[Updated 3 May 2016] A slant-bar razor (“slant” for short) is a double-edged (DE) safety razor whose blade is mounted to strike the stubble at a slant, since a slanted blade cuts more easily than a straight-on chop—thus the slanted blade of the guillotine and of many mandolines, such as the Swissmar Borner V-Slicer. The slant razor, patented on 6 February 1915 by Thomas Wild (thus approaching its centennial), brought a slanted blade to shaving. [Patent date and holder corrected, thanks to comment below. – LG]
The efficiency of slants
Because slants remove stubble easily and efficiently, they are especially popular with men who have thick, tough, coarse, wiry beards, which make the improved ease of cutting quite noticeable. And when that beard grows from sensitive skin, the slant is doubly appreciated because it is so gentle on the skin. My own beard is normal, but even for me a slant shaves more easily and smoothly than a regular razor.
The slant’s mildness on the skin is due to a marked reduction in pressure in two directions. First, when using a slant the pressure directly against the skin is extremely light (thus my standard suggestion that a slant be a man’s second razor). Second, because the slant cuts so easily, cutting resistance is greatly reduced, so the razor’s pressure against the stubble is also noticeably less—and because the razor does not push so hard against the stubble, the stubble in turn does not push so hard against the skin, a big improvement when the skin is sensitive. Some men have found that a slant totally solves shaving problems on the neck, for example, where the skin is soft and often sensitive so that the slant’s ease of cutting is a significant help.
Once a man routinely gets smooth and trouble-free shaves with a regular DE, the transition to a slant is just a matter of doing some renewed blade exploration (as for any new razor: the best brand in one razor may not be the best in another) and “breaking in” the razor over a few shaves—that is, using it carefully while you learn (mostly unconsciously) the best angle and pressure. (I call it “breaking in” because it seems as though the new razor gradually starts working better, but the change is in your technique, not in the razor.)
You wield a slant exactly as though it were a regular razor (though with less pressure), so no new skills are required. By “less pressure,” I mean the same degree of pressure you’d use if you had a really bad sunburn and the razor were an uncomfortably hot rod: rather than “pressing” the skin, the razor just (barely) touches it—that sort of pressure.
Cartridge razors have nothing comparable to the slant, but of course cartridge razors don’t even offer an adjustable razor.
Slants now in current production
The only slant razor head on the market when I wrote the most recent edition of the Guide was made by Merkur. It was available in two models, the 37C and the 39C, the only difference being the handle. (The Merkur slants are two-piece razors, with handle attached to baseplate, so you cannot swap out the handle.) Two razors but each having the same head: not a great range of choices. Hoffritz razors were to be found as vintage razors, but those were rebranded Merkurs—though it’s interesting that Hoffritz, which positioned itself as selling top-notch merchandise, chose the slant as its razor.
The lack of choice was not seen as an issue at the time, because among DE shavers those using a slant were viewed as a fringe group. Most DE shavers back then never seriously considered using a slant: in photos, the razor looked weird and “broken.” Indeed, DE shavers looked at slant razors in much the same way that cartridge shavers looked at DE razors: they’re okay for weirdos.
But now the range of slant choices has increased substantially, with several new slants on the market. All these new slants use the three-piece design, so it’s easy to swap handles, and most recently, with the iKon Shavecraft #102 slant and the Above the Tie slant, the razor is sold unbundled: head and handle are purchased separately (which allows you to use a handle you already own). Unbundling the head makes sense with vendors now commonly selling handles separately—Above the Tie, Elite Razors, iKon, Pens of the Forest, Weber, and others offer razor handles, which are, of course, much easier to make than razor heads—thus I anticipate that artisanal razor handles will become more common.
The Merkur 37C and 39C are still available, though the 37G (the gold version of the 37C) seems to have fallen by the wayside.
iKon came out with a solid stainless steel slant (pictured) a couple of years ago, and now that same head is available also with a DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating and with a B1 coating. These iKon slants seem to me more comfortable than the Merkur slants, but are somewhat picky about the brand of blade and about loading the razor. Moreover, one cannot use “just the weight of the razor” with the iKon stainless slants since the razor is heavy and a slant requires light pressure. Several have noticed that the razor gives a flawless shave initially (because they are being careful of the pressure), but then after a few shaves it starts to give occasional nicks (because they have become careless about pressure and are letting the razor’s full weight be applied). Once they pay attention once more to making sure the razor barely touches the skin, the nicks vanish. That in fact happened to me.
Italian Barber found a large cache of Merkur white bakelite slants from the 1930’s, and those proved extremely popular: the light weight was no problem (they were slants, so light pressure works well—and these were light enough that the shaver could control pressure directly, just as DE shavers control blade angle directly). Since the supply was limited, it was soon exhausted, but IB made some tweaks to the design and has come out with the Stealth slant, an exceptionally forgiving slant and the only slant I can recommend as a first razor for a DE novice. The Stealth is made in aluminum and also in stainless steel. Production is still ramping up, but in general the Stealth has proved popular.
