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Review: the Blackland Tradere (pre-launch)

Ridpath

FIGHTER!
Contributor
Hi everybody, this is my review of the (new) Tradere by Blackland. For those that don’t know, the Tradere is a storied razor, initially released in the early 2010s and was produced in extremely limited quantities. The razor had a reputation for being very well constructed and for an amazing shave, and was sorely missed when production stopped, becoming a very collectible razor.

Then, not too long ago, Blackland announced that with the original maker’s blessing, the Tradere would be making a return, and preorders opened early this month (May 2020). Shane at Blackland was kind enough to send me a Tradere ahead of the launch. Note that I haven’t used an “original” Tradere before, and so my impressions will be purely based on the razor I’ve received.

Without further ado:

Unboxing The Tradere

My Tradere came in a sturdy Blackland branded cardboard box, with a thank you card from Shane and a care instruction card. The razor itself was secured in a foam insert – a really straightforward, no frills approach. For the official launch, Shane’s informed me that the box and foam will be the same, but the printed materials will be different.

As I was getting the razor out of the foam inset, I couldn’t help letting out a small sigh of satisfaction (no, really!). This is the most elegantly designed razors I have had the pleasure of seeing, much less hold in my hands. There are pictures everywhere of the website about the original and new Tradere, but I didn’t expect the razor to somehow be more beautiful in life than on screen.

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The finish

The Tradere I received was polished by Shane due to the rush in getting it ready to send over to me, and he’s told me it’s not perfect and the razors at launch will have a better finish. If he hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known – the finish on my Tradere is probably the best polished mirror finish I have ever seen. Owners of a Wolfman in mirror polish will be able to tell for sure, but I believe this will give even the much vaunted Wolfman mirror polish a run for its money. As you can see in the pictures, you can literally use the razor as a mirror.

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The handle

I decided to mention this specifically as it is one of the areas where someone with certain preferences might take issue with. The Tradere handle, I have learnt, is iconic; and improvements upon the original handle were made to make it more user friendly (I think).

In comparison to most knurled handles (eg Merkur, Timeless TRH1), the knurling isn’t deep. In fact, it seems to be mostly cosmetic, with shallow grooves that admittedly look amazing. I personally find that the handle exudes beauty and elegance, although this is a very subjective matter – this is probably one of the prettiest handles I have ever seen on a razor.

The only gripe that someone might have is that for a knurled handle, the grip is only slightly better than simply holding a round polished tube of steel. As an experiment, I covered one hand in lather and tried to shave with it. I didn’t feel confident at all doing that since it kept slipping and felt it might slip at any time. Granted, this scenario is wholly artificial; I had no problem keeping a good grip on the razor in all my shaves even with wet or slightly soapy hands. This will likely not be a problem for most people, but I thought I’d mention it in case someone else was expecting the “normal” level of grip from a knurled handle.

The head

The Tradere has a really distinguishing head design, where the top cap covers the blade tabs and extends downwards to cover part of the base plate. Covered blade tabs is one of the reasons this razor is one of my “grails”. Among razors, it’s a fairly uncommon feature, and of all the razors with covered blade tabs I’ve seen, there’s usually some design flaw – exposed corners, round slippery edges, etc. Thus far, I have only come across one design that I’ve been satisfied with, and that’s the Feather AS-D2, where the head is simply horizontally extended to cover the entire blade, a no nonsense and simple approach.

The Tradere takes this one step further by having the top cap extend down to the base plate. There are also grooves on the side to improve the grip relative to bare smooth polished steel – I personally can’t find fault in this design, and it contributes to the unique appearance of the razor.

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The base plate is mostly flat, and looks like a traditional safety bar base plate stuck on to a rectangular piece of stainless steel. On the underside of the base plate of a launch day Tradere, there will be some laser etching indicating the serial number and other bits of information. My Tradere instead has a completely unetched base plate, so well polished you can see your reflection in it!

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As a result of the flat base plate and cap, the overall geometry of the head is fairly flat. When putting a blade in, I didn’t feel that the blade was put under a lot of tension. Personally I don’t mind this at all, but thought I would mention it as some people prefer more blade tension.

The shave

I’ll only comment on the version I’ve tried, which is the safety bar Tradere. This razor is the smoothest, most efficient razor I have ever had the pleasure of shaving with. I’ve tried shaving with a range of different blades, and the shave is consistently mild, smooth and efficient. It made very quick work of my 3-day growth, and with an Astra SP I am able to consistently achieve BBS with no irritation whatsoever. First time shaving on my head however, I managed to cut myself more than once on the top of my head near the whorls. Completely user error, the shave felt so effortless and smooth I kept unconsciously applying more pressure until it eventually broke the skin. My fault for not remembering that this isn’t my usual razor… :(

There is comparatively little blade feel compared to most razors, possibly as a result of the lower blade tension. It doesn’t skip or bounce though, and provided an absolutely amazing shave once I got used to it. It razed those hairs like they were nothing, and posed no problems shaving the upper lip due to the relatively flat head design. For people who want a more aggressive shave and more feedback while shaving, they may want to consider the open comb version instead – shaving with the safety bar Tradere is like driving a Bentley, you just sit back and just enjoy the experience.

With the Tradere, I never ran into any problems with razor burn or skin irritation, even when I went over my problem spots. As long as I went gently over the areas that usually gave me some irritation, the shaves were consistently pain free and really enjoyable.

