Vintage Gear Exploration: GEM Featherweight

Posted: November 28, 2016 in Shaving Articles



A great friend of mine gave me a gift of a handful of old razors recently. Two of them were GEMs. Gem razors use a single edge blade that is the same shape as a paint scraper blade. That is, they are rectangular in nature, and have a rolled back edge, with a tab on their sides. The blades you shave with, however, are not the same as the industrial scraper blades. The metallurgy and the grind is different. Yes, they’re more expensive. Why? Because you put them on your face, which is not the same as being on an old barn window. I hope.

In any case, this is far from my first GEM. The first one I picked up, a Bullet-Tip, has just never quite shaved like I wanted it to. However, it’s important to evaluate each razor on its own merits, rather than engaging in gross overgeneralization. I very much enjoyed the 1912. Very much. Thus emboldened, I gave the featherweight a try.

The Gem featherweight is called thus because it has a very low mass head, paired with a Bakelite handle. Bakelite is a very early type of hard plastic that was frequently used from the 30’s through the 60’s, before being overtaken by other types of plastics that were easier to mold. As I understand, it is a phenolic resin that has a base of wood pulp. Maybe. My grasp on the chemistry is tenuous. No matter. This is a very light razor.

For some, razors can only be good if they are heavy devices that bear upon one’s face with their own mass. I like a heavy razor as much as the next guy, but a light razor can be good, too. I enjoy my ’67 Superspeed Gillette that has an aluminum handle, for instance. Light razors have some advantages. The first, is that they have tend to be very maneuverable. The second is that they will allow you to dictate the amount of aggression. If you want to press a little, you can. If you want to let them float, they will. Third, if they work, they are great as travel razors, since they will not weigh down your shaving kit.

After all that preamble, how did the little GEM shave? In a word, excellent. I like the length, the shape, and the handling dynamics. Good audio feedback. Nice and gentle, but great efficiency. I’m actually shocked at how well it shaves. It gives superb closeness, within the realm of doing a two pass shave. I have determined that, with a single edge, doing a three pass is just not going to be a good idea for me. That being said, the two pass provides a prefectly serviceable shave, provided that the razor is fairly efficient.

I’m really jazzed that the GEM Featherweight is such a good shaver. Not just because it was a gift, and one hates to have gifts not turn out well. No, because it is a great old razor that will be another fun option for me to use. Not just something fun to look at and consider, a relic from an old age, but a still-viable tool. I liked this one, and the 1912 GEM, so much that I purchased more blades for them. Good stuff. This is what it’s all about.


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