razors sell for 4-5 times the original price.
Now that you know the story let’s discuss the different models of Tradere in a little more detail.
Types of Tradere:
As previously mentioned inthe two year run of Tradere Razors there were three different versions made. Each razor made had a unique serial number which made it possible to identify when it was approximately made. The Generation One OC (Open Comb), The Generation two (OC) and the Solid Bar (SB). Approximately 1,100 razors were produced from 2012-2014 with 207 1st generation OC and the rest being 2nd Gen OC and SB razors.
Reading the serial numbers is quite easy. On the back base plate etched is the model (OC or SB) and a unique number. All razors regardless of model have a unique serial number and no two are alike.
1st Generation OC:
This is the first model produced by Tradere that featured an open comb design and individual serial number for warranty and identification purposes.
For those of you who don’t know what an “open comb” razor is…. it’s a double edge blade razor that the actual guard bar on the baseplate (or piece that assists in angling the blade while offering it some protection) has little notches exposing small sections of the blade directly the skin. The design works well with heavy stubble and was very popular with older razors. (The Open Comb design was developed by King C. Gillette and featured on the first model he produced in 1903)”
Many were impressed but some felt the razor was just a tad aggressive*(or shaved too close). This led to some design changes and the debut of the Second Generation OC after just 206 razors.
*Writer’s note: The term “aggression” is widely used when describing the way a safety razor shaves and is highly subjective. Meaning, what my be aggressive for you, may not be or me and so on. It’s important to understand that YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) when using any safety razor.
Left Gen 1 Right Gen 2 (Images courtesy of Don Nelson)
2nd Generation OC:
The Second Generation OC featured improvements that were mentioned in consumer feedback. Specifications of the head (or assembly that holds the blade and connects to the handle) were changed slightly (3 thousandths of an inch) to make the razor shave a little milder. The results were very favorable among users.
In addition to the head change Tradere decided to go with a slightly smaller handle with an improved grip as part of the redesign. This design stayed with Tradere until the end and is the most popular of the three.
Solid Bar (SB):
Soon after the Generation 2 debuted, Tradere received requests to make a solid bar designed razor. Solid bar razors are designed to have the entire blade guarded with no exposed parts of the blade directly in contact with the skin. This design is less “aggressive”and less prone to getting cut then the OC design which is great for beginners.
Tradere came out with a new base plate to be added to the handle used on the Gen and the SB was born. Several hundred were produced in the year and a half of its existence.
One part of the razor that received a ton of praise was the handle. So much it’s still being replicated today.
If you’ve been in the traditional wet shaving world for awhile then there’s rarely a handle conversation that goes on without mention of the Tradere. The unique design has been mentioned by many as being well balanced and comfortable and some may even argue it’s the best handle design of all time.
It was so popular that Tradere made it available to purchase on its own as it’s compatible with almost every three piece safety razor around. Although rare you may still be able to purchase a handle second hand or a replica from another company.
Although some companies have attempted to replicate the design, the Stork Razor company has created one that is pretty close with a few differences. Here are some images of the replica and authentic.
If you’re wondering if a particular handle is authentic please remember that Tradere did not put a makers mark on the handle so it’s recommended to contact a friend or current owner of a real Tradere if you have any doubts.
The box you say? Yes the box. Earlier Tradere razors came in a plastic case lined with foam and resembles a gun case. Although only 100 or so razors came in this it is a huge plus if you find one in good condition and does bring value to the overall razor.
All other Tradere Razors came in nice cardboard shipper that features the company’s name and slogan. This too increases value of you have it.
If you’re wondering where all the other Tradere collectors are there is a registry on a popular wet shaving forum that is a good place to start. It’s is a great place to meet those in possession of these great razors and they may be able to answer some questions before you decided to purchase one.
Interview with Richard Mason
I emailed a few questions at the end of 2018 to Richard the former owner and proprietor of the Tradere and he was kind enough to answer my questions.
Although there was a similar interview here, this is the first time in several years Richard has spoken publicly regarding Tradere.
*Note: This is the first time some of this information has been released to the public.
