When Charcoal Goods advised they were ceasing production of their first stainless steel variant I knew I wanted one. I had my name down early when Charcoal Goods went to the wait list system and although I had to wait for the magic email, it eventually came. It’s a frustrating experience when you’re in the single digits on the list and know that you’re so close; that wait took forever. All along I had been eying off the stainless steel #2 plate especially and the #1 plate was on sale so I wasn’t too concerned with getting one of those. I had just arrived at work one morning when the email came through so I immediately completed the purchase on the phone. By lunch time that day all stainless steel #2 plates were sold off, unlikely to be manufactured again in that style. I completed the purchase with a 3” hammered handle.
I’ve heard murmurings that the Charcoal Goods SS is a step up in aggression on the brass version so I’m interested to find out. And if the stainless steel and brass models feel the same, I’m going to shave away with a razor I know I’ll like. My first shave with the SS was with the #1 plate; I got a very smooth and close shave but could not detect any noticeable difference in feel or aggression between the SS and brass so on with the #1 plate. Using the #2 plate for the remainder of the test I was rewarded with three smooth and comfortable shaves. If anything, I would say the stainless steel is slightly less aggressive than the brass but if there is a difference, there would only be a bee’s dick in it.
One thing that came to light during the shave was that I have a preference for the 3 ½” over the 3” length in handles. In my opinion the brass Charcoal Goods with the 3 ½” handle felt way better balanced than the stainless steel with its 3” handle. I have one of the Charcoal Goods Torpedo razors with the 4” handle but I’ll leave that for another time to evaluate.
Blades Used – Lord Super Chrome & Gillette Nacet
My opinion – Fantastic with the #2 plate but could have been better with the 3 ½” handle.
To say that this thing (Leaf call it a tool) is different is a bit of an understatement. I assume Leaf set out to capture shavers migrating from disposable cartridge razors to wet shaving by offering a multi blade razor using standard DE blades, albeit cut or broken in half. The head is designed to take one, two or three half DE blades in the spring loaded floating head. There is a unique ‘Y’ shaped handle that sets the razor apart, probably made that way for ease of operation and to lighten the weight of the head. This handle is long, real long at 130mm from the end to the pivot point. Unscrewing a fine screw allows the cap to flip back exposing two separating plates that lie between the blades. The whole head lies flat with the blades forward and what I call the cap following along behind thus making the head quite wide. The head is spring loaded and in other reviews I’ve expressed my dislike of floating heads.
The Leaf was shipped with qty 100 blades so I decided to try these first. These blades are full DE blades and must be cut or broken to fit. First thing early in the morning, bleary eyed and half asleep is not the time to be fiddling around loading half blades under the two separating plates and securing with a fine screw but ever the trooper I carried on. To my way of thinking, if you’re going to use one blade it would sense to place that blade closest to the pivot point so that is what I done. After a couple of strokes there was nothing, no feel, simply nothing happening so rather than try two blades I went straight to three blades. The head seems to flop around in use and because there are many parts in the construction of the head it is quite noisy as the floating head done its thing. Under the nose was a real problem because of the width of the head, I just couldn’t get up close and the spring in the floating head prevented the ability to apply any pressure where needed. In use, there is absolutely no blade feel and the whole experience feels like you’re shaving with a wet sock on a stick. Credit where credit’s due though, the finished shave was very good, very close and lasted all day. To me shaving is more than the destination you must enjoy the journey. Second shave. I remembered lying in bed for a while thinking how much I disliked this razor before I went to use it. Lathered up and drove the Leaf like I hated it. The razor performed as with the previous shave but again provided a very good shave. Out with the white flag, enough for me, end of test.