iKon’s Shavecraft #102 slant was the next to appear on the market. It has a cast aluminum head and uses a humpback design (with the blade not twisted) similar to that used back in the day by Walbusch. I have a Walbusch bakelite humpback slant, and it gives a wonderfully comfortable and smooth shave. (And who would not welcome the gift of a Walbusch B5 this holiday season? There are a couple on eBay as I write.) Like the Walbusch the #102 shaves wonderfully. Indeed, I think the #102, like the Stealth, might work as a novice’s first razor, provided he can use light pressure. The only drawback of the humpback design is an asymmetrical appearance: with a twisted blade, the blade’s slant (say, from upper left to lower right) is the same on both sides; with the humpback design the blade slants upper left to lower right on one side, upper right to lower left on the other. While the appearance is odd, the shave is fine and the asymmetry turns out not to matter—and the untwisted blade finesses any loading problems. (iKon has a history of asymmetric razors—open comb on one side, straight-bar on the other, beginning with the iKon OSS and in various models since—so it seems appropriate that it was iKon that introduced a modern asymmetric slant.)
Above the Tie now offers a machined stainless steel slant. This slant, like all but the #102, uses a twisted-blade design and, like all slants, is both comfortable and efficient. Though the blade’s slant in the ATT looks somewhat less, the razor’s performance is excellent.
Maggard Razors has mentioned plans to augment its current line-up of razors with a slant. A $25-$30 slant that’s reasonably good would greatly accelerate the migration to slants.
Most find that the newer slants are more comfortable than the Merkur 37C/39C and equally efficient—but of course one of the primary design goals for the new slants would have been to improve on the Merkur slants. Why try to come out with a slant no better than the slant already on the market? That would make no sense. (For much the same reason, the relatively recent Edwin Jagger/Mühle conventional razor head shaves better for most than the Merkur Classic head that EJ and Mühle previously used: if they were going to design a new head, they would certainly want to work on the design until it was better than the old head.)
Why the surge in slants?
Within a very short period, we have gone from one slant head to eight. What’s going on?
Take a look at the Sharpologist article I wrote three years ago, when the Weber was first introduced. The entire article is relevant to the slant situation today, but let me quote just one passage:
This phenomenon of niche markets exploding due to the shifting economics of communication (the Internet) and commerce (globalization from containerization and cheap fuel) is discussed in detail in Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, but the traditional shaving movement differs somewhat from other niche markets: traditional shaving has a ratchet-like effect. Let me explain, drawing on some statistics I just made up. (I’m sure you’ve heard that 89% of statistics are simply made up on the spot.)
Let’s say that in the US, Canada, and Europe about 85% of men shave their beards. And when men actually try traditional wetshaving, something like 85% stick with it—mainly because it’s so enjoyable, but other factors—better shaves, kinder to skin, much lower expense once the initial kit is in hand—certainly add weight to the decision to continue—and those also are reasons that resonate well with, say, one’s Significant Other. So traditional wetshaving is, on the whole, a room with a one-way door: guys once in want to stay. And, guys being guys and competitive by nature, they want to brag to their buddies about how their shaves are now much better (“than yours” implied), and in that context offer additional reasons (gadget appeal, the bad-ass factor), playing to the male audience.
The result is that more and more men will be drawn into traditional wetshaving over time, with a likely market size of 85% (the proportion of men who stick with it after trying it) of 85% (the proportion of men who shave) of the total number of men in the US, Canada, and Europe. Do the math and you will see that traditional wetshavers could eventually amount to about 75% of that male population. And, of course, as more men join in and talk it up, traditional wetshaving becomes more visible and prominent, which will induce more to try it. And if newbies get good guidance for the transition (and sources of such guidance increase steadily), they will (a) adopt the method permanently and (b) brag to their buddies, which brings them into the fold, whereupon they become traditional-wetshaving missionaries.
You see how quickly this is building. No wonder we once again are seeing innovation in double-edged safety razors.
As noted, one key factor in the rapid growth of DE shaving is the Internet, which supports word-of-mouth (through shaving forums and blogs) and also, along with containerization and globalization, accommodates a dispersed customer base. Equally important is the high retention rate for those who try a DE razor: most who try a DE stick with it rather than return to cartridges (and thus add their voice to the word of mouth): here’s a recent example.
The Internet’s support (and amplification) of word-of-mouth undermines the power of mass-market advertising and does that at substantially lower costs to the manufacturer—and, as RazoRock points out in comments, because the manufacturer’s costs are lower, the price to the consumer can be lower as well.
DE razors don’t get the kind of mass marketing campaigns used to push cartridge razors. Of course, cartridge razors require a lot of marketing because they are so expensive—and that creates a positive feedback loop: cartridge sales must pay for all that marketing, so the marketing costs (along with manufacturing costs and profits) must be covered by the price, and that higher price requires more intensive marketing with higher marketing costs—and profits also must always increase. Another snowball effect, and one that will not end well.
The Sharpologist article quoted above was written shortly after the first Weber came to market, and since then we’ve seen numerous new DE razors: several iKon models, the Tradere, the Standard, several models from Above the Tie, and I recently shaved with the latest entry, the BBS-1 from the Los Angeles Shaving Company (and of course I’m hoping the BBS-2 will be a slant).
Note that these new razors are NOT coming from traditional razor companies like Procter & Gamble: we see a new wave of razor manufacturers, responding to new demand. Procter & Gamble is working to protect its existing market, a response typical of established companies that once were innovators: they become resistant to change and innovation. (Cf. AT&T before the breakup of the Bell telephone monopoly.)
