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If you’re a vintage razor fan, now and then you’ll find one that is the exact model you want, but there’s a hitch. Yeah. It’s all beat to hell, and looks like it’s ready for the trash can. Many of these razors are old. Fifty years old, or more. Beyond that, they were consumer items that weren’t that expensive when purchased. For instance, the vaunted Gillette Fatboy was only a few bucks when it came out in the late 50’s. As a result, many owners didn’t take very good care of them. In fact, some treated them in a way that our hygienic current era would look at as a health hazard. Shrug. Things become collectible because people treat their stuff like rental cars.

So where does that leave us, when we have an otherwise-desirable piece, but it’s seen better days?

If you have a little patience, sure, you can rehabilitate them to some extent. Sometimes, stuff that you can do as an average duffer at home will get the razor up and running, and even get it most of the way toward looking sweet again. That’s actually one of the joys of yard sale or antique store finds. The challenge of cleaning off the gunk and polishing away the verdigris.

You can’t altogether turn back the clock, however. There’s only so much you can accomplish with elbow grease, solvents, and polish. Actual physical damage, pitted finish, and so forth will always tell the sordid tales of yesteryear.

Lucky for us, there are a few services out there that will take an old razor, even one that looks like a total derelict, and tune it up for you. They’ll do the things that we may be unable or unwilling to do. The things we don’t have the time, mechanical acumen, or possibly equipment to accomplish.

One of those services is called Delta Echo Razor Works. You can buy a razor straight from them (depending on what they have in stock), or you can send a razor to them, pay the cost, and they’ll fix it up.

Here’s what they do:

1) They disassemble and clean up the razor, killing off all the accumulated grunge of the ages. Yeah. Even inside the mechanisms, such as they are.

2) They strip down the coating to make the piece ready for “a new coat of paint”… (As it were.)

3) They coat the razor with a type of hard-shelled coating that is usually used on firearms. I’m not sure if it is Dura-Coat, specifically, but it is something along those lines. Essentially, it’s a sort of finish that will withstand extreme rigors. There are a number of different color schemes available, from quite subtle to highly colorful.

4) After the coating is cured, they reassemble and re-tune the razor, setting the blade gap and alignment.

Depending upon the design of the razor in question, the complexity and resultant cost of the operation can vary quite a bit. With a standard 3-piece razor, it’s all pretty simple. An adjustable Gillette? Not so much.

I sent my F2 Fatboy, which had iffy alignment, less-than-perfect adjustment, and a lot of cosmetic damage, to Delta Echo. I ordered the Ink Edition colors (as seen above), and waited about two months. Currently, (Summer ’17) that’s about what to expect in terms of interval.

Here’s what happened:

Delta Echo fixed everything with my razor.

The finish looks great. It is a slightly matte finish, with just a hint of texture. The character of the coating seemed to fill in virtually every battle scar on the old veteran.

The movement of all the parts is smooth, the blade gap is even and correct, and the alignment of the razor is right on. The coating lends a slightly different feel, both in tactility and in sound when the moving parts rub together. This has no negative impact on the glide of the razor when in use, however.

After having used the razor as my primary for weeks, I can tell you that it performs great, and is easy-care in terms of keeping it clean. Unlike some paints, the rubbing alcohol I use to clean off the soap scum doesn’t seem to have any negative reaction to the Dura-Coat type finish.

Would I recommend this treatment to others?

Yes – if you’re willing to sink that kind of cash into a vintage razor. (Many new razors can also be sent in to have this treatment done to them, if you like the snazzy colors, but would prefer a new-made base razor. Please check with Delta Echo for models they are able to work on.)

You can buy a really nice razor, like a Rockwell 6S for the same cost as the refinish. That’s if you have the razor already. It’s more if you want Delta Echo to furnish the donor. Probably not the thing to do if you are a shaver on an extremely tight budget.  On the other hand, if you have a vintage razor much in need of refinishing, it is less than the services that replate razors with precious metal. It also, of course, lets you have fun with exciting color schemes and so forth.

So, it’s expensive. Cheaper than some other options, but expensive.

