Vintage Gear Exploration: Gem Micromatic

Posted: June 13, 2016 in Shaving Articles
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Gem Micromatic “Bullet Tip” single blade razor:

Quite some time ago, I picked up a GEM razor at an antique store for about twenty dollars. It wasn’t in perfect condition, but it was pretty nice. It was a spontaneous decision, made while my co-workers and I were idling around the junk shop before coming back from lunch. On that trip, I passed over any number of Gillette twist-to-opens, ancient brass open combs of unknown pedigree, and a handful GEM G-Bars. The “bullet tip” called to me somehow. Upon getting home, I thoroughly cleaned and lubricated it, and it shined up well. I was able to find some single blade razors at the local Rite-Aide, and I loaded one in to give it a go.

It…didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Mind you, I didn’t tear large tracts of skin from my face, but I got a fairly mediocre shave, and more irritation than I’d really hoped to. I shrugged, chalked one up to experience, and put the razor away.

Well, I was tidying up the other day, and I thought that it might be fun to give the old GEM another try. This was subsequent to watching a video by PaulHFilms on Youtube, in which he employed a GEM G-Bar, which is a very similar razor. To my eye, the only real difference is the G-Bar flips open and closed under spring tension, while the bullet tip is a twist-to-open design. The “bullet” is the part that articulates.

The GEM razor has a bit of a cult following. Many people kind of love this razor. It’s very different, not just in that it employs a different blade, but in the whole mechanic used to shave. A GEM razor has a steeply raked head, and the way it attacks the face is a much more narrow included angle than with a double edged razor. I think of it almost as a straight razor with a a transverse handle, such that you hold onto it at a right angle to the blade.

Upon dusting off the Bullet Tip and loading another blade into it, I have done a few more shaves. With more experience, more patience, and better technique, I’ve had a much better time of it this go ’round. I’ve achieved quite nice results with no cuts and only just a small hint of irritation.

To my way of thinking, this irritation has nothing directly to do with the razor itself. I just don’t think that the blades I have are quite as sharp as they could be. After a few shaves, they’re getting fairly dull, and I need to load a new one. The price of the blades (understandably, considering they’re a lot more material and probably sell much fewer) and the somewhat lackluster sharpness sort of makes this a razor a special occasion piece. A nostalgia trip.

The GEM razors are well built and, to my view, quite pretty to look at. They’re a reminder that there are a lot of ways to do the shaving task, and not all “old” technologies are less effective. I haven’t tried it, but I’d imagine that, if you have a great lot of stubble built up, the rigidity and angle of a GEM razor could well stand you in good stead.

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