AutoStrop B2 -- First Shave

Discussion in 'Single Edged Razors' started by Flintstone65, Jun 15, 2019.

    Wish me luck, I'm headed down another rabbit hole!!! Had my first shave with a recently acquired AutoStrop B2 -- got it from the BST and couldn't be happier with this acquisition!!!

    A while ago I had picked up a B1 (with a handle) and a VB1/VC1 (without a handle -- still haven't looked closely at it enough to determine if it's a VB1 or a VC1), but neither has been pressed into service yet.

    After the B2 purchase, I finally took the time to do enough research on how to use a de-spined GEM blade in the AutoStrop's and I'm really glad I did. I had heard positive things about the shaves you get, but I was still surprised at how well this razor did.

    First let me say that I used a brand-spanking-new GEM SS PTFE blade, which while I'm a fan of these blades, the very first shave tends to be harsh and almost always leaves me with some irritation in my problem areas. But I decided to throw caution to the wind and not use a corked or otherwise "tamed" blade. Despite my devil-may-care approach to the razor blade, I was careful with my technique, and I kept to the familiar with the rest of the hardware/software (i.e., brush [Yaqi Mew Brown Synth] and soap [Arko]).

    I had just over 48 hours of growth, and after the first pass (WTG), I was shocked at how simultaneously efficient and mild this razor is. Second pass (XTG) I could hear it cutting what was left, but I really had less blade feel than I was expecting. Third pass (ATG), I was whipping this thing around my face like it was a cart, and I still managed to avoid any nicks, bleeders or irritation. Shocked that I was getting a great, but mild feeling shave, I decided to do a clean up pass (although I didn't really need it), and I went for ATG again, except this time focusing on the sensitive areas (Adam's Apple and lower neck). I should've walked away with a ridiculous amount of irritation/razor burn, but instead, I was just smooth -- no irritation, no bumps, no redness. I got DFS-BBS -- no blood, no irritation -- color me both surprised and elated!!!

    So I'm hooked on AutoStrops. I've got an A1 on the way, and this new B2 has made it into my top 5 razors/shavers. While I'm in love with AutoStrops, the ones that take the GEM blades are really where my interest lies. I haven't heard overly positive things about the Feather Valet blades (SS or Carbon) -- from what I can tell, they are expensive and they don't last very long; this may be a YMMV, but I'm swimming in GEM style blades, so I'm thrilled to have another razor that will help me enjoy them.

    Here are the pics....the box appears to be coated/sealed brass and doesn't photograph particularly well, but it is a beauty in it's own right. The razor appears to be silver plated, and while it has a little brassing going on, it still shines up beautifully. Lastly, I love the look of the AutoStrops -- open comb, steam-punk gears, heavy head, and nice handle length.....truly a great razor!!!
    IMG_1823.jpg IMG_1822.jpg

    I'm curious to hear from other AutoStrop users -- especially those using GEM blades -- do you get similar results, or is mine an outlier?
  1. REV579

    REV579 Contributor

    That's awesome!
  2. Glad to hear that you're enjoying your shaves with the AutoStrop, Fred. I'll have to hunt my B2 up and give it a try.
  3. Congratulations, Fred!! :a50::a50:
  4. Ron R

