This… is a stunning razor. A Zowada razor is a thing of uncommon beauty, something you are don’t just see, you “feel” as it truly has a soul. This is not some machine pumped out block of steel, this is no mere tool made of cold steel, this is no ground blank… this is a gorgeous piece of damascus art, made from scratch. This is a melding of 25 years of experience, 2 steels, a block of wood, and hell of a lot of incredibly skilled time/labor.
Now – onto the razor….
First – the blade. The razor has exceptional balance, and the ridges in the damascus act like jiimps and really make the razor "stick" in your hands whilst holding it. It goes without saying, this is a simply gorgeous blade. The edge is marvelously straight... so far, it is one of the straightest edges I have experienced in a custom razor and I own quite a few. The spine pattern is very uniform and is quite pleasing to the eye and I love the tapering width of the tang - as it fine, yet elegant. This blade is the most “perfect” blade I have experienced so far in a custom forged blade. Everything is precise, and exact, absolutely no short cuts, or slop, no crudeness, simply a show quality blade.
As far as the blade goes – my two main gripes are, 1.) The Tim Zowada Logo blends into the damascus too well, and I’d like it to stand out more. 2.) The “U.S.A” stamped into the back of the shank looks INCREDIBLY cheap/corny. It’s a totally different font/size than the TZ on the front of the blade, and has no business being on an $840 razor. I don’t mind if it says U.S.A. on it… but if that’s the route, I’d rather it say it in the same font as used on the front of the shank for the TZ and be smaller, and/or say “Hand Forged in the U.S.A.” or something to that effect.
The Scales -
Firstly – The zebrawood scales are nearly perfect (95%) which is remarkably hard to do with by hand and considering the wood is one solid piece, not 2 slabs joined together. Tim’s remarkable craftsmanship certainly is humbling. The wood (scales) has a nice grain to it, however I think it would look much sharper with a few layers of CA coat on it, to make it glossy/glass like. Wonderfully done, yet a little plain/boring for a razor of this cost. Something with more burl would be a welcomed compliment to the magnificent swirls of the Damascus blade.
Gripes – 1.) The pin is quite nice, and I love that it is adjustable - I think for a razor this nice/expensive, including a small wrench/tool to adjust the tension would be a really nice/neat touch. 2.) There is a metal pin at the end of the scales… now, these scales are one piece of wood carved out (there is no wedge/spacer) so there need not be a pin there, so I am not sure why it’s there. Not having a pin (a la Maestro Livi) would be a nicer/cleaner look. Sound nitpicky? It is… there just isn’t much to “gripe” about with these razors.
Firstly – this razor popped hairs beautifully off of my arm when it arrived, and they are advertised as being “shave ready” however while this razor popped hairs beautifully on my arm, such was not the case with my face when shaving, and after a few strokes, I had to stop shaving and hone the razor. While normally this would be a quick/easy task, the whole double bevel business with honing these razors is kind of a pain in the rear, and scrambling around looking for Electricians tape so as to be able to hone up my razor isn’t exactly fun, or luxurious and makes this razor more difficult to maintain, and I wish he'd ditch the double bevel. For a razor of this cost, and for these being THE most expensive razors currently being crafted you’d hope they’d at least come with some sort of handy plastic “slip” to go over the spine to set the razor to the proper angle, but I digress. After fumbling around with blue painters tape, and duct tape (I had no electricians tape handy) and a trip to the Escher, then a trip to green chromide brought this beauty right where it needed to be. After it was tuned up, I went back, re-lathered, and this sucker just melted the whiskers right off my face. This razor is hands down the finest balanced razor I have ever experienced, and after the touchup "honing" was just an absolute dymo - and arguably one of the most fun razors I have ever used. You merely have to think about it being somewhere - and it's there, and with the perfect balance, the razor ALWAYS feels stable, secure and comforting. This is really an exquisite piece of art that can actually be used daily.
Packaging – The packaging on these razors is really abysmal. They are wrapped in tissue paper, put in a leather button “sheath” that is WAY too big, and looks incredibly cheap, then dropped into a cheap/flimsy plastic box. Really, this isn’t flattering for such a beautiful razor. I’d actually prefer it arrive wrapped up in bubble wrap, with a handwritten note stating the specifics of the razor, and signed by Tim.
Overall – If you can afford one of these suckers… buy three. If you want a Tim Zowada knife, you’re looking at a decade long wait, and he’s no longer accepting orders as he’s so backed up… so, keeping that in mind, being able to buy one of his razors immediately at classicshaving which shows you how “in-demand” his work is. Also, figure these are food on the plate to Tim. While there are other custom razor makers… none of them are doing it as a full time job, and you’ve got to remember, Tim’s got 25 years of experience making Damascus blades. If you figure “like for like” a Tim Zowada 5/8 Damascus razor is a mere $9 more than a Thiers Issard 5/8 Damascus razor, and owning a 5/8 Thiers Issard Damascus Razor, I can say (hands down) the Zowada is a much, much better razor, and a markedly superior shaver.
With the above stated, I do however feel from a “value” perspective, these aren’t a wonderful value. Sure, you aren’t going to get a better shaving razor… however at the same time, you can spend 1/8th of the $ and get a razor that shaves AS well, or ½ of the amount of the cost of the Zowada and get a razor that’ll have fancier scales, a fully customized blade to your liking (although it won’t be as “perfect” as a Zowada blade) that may excite you more. It really boils down to what YOU are looking for. If you’ve got the money, and $750 - $1,000 isn’t a big deal, a Zowada is a really remarkable razor and right now, there is no other option you can merely up and buy (as in a razor in stock, or without quite a wait) that can compete. If however $750 – $1,000 is a big expenditure, and is something you’re going to have to save for, I’m not sure this is your ticket. You buy a Zowada for the most remarkable looking, hand forged Damascus blade… NOT the scales. While this is in my opinion, the highest quality custom in terms of precise fit and finish (makes a RW or Maestro Livi blush) it also comes at quite a cost. While in my opinion the cost is warranted (as described above) and if I could only have one razor, it damn well might be this Zowada, this is a very expensive razor, and there are just so many good options out there right now. If you’re the kind of guy that always has to have the best quality, regardless of the price, and can afford one… the Zowada is your ticket.
These Zowada’s are beautiful Damascus labors of love, hand made from SCRATCH by one man (start to finish including heat treat, Cryo freezing, etc) – a tremendously skilled craftsman whose work humbles even the most discerning and nitpicky eyes. Something this gorgeous, rare, special, expensive, and labor intensive that could/can be enjoyed and actually used daily, for a lifetime is really remarkable, and a joy to own. Hey… if you use it for 50 years, it has a yearly cost of a mere $16. Seriously though – if they could drop the price on these a few hundred dollars, they would be a “must-have.”
I want another one…
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