Custom Straight Razor Makers

Discussion in 'General Straight Razor Talk' started by TstebinsB, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. There seems to be many great artisans out there making custom straight razors. Unfortunately, I don't know most of them. I went to the Shopping Links thread but Bill Ellis is the only one listed (at least, I saw listed). I've seen Bill's work and it's amazing but I'd still like to see who else is out there. I've seen names pop up here and there (Zowada and Chandler come to mind). If you guys could list names and/or websites, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.
  2. Mastro Livi

    Herbert Wacker

    Tim Zowada

    I don't think Joe Chandler has a web page, but he can be reached through the SRP forum

    and Robert Williams is listed above.

    Traveller and Philadelph on SRP do some awesome restorations

    and JoshEarl is starting to make some nice blades if memory serves me right.

    I'm sure there are more, but I just can't think of them off hand...
  3. Thanks guys!
  4. As an addendum for anyone interested, if you look at the BST at SRP you can find many artisans posting their stuff. There are actually a lot more people making razors than I thought.
  5. Of the one's i've experienced/owned - i'd steer you towards an Ellis, or a Zowada. They're the only custom razors worth spending $ on in my opinion. All other makes seem to have much lower quality, poor fit and finish, or require a trip or two back to the maker to have 'em right.
  6. Suzuki

    Suzuki Moderator Emeritus

    I am not an expert on custom straights - I have a single custome by Joel Chandler. It was one of the first razors he made from scratch.

    I paid a very reasonable price and, while the razor is not perfect, I am very happy with it. Joe did offer to take it back and make everything right, but my view was that the VERY minor irregularities (NOT flaws) in the finish weren't worth the hassle of sending it back.

    What I like most about my Chandler is that its different from all of my other razors - its an 8/8+ 1/4 hollow, barber point made in a very nice stainless - a combination of a heavy grind and stainless that is unique and really suits me.

    Will I order another custom - possibly, but not in the near future. The simple reason is that I like relatively plain razors and am happy with what I have in my rotation (a shocking statement, I know!).

    The other thing that people should know is that while a lot of customs get rave reviews, there are also a lot of people who don't think they're all that, but this is usually a discussion that happens via PM, and not the open forum.

    Here are my thoughts on custom razors generally:

    1) Don't buy a custom razor thinking its going to automatically outshave anything else in your rotation - it might, but then again, it might not. Simply stated, there is no guarantee that a custom will outshave a production razor. From a price/performance value, custom razors are at the bottom of the scale - I have terrific vintage razors that give me amazing shaves that cost me under $40 (and these are razors I've purchased within the last year or two).

    2) Don't buy a custom razor unless you have a sense of what you do/don't like - IMHO, there's a real possibility that you're going to end up with something you don't like if you don't have a sense of what your preferences are to begin with (i.e., you buy a custom with a heavy grind only to discover that you really like full hollows, or vice versa).

    3) Don't buy a custom razor unless you have a reasonable expectation of what sort of quality should be expected when you plunk down several hundred bucks for a razor - IMHO you should have at least tried one or more high end production razors before buying a custom.

    4) Do speak to one or more custom makers before you decide to buy - some are easier to deal with than others and this is important as having a custom razor made is a cooperative venture.

    5) Do consider buying a custom if you have tried a reasonable amount of razors/have enough experience under your belt to know what you do/don't like and are pretty sure you'll stick with straight shaving for a while before making the investment.

    6) Do read feedback/solicit views of folks who have custom razors to see what they have to say - both good and bad.

    7) Do buy a custom if you have a desire to have a unique razor - but if this is all you're after, a nicely refinished/rescaled razor might suit you just as well and cost a bunch less.

    One last point - when you're shelling out top dollar for a custom, you should have high (but reasonable) expectations. The fact that something is handmade is not an excuse for shoddy/inconsistent workmanship. Don't accept anything less than a very high standard of workmanship from someone who calls themselves a craftsman and charges top dollar for their time and expertise.

    My very long $0.02 on the subject.
  7. Doc4

    Doc4 Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    Oh fudge-monkeys!

    This thread is heading to Unpleasantville but fast! I'm going to lock it now, at least until tomorrow, and hopefully by then get some feedback between the Moderators about what to ultimately do with this thread.

    So let's let this subject rest for the evening, and see if things aren't a bit calmer in the morning.



    So now it's Friday afternoon and all of a sudden this thread is a lot shorter. There may have been a few baby-like objects tossed out with the bathwater, but methinks that's the better way to go about it. To explain this to those who come along later (and to hopefully keep people out of the same minefield) the overview was that Joel gave some negative opinions of some razors he had from Robert Williams, and of his dealings with Mr. Williams, who responded with an opposing point of view.

    Fair enough, other members had more favourable things to say about their RW razors.

    We here at B&B enjoy seeing discussion of custom razor makers' skills, to help our members decide both whether or not a custom straight (costing hundreds of dollars and perhaps over a thousand sometimes) is something that they are truly interested in, and from whom they should purchase it. Of course, the thing about custom straights is that by their nature they are an artisnal product, produced in small numbers by craftsmen who are very much real people just like you and me who take pride in their work and who can feel slighted when they and their work is criticised. This, of course, makes open and frank discussions of their work more difficult in terms of avoiding personal remarks and offense being taken (both by artisan and by reviewer.) Some of that may have occurred here.

    I have never had personal dealings with Mr. Williams, nor have I ever held or seen one of his razors in person (although I have seen a couple of his custom scale jobs.) I am acting as a Moderator here, and am taking pains not to offer an opinion as to who was right or wrong in the discussion that has been deleted. Suffice it to say that the discussion was heading nowhere good, and needed to be dealt with.