What do you get?

The exact razor that you want, in perfect running order. The qualities that allow the coating to survive the impact, heat, chemical solvents, and general abuse of a firearm should make it survive just fine on a razor. Unless your razor lives a highly interesting life, it shouldn’t encounter anywhere near the same rigors that a gun would.

I’m super pleased with the service. If you have the patience to wait for the turnaround and the cost doesn’t deter you, I’d recommend it highly.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

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There are a few different services out there that will tune up and cosmetically improve old razors. If your preference is to have the razor brought back to original or “aspirational” conditions, Razor Emporium may be the service to look at. They will tune up and replate your razor, or sell you one from their own stock.

What Razor Emporium’s Revamp consists of:

1) The razors are cleaned, disassembled, and their old finish removed.

2) Once everything is down to “bare metal”, they electroplate the parts. Razor Emporium offers nickle, rhodium, 24 carat gold, and sometimes rose gold.

3) Finally, they assemble the razor and set all the tolerances to where they should be.

By the time Razor Emporium is done, the razor is as good as it can possibly be, considering that they are vintage models from the days of yore.

I ordered razors from RE’s stock, using the “Made to Order” methodology. I ordered a Fatboy, a Slim, and a Superspeed Red Tip. I had them plated with rhodium, gold, and nickel, respectively.

Short story: they’re all beautiful. Better plating than you would have seen from the factory, in all likelihood. They all shave great and look fantastic.

Downside? This service ain’t cheap. At all. You have to commit to it if you’re going to go this direction. You really have to be into vintage razors to go in this direction. If you’re willing to fork over the long green, you’ll find yourself the owner of some pretty amazing razors. Money no object? Highly recommended.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

The Lengthy Preamble: 

There’s a certain cachet about titanium. It’s a strong, fairly light, non-ferrous metal. It’s biologically inert for most people, doesn’t corrode in water (even salt water), and has exceedingly good heat resistance. It’s come to be synonymous with high technology, jet-age coolness. It appears in racing cars. The SR-71 was built from it. ‘Nuff said.

In the usage case of a razor handle, there’s nothing particularly compelling about titanium. It’s a low duty cycle part. It doesn’t need high hardness or heat resistance. Biological inertness is great for something that touches the skin, especially for people with nickle allergies. The corrosion resistance is on point, of course. Plenty of upside, but probably overkill, considering the requirements of the application.

The classic metals for razor handles are brass, stainless steel, and zinc alloy. Zinc is a cheap material, and corrodes easily if the coating (usually chrome) is compromised. It has decent weight. It’s very easy to work with and common. It suffices for an inexpensive build, but isn’t necessarily optimal.

Brass is typically coated with gold, nickle, or a few other options. Brass is quite heavy, and though it can corrode, it doesn’t rust. The coating will typically protect it. Brass is easy to work with, having a much lower melting point and being far more ductile than some other options. Nickle or gold plated brass isn’t a cheap choice of materials, though. It’s also not particularly sturdy. Impact stress can harm a brass razor. Treat it right…it’ll last forever, but not everyone treats their stuff right. Some barbarous heathens leave their stuff dirty, and sometimes hurl their razors upon the floor. It is possible that they have forgotten the faces of their fathers. That’s not for me to say. Moving on…

Stainless steel isn’t super expensive to buy, but it’s expensive to machine, because it’s…steel. High melting point. High hardness. If you want to machine it, you have to use harder steel, with tungsten carbide or the like. Steel has great weight, great toughness, lots of finish options, and no need to coat the material. It’s generally considered to be the best material around. It’s not particularly workable for complicated parts, unless you have really significant engineering acumen. This is why no one is making a twist-to-open razor out of the stuff. The razor would cost something like 300 bucks.

Back to titanium. It’s lighter than steel, but not feather light, like aluminum (another material you’ll sometimes see). It can be polished, bead blasted, coated, or anodized, so many finish options are available.

Why do we like it? Long and short – just because it’s cool. It’s a space-age material that just gives us the warm fuzzies. Titanium, even the very name itself, evokes a mythic bad ass nature.

