PAA (Phoenix) DOC Satin - Review, Photos, Measurements, Photo Analysis

Discussion in 'Double Edged Razors' started by ShavingByTheNumbers, Sep 7, 2017.


    • Based on photo analysis as applied to an average blade width of 21.96 mm, the PAA DOC Satin has a very large negative blade exposure of -0.22 mm, making the razor relatively inefficient at cutting hair, and a large guard span of 1.96 mm, making the razor relatively aggressive. This combination of inefficiency and aggressiveness generally makes the PAA DOC seem "mild" overall.
    • The PAA DOC Satin has a blade angle of 24.4 deg, which might also contribute to the razor's "mild" character
    • The PAA DOC Satin has a handle angle of 36.1 deg, as found by photo analysis, which matches typical statements that the handle angle is more than 30 deg and closer to 35 deg or 40 deg
    • The PAA DOC Satin is visibly different on each side of the razor head, which corresponds to differences in guard span and blade gap for the blade's two cutting edges, as verified by photo analysis
    • The PAA DOC Satin has visible "blade play" when loading a blade, which can lead to asymmetric blade exposure, as verified by photo analysis
    • The open combs, which hold onto lather, and textured surface of the PAA DOC Satin result in less friction during shaves compared to safety razors with smooth top caps, allowing for thicker, drier lather without compromising on perceived slickness
    • The handle of the PAA DOC Satin has very good knurling
    • The PAA DOC Satin comes with several noticeable surface imperfections
    • The PAA DOC Satin does not have much blade tab overhang, but due to deficient razor design, blade tab corners can access and cut skin during shaving, while loading and unloading the razor may be dangerous with bare hands


    I started DE shaving on June 12, 2016, and my first safety razor was the Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) Double Open Comb (DOC) Satin. My first post ever here was fittingly about the PAA DOC Satin on July 8, 2016, regarding mass and length measurements and photo analysis for blade exposure, guard span, etc. (B&B URL). On July 18, 2016, I shared some photos (B&B URL), and then on July 22, 2016, I posted more photo analysis results with respect to the "blade play" issue that is present with the PAA DOC Satin (B&B URL). Soon after, on July 29, 2016, I posted an updated photo analysis with averaged blade parameters for both sides of a symmetrically revealed blade having a width of 22.00 mm (B&B URL). Finally, on January 30, 2017, I wrote about quick friction experiments that showed how the PAA DOC Satin resulted in significantly less friction under wet conditions with only water on skin compared to safety razors with smooth top caps under similar circumstances (B&B URL, B&B URL).

    Despite all of my analysis and other posts about the PAA DOC Satin and having switched to the Edwin Jagger (EJ) Kelvin on January 26, 2017, I never provided a review of the PAA DOC Satin with updated mass and length measurements and extra photographs about design and manufacturing flaws. This post rectifies that situation.









    Mass and Distance Measurements

    Below is the general table of measurements for the razor without a blade. Mass was measured with a calibrated scale having a 0.01 g resolution, distances were measured with a calibrated digital caliper having a 0.01 mm resolution, and center of mass was measured by carefully balancing the razor on a relatively thin edge of folded paper, noting the critical location, and measuring it with the caliper. Regarding the head, top cap, and base plate, width dimensions are perpendicular to the open comb sides and length dimensions run parallel to the open comb sides, as observed from the top of the razor.

    RazorPAA DOC Satin
    Mass55.79 g [PAA states 56 g]
    Length78.81 mm [PAA states 3 in.]
    Center of Mass from Top31.00 mm
    Handle MaterialSatin Finish Plated Brass
    Handle Mass35.17 g [PAA states 36 g]
    Handle Length72.94 mm
    Handle Diameter11.98 mm
    Head MaterialSatin Finish Plated Zinc Alloy
    Head Mass20.62 g
    Top Cap Width19.03 mm
    Base Plate Width23.38 mm
    Head Length, Center39.75 mm
    Head Length, Maximum42.49 mm
    Center Pin/Post Diameter at Blade4.78 mm
    Side Bar Width at Blade1.90 mm
    Side Bar Span at Blade34.92 mm
    Open Comb Gap1.30 mm

    The razor's mass, length, and center of mass are described above. Each individual develops preferences for these overall parameters, so reviewing them is somewhat fruitless. Nonetheless, I will say that I like the weight, size, and balance of the PAA DOC.

