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Shave Off - Blackbird, Karve CB, Dart and R41

These are my four most efficient Double Edge razors, and I wanted to see how they stacked up against each other in a direct side by side comparison. Up first for this morning's shave was the stainless steel Blackbird vs. the brass Karve Christopher Bradley with the G safety bar base plate. It is perhaps a slightly unfair competition as I have used the Karve dozens of times and the Blackbird has only been used for a half dozen shaves so far. Both razors had Personna Israeli blades with 5 shaves on them before this morning's shave. I lathered up with my Yaqi Moka Express 2 Band Badger brush and Shannon's Haymarket Vetiver Soap and started in on the right side with the Blackbird. For the past few shaves with the Blackbird I felt that the handle was a bit too short, but I seem to have adjusted to it and had no problems controlling the razor through the first pass. I find the Blackbird to be very smooth with just the right amount of blade feel. After completing the first pass on the right side of my face, I switched to the Karve for the first pass on the left. The difference in mass is quite noticeable, but I don't find the Karve cumbersome at all. I have used it for weeks at a time while travelling overseas, and I love using it. It isn't as nimble as the Blackbird, but it's a very solid and competent feeling tool in my hand. Like the Blackbird, it is very smooth with perhaps a tiny bit more blade feel than the Blackbird, but perhaps not. They are that close (to me). The second, and last, pass proceeded much like the first. Touchups, likewise were uneventful.

So what about the results? Honestly I cannot tell any difference; I couldn't right after the shave, and I still cannot tell any difference some 8-9 hours later. If I had to pick just one of these two, I might very well flip a coin. The brass Karve, of course, is a relative bargain, but only if you want a brass razor. I'm still not convinced how I feel about brass, mainly because I don't like patina and thus need to periodically polish the Karve. For that reason, I am seriously considering having it plated. But since I really like the feel of the razor as it is, and it looks great when it's freshly polished, I will probably keep it as it is. As to the Blackbird, I would still like a handle that was closer to 90mm, which they do not make. I think the 100mm handle would be just too long. Since I don't have to pick just one, both of these excellent razors will be used on a regular basis.

Winner: Me! As far as the razors go, I would call it a draw.
 
Quick update on the Blackbird vs. Karve results. According to my wife, now about 12 hours after shaving she says the Karve side is smoother than the Blackbird side. Checking it myself, I have to agree. So for now the Karve is on top. Tomorrow will be the Dart vs. the R41. The winner of that match will go against the Karve.
 
As promised, today was a head to head (or really side be side) contest between my Blackland Dart and my Muhle R41. This is the newer version of the R41, as I believe there was a redesign of this model about 10 years ago. While Muhle refers to it as an open comb razor, to me it is more of a hybrid open comb/safety bar mix. There are "teeth" as in an open comb but the spaces between the teeth are not entirely open. The Dart is the only model of that razor that Blackland produced, and it was only produced for a fairly short period of time. I've never really understood why it was discontinued, as it is a remarkably good razor and was a great bargain at around $100.

For today's shave I loaded a fresh Personna Israeli Red blade into both razors. (As an aside, I'm not sure that these blades are actually produced in Israel. I attempted to purchase some as the plant in Israel was shutting down, and they were advertised as Israeli Red blades, but upon opening the tuck this morning, I discovered that they have glue spots on them. My recollection is that the ones produced in Israel did not have glue spots, so these are most likely the German manufactured Personna blades. That said, I have not noticed any real difference between the old Israeli Personnas and the new German ones.) But back to this morning's shave. I once again used Shannon's Haymarket Vetiver, but this time applied it with my Zenith Manchurian badger brush. I started with the Dart on my right side. I love the feel of the Dart in my hand. It has the solidity of the brass Karve but is more agile. Compared with the Blackbird or Dart, there is more blade feel and less smoothness. For quite a while it was the standout favorite among my DE razors; that only changed with the arrival of the Blackbird and Karve. So it was like greeting an old friend after a short absence, and I breezed through the first pass. It was then time to pick up the R41 and shave my left side. The R41 has a reputation as a notorious beast, but I have never found it to be all that wild. There is more blade feel than with the Dart, but it is a very light razor and with a light touch is quite easy to manage. The handle could be grippier, but it was never in danger of slipping at any time. Shaving my upper lip the feeling was just short of tugging, but while not wonderfully pleasant, it wasn't painful or even thoroughly unpleasant. The second pass and touchups for both razors followed the same script as the first. I did get an almost weeper on my chin from the R41, but it was just a tiny spot of blood that disappeared with the post shave rinse and alum block. There was not irritation but my neck on both sides felt the sting of the alum.