The Actual Review:

Which brings be around, at last, to the actual topic of this review. The HALO handle. Razorock has managed to bring us a titanium handle for a great price. From the the promotional material, I couldn’t determine if this is pure titanium, or if it’s the more typical 6AL4V alloy. That, I suppose, has little or no bearing upon its quality as a razor handle. The Halo handle features milled bands, rather than standard knurling, and has a smooth, hard finish.

I find the weight to be just about right, the length to be comfortable, and the traction to be better than it has any right to be. Even with wet and soapy hands, there is no issue with keeping a grip on the handle. It doesn’t have any “twist”, like some traction patterns do. Overall, it’s a surprising and effective design.

The finish is a polished gunmetal gray, and has no flaws or imperfections on the model I have. At least with my example, the photos online make it seem like a much brighter, chrome-like finish. I have no positive or negative feelings about this. Just a data point.

I’ve used the handle with both the German 37 from Razorock, and the Maggard V3A (with which it matches perfectly, color-wise), and the Razorock Hawk. In all cases, it acquitted itself beautifully. It’s right up there, in my book, with the best handles I’ve used on 3-piece razors (AS-D2; Maggard M11). For those familiar with those models, that’s not an inconsiderable statement.

Verdict: We may not NEED titanium for any rational reason, but this is a great handle. I could confidently say that I could put all my other handles in a shoebox and use this as my dedicated handle for all 3 piece razors. Yet another home run for Italian Barber/Razorock.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

 

I owned a Merkur 39c razor for some time. It was my first slant bar razor, and I always got good shaves with it. In my experience, it has some of the best first pass performance of any double edge design out there.

My issues with the 39c were really related to the handle. It has a barber pole twist knurling pattern, a chrome finish, and no real traction on the end of a heavy handle. They don’t call it the sledgehammer for nothing. Being a two piece razor, there wasn’t much that could be done about those quibbles.

I ended up selling the big Merkur to a friend some time ago, and he loves it. I did kinda miss the big lug, and looked at the RR dupe of the Merkur head design enough times that I had to finally make the purchase. (Had to, I tell you. It was a moral imperative to do so.)

To my eyes, the Razorock has the exact same blade torque, head angle, and bar pattern as the original Merkur. It’s just a three piece, so you can put whatever handle you like on there. Big bonus.

How does it shave?

Dead ringer for the Merkur, with the caveat that the mechanics of your handle of choice will have an impact on the shave. As slants go, it’s medium aggressive. If you go easy, you can daily shave with this design. If you’re reckless and wild, there will be blood and irritation. It’s capable of a very close shave, and good comfort, if used with a gentle hand.

This is a great razor head, and available for something like $12 right now. Highly recommended, if you are in the market for a slant that has a little bite to it. If you don’t already have a razor handle, Razorock sells several, both together or seperate from the head, as you require. I’ll review the handle that I chose in an upcoming article (probably tomorrow).

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

(Great thanks to my friend Dave who let me borrow this keyboard to do the review. Good luck getting it back, my friend! I’m fleeing the country with it!)

Much has been made of the wonder and beauty of the IBM model M keyboard. They are often held up as the best typist’s keyboard of all time.

And, for many, that’s exactly what they are. Or, at least, they are the best keyboard they’ve been able to use. Before the Model M, there was a similar set of keyboards that used the buckling spring technology that defines the Model M. These, the Model F keyboards, were employed in the XT and AT eras of the IBM PC. Thus, these are old keyboards, ones that take a bit of effort to find and get working today, all these many years later. Imagine any other element from the early to mid 80’s computers still being applicable to today’s tasks. Think of any? Yeah, there aren’t many afoot.

A Little History:

A guy named Richard Hunter Harris invented the buckling spring mechanism that was used on the Model F, then on the Model M. In the F, it was employed with a capactive switch below it, while the M made due with a membrane switch that required an actual physical action to employ. This changes both the sound and the feel of the keyboards, though they obviously have a strong familial resemblance.

