The Superior Shave

Four years ago my wife bought me a shaving set for our tenth anniversary. The set consists of a brass bowl, a badger brush and matching Mach 3 razor, as well as a brush/razor stand. Bottom line: best gift ever. I don’t even remember what I gave her – but I’m certain it paled in comparison to this.

I visited a website to buy soaps for my new shaving set and noticed a wider array of shaving instruments and tools than I knew existed. While perusing the site’s collection of straight razors I said something like, “I doubt I’ll ever get into that – that’s just crazy”.

On June 16, of this year, I purchased my first straight razor.

Yes, I have cut myself a few times (nothing requiring stitches – haven’t lost an ear lobe) and yes it requires a bit more time than a standard “modern shave”; but it is certainly a superior method. Plus, which sounds more masculine: using a surgically sharp carbon steel blade or using a quadruple bladed monstrosity… with aloe strip?

Here’s a nice write-up I found regarding why some people prefer a straight razor (I agree with the vast majority of it):

Modern straight razor users are known to favor them for a variety of reasons. Some are attracted to the nostalgia of using old and traditional methods of shaving. It is a masculine ritual comparable to pipe smoking. Others profess an interest in reducing the waste and cost of disposable blades.

Most agree that straight razors provide a superior shave through a larger blade and greater control of the blade, including the blade angle. Straight razors cover a much greater area per shaving stroke because their cutting edge is much longer than any of the multiblade razors.

They also do not have to be rinsed as often, because their blade acts like a scoop and carries the lather on it during multiple shaving strokes, while the multiblade razors are not nearly as efficient at such a task because of their considerably smaller blade geometry.

Straight razors are also much easier to clean and can handle tougher shaving tasks, such as longer facial hair, than modern multi-blade razors which tend to trap shaving debris between their tightly packed blades and are easily clogged, even with relatively short beard stubble.

In addition, multi-edge razors can irritate the skin due to their multiblade action, which can lead to razor bumps (known scientifically as Pseudofolliculitis barbae). One of the recommended actions for those so affected is to switch to single blade use.

Others simply like the good results and the satisfaction of maintaining the blade themselves. Yet others cite aesthetic reasons in addition to the practical ones. A well-made blade, in a nice handle with a well-crafted etching and decorated shank, carries a sense of craftsmanship and ownership difficult to associate with a disposable blade cartridge.

I personally own a DOVO Shavette as well as a vintage (1950s) Friedr. Herder 9/16” hollow ground blade with cream celluloid scales (shown below). Stamped on the shank are the words “139 Friedr Herder. ABR Sohn Solingen Germany”; as well as the company’s trade mark Spade and Crossed Keys. On the reverse is the same trade mark Crossed Keys.

My wife and I did a bit of research one night and found some fascinating information! In 1623 Jurgen Herder began making swords during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). In an attempt to make the Herder knives unique Peter Herder registered the family name, as well as the Pikasklinge logo (German for “Ace of Spades Blade”), on February 27, 1727. It is the oldest trademark in Solingen, Germany.

After Peter’s death in 1762 the company was transferred to Johann Abraham Herder. When Johann’s sons took part in the business he renamed the company Joh. ABR.. Herder & SNE. In 1839, after the death of his eldest son, Johann Abraham Herder took on his grandson, Friedrich Herder, as a partner; who then ran the company from 1841 under the new name Friedrich Herder ABR Sohn.

Gustav Weyerberg assumed management after Friedrich’s death in 1887. He was the eldest son from the first marriage of Friedrich Herder’s daughter, Emilie. The younger son, Carl Weyerberg, became head of the newly established subsidiary in Buenos Aires together with Hermann Bick – the son from Emile’s second marriage in 1908 to Pastor Bick. Up until the 1993 bankruptcy the Bick and Weyerberg families were the main shareholders.

The company still exists today, as Herder-Solingen, making all sorts of knives – but no straight razors.

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6 thoughts on “The Superior Shave

  1. Wow, amazing weblog layout! How long have you ever been blogging for?
    you make blogging glance easy. The whole glance of your website is magnificent, let alone the content
    material!

  2. I stumbled on this doing research on my ancestry. Friedrich Herder was May great great grandfather! I’m so glad you did this research, thank you!

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