The driving forces for the DE movement have been better performance of the razor, high retention rate of those who try, word of mouth via the Internet, and easy availability of razors via the Internet. As the number of DE shavers increase, and as more new razors become available, the visibility of DE shaving increases, which leads to more men trying it—and most who try it stick with it.
The result: a rapidly growing snowball effect toward DE razors as men shift away from cartridge razors. (And that movement in itself results in more visibility: another example of positive feedback.)
Slants are driven by the same dynamic as DE razors
Consider now the slant: better performance than a regular DE, high retention rate for those who try a slant (around 70%), word of mouth via the Internet, and easy availability via the Internet: the same dynamic that drove growth of the regular DE razor.
That 70% figure comes from an informal unscientific poll: it’s the percentage of those who had tried a slant and found they “love” it. (The poll indicated that a slant did not work for about 7%—and about 23% (almost ¼) found that the slant shaved about the same as a regular razor. For that group, the cutting resistance their beard offered to a regular razor was low enough that the improvement from a slant was negligible.)
A 70% retention rate is enough to ensure steady and even rapid growth. And while the figure may not be totally accurate, it is indeed based on actual responses. The 85% retention rate cited for DE razors is merely a general impression from a self-selected sample, but the 70% figure for slants is much more jelled. For both slants and DEs, it seems clear that those who try it are more likely to stick with it than revert to their earlier razor.
I believe that the burst of new slants is the result of increasing demand. It’s demand that drives the economy. On the supply side, entrepreneurs like to talk about being “job creators,” but in fact most jobs are created in order to respond to demand. No business can long survive without a demand for its products or services, and when the demand must constantly be pumped up (with marketing dollars), the cost per item soars, requiring more marketing dollars: a feedback loop that leads to a vicious circle of spiraling costs.
Because a DE razor produces excellent results (new DE users are surprised that the DE shave is better than a cartridge shave) and because it’s actually enjoyable to use, customers are drawn to it rather than pushed toward it: thus marketing dollars are not required to drive demand. (And I believe that it’s the enjoyment that accounts for the high retention rate: it’s unusual nowadays to enjoy a necessary task, so novelty augments enjoyment.) The slant, for most, offers the same step up in performance and enjoyment from the DE that the DE offered to cartridge shavers—which of course accounts for the 70% who love a slant once they try it.
The DE was fringe to the mainstream of cartridge razors, but now is growing rapidly into the mainstream, on the verge of crossing over; similarly, the slant was fringe to DE razors, but now the slant razor is rapidly growing, driven by the same mechanisms that drives the growth of the DE into the mainstream.
The numbers may still be relatively small (compared to the now-faltering cartridge juggernaut), but the dynamics are clear and the trend is visible—cf. the seven new slants now available. (Soon to be eight? or nine?)
And just as the flowering of new DE razors drew attention (leading to more men trying them), so also the burst of new slants attracts attention. With slants having greater visibility, more will try them (based on the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” theory).
And just as the DE razor is about to burst out into mainstream shaving, I bet that slants are about to burst out into DE shaving.
Indeed, one now frequently sees forum posts from slant newbies, reporting on the excellence of their experience. With more choices of slants, the question moves from “Slant or not?” to “Which slant?”, and the existence of more models makes the phenomenon more visible in on-line catalogs, which begin to include a section devoted to slant razors. More visibility means more will be inclined to try it—thus the snowball.
Certainly something is driving this burst of new slant models, and that seems to be demand. And when you experience a slant’s shaving performance, the demand makes sense.
I have no business connection with any maker of slants. If anything, I’m probably sort of a PITA to them. But I do think I see slants as starting to take off rapidly, replicating within the DE movement the same dynamic as the DE movement itself has demonstrated within shaving in general.
The familiar route of cross-over phenomena
It occurs to me that one can visualize this dynamic in terms of Markov chains, which consist of various states along with the probabilities of moving from one state to another. The probability of a change of state in one direction—moving from cartridge to DE (as well as from DE to slant)—is now rising sharply, while the probability of a change of state in the other direction—from DE back to cartridge (or from slant back to DE)—remains low. The sharp rise in the probability of the first change of state is a social-media thing: the more that move to the new state, the more the communications to those who have yet to try (either directly from those who have made the change, or indirectly, through seeing articles, forum posts and comments, Facebook mentions, and the like). The movement simply becomes more and more visible, resulting in more deciding to give it a try, and so on.
It seems to be akin to the way crystals form in a supersaturated solution: no crystals form for a while as the solution becomes increasingly supersaturated, but once crystal formation starts, it happens quickly. Cartridge razors “supersaturated” the razor solution by becoming increasingly expensive and hard on the skin. Thus the re-introduction of DE razors hit a supersaturated solution and the movement to DEs, once started, grew quickly. And, analogously, the slant’s better performance among DEs (particularly noticeable in men with thick beards) meant that once the slant began to be adopted and more men heard how good a shave the slant did, things started moving quickly (cf. the list above of seven new slants).