The Model F is simply a little smoother, a little higher in pitch, and a little lighter. Just a bit. Still not a model for those who don’t want to put forth any effort.

The Model F came out in 1981, and was produced in some form up until 1994. That said, the Model F largely fell into obscurity after 1986, when the Model M came out. It was used in a lot of different keyboard types and applications, but the best known are probably the XT, the AT, and the 122 Key Terminal board.

The AT keyboard that I have for review is in great shape, and has no poorly-working keys. I can’t tell you if it differs from when it was new, but it doesn’t betray its age in any mechanical way.

The AT layout went with, not surprisingly, the PC AT era computers. These were predominanly 80286 PCs. The layout carries Function keys on the side, numbering from one to ten. No Windows keys, because that wasn’t yet a thing. Caps lock, Control, Alt, Escape, and a few other keys are in different places. There are no arrow keys. The space bar is the biggest thing you’ve ever seen.

The AT carried a 5-Pin DIN connection, and “spoke” the AT keyboard language. This means that it could take two-way communication from the PC, such that the Num Lock settings and so on could be set on the computer side. The somewhat more modern PS/2 keyboard interface (that purple, round connection that is largely disappearing now) talks this same language, so it is possible to adapt the AT keyboard to a modern computer.

Getting It Working:

I discovered that my current desktop computer didn’t have a PS/2 port after bringing a few old ‘boards home to try. Yep. It’s a fairly current, fairly high spec Dell XPS, and it doesn’t feel that it needs to bother with ancient connections that are not plug and play.

Hmm. I wondered if I could bridge the gap. Not being willing to be held away from my goals by a simple matter of incompatibility, I reared back my head and yelled, “To the Internet!”

After having taken a look around, I found that it wasn’t difficult to find an adapter that went from PS/2 to USB. At the same time, I also found a few adapaters from DIN to PS/2 (which, actually, was also called “mini DIN”). The big question in my mind was whether or not one adapter running into another adapter would work. I’d seen stuff like that fail. A lot.

Well, the good news is that everything went along swimmingly. The bad news is that it cost about $20 to get the two adapters. Thus, making it possible to use this ancient keyboard cost as much or more than a whole keyboard of no pedigree.

But…but…it was worth it. Oh, great shivering paroxysms of joy. It was worth it. (Er, spoiler alert.)

All the Feels:

So, let’s talk about where this thing ranks in terms of keyboards. Well, let me be frank. It’s pretty much the best thing I’ve ever had my grubby hands on. The sound, the feel, the almost unheralded sense of solidity you get with this mighty beast? Yeah. It’s amazing. Maybe ten or twelve percent better than a really good Model M. If you like buckling spring keyboards, or enjoy the higher-effort switches in the modern market, this thing is going to give you dreams of longing if you ever get to try it.

However, it isn’t perfect. The layout is odd in the current era. It lacks buttons. Other buttons are in odd-ball places. The Shift key on the left side has some binding issues. It has the Big Ass Enter Key and tiny backspace. The space bar is absurdly high effort. It’s even louder than a Model M. (For me, this is not a negative, unless I had to use it around other biological organisms. Not kidding, this would drive house pets to another room.) For a lot, some part of the typing experience may be a bit too high effort.

All that said, this is an amazing device. I think of it like a Vincent Black Lightning or something. It requires some things of the user. It has some drawbacks. It is also legendary and totally amazing at the thing that it does.

Final Thoughts:

The Model F is not going to be for everyone. They are harder to find and more difficult to employ in a modern world than the Model M, which can be had new from Unicomp, with USB interface. If you’ve tried an M and didn’t like it, the F won’t necessarily change your mind. On the other hand, if you are already a fan, this one will serve as kind of the epitome of that idea.

I’m sure that, when I was a young man, I had a chance to used these keyboards. I probably didn’t notice, because I didn’t touch type. That, and whatever IBM did was sort of just the expected business norm at that time. The world hadn’t moved on and become a sadder, cheaper place yet.

