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Thiers-Issard Grelot Crown Silver Wing

Item Description

A few years back I wrote an article reviewing the then new Silver Wing razor blank forgings using the CarbonSong 135 steel from Thiers-Issard. Well, evidently the factory was very pleased with that little write-up, and I was very happy :w00t: to learn that they wanted me to review yet another new straight razor that they have had in the works.

What I’ve been sent to look at and try out is the new 11/16” Grelot Crown Silver Wing. I’m absolutely delighted with this little beauty for a whole bunch of reasons, but, before I wax enthusiastic, let me pause and give a word of explanation.

Thiers-Issard bought the original blanks from the Grelot factory when that company closed its doors. And of course it’s been no secret that the old Grelots proved incredibly popular with the straight razor community, so popular, in fact, that the stocks of the old Grelot razor blanks at Thiers-Issard are completely gone. Most especially the extra thick, shoulderless blanks with the round thumb notch are not to be had any longer.

And because of the popularity of that particular blade, a decision was taken at Thiers-Issard to recreate that Grelot razor in a new forging using the modern Carbonsong 135 steel, but not forgetting the techniques and grind that made the original so popular.

So what I have in my hands is Thiers-Issard's inauguration of the rebirth of this new Grelot forging in the form of the the Limited Edition Grelot Crown Silver Wing. At the factory they actually call this the CROWNSILWING, but I think that is too much of a mouthful and I’ll just refer to it as the Crown Wing for the rest of this article.

This is a lovely, round-nosed blade which sports TI’s fabulous mirror polish and some really brilliant sculpturing along the spine, all wrapped up in a handsome set of decorated, Cuban Mahogany scales.

Those scales are really worth a mention. They have been made from fine, old (historic) Cuban Mahogany. This wood is literally something like 100 years old and was 'rescued' from a factory in England where these furniture quality planks of Cuban Mahogany had been languishing in some forgotten storeroom before TI acquired them.

These scales have been varnish finished. To be more precise, they have been given two layers of varnish to serve as filler coats, following which these first coats have been gently knocked back with fine sandpaper and then buffed to a lustrous polish before a special crown and fleur-de-lys design has been laser engraved onto the side. The scales are already a rich, satisfying reddish brown, but I'm informed that one of the properties of Cuban Mahogany is that this coloration will become yet warmer and deeper with the passage of time. Think fine, Victorian age furniture :)001_tongu)

Many readers have said that TI has had a bit of a problem with oversized scales in the past. I hear from the factory that this problem is being addressed and as they use up their older stocks this should no longer be an issue. I would say that these scales are still about two to three millimetres longer than they need to be, but compared to earlier scales on other TI razors I have in my possession the length of these scales is much improved and its not worth making a fuss about.

The blade, itself, is really wonderful. Because the heavy grind of the original was apparently so popular, the factory has endeavoured to make a thick grind to give similar qualities to those of the old quarter ground Grelot on which it is based.

Compared to the blade form of the classic Silver Wing, the Crown Wing is perhaps 3mm shorter overall, but is a slightly wider blade at 11/16" instead of the 5/8" of the older forging. It should be noted that the actual amount of cutting edge is slightly reduced, so that the Crown Wing offers an effective cutting edge of some 55mm compared to about 64mm on the edge of the original Silver Wing. In practice this tiny difference doesn't have an adverse impact on shaving performance and this razor gives the solidity and stiffness of a huge old wedge married to the ease and manoeuvrability of this smaller, shorter profile.

Now what really has me excited about the Crown Wing is the decoration along the spine of the razor. It is not that TI hasn’t offered decorated razor backs in the past, but earlier designs were always cut on a flattened area of the spine, while this new spine design has been deeply sculptured right onto the round of the razor back.

