I've been planning to review this razor for a while now, but I'm not all that good writing creatively so I've kept putting it off. I hope this is of use and not too boring!
THis was the second Maestro Livi razor I bought, having been very impressed with the first - an 8/8 ATS34. After watching some of Maestro Livi's DVDs and seeing photo's of Lynn's collection, I wanted to order a second Maestro with at least a Damascus blade. However I knew that Maestro Livi has a small quantity of special steel which he imports from Japan, so I decided I'd try and get a razor made from this while it's still available.
The special steel is hand forged by Japanese Master Shosui Takeda and consists of either; two layers of carbon steel sandwiching a high carbon steel layer, or two layers of AS Damascus steel sandwiching a high carbon steel layer. This is similar to the construction of samurai swords, the central core is made of a steel which holds a superb edge but is harder and more brittle, the outer layer is softer and more durable.
I ordered mine in AS Damascus, but I've since heard that the Maestro's supplies of this are running low/out. I believe he does still have some stock of the non-Damascus type left, or at least did at the beginning of January 2007.
Ordering from the Maestro is a little different from ordering from Classicshaving (etc.). You place your order and then all goes quiet for 3 or 4 weeks, while the Maestro works away in his workshop using skills that took a lifetime to develop. Weeks later, you suddenly get a package in the mail postmarked from Italy - and your heart leaps as you tear it open.
With every Maestro Livi razor, you get the razor (obviously) presented in a small wooden box. You also get a certificate of authenticity signed by Maestro Livi, and one or two DVDs showing Maestro Livi at work. One is his generic video in Italian showing him making a Damascus razor in his workshop, and the other is either him making Damascus barbers scissors, or making a stunning Damascus razor outdoors during a show in Scaperia 2006. This razor was eventually presented to Lynn, you can read about it here.
Anyway, on to my razor. It's a Maestro Livi 7/8 Takeda AS/Damascus with Olivewood Scales. The Maestro did some custom spine work for me, I left it up to him and he didn't disappoint. His spine work is done by hand so every razor is different and truly unique.
As you can see from the photo's the different parts of the blade show up after the acid etching process. The central high carbon core comes up very dark, as do the pattern lines in the Damascus outer.
The steel is hard but is not particularly difficult to hone. It comes shave ready but I managed to improve mine a lot with some careful passes on a belgian yellow coticle stone, and then 1.0uM and 0.5uM diamond pastes on a paddle strop. It's a truly outstanding shaver, and I use it most days at the moment. Being a 7/8 width blade it's very stiff, and I can shave 1/4 of my face between rinses.
The scales are unfinished olivewood, which has a very nice warm touch. Even though I really like them, I'm toying with the idea of sending the razor back to have some new scales made - perhaps African Ebony with Ivory inserts like the scales on the razer Maestro Livi made for Lynn on his trip to Italy here.
These razors are totally custom made so you can request pretty much any specification you want (within reason), obviously the more work involved the greater the cost. But it's interesting to know that every part of the razor is entirely hand made, even down to the nylon bushings on the pivot which are punched out of a sheet by hand, and the pin collars which are hand ground out of sheet steel.
On to the cost. This isn't a cheap razor, I think it set me back somewhere in the region of EUR420.00 direct from Maestro Livi. But in my opinion it's worth every penny.
I ordered mine direct from Maestro Livi as I live in the UK and of course there are no taxes involved buying from Italy. In the USA or Canada, you are much better dealing with Lynn Abrams who is Maestro Livi's official distributor there.
Lynn Abrams http://www.straightrazordesigns.com/
Maestro Livi http://www.coltellerielivi.it/