    Photo Analysis

    As posted on July 29, 2016, photo analysis was conducted with a symmetrically revealed blade having a width of 22.00 mm (B&B URL). The Wilkinson Sword blade had a reasonable thickness of 0.098 mm and was loaded to the best of my ability by eye with manual adjustments to yield symmetric blade reveal. Close-up photos down the blade edges on both sides of the razor head were analyzed, and results were subsequently averaged and rounded, as illustrated below.


    Given that the average blade width is approximately 21.96 mm, based on my numerous measurements of different blades, I extended the photo analysis results for a 22.00 mm blade width to an average 21.96 mm blade width by means of simple geometric calculations. The following table shows the estimated results for the PAA DOC Satin safety razor loaded with an average DE razor blade:

    RazorPAA DOC Satin
    Blade Width21.96 mm
    Blade Angle24.4 deg
    Handle Angle36.1 deg
    Blade Exposure-0.22 mm
    Guard Span1.96 mm
    Cap Span1.94 mm
    Blade Gap0.47 mm
    Blade Reveal1.26 mm

    The blade angle of 24.4 deg may be less than average and might make the PAA DOC less efficient, since shallow blade angles apparently cut hair less effectively. Regarding another important angle, the handle angle of 36.1 deg is in the ballpark of reported estimates, the handle angle being typically stated as more than 30 deg and closer to 35 deg or 40 deg.

    The analysis that was performed for both sides of a symmetrically loaded blade yielded significant differences in guard span and blade gap. The differences are not artifacts of the analysis method, but are real and manifest from visible geometric differences on each side of the razor head. The two sides are not equal. One side has a guard span of 2.05 mm and a blade gap of 0.51 mm, while the other side has a guard span of 1.82 mm and a blade gap of 0.42 mm. Unlike guard span, blade gap does not really affect how a razor feels and performs, but differences in guard span and blade gap reflect a lack of precision in the manufacturing of the razor.

    Razor Is "Mild" Overall with Inefficient Blade Exposure and Aggressive Guard Span

    Overall, with its very large negative blade exposure, large guard span, and possibly shallow blade angle, the PAA DOC can be considered to be a "mild" razor, but it is more precisely described as inefficient with respect to blade exposure, and possibly blade angle, and yet aggressive with respect to guard span. The combined effect is a razor that feels mild overall and possibly not as efficient as one might desire.

    Personally, with my tougher hair, I could not get close shaves with the PAA DOC, even when using a very sharp blade and applying undesirable pressure in a final pass against the grain (ATG) with blade buffing. I tested the PAA DOC with a variety of blades, including, but not limited to, Derby Extra, Wilkinson Sword, Astra Superior Platinum, Voskhod, Gillette Silver Blue, Kai, and Feather blades. I liked the Kai blade the best with the PAA DOC. This makes perfect sense because the Kai blade is very sharp and is about 0.2 mm or more wider than other blades. The sharpness of the Kai blade helps increase efficiency in general, regardless of the razor, but the extra width of the Kai blade helps to compensate for the PAA DOC's large negative blade exposure, in particular. A blade with a larger width in the PAA DOC yields a slightly less negative blade exposure and a slightly smaller guard span, yielding a razor-blade combination that is slightly more efficient and less aggressive, especially if the blade is also relatively sharp. Shimming with the PAA DOC either didn't make a perceivable difference for me or it noticeably made the situation a little worse due to increased aggression beyond what was comfortable.

    A minor issue regarding performance has to do with the head profile. The open-comb safety guard of the PAA DOC acts and feels like a rake against the skin. The ends of the safety guard do not provide much surface area against the skin, making it harder to feel the safety guard and maintain a proper angle. As with other razors, however, experience allows one to get used to how the PAA DOC feels and performs.