The design is an elegant interlacing of crowns and fleurs-de-lys on a field of diamonds. The fleur-de-lys is the symbol of France and the crown is, of course, synonymous with Thiers-Issard. I'm also told that the crown design was meant to indirectly refer to the nobility of the Cuban Mahogany as it pertained to the Victorian era, but your guess is as good as mine on that last one. :confused1 Now to tell the truth, I was a bit worried that the deep spine decoration would cause problems on my leather strop, but the sculpturing has been properly polished up at the factory so I haven’t any issues concerning my strop leather to report.

Like the original on which it is based, this forging is a shoulderless grind which sweeps up gracefully into a generous thumb notch. Some of the older Grelots had gimping only on top or bottom but this new forging sports gimps both in the thumb notch and along the back of the tang which makes for very good control. Further, if you find your finger inching forward along the spine during your shave, you could be forgiven for imagining that the deep design sculpturing was intended as an extension to the gimping.

In addition to the decorated spine, the blade displays the usual Thiers-Issard branding on the front side of the tang and bears a discrete crown and serial number engraved on the reverse. On my razor the branding on the front side is stamped in, but I understand that this is to be phased out in favour of deep laser engraving which very positively emulates the stamping, but without any possible deformation of the metal.

In common with the earlier Silver Wing blade, the Crown Wing also has that outstanding mirror polish which the Carbonsong steel takes so well. This is not only elegant to look at, but also helps the blade resist corrosion. I understand that these new Grelot forgings are being subjected to an additional vibratory cleaning stage after they are hardened. This cleaning operation evidently allows for better and cleaner grinding, indirectly contributing to obtaining that high mirror finish which is characteristic of TI's blades. In fact, I personally have never had rust or water spotting issues with any of the mirror polished Carbonsong TI blades in my possession.

Aside from all the lovely look and feel of this razor, the Crown Wing really delivers when it comes to the shave. I’ve used it about four or five times since it arrived and I really like the shave it delivers. A few passes on clean leather was all the edge preparation I gave to the Crown Wing before using it, but it didn’t seem to need more. This blade really performs very nicely on my tough beard and I have no fault with either the sharpness or the handling. Happy whiskers, happy face!

My understanding is that TI has improved their method of sharpening such that the blades they deliver to the customer are really damn close to being ‘shave ready’. They say that have a new variable speed sharpening machine based on a proprietary mix of diamond and ceramic media which gives a very sharp edge right out of the box. However, they have dropped a final green chromium oxide pass from the sharpening regimen as that evidently made for a lot of clean up work afterward (something they wanted to avoid). Could the edge be better? Well I guess everyone has their own ‘sweet spot’ as regards straight razor sharpening and honing. But I can report that this blade (as it arrived from the factory) was absolutely shave ready for me. No, wait. Let me phrase it more strongly. This blade is the sharpest thing that TI has ever put into my hands right out of the factory. And to date, I haven’t been tempted to take the Crown Wing blade either to hone or pasted strop, so they must be doing something right.

I guess I shouldn’t forget to mention the presentation box which completes the Crown Wing package. This storage box is made of the same same warm, beautiful Cuban Mahogany as is used for the scales, and like the scales the box is finished with a few discreet coats of varnish. The rounded shape of the box is a clever rendition of the shape of the razor scales and is topped off with an inset, solid brass wing, engraved with the TI name and the same serial number as the razor. In passing I should say that I find the brass plate augments the Cuban Mahogany beautifully and is a much better choice for this box than would have been the silver coloured wing insets from the earlier Silver Wing editions. The inside of the box is finished off with soft, red flocked cloth and there is a special magnetic catch to hold the box closed. It is also worth pointing out that the older presentation boxes from the previous Silver Wing series were dyed Beechwood and as such would never develop the beautiful patina that can be expected from these Cuban Mahogany boxes. The whole effect is quite handsome, but if you tire of it, you can always use the thing to hold a few pencils or pens on your desk.

The entire run of this new Crown Silver Wing edition straight razor will be limited to 350 pieces: each one numbered and including it's matching numbered presentation box. Previous limited editions had been restricted to 300 pieces per run, but since there always seemed to be slightly more demand than supply it was decided to slightly raise the initial offering. (I guess that is a good thing, since according to my factory contact, fully one third of this new limited run has already been sold.)