Somewhat the same dynamic can be observed in many trends—sous vide cooking, for example. Cooking obviously goes through waves of trends—memes competing and evolving—and the current break-out cooking method is sous vide. And when you look at it, you see a dynamic similar the DE break-out:
- Initially, it’s done experimentally by some intensely involved aficionados—fanatics, in effect. For sous vide, these were the experimentally minded chefs and cooking enthusiasts, repurposing lab equipment to cook meat. They worked out the kinks and established the methods. In DE shaving there was the core group that started the first shaving forums: the Microsoft groups and ShaveMyFace.com. Active human culture consists of constant interaction and competition among memes, following the Darwinian model as described by Richard Dawkins. Right now, sous vide and DE shaving are proving to be successful memes.
- From the fanatics, the meme is taken up disciples who closely follow the fanatics. For sous vide, this was the move to regular production cooking in restaurant kitchens.
- From disciples, the meme then spreads to mere fans, who are closer to the mass public than disciples, but more involved in the activity than most people. These are the foodies, the early adopters of new foods, cooking tools, and cooking methods. For sous vide, this was the move from commercial kitchens to the homes of those with interest and money to explore this new cooking meme, even though the equipment was still costly and/or cumbersome.
- The final step is the meme moving from fans to the general public. This is happening now as sous vide is more often mentioned and the requisite equipment becomes less expensive and more available—things like the Anova and similar sous vide appliances—in response to the increasing demand. This step is the breakout into the mass market, completing the move from the fringe to the center.
That path seems to be a standard pattern of meme evolution: from fanatics to disciples to fans to the mass market. It’s such a common sequence—does it have a name? Ernest Hemingway captures the essence of the sequence in describing how you go bankrupt: “Gradually, and then suddenly.”
Recently two new slants have come onto the market and the Stealth slant has gone out of production, so an update seems appropriate.
Let me note three important pointers for first-time slant users—and in fact the three pointers apply to any new razor you get:
- Do some blade exploration. A brand of blade that’s best in one razor may not be best (or even good) in another. Try 3-4 different brands, then stick with the best of those for a month or two to work out your technique without the distraction of varying the blade. A razor can go from harsh to smooth, or from inefficient to efficient, just by changing the brand of blade—and NO brand works well for everyone. A brand that’s great for one may be terrible for another: that’s why there are blade sampler packs.
- Find the optimal angle. Move the handle of the razor farther from your face (toward perpendicular to the skin being shaved) until you hear/feel the cutting stop; then move it closer until the cutting sound/feel just resumes. Right around there is the optimal angle. Experiment judiciously. It will be easier to find/remember the angle if you focus on making sure the cap is touching your skin. (Forget about the guard—it’s there if needed—and focus instead on the cap.) You may find the razor’s best angle has the handle a little farther from your face than you expect, but the focus on the cap makes the angle easy to maintain.
- Use extremely light pressure, barely enough to keep the razor in contact with your skin. Use the same pressure you’d use if you had a sunburn and the razor were an uncomfortably warm metal rod: still touch the skin, but barely. This is particularly import for slant razors, which cut easily: that virtue can turn against you if you press the razor against your skin.
The Holy Black SR-71 Slant http://theholyblack.com/collections/grooming-shaving/products/sr-71-safety-razor: Currently $40, The Holy Black’s slant has a hefty large-diameter brass handle. The head looks a lot like the Merkur 37C head, and the handle is the same length as the 37C handle, but the additional heft of the handle gives the razor a different feel. It’s smooth cutting and quite comfortable and is priced lower than any other metal slant now being offered.
Fine Accoutrements Superlite Slant https://www.fineaccoutrements.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=SLSR: This slant is a replica in ABS plastic of the Merkur white bakelite slant, which also inspired the Stealth slant. However, the Stealth slant tweaked that design a bit, while the Fine slant is faithful to the original. ABS plastic is much tougher and less brittle than bakelite, so the Fine slant is unlikely to break if dropped. The threaded parts—the threaded stud from the cap and the tapped handle—are, like those of the white bakelite slant, made of metal rather than plastic, so they will not fail.
The light weight is disconcerting at first, especially to those accustomed to letting the weight of the razor do the cutting. This razor’s weight is not enough for that technique, so you do apply pressure, but just enough to get the razor to cut, and that turns out to be very little pressure. By requiring you to focus on finding the minimum pressure needed, the Fine slant ends up encouraging the very light pressure a slant requires. This slant encourages direct control of pressure, much as DE razors in general provide direct control of the angle.
The shave is smooth and easy, and the $30 price makes this the most affordable new slant.
Now that we are seeing se razors coming out, I think a se slant razor would be a cool tool to use for shaving. Wonder who will be the first to come out with that? What you think?
I think it seems reasonable but SE slants seem to be rare. Not sure why.
Wullie Hunter says
Since I have purchased and used the Fine Superlite Slant and the Bakelite Open Comb Slant (The Bakelite having the slight edge) I’ve never looked back over the last few weeks, as my Merkur 15c Open comb and Feather Popular are now lying around collecting dust at this moment in time. Will have to return to the Merkur now and again as this has been my favourite razor for a long time.
steve, thedailyshaver says
Italian Barber sell own-branded RAZOROCK German 37 Slant for a very reasonable $20 (they also offer a HAWK single edge feather-artist for $20/25, as well as DE’s from $15 too). Maggard have an own branded slant and iKon have the X3 slant. PAA have a bakelite slant with an open-comb as does FINE has a plastic slant too.