1. What serial number did Tradere end with? SB & OC. (I know the first generation OC ended with #207)
“We made about 1,100 razors in total. I don’t recall exactly what the split was.”
2. What are the differences between the Gen 1 OC and Gen 2? I know the handles are slightly different but my interest are the dimensions of the top cap and base plate.
“We reduced the blade gap to make gen2 a tad milder after receiving customer feedback. I think about 3 thousandths of an inch.”
3. Were there any different SB models?
“ Not sold, only a few prototypes.”
4. How were Tradere razors made. Were they CNC machined?
“~ 1,100,and yes CNC machined with hand polishing/ buffing on a wheel.”
5. Where did you get the idea for the plastic storage case? How many were sold in the case vs, cardboard shipper?
“I liked the plastic cases, but the CNC shop raised the price on the second run, so we went to cardboard to keep the price the same.”
When did you switch to the cardboard one?
“After about 100 razors, I think.”
6. How many prototypes did you go through before you had a finished product?
“Six for the 1st OC, then a couple for the second OC to reduce the gap. For the SB about seven.”
What were some of the struggles?
“It was fun, but like any product, there were lots of bumps in the road at almost every turn. We stopped because I could no longer get the razors made here in Reno, it just became uneconomic for the shop after business picked up following the end of the recession. Also, I was quite picky about each razor. There were some family health issues that required our time. Since it was part-time gig, when I no longer had a local shop, that’s what had to go.”
7. Are any plans on making a comeback?
“We still have some handles, a few parts, and some boxes, but I have been saving them in case we do a license. I still have the design patent and have been approached by a few folks about licensing it, one from Asia and one here in the USA recently. But, I have since retired, so any reintroduction would be through a licensee. I am open to a license and would be pleased to see a re-release.”
8. Do you have any other interesting facts you would like to share?
“It was in all a wonderful experience, but I never thought the razors would become collectible. That has surprised me. I am truly overjoyed folks are enjoying the razors that much. I am glad I saved the first two numbered OC razors, and some of the prototypes.”
For the review portion I am going with SB00415 and Gen 1 OC00042, two razors from my collection. Before we get started, it’s important to mention that these razors, may look alike they perform very differently.
The first thing I noticed when handling the OC was the weight. It has a nice heft to it and feels much like holding a wrench or ratchet rather than a safety razor. Closer inspection reveals that the finish of the handle appears to be slightly duller than the high polished head. You would think that the different finishes would look weird but in this case it works.
Loading the blade is standard of 3 piece safety razors so I won’t go into detail here. The head is slightly larger than most razors or at least it appears to be.
With the shave I caution the user to fully understand that this razor is aggressive. As previously mentioned the term “aggressive” maybe subjective, but I can honestly say that it will bite back (or leave you with a few nicks) if not used properly. If you use it correctly you may have the best shave of your life. I recommend it to those with a few years of safety razor use under their belt.
When shaving with the grain I found an extremely light touch with a 30 degree angle to be best. The lighter the pressure the better. Remember that this razor is very heavy and a light touch is all you need. Let the razor do the work and you guide it.
Against the grain requires the same touch. Light and easy. The razor’s weight is all you need.
The end result, perfect. My face is clean and soft. Not a trace of stubble. An enjoyable experience with a razor that is a quality piece.
Shaving with the SB is the complete opposite. This razor is extremely mild, very forgiving and easy to use. I would recommend it to a new wet shaver or someone who shaves quickly. It’s efficient yet mild and very easy to maneuver. In short , if you want the feel and look of a high end razor but don’t like aggressive shaves this razor is for you.
The Tradere Razor Company will forever go down in history as a modern marvel when it comes to modern safety razors. It set the standard for new razors and opened up collectors and users alike to a new category of wet shaving.
For the few that have the pleasure of using and owning these razors, they know they hold a piece of wet shaving history. For everyone else I hope you get the chance to try one.
Special Thanks To:
About the Author:
Joe Borrelli is a long-time wet shaving enthusiast and collector. He hosts the Wet Shaving News/Talk Podcast, runs his own self-funded website http://shavestraightandsafe.com/ and operates a YouTube channel 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, reading, writing, outdoor activities and collecting wet shaving apparel. Find out more about Joe here.