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Grudge match: A rare British vintage icon vs. a modern Canadian look-alike on steroids

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Gentlemen, tonight we have a treat for you in the vintage vs modern fight club:

In the vintage corner we have the reigning champion of razor emotion: The Darwin Deluxe, cobalt steel art deco design wonder, made sometime in the 1930s in Sheffield, England - and today one of the most sought-after vintage razors!

...And in the modern corner meet the challenger from the shadowy Canadian woods - the newcomer, the champion look-alike, the impeccably designed and long awaited new arrival into my den: The Wolfman WR2 on Darwin design handle!


...Well, what to make of this... Being a self-confessed vintage nut I only collect razors dating from the 1930s to the 1950s. I am smitten with vintages for their soul and history, but also of course for the excellent shaves they provide. I did not even own a modern razor until now and honestly I only ordered this Wolfman because I wanted to know if I was really missing out on anything, given all the hype around this brand.

...So let’s see what we have here...

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The Darwin Deluxe
The history of the Darwin razors has mostly been lost but we know that they were made at the Fitzwilliam works in Sheffield, England, during the 1920s and 1930s, possibly even into the 1940s. The Darwin production numbers must have been very low as they are really hard to find nowadays. Only very few models were introduced and the Deluxe was the top of the model range, built fully in patented cobalt steel.

The razor weighs in at 76 grams and measures 84 mm from head to toe. It’s most discerning charteristic is the magnificent art deco design which includes everything from the head to (not least) the handle. But on top the cobalt steel has a truly unique tactile feel, like cool and warm at the same time, and the visual design looks and feels both edgy and round. Somehow it is timeless but even so very much a design of the 1930s. ...Some would argue all this emotional talk is baloney and just a sorry effort to justify the price, but I would beg to differ...

The Deluxe in hand - and the shave
My specimen is not perfect, it has been used regularly and bears its battle scars with pride. But still it is up for thousands more shaves. I shaved with it again this week as preparation for this match, it is a fine shaver even if I only use it irregularly due to its rarity. The balance is superb and the handle grip is the best of any razor I ever tried. In shave it has a certain level of blade feel, maybe a tad more than I prefer personally. The blade does not feel fully clamped down and secure, somehow. It is a noisy shaver with clear audible cutting sound, which I like. The size, balance and nimbleness is perfect for me.

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The Wolfman WR2
Enter the Wolfman. Just used it 2 times so the following are definitely my first impressions:

As I prefer mild shaves I chose the following setup: 1.05 bladegap, solid bar, and mounted on a Darwin style handle. All chosen to make it a superb daily shaver.

As for handle design I was going back and forth on which handle to choose as I did not really like any of the Wolfman handle designs. Too bulky, overwhelming and heavy for my tastes (YMMV!). So I ended up going for the Darwin design. Reasons being: (a) grip cf comment above; (b) Weight: This handle importantly is the lightest of the Wolfman bunch at 55 grams. My preferred (total) weight of a razor is around 75-80 grams and with the other handles we would likely end up well north of 100 grams. This Darwin setup weighs in at 88 grams total, which should be fully within acceptable range for me. (C) Looks: Well, the Darwin design is just pretty classic and cool, innit?

Wolf in hand - and the shave
I took delivery of the Wolfman a few days ago, and will just briefly repeat what many others have noted: Build quality and finish is absolutely impeccable, I never saw better.

In hand and shave the razor feels quite big(!), the full length is 95 mm. But it is very nice and balanced. And notably the tolerances are so impressive that I never found an easier 3-piece razor to load. The blade just falls into place and sits perfectly aligned when the razor is assembled and tightened up. So the initial in-use impression is right on the money.

In shave it is not a nimble razor, definitely. It is long and somewhat bulky. The shave has more blade feel than I expected, first strokes I felt a bit insecure but I quickly found that it is a no-nonsense easy shaver. A sheep in Wolf’s clothing (pun intended :302:). And very efficient. Not as smooth as a Hybrid Tech or 4th generation British Aristocrat (but then, nothing is, hehe!).

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VERDICT - Darwin vs Wolfman
  • For build quality: Wolfie wins. But the Darwin is not too fra behind.
  • For shave quality: The Wolfie wins hands down!
  • For tactile look and feel: A Tie. While the Dariwn cobalt feeling is truly unique the Wolfie is the first modern razor that I feel matches a great condition vintage. And I can sense that 50 years from now it will be even more perfect.
  • For size: Darwin wins. To me the Wolfman is too long and a bit too heavy. It really was a surprise when I held both and compared the difference in actual size.
  • For uniqueness: The Darwin wins. No competition.
  • If I should only pick one: The Darwin, due to its history and rarity. But with the following caveat:

Where the Darwin will always be a rare shave for me, the Wolfman could very easily be my daily driver.

Or, to use a car example: Look at a 1970 Porsche 911 and then compare it to a 2021 model: Same difference between old and new: Undeniably new means modern engineering, better safety, speed and efficiency. But is it better? - Well, for the occasional Sunday drive I would pick the 1970 for sure, but for the daily commute I’d be sitting in that 4-wheel drive, automatic transmission, power steered 2 tonne monster.