With a few exceptions I find slants to be a disappointment, the exception is the IB German 37 3-piece (Merkur 37C/39C style slant). The more I pay for a slant the bigger the disappointment has been for me alas but please post below your comments and contradictions! Oh plastic (don’t get fooled by fancy titles like bakelite) are the worst unless its for a travel razor, where the weight reduction is appreciated for carry on luggage… You buy them and then NEVER use them again! I know, i have a growing collection of unloved slants… So do as i say, not as I do!
There are also two new slants from Ireland.
I like the RazoRock German 37 slant (both because it is a three-piece design and because it feels and performs quite well for me). You’re right: $12 for the head alone is a great way to try a slant at low cost.
I don’t understand why plastic is “the worst.” I have a number of plastic razors that work extremely well, but my main criteria are feel and performance rather than (say) material and appearance. For a conventional razor, the Dorco PL-602 (search on eBay for some bargains) is really excellent in feel and performance (and is adjustable to boot, in the style of the Progress). What exactly do you see as being wrong with plastic? And certainly the vintage Merkur white bakelite slant is a superb slant for many (but not all: this is shaving). (I don’t quite understand why you consider “bakeite” a “fancy title”: it’s a type of plastic, and was the first commercially successful plastic. Bakelite has a number of advantages: light weight, rigidity, easy to mold, and so on, but does have the drawback of being brittle, which I presume is why Fine use ABS plastic (again, not a fancy title but a type of plastic), since ABS has excellent toughness and impact resistance.
Of course, I have also purchased slants that did not work well at all for me: the ATT S2, the RazoRock Wunderbar, and others. (I’ve also purchased some regular razors that did not work well at all for me, but I don’t slam regular razors on that account.)
Rich Wood says
Three new slant head plastic DE razors are available from a Shapeways seller. These are made using 3D printing technology. The seller is listed as drone115b and the razor names are Sharkbone 220 Slant Bar Safety Razor, Whalebone 222 Slant Bar Safety Razor, Kraken 248 Slant Bar Safety Razor and the Fishbone 212 Double Edge Safety Razor. You can Google them by name. You buy the 3D printed parts and assemble them using off the shelf hardware. I would use stainless steel or brass hardware to prevent corrosion.
A couple of the razors are available in a choice of materials and the cheapest option slant head razor starts at $13.50 + shipping. I have ordered all 4 razors but there is a close to 2 week turn around time as these are apparently made to order.
I tried a 3-D printed slant a while back. That one was utter trash. I’m not willing to try any more when there is an excellent plastic slant available (the Fine Superlite) and the iKon Shavecraft X3 slant head, made of cast aluminum and a really superb slant, is available for $30-$35.
That was just a misguided effort at humor. It’s often observed that a new razor initially presents some minor problems–e.g., a tendency to nick—but as you use it the problems go away, since you unconsciously learn the best angle and the right pressure for that particular razor: you learn the razor, so performance improves. It’s as if the razor has become better from being broken in. 🙂
Sorry. I should fix that.
I love your website! Question? It says, “breaking in the razor after a few shaves”. What’s does breaking in a new razor mean? It says this above towards the top of the articles when it talks about exploring new blades.
Yeah, the idea of a single scale that runs from “mild” at one end to “aggressive” at the other just doesn’t work for describing razor performance. I find using two scales works much better, one scale measuring “comfort” (a “comfortable” razor is disinclined to nick and also feels disinclined to nick) and the other measuring “efficiency” (how easily and effectively the razor removes stubble). Thus you have razors that are efficient but not comfortable (e.g., the Mühle R41 for me), razors that are comfortable but no efficient (e.g., the Weishi) and—the sweet spot—razors that are both efficient and also comfortable. (There possibly are razors that are neither efficient nor comfortable, but those don’t last long on the market for obvious reasons.)
Shawnsel developed a chart of razor comparisons, and I contributed the ratings in the “Comfort” and “Efficiency” columns. Those razors that are Very Comfortable and also Very Efficient are mild and gentle on the skin and aggressive and efficient at removing stubble—and, as you comment, it’s difficult to place those razors on a single scale that runs from “mild” to “efficient.”
Another drawback of the usual “mild” and “aggressive” terminology is that both words are used in two senses. “Aggressive,” for example, can mean “harsh” (as in “This razor is too aggressive for me”) or “efficient” (as in “This razor is not aggressive enough for me”).
I’m delighted that you’re enjoying the #102. I like mine a lot, of the new slants, I think that one gives the best bang for the buck.
Hi again, Leisureguy.
After our little exchange of comments back on December 10, I finally tried a slant razor. It’s a Shave Craft 102 with SE handle. I’ve been using it every day for about 2-1/2 weeks, with Feather, Polsilver SI and Gillette Yellow blades. I’m so excited that I posted on B&B about it.
In short, it’s superb. Smooth and efficient. BBS or close shaves every day, with no nicks or scrapes. Plus, it takes about 20% less time to shave with this razor than with any other razor I’ve tried. Really. Same number of passes in the same routine, just faster.
The configuration of the head shows real intelligence and thought:
– It’s thin enough so that maneuvering under my nose and in other tight spots is easy.
– It’s wide enough to cover the side tabs of the blade.