Could I use this ‘board as my daily driver? Yes. With caveats. At home, sure, and especially if I did a limited amount of typing on it per day. I can’t tell you for sure, but the higher effort nature of of the ‘board might begin to cause fatigue after hours of typing. All in all, the great things about the Model F far outweigh the shortfalls. It may be the ultimate clicky keyboard. Ever. If it isn’t, it’s certainly on the podium.

Cheers, and Happy Typing!

Ease of Lathering: Easy. I have never had any issues lathering any of the soaps in this line. Whoever oversees these lines, it seems that one of their primary concerns is to make sure that the soaps create a lather. That’s just me making a theory. I have no idea. In any case, another good job by the RR guys here.

Protection: I find it interesting that Razorock produces so many different formulations of soap. They are all more similar than different, but there are subtle alterations to the formula that I don’t fully understand. In this case, The Stallion is a tallow version of their soap. It features aloe, but not argan oil, so it’s not exactly the “super tallow” formula that they have been putting in some of their most recent soaps. It is, I suppose, half way between the original tallow version, such as what you’d get in the classic XXX soap, and the newest version. All that put aside, this soap has very nice protection, producing an excellent lather that takes care of your face with plenty of cushion. No issues here to complain about.

Residual Slickness: With the tallow added to an already good soap, this stuff has a very nice slickness. I don’t believe that anyone taking part in standard shaving behaviors should have any problem. If you need more slickness than this, you may be pretty spoiled. Are there slicker soaps? Yes. At this price? Not that I am aware of.

Scent: Many shavers have indicated that this is one of their favorites in the RR stable. To be clear, this is a far more potent scent than the other Razorock soaps. It may be one of the most potently scented soaps I’ve used. What is the scent of Oud, after all? Well, going into the review, I didn’t know. I only knew that it had been considered to be quite something by some of those “in the know”. My feeling? I do like the woody, smokey smell, but it’s a little bit intense for me. I suppose I may have found my upper limit for scent comfort here. To give you an idea, the washcloth that I used to wipe off my face gave a blast of oud smell a few days later when I got it wet again. That might be more than I need, scent-wise. On the whole, the potency of the smell ended up being detrimental to my enjoyment of this product. Again, this will not be an issue if you, on the whole, tend to wish for greater scent power in your soaps. If you prefer a fairly mild scent, you’d be best served looking elsewhere.

Production/Value: As I’m almost getting tired of saying, Razorock/Italian Barber is awesome in terms of providing great value for the money. For ten bucks or less per tub, they’re killing it.

Notes: Because the scent is so intense, and the soap quality is, in essence, about the same as several other soaps that make up the same product line, I’m forced to come to grips with the fact that it will probably not be one of my high rotation soaps. Because I often shower after the shave, the scent power could be mitigated and not cause me any issues going forward, it could still be fine. That said, I’ve discovered that oud is probably not the note I appreciate most in my soaps. My qualms for this product, however, are limited to just the scent. Everything else is excellent.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

Here, we have another keyboard featuring the Outemu blue switches. This time, the maker is Eagletec. I believe that the same keyboard may also be available from a brand called Mechanical Eagle, though I could be wrong.

This is a non-backlit 104 key ‘board, with a low profile aluminum top. This is not quite as “compact” on the desktop as some of the other options, but is is not a gigantic ‘board, either. I would say that it is about normal in that regard.

The Eagletec keyboards in this model can also be had with fixed rainbow LEDs, blue LEDs, and RGB LEDs. Because I had several keyboards already that featured a backlight, I decided to safe a few dollars and go with the non-lit version this time around. The spread is less than $20 between the least and most expensive.

I actually purchased two of these ‘boards. One in black and one in silver. They are otherwise identical. My plan was this: I would install a set of “typewriter” key caps on one of them, then use some of the existing, alternate color keys to fill in the other. That’s what I’ve done, with the silver one enjoying the variety of some of the black keys I pulled. The black ‘board has received the typewriter-style, round keys in white and chrome. I’ll cover my impression of the typewriter keys in another review. Suffice it to say that they work and are not as difficult to adapt to as you might imagine.