Leaf Twig Sculptor. Enclosed with the Leaf was a small plastic razor designed to take one ½ blade that Leaf were seeking comments on. No expense spared here, it must have cost them all of two bob (for all the whippersnappers 2/-, no sorry 20 cents) but I liked the concept and wanted to give it a run. I could use the ½ blade left over from the triple bladed Leaf. For what seemed like half an hour I battled trying to get the blade and cap clamped and to sit square. My frustrations were compounded by a left hand threaded securing screw. Mr Leaf, what happened to “lefty loosy, righty tighty”? And Mr Leaf, if you want my comment on the Twig Sculptor razor; I threw it in the bin.
I read that Colonial are working on the next generation of the General Stainless Steel and I haven’t tried the first generation so I’m about to pull the finger out. The General SS is machined from 316 stainless and is finished in what appears to be a dull bead blasted satin. The handle length has fine checkering providing a good grip at all times. Designed for use with AC blades; loading a blade is very simple, place the blade over the two pins and screw down the cap just like any three piece DE.
Talk about being smooth, close and efficient, this razor glides over the face without any pretence and is unlike any other razor I’ve ever used. Simply superb. The shave is so neutral that the word aggressive just becomes nil and void. Efficiency is where it’s all at with the Colonial SS. Going back to a DE from here is going to be a step backward. My question from here “How the hell is Colonial going to improve on this?”
Blades Used – Feather Professional Blade & Kai Captain Titan mild
RAW shaving is a new player in the razor world that has taken aim directly at the very top. From the time the outer package is opened there is surprise after surprise as you navigate the layers of packaging to the main box. Packaging 10/ 10. I don’t shave with the box so a quick description of the razor. The RS-10 is a simple three piece stainless steel razor that was purchased with both the mild and mid aggressive plates. The cap has a flat face similar to that on the Blackbird but each end of the cap has raised ears (for want of a better word) that distinguish the RAW from any other. In use these ears are not noticeable and actually look larger in photos than in the flesh. The handle too is a distinctive having a forward section, main handle and a knob all with deep longitudinal grooves provided a positive grip. Something popular about those deep longitudinal handle grooves at the present time; they do provide good grip at all times though. The visible areas of the razor are polished to a very high standard but the back of the cap has been left with visible machining marks. Etched proudly on the flat of the cap is the RAW Shaving logo. I would have liked to have seen each razor individually numbered, but that is a personal thing and in no way effects the way the razor works.
I started with the mild plate and was surprised how smooth and efficient a razor can be with a mild plate fitted, somewhere around the level of efficiency of a Karve CB with #C plate. This level might be too efficient for some but for me I really liked it. Gliding over the face, this razor produced a really close shave. There is not a lot between the efficiency levels of the two available plates with the RS-10 mid aggressive plate being around that of a Karve CB with #D plate or maybe fractionally on the lower side. Again smooth and close. RAW have nailed it with their first entry into the high end DE market.
If I thought the packaging on the RS-10 was superb the packaging on the RS-18 takes razor presentation to another level again. Again a highly polished stainless steel razor that stands out because it is so very different to the normal. The Raw Shaving RS-18 has the dual-patent replaceable lubricating strips that are designed to make shaving smoother. I’ll be upfront here and admit to being a sceptic but I’m going to give the RS-18 a chance to prove itself. The cap is cut away with three elongated holes down each edge to accept the dedicated lubricating strip but there is still room on the ends to accommodate the RAW Shaving distinguishing ears. Cap, lubricating strip, blade, mid efficiency plate and then another lubricating strip. When tightening down the handle I was never sure how much pressure to put onto the back lubricating strip; it’s some sort of synthetic material and I did not want it to flex so screwed the head down firm but nowhere as tight as I would a normal three piece razor. Those two extra layers of lubricating strips add depth to the head and end up making it marginally deeper to that of the RS-10 razor head. It is estimated that one set of strips should last three/ four months. I was supplied with two boxes of lubricating strips (sorry three, I found another box in a compartment under the razor) each box containing four sets so those will last me a while. The lubricating strip for the cap snaps into position and is retained while the back lubricating strip is not retained but is easy and simple to position effectively making this a four piece razor. It is not fiddly to use and simply becomes the norm.