    "Blade Play" Is Noticeable

    Loading a DE razor blade in the PAA DOC Satin can be irritating because of noticeable "blade play" that often leads to asymmetric blade reveal and exposure. The amount of "wiggle room" when loading a blade can be quantified by caliper measurements. The thin part of the cutout running across the center of a DE razor blade has a width that ranges from 2.10 mm to 2.20 mm with an average of 2.15 mm, and the diameter of the hole at the center of the cutout ranges from 4.93 mm to 5.12 mm with an average of 5.05 mm, based on my measurements of many different blades with a precise digital caliper. The PAA DOC is one of several razors that has two thin bars on the sides of the top cap for fitting into the cutout and automatically positioning and aligning a blade. As measured with my digital caliper, the two blade-alignment bars of the PAA DOC Satin have a width of about 1.90 mm near the top cap where the blade sits, and the center pin/post has a diameter of 4.78 mm at the blade when the razor is loaded. These dimensions result in theoretical blade plays of (1) 0.20 mm to 0.30 mm with respect to blade cutout width and PAA DOC Satin blade-alignment bars and (2) 0.15 mm to 0.34 mm with respect to blade cutout circle diameter and PAA DOC Satin pin/post diameter. For a particular blade sample, photo analysis revealed a variation of about 0.25 mm between minimum and maximum blade reveals, which falls between both theoretical blade play ranges. Blade exposure on one side of the razor in this case was measured as significantly changing from -0.27 mm for minimum blade reveal to -0.12 mm for maximum blade reveal (B&B URL).

    Given the wiggle room between a blade and the PAA DOC Satin, the natural asymmetry that often noticeably occurs when loading a blade has some combination of translation and rotation. This necessitates manual adjustments to symmetrically load a blade. When I initially load a blade into the PAA DOC, I check the blade on both sides, and if the reveal is asymmetric, then I unscrew the handle a bit to allow me to move the blade a little using the blade tabs, and then I fully tighten the handle. If the blade is still not symmetrically revealed/exposed, then I repeat the quick process of partially loosening the handle, adjusting the blade position, and tightening the handle until my eyes see the blade as symmetrically loaded.

    This is not a big problem, but I'd rather have a razor automatically seat a blade perfectly or at least better than the PAA DOC Satin. The bars on the top cap and the center pin/post are thinner than necessary right near the top cap where the blade sits, creating unnecessarily larger blade play. This is a design flaw. Instead of a 1.90 mm width, the blade-alignment bars on the top cap should have been made with a width that is closer to 2.10 mm, which would have resolved the vast majority of blade play that currently happens with the PAA DOC Satin while still allowing for all or almost all blades to fit.

    Open Combs Hold Onto Lather, Reducing Friction

    The PAA DOC is advertised as being "based on the classic Self Lubricating Grand Razor" with an open comb on the head that "catches excess lather and water keeping the razor constantly lubricated during the shave." This certainly seems true. The PAA DOC looks cool with its open comb safety guard and open comb top cap, but more importantly, the open combs utilize increased surface tension and surface area to hold onto lather and water, providing extra lubrication during the shave. Streaks of lather are actually left behind for better buffing, which supports the advertising that the PAA DOC is the "best buffing razor". Regardless of whether the PAA DOC is the "best buffing razor", as advertised, the functionality of holding onto lather is very nice.

    Textured Surface Also Reduces Friction

    Experiments with the PAA DOC Satin showed that its textured surface produces much less friction than razors with smooth surfaces do on wet skin (B&B URL, B&B URL). Testing involved dragging top caps of razors against dry skin and skin wetted with water. The PAA DOC Satin resulted in a little more friction in wet conditions with only water on skin compared to dry conditions on skin, but safety razors with smooth top caps resulted in significantly more friction, including stick-slip, in wet conditions compared to dry conditions. The lower surface area from the open comb of PAA DOC's top cap may be a factor, but testing with the solid part of the top cap confirmed the significance of the textured surface. Good lather reduces friction for all razors, but fundamentally, the textured surface of the PAA DOC Satin works better than smooth surfaces. It has been theorized that a reason for this is because lather gets in the small crevices of the satin finish, cutting down on friction relative to the level that accompanies smooth surfaces (B&B URL). This advantage might be lost with the latest version of the PAA DOC, which has a smooth nickel plating.

    Knurling Is Very Good

    One thing that I really like about the PAA DOC is the knurling on the handle, which PAA states is their "special brand of knurling". As shown below in the zoomed-in photo, the knurls are shaped well with plenty of depth to facilitate comfortable gripping without slipping. This claim is based on my use of the razor for over seven months.


    Surface Imperfections Are Abundant

    The picture below shows prominent examples of surface imperfections with the PAA DOC Satin. The plating and surfaces are not perfect, but functionally, there are no issues because of this.