    We have decided to re-open this thread, in the hope that things have cooled off now, and that we can have a polite and gentlemanly discussion about custom straight razors. And let's stay clear of the issues regarding the deleted discussion. If this thread goes downhill again, it will be locked again, and most likely deleted entirely, which would be a shame.
  8. Why let this one die? While I didn't really get it, why not keep talking. You all had a lot to say (about stuff that I wasn't, and am not, in the market for, but you are, so what the hey?). Talk customs, people. It's all useful.
  9. netsurfr

    netsurfr Vendor

    Seems like Joe Chandler may have been mentioned before as a good custom straight razor artist. Did not see his name as surviving the edit.
  10. I think that you would have been much better off just deleting the thread rather than letting Joel's comment stand and deleting Mr. Williams' response. The fair thing to do is to either leave the comments of both Joel and Mr. Williams or get rid of both.
  11. The comment by Joel doesn't mention anyone in a derogatory manner.
  12. Well, then I respectfully disagree with you.
  13. After much careful reading and pondering, it astounds me that this thread go to where it is. It started off with someone asking for a list of people that make custom straight razors and ended with a shameful exchange between 2 highly respected members.

    Sad really.
  14. To get back on the topic, I am dipping my foot in the water, figuratively speaking, and shaving with straights. Trying to learn honing and stropping and all of the rest. I have SRAD but I am focusing on vintage and current production while looking at custom makers. I won't make a move in that direction until I am sure that I can become proficient with a straight. I tend to lean toward a hand forged blade such as a Zowada Damascus. There is something romantic to me about a razor beaten into shape on an anvil.

  15. +1

    After explaining that a derogatory exchange went on between Mr Williams, then leaving this
    seems very distasteful to me.

    Yes all razor manufacturers have their good and their bad, but to allow one member to bash another, and to only erase the posts after the offended member defended his position, and work.

    Ellis and Zowada are both excellent artisans, but please don't assume that all other razor makers are manufacturing garbage.

    I like Roberts work. Joe Chandler is making some awesome blades. Livi, josh Earl, etc... Wacker razors are customs, and all are absolutely worth the money. We have new makers emerging all the time, and it is exciting. LR Harner on SRP is making some interesting pieces, they look good, he is improving quickly, I am happy to support members who are trying to do this, even if his razors are not yet an image of perfection, appreciate the fact that you are getting a one of a kind razor from a budding artist.(I hear they shave well too)

    Each manufacturer has a different style, You need to chose the manufacturer for that style, as much as price, and design.
    If you are not happy with the final outcome, give the manufacturer a fair chance at fixing the problem. They are all artists, and would rather have their work back than have you dislike it.
  16. I will buy a custom straight at some point. In fact, I have a request in to Josh Earl for when he comes across something that meets my requirements.

    For me, the beautiful work done will be enough to satisfy my high end needs. I certainly don't have the eye or experience of someone like Joel so I'm sure I'd be blown away by just about any custom, based on the photos I've seen of the artists mentioned previously.

    I guess when you've seen the very best, you get an eye for a high level of quality and expect as much no matter what. Perhaps even too much so.

    All of the customs I've seen, by many of the artists mentioned, were absolutely beautiful.

    A lot of this is a matter of preference and can not be an absolute.

    Perhaps it's best to avoid understating that opinions are subjective and highly personal.

    Anyhow, some amount of conflict is absolutely normal, especially when people are true enthusiasts, experts and therefore emotionally vested.

  17. Suzuki

    Suzuki Moderator Emeritus

    Couple of things:

    1) Since when is it a crime to state your preferences - they're personal opinion and everyone's entitled to agree, disagree or ignore them as they wish.

    2) I think its fantastic that there are so many folks now making straights from scratch - I'm very optimistic that this renaissance will preserve this craft - at least for our generation.

    3) There's a big difference between making a straight from scratch and making custom straights for resale. When you're selling products for big money, the expectations are much higher - this is why you see the first few straights that someone makes from scratch going for less than subesquent razors go for. If I pay $200 for a custom, I'll have different expectations than if I paid $500 or more.

    On this last point, I had a razor rescaled by a well-known member and, despite having several folks rave about his work, the two sets of scales I got from him were complete crap (lousy wood, lousy fit/finish, etc.). In my view he had no business selling scales if that's all he was capable of - yes they were better than what I can make, but they weren't anywhere near commercial grade.

    So what I'm saying is that, while its great that there are folks trying their hand at custom razors, we should be as critical of the work as we are of Dovo or TI's. As I said before, "handmade" is not an excuse for poor craftsmanship (and this is NOT directed at anyone) and we as a community should be just as prepared to criticize the shoddy as we are to praise the excellent.
  18. Those LR Harner razors look real interesting and he apparantly has been making regular knives for a while, anybody here ever purchased any of his work?
  19. What was concerning me, and perhaps others, was that that exchange was not just between a consumer and a custom maker, but rather fallout from a busted deal between two market participants, which gives it quite a different flavor.

    I agree generally that we as consumers should be as willing to criticize as praise any product for the rest of us consumers [though I agreed with the moderators when they took action on threads that got a little too nasty with QED and Classic on the grounds that they had shifted from critique to trying to harm someone's business]. But if [and I emphasize the if] in a particular case the consumer isn't just a consumer it raises other issues, in addition to creating the same issue about crossing the line from critique to attack on business. I think that's why this bothered people so much, and more so than the other times the moderators took down threads where even a pure consumer was trying to harm a merchant's business.

    You are entirely right that we need to not get carried away with the ideal of a custom razor and be sure we actually know why we are spending money on one, and really thinking hard about whether it's worth it. And I'm glad you made that point because I needed the reminder myself. And if you have any similar words of wisdom that would cure my SSAD I would most appreciate them! :001_smile

Share This Page