A couple of hours post shave, I am surprised to note that the Dart side is very slightly smoother than the R41 side. I guess that explains why I have frequently used the Dart but not the R41. I find the Dart to be more enjoyable to use in every way, and vis a vis the R41 you pay no penalty for the added comfort and enjoyment. So the Dart is the clear winner here, and tomorrow it will be the Dart vs the Karve. I'll give the Blackbird a second chance and pair it against the winner.
 
Today was the showdown between the Dart and the Karve, two razors I have used quite a bit and which are among my favorites. Once again I returned to my Zenith Manchurian brush (I am using it every other day to break it in), but I switched soaps to Razorock's Son of Zeus. Up first, on my right side, was the Karve. I have described both of these razors and my opinions about how they feel in my hand and on my face, so I'll leave that out of today's comparison. What was quite noticeable when I shifted to the Dart on my left side was how similar these razors seem to me. They are both fairly hefty, although the Karve at 3.99 oz. is noticeably heavier than the Dart at 3.57 oz. Perhaps that is why the Dart seems slightly more nimble . The Karve, however, still seems to me to be smoother. Two passes and touchups were uneventful and ever so pleasant.

As to the results - it seems we have a split decision. Both sides were wonderfully smooth and there were no cuts, nicks, weepers or irritation. Sitting here 6 hours or so later, I think the Karve side is slightly smoother, but my wife believes that the Dart side has the edge. So we have yet another draw in terms of efficiency. Adding in other factors like maneuverability and smoothness just leads me back to another tie. These are two razors that are remarkable for their build quality and efficiency at a $100 and under price point. Of course, the Dart is now only available second hand. I have seen more than a few folks claim that they found the Dart too harsh. That has not been my experience.

Since there is no clear winner, tomorrow I'll try a side by side with the Blackbird and the Dart.
 
Happy Father's Day to any of you lucky enough to be fathers (and grandfathers). I count myself to be lucky enough to have 4 married children and eight grandchildren. Anyway, today's Father's Day shave is the final comparison shave among these four rather efficient razors, and it features the two Blackland razors: Dart and Blackbird. I lathered up using my Yaqi Ever Helpful 2 band badger brush (a wonderful, little scrubby brush with no scritch and a very low price) and Stirling Satsuma soap. First up was the Dart. As I have said in the other Dart shaves, this is a razor I have used quite a bit and always enjoy using. I did get a small weeper from a small zit that I shaved off, but I've had that happen with many other razors. When I switched to the Blackbird, I noticed several minor differences in the experience. It is a bit lighter at 3.32 oz compared the Dart at 3.57, but it feels more agile to a degree that exceeds that weight difference. It also produces quite a bit more audible feedback. Most importantly, perhaps, it feels smoother than the Dart. The second pass was no different from the first, but I did notice a bit more sting from the post shave alum block on the Dart side.

Post shave, which side was closer? Both my wife and I agree that it is a draw. If I could only keep one of these razors, which would it be? Probably the Blackbird, although I still would prefer if its handle were a tad longer, and I would hate to see the Dart go. Fortunately, I can and will keep them both. Where does the Karve fit in this hypothetical world in which I could only keep one razor? I'm not sure. The Blackbird is still quite new to me, and I wonder if it will move up even further in my estimation as I become more accustomed to using it. Today I would probably flip a coin to decide whether the Blackbird or the Karve was the only razor. The R41, unfortunately, did not make the cut. It is certainly an efficient razor, but its harshness compared to the other three doesn't produce any better results, so while I could use it every day, I have other and better alternatives with the Dart, Blackbird and Karve.

I hope this has helped some of you considering any of these razors, but I will remind you that YMMV with regard to your skin sensitivity, beard type, shaving technique, etc.
 
Thanks for the comparison! I have never tried an R41, but I do have a Dart. I'm fairly new at DE shaving (only about 4 months) and I've been intimidated by the R41's reputation as an aggressive razor. I've only used the Dart a couple of times and I quite like it so far! This leads me to believe that the R41 and I would get along without too many problems (if I were to ever get one).
 