    Blade Tab Overhang Is Small, but Dangerous

    Blade tabs are exposed by the PAA DOC Satin, as pictured below in top and bottom views, but despite the fact that the overhang is technically small, deficient razor design makes the blade tab overhang dangerous during shaving and when loading and unloading the razor.


    The blade tab overhang is large relative to the top cap and the center of the base plate with its curved cutouts, and this lack of material on the sides of the head makes it harder to hold the top cap and/or base plate when tightening or loosening the head. The angled corners of the base plate also contribute to the increased likelihood that one's hand might slip and get cut when changing the blade. Using a towel or other soft material in between the razor head and one's gripping hand is thus recommended when changing the blade so as to protect the hand.

    While it is good that there is some access to the blade tabs, so that manual adjustments can be made when loading a blade in order to compensate for the PAA DOC's "blade play" issue, the blade tabs can make contact with skin and cause cuts when shaving, especially around the nose and ears. This is because the angled corners of the base plate allow easier access of the blade tabs to the skin, even though the overhang of the blade tab corners is technically small relative to the base plate. When using the PAA DOC, I certainly felt the blade tabs on many occasions, and I believe that this resulted in a nick near the ear when I was not careful enough.


    The PAA DOC Satin was my first DE safety razor, which I bought after spending quite a bit of time researching razors, reading reviews and trying to figure out what razor was best for me. Transitioning to traditional shaving turned out to be relatively painless with the PAA DOC, due in large part to the razor's mildness and lather-quality tolerance, the latter being unknown to me at the time. After getting my bearings with DE shaving, I still struggled to get a close shave. Frustration set in and I became disenchanted with the PAA DOC. This led to my photo analysis of the razor, which quantified its large negative blade exposure and large guard span. With explicit statements about how I was not reviewing the razor, but trying to share my quantitative analysis results, I submitted the results to PAA's website. PAA did not post my write-up. That was a big turnoff, but it was a good lesson about how undesirable reviews and information can be easily censored by razor manufacturers at their websites. Shortly afterwards, on July 8, 2016, I joined B&B and posted my photo analysis results. I really disliked the PAA DOC by this point in time, but I still shaved with it for several more months, gaining more experience with DE shaving technique and different soaps and blades. I wish that I had switched to the EJ Kelvin sooner, or started DE shaving with it instead of the PAA DOC, because the EJ Kelvin forces the user to make better lather and use lighter pressure in order to achieve closer shaves. Nevertheless, if it weren't for the PAA DOC Satin, I might not have learned as much about DE shaving difficulties and mechanics.

    Future Work

    I've been shaving with the EJ Kelvin since January, but I have yet to perform photo analyses of pictures that I took looking down the blade edges. I will eventually determine blade parameters for the EJ DE89 head. Also, I haven't even cracked open the Bevel razor that I purchased in February, so I'll get to analyzing that razor, too.
  1. pbrmhl

    pbrmhl Contributor

    Tremendous work. I'd love to see this level of analysis on the PAA DOC Evo in stainless, which I will use tomorrow morning (and several mornings thereafter).
  2. Thank you for this big analysis.
  3. Thank you very much indeed for posting this review. This is the type of thing that people do for masters degrees! What a privilege to read it!
  4. This is the absolute best review I've ever seen. I'm very impressed with your in depth look at this razor. I was actually thinking about picking this razor up at sometime but now I think I'll have to take a pass.
  5. Fantastic report thanks for posting.
  6. VERY impressive analysis! :thumbsup:
    Like you, I can't get a decent shave from this one. That -.21mm blade gap certainly helps to illustrate reason as to why.
  7. Very detailed. Nice pics. Precise measurements. Thank you!

    I also was thinking about getting this OC razor, but now I think I may have to get the Parker 24c instead.
  8. Thanks, guys! It took time to put this review together, so I'm glad that you guys appreciate it. :thumbup1: Something that I failed to mention was that when I was researching what razor to get as my first safety razor, I found that the PAA DOC was generally said to be mild yet efficient. That was a big reason for picking it. My review supports a different opinion of the razor based on quantitative measurements and analysis. This is the type of information that I was looking for back when I got the razor, but a review like this didn't exist. Now it does. :001_smile My review of the EJ Kelvin will also be thorough and include photo analysis results never seen before.
  9. It sure would be nice if measurements like yours here were available for all of the popular razor models. Your photo showing blade exposure and angle alone, even apart from your helpful measurements, is very informative. Thanks.
  10. You're welcome, and you're absolutely right about how great it would be if we had similar measurements for popular razors. That's one of the reasons for my picking the EJ Kelvin (having the standard EJ DE89 head). I wanted to try a modern-day classic and do photo analysis with it, and my review will come eventually. I have the Bevel waiting for me after that. From there, I don't know where I'd go. The Merkur 34C would be another modern-day classic that I'd like to do analysis for, but I'm partial to buying three-piece razors.
  11. sw_