The factory has also let me know that the limited edition Crown Wing razor is going to be initially set at the approximate pricing as follows: US & Canada $399, Europe €325 and in the UK £275. This seems to be a great price for what to me is essentially a collectable, custom razor with a beautiful case.

To sum it all up: considering the new blade shape and sharpening, the handsome sculpturing on the spine, the mirror polish and attractive, decorated Cuban Mahogany scales and presentation box... well, I guess I can only say that I think the Limited Edition Grelot Crown Silver Wing razor has really got to be one of the most special decorated razor packages that Thiers-Issard has ever offered.

Latest reviews

Pros: Flawless C135 blade
Cons: Four mashed into wood pin heads, black stain on scale, bevel sanded off half a scale...
My fourth TI and third collectable. Sadly TI rushes their work marring otherwise beautiful well designed products.

My newly purchased razor has all four pin heads mashed almost flush into the scales. The wood around the pins has been compressed by the tools and/or anvil supporting the scales during pin installation. Black stain has been spilled on the back scale, cleaned, and remnants are visible. Glue is evident on the scales below the wedge. Half the lower side of the back scale has had the bevel sanded off round. Possibly removing damage from pin installation given the other scale compression?

The blade, to the credit of TI, is perfect.

TI needs to take an extra minute or two in assembly and they would have a perfect product.

I am four for four with such issues but I go back to the TI trough as they are indeed a special product and they do shave. Just be prepared you may not get a sample exhibiting the high level of craftsmanship early reviews show. Enjoy the performance and features rather than dwell on needless flaws.

For the above reasons I mark them down as noted.

As this razor is new to me I have not yet had to hone it. I give the ratings based on my other three C135 which are consistent. They hone well but they are a very hard steel. Once honed the edge is very durable and produces as fine a shave as any.

The cutting edge on this model is on the shorter side giving great handling and better performance around the wind pipe.

In terms of easy to maintain, best have your oil handy, these blades start to stain before you finish a shave. Simply the cost of a very high carbon content. Fine otherwise.
2.00 star(s)
Lasting Edge
5.00 star(s)
3.00 star(s)
Easy to Sharpen
4.00 star(s)
Easy to Maintain
4.00 star(s)
Shaving Smoothness
5.00 star(s)
Picked one of these up a few weeks ago, after giving it some time I decided to post some comments.

Price: Its not cheap, however I feel the price is justified for what you're getting here. A collectible item with limited numbers. Nothing else out there like this. I bought mine second hand and got a substantial break over the retail price.

Craftsmanship: Absolutely superior save one thing. The pins are mashed into the wood a bit too tightly. I've heard other owners mentioning this same thing, maybe a result of the scale material, I don't know.

Easy to Sharpen: I found it more difficult to dial this razor in than others hence the little bit lower score.

Lasting edge: Despite being difficult to dial in, once its there it seems to last a LONG time.

Shaving Smoothness: One of my best shavers, no disappointments here. The size, thumbnotch design of the blade and scales make this the most nimble shaver I've ever experienced hands down. It fits my hand like a glove while shaving.

Easy to maintain: While the design is sublime for shaving I find this razor very difficult to strop. While stropping my thumb constantly creeps up towards the blade and puts it off balance. Will it be the same for everyone? Probably not, its just my experience.

Overall, I love looking at this razor, I love shaving with this razor but I hate stropping it. A small price to pay for such a luxury item like this, I suspect it will remain in my home for my lifetime.

4.00 star(s)
Lasting Edge
5.00 star(s)
4.00 star(s)
Easy to Sharpen
4.00 star(s)
Easy to Maintain
3.00 star(s)
Shaving Smoothness
5.00 star(s)
You got #001? Wow! That razor looks like a good one! Do you get to keep it?

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