– The sides of the top and bottom plates are curved inward so that grasping the head to tighten or loosen it is easy, even when everything is wet.
– There’s marking on one matching side of both plates so I don’t try to put the razor together backwards.
– The bolt to attach the top plate to the handle is longer than most and allows a very secure attachment, so long as the bolt hole in the handle is deep enough.
It’s hard to place it on the mild-aggressive scale, because it cuts my beard but not my skin. If I have to compare it with other razors, it’s more aggressive than a Tech, a Slim, a DE89 or a Feather AS-D2 and milder than a New OC (which is efficient but too harsh for me) or a Merkur HD. It may be in about the same position as a Standard or an original iKon OC.
As to weight and balance, that’s personal. I usually like lightweight razors like the Standard or even the Feather AS-D2. But the balance on the 102 works for me. Obviously, the aluminum head is lighter than the same head would be in stainless steel, but it’s still substantial. It balances well in my hand with the SE handle. It’s stainless steel, longer than average (maybe 4″) and quite heavy. I haven’t tried the 102 head with other handles yet.
So I’m a satisfied customer. I haven’t tried any other slants, but this one is a keeper.
Joseph Salemi says
I am 63 yrs. of age and in my early teens used a db razor. Use to cut myself quite a bit, then tried out the electric shavers having a heavy beard did not work to well. Very sensetive skin and having rashes from shaving. As I got older I used the new type sensor cartridge until my daughter gave me a new slant razor. To be honest I was afraid to use this and remembered the younger days of cutting myself up. This new db slant is the best razor and closest shave I had ever had. Was careful with it and so far did not nick myself. Can’t believe the shave and does a much better job than my old razor. The sensor cartridges are over $2.00 each and last me 5 shaves compared to getting over 12 shaves with the db razors. I have to admit I really look forward to shaving everyday something I did not enjoy with the cartridge type and knowing I’m not throwing money down the drain purchasing the expensive cartridge type blades. Don’t understand the logic behind men using the cartridge type compared to the db. Will never go back to the cartridge type and if it wasn’t for my little girl giving me this as a gift I would still being using the cart. type. Just my 2 cents
I had the same experience: hated shaving with cartridge and canned foam, but now I look forward with pleasure to my morning shave.
Douglas Himes says
re: “On the supply side, entrepreneurs like to talk about being “job creators,” but in fact most jobs are created in order to respond to demand.”
This is central to this excellent TED talk.
Excellent talk. Thanks. Those ideas that “make sense” and thus are not tested are the bane of human progress. Aristotle famously said that a heavy object will fall faster than a lighter object—it just makes sense: it’s heavier. Duh.
But when the idea was tested it was found to be wrong.
Another one that makes enough sense to many that they see no reason to test it: a cartridge razor will give a better shave than a DE because the cartridge razor has three (or more) blades. Duh.
Untested ideas that “make sense” can really do a number on you.
Again, thanks for the excellent link.
Thank you so much for this. Really enjoyed the article. I had no idea that slants were so peripheral. Loads of other things to learn too in the detail.
I started DE shaving about 5 years ago, profoundly disillusioned by the price of cartridge shaving. EJ89 first, then a Gillette Rocket flare tip (UK made) and finally a Merkur slant, short handle.
Essentially, the slant is my “go to” razor. Sharp, comfortable, smooth, agile and easy to use ONCE you have mastered the basic DE technique. I tend to find that sharper blades work better in it, but ymmv as ever.
Usual shave is a two razor affair though! First pass with the Rocket, then second (and third if necessary) with the slant. (Perhaps I need an adjustable? Haha!) Smooth skin, no nicks, no irritation.
I would encourage ANYONE who has not tried a slant to give one a go, they really are an excellent piece of kit.
Great article, Michael.
I totally agree about light pressure, that is ‘key’ to using a slant effectively. You really want the head geometry to do all the heavy lifting.
I don’t think you are a PITA for slant makers, in fact, quite the opposite.
You said this in your article…
“The Internet’s support (and amplification) of word-of-mouth undermines the power of mass-market advertising and does that at substantially lower costs to the manufacturer.”
I would say it does that at a lower cost to the consumer because the the investment into mass-market advertising does not have to be returned.
Excellent point—if the price a manufacturer charges does not have to pay for expensive media campaigns, the price can be lower. You’re totally right.
For some time I wanted to try a slant but I found them somewhat expensive. But your speech under “THE EFFICIENCY OF SLANTS” is convincing enough. Now I’m definitely going to try one. Thanks guys!
I’ll be very interested to hear of your experience once you’ve broken in the razor. If you would post a report at http://www.reddit.com/r/wicked_edge, I know that a passel of people will be interested in reading it.
“Most find that the newer slants are more comfortable than the Merkur 37C/39C and equally efficient”
Hate to pick nits, but I submit the term “most” is anecdotal at best. My experience is quite the opposite actually. The Ikon stainless I sold was efficient, but if not extremely careful, caused nicks and weepers. The aluminum RRSS prototype I tried was very comfortable to use but slightly less efficient for me than the 39c due to the RRSS light weight. The heads on both razors were rather large compared to the Merkur heads, making them less nimble in my opinion. So far, Merkur slants are number one on my list, although Santa has been asked for a Shavecraft #102 :).