    Ron R Contributor

    Excellent write up on your experiences with your B2 AutoStrop.
    I saw a fellow unspine a Gem blade on you tube & it seemed easy.
  5. Thank you all!!! It's early in the relationship (only one shave so far), but it sure feels like love!!!
  6. Glad you're happy with it.
    Of course, the whole raison d'ĂȘtre of the Auto-Strop was that one stropped the original blades.
    Using the disposables is like putting electronic ignition on a Bonneville and converting it to unleaded!
    Still, that's what most guys do these days so you're in good company.
    The new blades are a convenience, but if you have a strop you should try it.
    It's fun, and a bit of a challenge.
    New-old-stock original Auto-Strop blades can easily be found on the secondary market, i.e. ebay, and they're sometimes sharp enough to start with straight out of the box.
    The old strops will need to be rubbed with balm and flattened to be useful, and it takes a steady, careful hand, but it is eminently practicable and rewarding.
    Now, go tune that carburettor!
  7. Very interesting. I will likely give that a try one day. At this moment, I've only got razors and a couple of very rough looking blades, and no strop. It does sound like fun though!
  8. What do you find is the best angle for the autostrop? Is it similar to that on a gem razor?
  9. Glad to hear you had a great shave, and nice pics of the razor. I just used my Auto Strop today for the first time as well, with a new blade, and I had a great experience. I actually went ATG on my neck (something I usually avoid) and had no irritation. I definitely felt the blade less than I thought I would.
    Now I just have to stop myself from trying to collect the other models. I actually have another one that I've never tried out (a slightly later model than the one I used, but still should take GEM blades). I think it's time I give that one a try soon.
  10. With any new SE's, I always start super shallow (handle almost parallel to the floor) and then lower it down until it cuts -- I would say it is a similar angle to the GEM, and like most GEM's (at least IMO) it's easy to find the cutting angle and hold it. I'd also say the "cutting window" is fairly large; meaning you don't have to have that perfect angle to get it to work. I recently used a razor that was VERY particular about what the angle was....too shallow or too steep and it didn't work well, but when you found the sweet-spot it was great. This one seemed to have a wide-range for the sweet-spot, or maybe I just got really lucky. I'll pay more attention on the next few shaves.
  11. It's great using/learning a razor with someone else...and it sounds like we had really similar experiences. I usually go nuts with collecting all the various models, but with the A1 coming and having a B1 and B2 (plus a VB1/VC1) -- I think I'm set with AutoStrops. Maybe I'll get the urge to try the Valet models that won't take a GEM blade, but I'm not feeling the calling at the moment.
  12. The Every Ready 1914 is a nice analog to get an idea how the milder C model razors shave. The blade feel and overall shave is a close match just how you hold the razor is a little bit different.

    As far as the angle goes for strops, this is how I learned them because I found I was angling the razor based upon how I hold the handle for other SE razors so what I did was the following.

    I took a Gem Micromatic open comb, Clog Pruf will work also since the angle is built into the cap. lay the razor flat on the face then adjust the angle until the lip on the front of the cap is flat on the face. That is the shave angle that works about best. Once you do that put the strop next to the micromatic and line the blades up so they are exact, try to maintain that angle throughout the shave and through all passes. Once you have the visual cues down the muscle memory will follow in a few shaves. The other thing is you need to resist the urge to change the angle because it feels too mild or add more pressure. Just let it do it's thing, the key is short choppy strokes maintaining the same pressure and angle.
  13. Thanks, that makes sense!
  14. I agree there, I'd rather not have one that won't take a GEM blade. I may end up collecting the older models though, but I'll try to take my time. I can only shave with so many razors after all and my wallet won't thank me haha
  15. DSC00546.JPG DSC00549.JPG
    Not trying to change anyone's mind, but...
    The later models with the proprietary pins are not hard to find blades for.
    Feather makes two: FAS-10 carbon steel single-edge blades (see photo), and FHS-10 Platinum/PTTE coated hi-stainless single-edge blades. They each come in 10-packs. Fendrihan carries both and Maggard has the FHS-10.
    There were blade manufacturers back in the day that made compatible blades for them. I have a pack from Eastmor that I got off ebay (see photo), and I understand there were several others.
    And of course, Valet made boxes of replacement blades that can still be found as new-old-stock on the secondary market rather cheaply (see photo).
    The best part about the Valet blades is that you can re-strop them repeatedly (right in the razor!) for a substantially long life.
    In fact, that was the whole idea behind the Auto-Strop...hence the name.
    Otherwise, it's just another funky old obsolete razor.
    Some still have the strop, though it usually needs to be rehabilitated. Sometimes one can find a Wilkinson Empire razor set with a Valet strop, because Valet sold replacement strops which happened to be compatible with the Empire, also a self-stropping system.
    Occasionally, one comes across new-old-stock strops, either unused in the set itself, or as a boxed replacement strop (see photo).
    If you have a collection (that you use), you really only need one working strop (and original blade), to use them as originally intended.
    I have the VB2 (see photo), which I consider the best design of all of them. It's silver-plated, has the hinged-door blade-holding system, has the rear strop roller (instead of bar), and has adjustable blade exposure!
    Just one caveat: There were many pin combinations (starting with the VC1), employed by Valet in an attempt to thwart third-party blade manufacturers. Apparently, at least one of these pin combinations will also thwart the modern Feather blades. The vast majority will work with the Feathers, but that's cold comfort to the unlucky chap who got the one that won't! For him, it's vintage blades or nothing. View attachment 991310 View attachment 991310 View attachment 991311
  16. Beautiful razor, and I'm a never-say-never guy, so I feel fairly certain that if I stumble upon a Valet AutoStrop with the strop that I'll probably give it a try. The complaints I've heard about the modern (i.e., Feather blades) is that you don't get many shaves from them. Have you used the Feathers (FHS-10)? And if so, about how many shaves can you get from the blade? I know if you're stropping the blades (and I do know some guys that are successfully doing that), then the number of shaves can definitely be increased.