I sound like a broken record at this point, but the covered blade tabs made my life easier as well when shaving around and behind the ears. I’ve scratched myself more than a few times there with other razors so it was nice to be able to shave without worrying.

TL;DR: incredibly smooth and efficient, surprisingly so given how mild the razor feels.

A bit of light reading / how I came to possess a pre-launch razor

As I mentioned earlier, Shane at Blackland sent me this razor as a special favour before the official launch date. I cannot sing enough praises for his kindness and thoughtfulness – this is a quick summary of the events that culminated in me with a pre-launch Tradere, and hopefully after reading it you’ll come to the same opinion as I did.

I was originally resigned to not getting to shave with a Tradere, since I am quite ill and would probably not receive it in time if I preordered it. I had previously reached out to another razor maker that also had a long waiting time explaining my situation and was promptly ignored. That’s why I wasn’t even going to write to Shane in the first place.

I changed my mind and decided to get in touch after seeing his interaction on the forums. Going by his posts, he seemed to be genuinely approachable, pleasant and well-spoken. At the very least, he didn’t seem the sort to ignore messages outright! I then composed and sent him a lengthy message, explaining my situation and asking whether he could/would give me a firm estimate of shipping times so I could decide whether to preorder the Tradere.

His response astounded me – he immediately offered to grab an unfinished razor off the production line, finish it up as best he could and send it over to me by priority mail to make sure it arrived as quickly as possible. This was completely unexpected, and he wouldn’t even hear of accepting payment/reimbursement for the razor or the shipping cost to the UK!

All this for a random person on the internet – he could have easily dismissed me as someone who created a sob story, or just answered my question and left it at that. Instead, he went above and beyond what could have been reasonably expected of him and did everything he could so that I could have the pleasure of shaving with a Tradere. At this point, I think it’s pretty clear what my opinion of his character is, and I am honoured to have had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. Shane – thank you.

Back to the review:

The fact that I received the razor for free doesn’t have any bearing on my review of the razor. All of the opinions and thoughts I’ve expressed are my honest views. When I asked permission to post a review about the Tradere, Shane was pretty clear that I shouldn’t let the fact that I received it for free affect my opinions. His only input to this review was additional detail on the differences between my and the launch day Tradere.

This is my first review, and I hope it will provide some information for those who might be interested in preordering the Tradere or sitting on the fence. Any advice on improving my review would be really appreciated as well, although I might not be able to edit my review to reflect any improvements!

My opinion: get it if you can. The Tradere is not only a work of art, it shaves like a dream as well! I believe this is potentially a limited run by Blackland, although Shane has mentioned if demand is sufficient, he is open to continuing production of this amazing razor so as many people as possible can have the pleasure of shaving with one. My razor will be unobtainium for a few more months yet, as the delivery estimate is 6-8 weeks from launch (and launch isn’t confirmed yet). It’ll probably be unique anyway, like every Tradere – mine doesn’t have any laser etching and was polished by the man himself!

I also have the dubious honour of being the second person ever to have shaved with a new Tradere, I’m told. If I can shorten that, it’s going on my headstone! :D

If you have any questions, do ask and I’ll try my best to answer. Thanks for reading!
 
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Hannah's Dad

I Can See Better Than Bigfoot.
Ambassador
Fantastic review, Paul. Sounds (and looks) like the Tradere is a real winner, and kudos to Shane (@Blackland Razors ) for his incredible act of kindness. His reputation was already sound; acts like this only strengthen it.

I’m looking forward to getting my OC version soon and, God willing, you and I can compare notes. Keep fighting, Paul!

Cancer Bad; Shaving Good
 
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Ridpath

FIGHTER!
Contributor
Thanks for your kind words.

I’ve already spotted a few errors in phrasing and typos, despite spending half a day proofreading this... too late though, can’t edit it anymore. Never mind.... :(
 
Ridpath Keep fighting!
Your review was outstanding and I read it very closely as I ordered the same Blackland Tradere SB. Your razor looks beautiful and I wish you many happy shaves with it.
I think it’s awesome that Shane grabbed a Tradere and got it to you so you could enjoy it.
 

ackvil

Moderator
Paul, that was a great review. Yes, the finish is beautiful. I would never know it was a pre-launch model.

One question: how do you like the weight of the razor?

Shane's response was wonderful. He is a wonderful vendor on B&B.
 

Ridpath

FIGHTER!
Contributor
Paul, that was a great review. Yes, the finish is beautiful. I would never know it was a pre-launch model.

One question: how do you like the weight of the razor?

Shane's response was wonderful. He is a wonderful vendor on B&B.
Thanks a bunch - I wouldn’t have known either!

The weight is pretty much as you’d expect from a stainless steel razor, hefty, but comfortably so at 118g. The head weighs 49g and the handle 69g, the balance point is fairly well placed (see pic) and is a pleasure to hold and shave with.
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It looks like a Pils. What does the head weigh?
Just answered this when you posted! See above :)
 
Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to prepare and post this review.

We've never met and I don't believe we ever will, but you are in my prayers.

All the best to you.
 

KeenDogg

Social Media Guru
Ambassador
Wonderful review, Paul. Glad you enjoy the Tradere so much. I may just have to get one.
 
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