Why you would want to when there are ten million razors out there without lubricating strips, but the first question that is going to be asked is if the RS-18 can be used without the lubricating strips so first up let’s find out. Yes, the RS-18 can be used without the lubricating strips fitted but it feels like an ATT H1 with about three times more blade feel. Not for me, thank you. Without the rear lubricating strip fitted leaves the guards on each end of the base plate are exposed. Looks dangerous but they fade into insignificance while in use. Anyhow this razor is made to be used with the lubricating strips so why not use them.
The plate supplied is said to be mid efficient. With the Lades blades the shave was so smooth and comfortable and it certainly provided a very close shave feeling probably like a Karve CB #C plate. As for being smoother than the best smooth razors like the same company’s RS-10, the Karve CB or Charcoal Goods I would not say but it was certainly as good. In some strange way the smoothness is different, is delivered differently and felt different; hard to put into words. With the Nacet blades I managed to give myself a couple of weepers so maybe the efficiency is a bit more than the initial impressions revealed; nothing wrong with the results though. The RS-18 is a very good razor putting it up with the best DE’s out there but will never be popular simply because of the feature making this razor so different, the lubricating strips. Do the lubricating strips work? They might, but the improvement is very small and barely noticeable.
Thanks for the encouragement. As for the strips being a gimmick, I’m not sure. I think the lubricating strips are a genuine attempt to provide a smoother shave but with the RS-18 up against such a quality range of razors any improvement is going to be small. As I wrote in the review, the smoothness feels different to even their RS-10, no better, no worse, just different. I could not detect any difference in the effectiveness of the strips from my first shave to my fourth shave; they may have to break in, I don’t know. I haven’t seen any other reviews on the RS-18 and would be interested to see what others may think. It’s still a bloody good razor never the less.
Spurred on by my success with the Colonial SS, I was looking forward to the King Cobra, however with a name like King Cobra my mind goes into a whirl. The King Cobra is a SE razor designed for the AC blade. Polished and with a black synthetic handle the Cobra certainly has good looks, however, a quick look at the underside of hinged blade plate reveals some rough finish but overall the finish is quite good. Loading the blade is a simple matter of pushing a small lever at the lower end of the handle sideways; this allows the blade plate to lower, position the blade and reset the lever. My first three attempts to seat the blade saw the blade cocked out at one end. When the blade was finally seated a quick look revealed a lot of uncovered blade.
As expected with such a large amount of blade exposure, the King Cobra was at the high end of the efficiency scale. The first shave was certainly audible and I enjoyed the sound of the razor at work but for the second and subsequent shaves the noise level was down and barely noticeable. The shave was certainly close and for a razor with this amount of efficiency was quite smooth. This is one razor that should never be taken lightly and it would/ could bite if you let the guard down. The results were very good but for me it was just too efficient.
Blades Used – Feather ProGuard & Captain Titan Mild
In its brushed stainless steel finish, this Wolfman is without doubt the most elegant and best balanced razor I’ve ever held. It really is a jewel and a masterful work of art, a credit to the artisan who designed and styled it. The Darwin handle feels extremely comfortable with all the bumps and grooves in the hexagonal length of the handle being just so natural (maybe I should say neutral). While the handle is impressive the head is the real masterpiece. There is no excess metal anywhere on the cap or base plate making the depth of the head incredibly thin and thus very light for a head manufactured from stainless steel. The leading edges of cap has clamps to securely hold the blade against corresponding raised sections on the base plate. That blade is going nowhere.
I’ve owned this razor for well over 12 months and in that time it’s not seen a blade. From the first stroke with the Polsilver I could feel the razor was pulling and tugging and was anything but smooth. The Kai blade was worse. I even went to the trouble of discarding the first Kai blade after the first pass; it was from a sampler pack and I replaced it with one of my stock blades, same result. This Wolfman turned out to be on the lower side of mid efficiency something like a Karve CB #C and to its credit delivered a very close shave. The lack of smoothness is very noticeable, a shame really because this razor is near perfect in every other way.