Yep, nothing in shaving works for everyone. My own experience, along with many reports I’ve read, indicates to me that most do find the newer slants more comfortable—and that was surely the intent of the designers. But, as I say, nothing in shaving works for everyone, and I am sure that you find the 37C/39C more comfortable (since you’ve told me that a few times—in fact, once previously in this comment thread with the name David—and that does not count as two anecdotes 🙂 ). Still, I do appreciate your comment. I’ll stick with my statement, though: it is my opinion that most will find the newer slants more comfortable—plus, of course, they offer the advantages of the three-piece design.
You might find the ATT slant nice: it has quite a low-profile head, and shaves quite nicely. I’m debating trying the open-comb version.
I’ve tried most of the slants listed except for the ATT which is way above my pay grade. Hands down I prefer my 37C and 39C over the rest. And for some strange reason, I prefer the 2-piece design of the Merkur. But as they say, to each his own, YMMV and all that. The most important thing is that the razor you choose gives “you” the best shave.
“Most find that the newer slants are more comfortable than the Merkur 37C/39C and equally efficient”
This is anecdotal at best. I’d say (anecdotally) that the 37/39c is more comfortable than the stainless Ikon slant.
Not totally anecdotal. I do know of your preference, of course, but for most the newer slants are more comfortable for the reasons cited in the article:
Of course, nothing in shaving works for everyone, but based on the large number of anecdotes I’ve seen, plus the obvious goal to field a product that is better (for most) than existing offerings, I feel comfortable with saying that, for most, the newer slants are more comfortable.
Nice roundup piece. You’ve convinced me to try a slant. Now which one? The information in your piece is a good start, but how about these questions?
– I can’t maneuver any TTO razor in the tight areas under my nose and on my ears. Will a humpback slant head have the same problem?
– ATT offers both SB and OC slant heads. Are the differences similar to the differences between conventional SB and OC heads?
– Does the aluminum Shavecraft 102 solve the iKon weight issue?
– Is there a benefit to the DLC or B1 coating on the iKon?
Also, are you willing to recommend a slant for me? My beard is light-medium. Best razors are Feather AS-D2, Standard and early iKon “Deluxe” OC. Tech also works. Go-to blades are Gillette Silver Blue, Yellow and Black, Polsilver Super Iridium and Wilkinson Classic.
I have no problem maneuvering these slants under my nose. The bulkiest is the Stealth, but even that works well. I do shave both directions in the XTG pass on my upper lip, which cleans up the stubble well, and then I finish up ATG (easy after the two XTG passes—and I don’t relather between the two XTG passes).
I haven’t tried the ATT open-comb slant. But the closed comb works well.
The #102 does seem to resolve the weight issue, though it helps if the handle has some heft. I tried the handle from an Edwin Jagger DE86bl (faux-ebony handle), and that was definitely too light: the razor felt head-heavy. Right now I’m using an iKon Bulldog handle, but I think an EJ metal handle might work, and certainly the Maggard stainless handles would be fine.
I’ve not tried the B1 coating, but I do like the DLC. I wouldn’t call it a game-changer, but it’s quite pleasant. I have the iKon SE handle on that one. Some have reported minor flaking problems, but if you’re the original purchaser, iKon will replace any defective heads.
I would recommend either the Stealth ($80, and hard to get) or the #102 ($48 plus a handle). I think the #102 is the best bang for the buck.
Great answers, Leisureguy. Thanks!
Nice article. Lots of interesting analysis on slants. Yours is the first reference I’ve seen in the shaving world to the concept of memes a la Dawkins (as opposed to the more specific and less serious term “memes” on, say, Facebook). Tip of the hat for that. I would guess that the larger shaving public will be taking up wet shaving and slants much more slowly than you estimate, but I hope that you are the one who is correct. Wet shaving is good therapy, giving us a bit of a break from our frenetic 24 hour news, smart phone, iPad culture, providing time and space to slow down, pay complete attention and immerse yourself in an experience. Those shavers who even turn off the music in order to hear the shearing of whiskers are doing something that seems is getting less and less common these days. Of course the camaraderie involved in participating in forums, having others offer advice, help and even an occasional sample is a bonus bit of connection that we could all use a bit more of in my estimation.
I find memes quite interesting—and they provide an interesting way of looking at and understanding various cultural phenomena. Here’s a recent post on some meme-ish thoughts on Shakespeare.
Agreed. Thanks for the link.
BTW, I have a subject category “Memes” for the blog and you can do a category search to find other meme-related posts—these posts.
I’m using a Merkur slant bar 37c since year 2010 (interrupted by Gillete Tech and Rocket ocasionally) and I feel it’s the razor that better suits my sensitive skin and hard heavy beard. Also I noted the time between shaves increased a little, because the slant gives me a closer shave.
This razor obviously requires a lighter touch sometimes, but the results are very good. Do you know of another razor model that would be good for my type of beard/skin? Thanks.
I would recommend any of the new slants mentioned in the article. As noted, each one is an improvement over the 37C/39C for most, that being most likely a design goal. Also you might look at regular razors in the “mild-aggressive” category: mild and gentle on the skin, aggressive and efficient on the stubble. Some examples: Parker 26C, Standard, iKon Shavecraft #101, Feather AS-D2, several of the iKon conventional razors, the Weber, and probably some others that don’t come to mind.