Unboxing:

These keyboards are altogether standard in their packaging. Nothing comes with the ‘boards, and no extra money has been spent to make the box “glitzy”. They don’t even open in the standard, clam’s shell fashion, but simply ask you to pull the ‘board out the side.

Nothing good or bad so far.

The black ‘board is finished without flaw, though the logo plate caem askew on the silver one. I attempted to peel the logo plaque off, but it proved to be impossibe, without damaging it. Hmm. Oh, well. I’ve been quite lucky with these cheap keyboard thus far. Something has to give, and I imagine that quality assurance has to be one of them.

The Eagletec is a reasonably sturdy board in terms of structural rigidity. It’s light, but the curves in the aluminum top plate allow a fairly thin material to act stiffer than it otherwise would. When looking at the underside, the cost-cutting measures do show out. Primarily, this is in the elevator feet at the back. These are the most vestigial sort of feet. They don’t provide much lift, and they are the type you often find on the lowest common denominator keyboards. That said, they’re probably sufficient to the purpose. Just keep in mind that they are not nearly as robust as on some other designs.

The USB cable is not detactchable, though I believe that this isn’t much of a concern in a full sized keyboard. The cord is also not braided. It does feature a hook and latch tab to allow you to manage extra cable length, if needed.

I find that the overall design is good looking. The floating key design makes no bones about what it is. Especially with the tall typewriter keys on, this is a very “guts on the outside” keyboard.

Everything worked just fine, and other than the misaligned logo, everything looked as it should have. This is the sub $40 range of keyboards, so that meets, if not exceeds, expectations.

In Use:

With the Outemu blue switch, this keyboard is a typing tool. A loud machine that has somewhat above average key resistance, good tactility, and plenty of the crunchy goodness most people are after when they get a mechanical. Bad for noise-averse work spots, good for maximum feedback when you’re clacking along.

Key caps are reasonably sturdy ABS with business-like logos on them (for the non-backlit version). I believe that the backlit versions come with double-shot key caps, but these are not thusly manufactured. i believe that they are pad printed, but it is possible that they are laser-ablated. My bet would be on pad printing. The key feel is just fine out of the box. About what you would expect from ABS keys. The key shape is what I’d call the average conical, square shape you’ll find on most mechanicals. it’s a good, easy-to-use shape, and should not provide any mechanical impediments to typing. Legibility is a little better than the average see-through doubleshot, and there is not “gamer style” applied to this keyboard.

Typing experience is what you’d expect. That is, quick and responsive to touch, plenty of feel. Like all the other Outemu blue keyboards I’ve tried. It should be said that it’s more and more common to find the 87 key layout at these low prices. Not so much with the full size ‘boards. Thus, if you’ve got to have that number pad, this is going to be a nice option for you.

Usage Case:

If you just need a full size, no frills typing keyboard, this might be one of the best deals out there. Getting into that for less than $40 is pretty awesome. The clean looks of the ‘board make it a good candidate for hot rodding, as well. Any kind of technicolor rainbow would look fine on either the silver or the black. My slight issue with the silver version does give me some pause, as do the cheesy elevator feet.

Overall, I think that this keyboard can give you anything a more expensive ‘board, like the Azio, can give, in terms of the pure typing experience and visual interest.

Final Thoughts:

For someone just breaking into mechanicals, or who just doesn’t have a lot of cash to throw at the problem, this is a pretty sweet deal. How likely are you to get a lemon? I don’t know. I also don’t know if the durability of these inexpensive keyboards is going to be as high as something two or three times the price. If it’s not? Shrug. Get another one or upgrade when the time comes.

For the seasoned mechanical keyboardist, this might be great fun as a tinkering platform, or as a loaner you can hand a friend who is interested in checking a mechanical out.

All in all, most of these inexpensive keyboards have more similarities than differences. Your best choice simply depends upon what form factor works for you, and what your visual aesthetics demand. Thus far, I’ve never had one fail to work, and all of them have provided me with a quality typing experience. If the quality and price of mechanicals have ever allowed a broad cross-section of the populace to try them out, it’s today. Good times.

Cheers, and happy typing.