    Impressive indeed. Actual data is what most other reviews are lacking (completely), so you are basically left with just an elaborately explained personal opinion. I prefer the scientific approach. :)
  12. Wow! You should do this for... Well, pretty much every razor you can find then compile them into a book and sell it! I, without hesitation, would add that book to my Amazon cart even if it cost $100. That would be the most detailed record of safety razors to probably ever exist so far. Great work
  13. Great analysis which explains some of the behavior I have encountered with this razor. (After reading this you wonder how the PAA DOC does shave at all. :001_smile )

    I hope you continue with the photo analysis and that you will include classic Gillette Razors too.
  14. Great review though, imo, just a little late!! This combination you reviewed hasn't been available for several months. PAA sells the satin with a 2pc travel handle, the same as the reviewed but nickel plated, and the stainless version which, from all the reviews I've encountered is a completely different razor and shave altogether. I had the nickel version back in February and it didn't last 3wks in my den... Horrible shave to say the least... It would be nice to see indepth reviews like this on newer razors that are just being released than ones that have been around for almost a year or longer...just saying...:a9:
  15. Agreed. Well put. :001_smile

    Wow right back! What a great compliment. I've only done photo analysis so far for the PAA DOC Satin and the Dorco PL602, but I've taken photos for the EJ Kelvin and will analysis them and post a thorough review in the near future. Then comes the Bevel. So, right now, I'm only doing photo analysis for razors that I'm buying and using. However, I'm open to the possibility of analyzing other razors sent to me for photo analysis. I'm not up for that now, but maybe in the future.

    I'm glad that you can relate to the analysis. Manufacturers don't mind giving blade gap, which is easy to measure with feeler gauges and doesn't really matter, but blade exposure and guard span are not so easy to measure and they matter a ton. I don't have any vintage razors yet, but I would like to analyze some classics.

    No worries. You didn't burst my bubble. As detailed in the introduction, I posted plenty of photo analysis work back in July 2016. This review includes that material, other stuff that I posted on the PAA DOC Satin last year and several months ago, and new material and photos on the knurling, surface imperfections, and blade tab overhang. I just wanted to put everything together so that I would let myself move on to analyzing other razors.

    I'm not surprised that you didn't like the nickel-plated version of the PAA DOC. It was probably a little worse than the PAA DOC Satin because the smooth nickel plating probably produced more friction than the textured satin finish. (I theorized about that in my review.) Otherwise, the dimensions and performance should be identical or nearly identical, which wasn't good for me, either. You're right about how the PAA Evolution is very different from the PAA DOC. The PAA Evolution is an efficient and "aggressive" razor with possibly large positive blade exposure and possibly average guard span.

    I agree that it would be nice to see a photo analysis of that razor and other newer razors. Unfortunately, I'm the only one doing photo analysis at the moment and razor manufacturers apparently aren't interested in giving blade exposure, guard span, and blade angle information. If they shared that data, then you'd really have a good picture of how the razors perform without using them, and manufacturers want you to buy and use their razors. That's understandable. The only case that I'm aware of where a manufacturer has given the critical information is for the OneBlade. They are proud of their optimization process, as they should be, and kindly shared details. In their case, since they are charging hundreds of dollars, they must have felt the need to justify the cost. :laugh:
  16. Polarbeard

    Polarbeard Contributor Ambassador

    Having spent most of my worklife as an analyst, and thus being used to delivering readable reports based on actual facts, I must say that I'm deeply impressed. Thank you for sharing. It was fantastic to read even for a straight razor addict like me.
  17. Awesome! You can probably tell that I have experience in analysis and technical writing, too. :001_smile
  18. Polarbeard

    Polarbeard Contributor Ambassador

    Indeed I could
  19. You could solve a lot of common questions if you were to do the same for the PAA Bakelite Open Comb Slant.

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