Thanks a lot for the useful info, Michael. Greetings from Argentina.
You’re welcome, and I’m glad the article was of interest. When I think of Argentina, one thing that comes to mind is the beef—and I’m actually cooking steaks this weekend, sous vide. 🙂
Nice article, great reading. But there are some imprecisions on it:
The first patent about a slant razor was not made by Merkur. It was not even German! The first slant design was patented by Thomas Wild, from Moseley, Birmingham, England. A little reading can be found here:
The Shavecraft #102 is not related with the Walbusch, as it seems implicit when reading the text. The Shavecraft #102 is a copy of an old design, originally developed and made by Mulcuto, an old German razor maker. The model was sold under the name of “Mulcuto Schrägschnitt”, and you can see some photos of this old razor here:
Hope it helps! My intention is not to criticize this fine article, but to constructively complement some information in it.
Thanks for the corrections. The Walbusch connection was my own supposition because the Walbusch was the first humpback/asymmetric slant I had used and the one I was familiar with. The two are similar, though, in using an untwisted blade with a slanted hump.
I do appreciate the corrections. Learning is good. 🙂
EDIT: I was particularly interested in your comment that the #102 is modeled on the Mulcuto, because I happen to own one—got it a while back, used it a couple of times but drifted back to my newer slants. But your comment intrigued me, and you’re absolutely right: it’s the spitting image. What is also interesting is that the Walbusch in profile is quite similar if you ignore the exaggerated hump (which is clearly just some design flourish: it’s not needed for the cap to work, and if you cut it off, the razor is quite close to the Mulcuto, to my unaided eye. OTOH, the Walbusch doesn’t take the extra step of slanting the baseplate itself. [edit: But come to think of it, Walbusch has a flat base simply by filling in the gap: the incline is the same as on the tilted baseplate, I do believe. So the tilt is to save metal: you don’t have to make one end thicker to get the include, as you do when the baseplate is not tilted.[
I’ve set out my Mulcuto to use tomorrow. Thanks again for pointing that out.
Thank you for you words. In fact, it was really striking to me that the first patent for a slant is english-made. We are used to think of slants as being of german origin, as there were a multitude of slant models made in the past in that country – and only very few models were produced by non-german makers. Some photos of old slant german razors can be found here: http://www.gut-rasiert.de/forum/index.php/topic,5598.0.html
The similarities between the #102 and the Mulcuto are quite striking, too… I really would like to know your opinion about those two razors, and how they compare with each other in the way they shave. Coincidently, I’m currently waiting for a NOS Mulcuto Schrägschnitt, it will probably arrive next week. 🙂
As for the Walbusch, I never tried one (yet) – but just by looking in photos and comparing it with the Mulcuto/#102 razor heads, you seem to be spot on.
I think you will find SOTD report for yesterday to be of interest: I used the Mulcuto and comment on the comparison to the #102, along with the Walbusch. For me, the Mulcuto’s shave is subpar, and in fact the #102 and the Walbusch have a very similar shave.
BTW, I got the information that Merkur patented the slant in 1916 from this post at Shaving101.com. From that post:
Of course, international patents may have not been such a big deal at the time, and both patents were thus recorded. However, given Thomas Wild’s earlier patent, he should certainly get the credit. Thanks for pointing that out.
It’s pretty possible. However, I never found the original source of that information in my searchings.
Furthermore, many information about German patents (and many other historical documents) was lost during the course of German History in the XX century, so it is pretty plausible that such patent existed.
Once again, thank you for your excellent article – and for the impressions about the Mulcuto and #102 on your SOTD! 🙂
Thanks, Leisureguy. Your articles are well-written and informative. I always enjoy them.
I am a slant lover. I suffer from ingrown hairs and I found slants dramatically reduce them. I have the shavecraft and the Merkur. I use a mild blade in the 37c and a more aggressive blade in the 102. My Edwin Jagger De89 has been lonely lately!
This is a great read and clears up any questions I had about slants. My fine hair and medium beard really do not call for a slant but I understand them after reading this. Is the Bakelite slant actually made from bakelite? It’s the first plastic polymer ever and has terrible physical properties under mechanical stresses like shaving. Is it a more durable plastic and just called bakelite?
It’s not clear exactly what the material is. The fact that it’s white argues against bakelite, which tends to be dark. But certainly bakelite was popular in that era. That slant, though, is lightweight, strong, unaffected by water, and has low heat conductivity (all good) but also brittle (bad).
Wonderfull article. I also find the slant gives me the best shave..Thanks for posting.
Tamas Papp says
I wish someone developed a reasonably cheap plastic slant, similar in quality and price eg to the Merkur Bakelite DE razor.
As the article suggested, slants require less pressure so I imagine that plastic would be perfect, and there are only a limited number of vintage plastic slants to go around. As far as I understand, plastic DE razors are cheaper to manufacture than metal (above a certain quality level).
The problem with the bakelite slant was not the weight—as you indicate, the weight is fine for a slant—it was the fragility: bakelite is brittle, and a dropped razor can readily break. But plastic/bakelite slants may return with a significant surge in the razor’s popularity. Still, aluminum seems to work well and is much stronger than the bakelite.