How to Buy a Straight Razor Part 3: New V.S. Vintage
February 11, 20203 min read
Now that you have some idea of what kind of razor you want, whetherWestern orJapanese, Swedish Steel or Japanese Steel, it’s time to make a choice between a new razor or a vintage one. The secondary market is full of sellers offering vintage razors at what are mostly reasonable prices, but is there a benefit to owning a vintage razor or are you just taking a risk for very little reward? Unfortunately, it can go either way.
There are some truly fantastic vintage razors on the market, but most will fall far short of a brand new blade from Dovo or Thiers Issard. Certain vintage razors use interesting or rare steels that have gone out of production, such as true Sheffield Steel or Sheffield Silver Steel. Some vintage razors are even made using incredibly rare materials for the scales. True mother of pearl, tortoise shell and even bone were once common and represent a lost level of luxury in shaving. These razors are highly prized and generally difficult to find, and can be troubled with issues that the untrained eye cannot perceive, such as tiny cracks in the blade or pitting in the steel. If you can find one without these issues, bring your find into one of our shops. We’ll professionally hone your new treasure and set you up for amazing shaves.
Having said this, there is a laundry list of advantages to buying a modern razor; in general modern razors use much better steels that will keep their edge longer, and there are better quality assurances than most vintage razors. A new razor will have scales in excellent condition, that won’t need to be replaced for decades to come, or longer. Vintage razor prices can vary wildly, while you almost always get what you pay for with a new razor. Good retailers will also guarantee that their razors are shave ready by checking and honing them, while an antique dealer likely won’t know how to do this.
Back in the day, specialty steels were used to compensate for our inability to make steels that could perform under the pressures of shaving. For example, Silver Steel came about in order to increase polish-ability and durability in a blade. We no longer have this problem. With the advances in metallurgy and the ability to work in powdered steels, modern razors have an ‘edge’ (ha ha) over vintage for the simple fact that manufacturers can now tailor-make their steels better than ever. For example, C135 is an amazing steel that balances hardness and rust resistance offering a truly fabulous shave, but C135 is also not used in any vintage razor. At Kent of Inglewood C135 can be found in the razors by Thiers Issard.
Another big difference between vintage and modern razors is the longevity of the razor itself. Older razors have been used, which means they have been sharpened and re-sharpened countless times. This wears down the blade, making it smaller and smaller with each sharpening. While this may not seem like a big deal, a razor has a limited life span, one that is dictated by the size of the blade in comparison to the width of the spine. If a razor gets to small, it becomes unusable.
Vintage razors are undeniably cool pieces of history that are worth protecting. If you have one that is a family heirloom or find a promising one in an antique shop, go for it. Bring it by! We will happily teach you how to shave with it, and hone the edge for you. At the end of the day, we believe you will have the best learning experience on a brand-new razor, saving the vintage razors as excellent additions to a large collection of blades.