    Thanks for sharing the photos and insight, and while you may not have set out to change someone's mind, you've certainly got me thinking!
  17. I have not used the FHS-10 stainless blades, which are probably the better ones for longevity.
    I've used the FAS-10, carbon steel blades, but I don't remember how long they last. I could test shave with them sometime and report my findings.
    Of course, these modern blades are throw-aways, you're not supposed to strop them. They won't benefit from it really, except to the extent the strop cleans and dries the blade. It doesn't sharpen it or re-set the edge like with a straight.
    You can extend their life (and the life of any blade for that matter), by employing certain maintenance protocols.
    Most gents find it's more trouble than it's worth, but if you dry the blade immediately after use, you will extend its useful life. Wiping the blade dry is claimed by some to be counter-productive and actually shorten the life of the blade, as well as being potentially dangerous. I'm not sure I agree with those claims. It may depend on how it is wiped. Nevertheless, patting the blade dry with absorbent towelling or tissue appears to be non-controversial. Some fastidious types even finish with a blow dryer! The point is to remove all residual moisture from the blade, because it is the slow evaporation process everyday that allows oxidation to form on the blade's edge, which is essentially rust or corrosion. This is a major if not the primary factor in blade deterioration, arguably more so than the wear from cutting hair.
    The original Valet blades were much thicker than modern, thin disposable blades, and they were designed to be stropped. Like a miniature straight-razor, these blades could be maintained sharp with a strop for a considerable long time, but eventually, just like a straight, the edge would dull and only honing could bring it back.
    Valet blades were not meant to be honed, so one would simply put in another blade. Thus, users replaced their Valet blades, just at a much slower rate than Gillette users.
    So, if you have any old rusty Valet blades in your kit, they are good for nothing.
    I believe that buying new-old-stock Valet replacement blades on the secondary market (and stropping them) can actually be cheaper than using the new disposables, because the number of shaves is exponentially higher with the original Valets. They came in 5 and 10 packs and average on ebay approx. $2 per blade. They are enclosed in a waxed-paper wrap inside a paper tuck inside a sealed box and I've never got a bad or rusty one, but I reckon it's possible.
    These razors are just a curiosity to-day. Frankly, I'm surprised Feather makes blades for them at all.
    Only fellows such as ourselves are even attempting to use them anymore!
  18. Very helpful info, thanks!!!
  19. Had a second shave with the AutoStrop B2. It shared the limelight with a Micromatic Clog-Pruf....shave details are here: Micromatic Monday

    I really can't put my finger on why this razor speaks to me as much and as well as it does -- but I really don't want to stop shaving with it. I've got a lot of unused (and untried) razors, so I; maybe after one more shave! For those who haven't used yours in a while, or for those who haven't tried one -- I whole-heartily recommend it....especially the B2 (can't speak for the others....yet).

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