...Only issue is: Grab your preferred Tech or other vintage Gillette, and you can kindda have the best of both worlds. So whether this Canadian beauty will stay remains to be seen.

Happy shaves, fellas :badger:

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Tirvine

ancient grey sweatophile
View attachment 1273824

Gentlemen, tonight we have a treat for you in the vintage vs modern fight club:

In the vintage corner we have the reigning champion of razor emotion: The Darwin Deluxe, cobalt steel art deco design wonder, made sometime in the 1930s in Sheffield, England - and today one of the most sought-after vintage razors!

...And in the modern corner meet the challenger from the shadowy Canadian woods - the newcomer, the champion look-alike, the impeccably designed and long awaited new arrival into my den: The Wolfman WR2 on Darwin design handle!


...Well, what to make of this... Being a self-confessed vintage nut I only collect razors dating from the 1930s to the 1950s. I am smitten with vintages for their soul and history, but also of course for the excellent shaves they provide. I did not even own a modern razor until now and honestly I only ordered this Wolfman because I wanted to know if I was really missing out on anything, given all the hype around this brand.

...So let’s see what we have here...

View attachment 1273818View attachment 1273822

The Darwin Deluxe
The history of the Darwin razors has mostly been lost but we know that they were made at the Fitzwilliam works in Sheffield, England, during the 1920s and 1930s, possibly even into the 1940s. The Darwin production numbers must have been very low as they are really hard to find nowadays. Only very few models were introduced and the Deluxe was the top of the model range, built fully in patented cobalt steel.

The razor weighs in at 76 grams and measures 84 mm from head to toe. It’s most discerning charteristic is the magnificent art deco design which includes everything from the head to (not least) the handle. But on top the cobalt steel has a truly unique tactile feel, like cool and warm at the same time, and the visual design looks and feels both edgy and round. Somehow it is timeless but even so very much a design of the 1930s. ...Some would argue all this emotional talk is baloney and just a sorry effort to justify the price, but I would beg to differ...

The Deluxe in hand - and the shave
My specimen is not perfect, it has been used regularly and bears its battle scars with pride. But still it is up for thousands more shaves. I shaved with it again this week as preparation for this match, it is a fine shaver even if I only use it irregularly due to its rarity. The balance is superb and the handle grip is the best of any razor I ever tried. In shave it has a certain level of blade feel, maybe a tad more than I prefer personally. The blade does not feel fully clamped down and secure, somehow. It is a noisy shaver with clear audible cutting sound, which I like. The size, balance and nimbleness is perfect for me.

View attachment 1273819View attachment 1273821

The Wolfman WR2
Enter the Wolfman. Just used it 2 times so the following are definitely my first impressions:

As I prefer mild shaves I chose the following setup: 1.05 bladegap, solid bar, and mounted on a Darwin style handle. All chosen to make it a superb daily shaver.

As for handle design I was going back and forth on which handle to choose as I did not really like any of the Wolfman handle designs. Too bulky, overwhelming and heavy for my tastes (YMMV!). So I ended up going for the Darwin design. Reasons being: (a) grip cf comment above; (b) Weight: This handle importantly is the lightest of the Wolfman bunch at 55 grams. My preferred (total) weight of a razor is around 75-80 grams and with the other handles we would likely end up well north of 100 grams. This Darwin setup weighs in at 88 grams total, which should be fully within acceptable range for me. (C) Looks: Well, the Darwin design is just pretty classic and cool, innit?

Wolf in hand - and the shave
I took delivery of the Wolfman a few days ago, and will just briefly repeat what many others have noted: Build quality and finish is absolutely impeccable, I never saw better.

In hand and shave the razor feels quite big(!), the full length is 95 mm. But it is very nice and balanced. And notably the tolerances are so impressive that I never found an easier 3-piece razor to load. The blade just falls into place and sits perfectly aligned when the razor is assembled and tightened up. So the initial in-use impression is right on the money.

In shave it is not a nimble razor, definitely. It is long and somewhat bulky. The shave has more blade feel than I expected, first strokes I felt a bit insecure but I quickly found that it is a no-nonsense easy shaver. A sheep in Wolf’s clothing (pun intended). And very efficient. Not as smooth as a Hybrid Tech or 4th generation British Aristocrat (but then, nothing is!).

View attachment 1273816View attachment 1273817

VERDICT - Darwin vs Wolfman
  • For build quality: Wolfie wins. But the Darwin is not too fra behind.
  • For shave quality: The Wolfie wins hands down!
  • For tactile look and feel: A Tie. While the Dariwn cobalt feeling is truly unique the Wolfie is the first modern razor that I feel matches a great condition vintage. And I can sense that 50 years from now it will be even more perfect.
  • For size: Darwin wins. To me the Wolfman is too long and a bit too heavy. It really was a surprise when I held both and compared the difference in actual size.
  • For uniqueness: The Darwin wins. No competition.
  • If I should only pick one: The Darwin, due to its history and rarity. But with the following caveat:

Where the Darwin will always be a rare shave for me, the Wolfman could very easily be my daily shaver.

Or, to use a car example: Look at a 1970 Porsche 911 and then compare it to a 2021 model: Same difference between old and new: Undeniably new means modern engineering, better safety, speed and efficiency. But is it better? - Well, for the occasional Sunday drive I would pick the 1970 for sure, but for the daily commute I’d be sitting in that 4-wheel drive, automatic transmission, power steered 2 tonne monster.

...Only issue is: Grab your preferred Tech or other vintage Gillette, and you can have kindda the best of both worlds. So whether this Canadian beauty will stay remains to be seen.

Happy shaves, fellas!

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I love the 911 analogy.
 
Great writeup! I still use my Asylum Evo homage occasionally, but have never shaved with a Darwin to compare. It's a beauty to look at, but as observed, probably true to it's antecedents a little aggressive for my taste, although no quibbles about its engineering or finish. I also find the art deco handle, while literally a work of art, to be a tad too slippery and small for wet and soapy hands. In a real vintage Darwin, easily overlooked for the privilege of just holding it! :001_smile

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Thoroughly enjoyed this write-up, Peter! I'm not into razor collecting, but as I got into your review I absolutely had to keep reading--the pics helped too, of course (really like the handle, although as others have mentioned it would seem prone to slippage).

Well done, indeed!
 
Great battle report, Peter. Regardless of the result, the Wolfman acquisition was an itch that you simply needed to scratch.

Given your fondness for vintage Crats — you might enjoy a Wolfie handle like an 80mm hollow H2. (In case you’re still in hunting mode).

Thanks Dan. Yup, needed to try it, and I am sadly running out of itches... And it is indeed a fine shaver. I did consider the short hollow handle but decided to spring for the Darwin.

Great writeup! I still use my Asylum Evo homage occasionally, but have never shaved with a Darwin to compare. It's a beauty to look at, but as observed, probably true to it's antecedents a little aggressive for my taste, although no quibbles about its engineering or finish. I also find the art deco handle, while literally a work of art, to be a tad too slippery and small for wet and soapy hands. In a real vintage Darwin, easily overlooked for the privilege of just holding it! :001_smile

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Thanks a bunch! The Asylum looks awesome too! - I think that its handle is slightly less edgy than the original Darwin handle and that may be why it feels slippery. The Darwin handle with the deep grooves (which the Wolfman also has) are incredibly grippy. Feels totally secure to use.
 
Thoroughly enjoyed this write-up, Peter! I'm not into razor collecting, but as I got into your review I absolutely had to keep reading--the pics helped too, of course (really like the handle, although as others have mentioned it would seem prone to slippage).

Well done, indeed!

Warm thanks Jeff - your words are truly appreciated!
 
This was one of the best posts I have read Peter! Love your analogies as well. Awesome comparison, Fun read! I love my Darwin handle on my Wolfman!, I can only imagine that the original Darwin handle being better.
 
Peter:

You write that the "Dariwn cobalt feeling is truly unique." Can you describe it? I've always wondered exactly what difference the cobalt steel makes. Thanks!

bob
 
The alloy was called “ PRK 33”
( full : “ Cobaltcrom PRK 33 High speed steel “ ) .

Here’s the patent :

And some...law implications :




Nowadays is designated as AISI D5 .
 
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I have a Darwin deluxe and WR1, WR2 both OC. The Wolfs are not on the Darwin-style handle though. I agree that the shave quality of the Wolfman is much better. So is blade loading with the WR1 or 2 - you really can’t miss. The Darwin is hard to load square. Nevertheless, it has survived deep sell offs in my collection and is still in the rotation. The shave is good, noisy as you say and a bit rough probably due to blade vibration. It is still a unique design and quite beautiful. In the end WR1 is tops IMO.
 
Peter:

You write that the "Dariwn cobalt feeling is truly unique." Can you describe it? I've always wondered exactly what difference the cobalt steel makes. Thanks!

bob

Well, it’s like I tried to describe. Both cold and warm at the same time, quite strange!

I have a Darwin deluxe and WR1, WR2 both OC. The Wolfs are not on the Darwin-style handle though. I agree that the shave quality of the Wolfman is much better. So is blade loading with the WR1 or 2 - you really can’t miss. The Darwin is hard to load square. Nevertheless, it has survived deep sell offs in my collection and is still in the rotation. The shave is good, noisy as you say and a bit rough probably due to blade vibration. It is still a unique design and quite beautiful. In the end WR1 is tops IMO.

Seems your impression is exactly like mine on the Darwin shave. I used to own a Darwin Original and a Darwin Popular too, but they are sold now to finance other projects. But this one stays. It really is like nothing else.
 
Awesome shave/fight report, Peter! Thanks for taking the time to put it together. You’ve helped clarify the mystery of the Darwin for me! If you ever decide to spring for another Wolfman...the WRH2 hallow handle is awesome—length, width, heft, comfort, beauty...all spot on.
 
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