Thanks for the comparison! I have never tried an R41, but I do have a Dart. I'm fairly new at DE shaving (only about 4 months) and I've been intimidated by the R41's reputation as an aggressive razor. I've only used the Dart a couple of times and I quite like it so far! This leads me to believe that the R41 and I would get along without too many problems (if I were to ever get one).

The R41 gives me a great shave. Just give it the attention that it deserves; it's not an autopilot razor. I got one the cheap way, I bought a genuine Muhle R41 replacement head for $25 and use it with a Razorock handle.
 
Happy Father's Day to any of you lucky enough to be fathers (and grandfathers). I count myself to be lucky enough to have 4 married children and eight grandchildren. Anyway, today's Father's Day shave is the final comparison shave among these four rather efficient razors, and it features the two Blackland razors: Dart and Blackbird. I lathered up using my Yaqi Ever Helpful 2 band badger brush (a wonderful, little scrubby brush with no scritch and a very low price) and Stirling Satsuma soap. First up was the Dart. As I have said in the other Dart shaves, this is a razor I have used quite a bit and always enjoy using. I did get a small weeper from a small zit that I shaved off, but I've had that happen with many other razors. When I switched to the Blackbird, I noticed several minor differences in the experience. It is a bit lighter at 3.32 oz compared the Dart at 3.57, but it feels more agile to a degree that exceeds that weight difference. It also produces quite a bit more audible feedback. Most importantly, perhaps, it feels smoother than the Dart. The second pass was no different from the first, but I did notice a bit more sting from the post shave alum block on the Dart side.

Post shave, which side was closer? Both my wife and I agree that it is a draw. If I could only keep one of these razors, which would it be? Probably the Blackbird, although I still would prefer if its handle were a tad longer, and I would hate to see the Dart go. Fortunately, I can and will keep them both. Where does the Karve fit in this hypothetical world in which I could only keep one razor? I'm not sure. The Blackbird is still quite new to me, and I wonder if it will move up even further in my estimation as I become more accustomed to using it. Today I would probably flip a coin to decide whether the Blackbird or the Karve was the only razor. The R41, unfortunately, did not make the cut. It is certainly an efficient razor, but its harshness compared to the other three doesn't produce any better results, so while I could use it every day, I have other and better alternatives with the Dart, Blackbird and Karve.

I hope this has helped some of you considering any of these razors, but I will remind you that YMMV with regard to your skin sensitivity, beard type, shaving technique, etc.
Happy Father's Day, Steve. :)

Very thoughtful and thorough comparison. :cool:
 
You should get a better result with a R41 than the Dart, the R41 is more aggressive and harsh for sure though, that's at least something that computes for me. The rest not so much.
And Karve plate G and Dart are very likely to beat the Blackbird?

:eek2::scared::crazy:

My world got turned upside down!
 
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Thanks for the comparison! I have never tried an R41, but I do have a Dart. I'm fairly new at DE shaving (only about 4 months) and I've been intimidated by the R41's reputation as an aggressive razor. I've only used the Dart a couple of times and I quite like it so far! This leads me to believe that the R41 and I would get along without too many problems (if I were to ever get one).
It is very difficult to predict how well the R41 would work for you based upon how it performs for me. There are just too many extraneous variables. That said, based upon the fact that many other folks have found the R41 tough to tame, I think it's unlikely that you will find the R41 more enjoyable to use than your Dart. For me the R41 also didn't shave any closer than the Dart; if you get one you may have a different experience and find that for you it provides a closer shave than the Dart.
 
You should get a better result with a R41 than the Dart, the R41 is more aggressive and harsh for sure though, that's at least something that computes for me. The rest not so much.
And Karve plate G and Dart are very likely to beat the Blackbird?

:eek2::scared::crazy:

My world got turned upside down!
As I said in my reply to @StewB, razor comparisons by one person are not necessarily applicable to anyone else. Something as simple as how you hold the razor could change the results. I also hear a lot of talk around here about steep vs shallow shaving angle. I honestly have no idea which I use. For me, each razor has a "natural" angle that determines how I use it. Only once did I intentionally try to alter that angle (I don't remember on which razor), and it was disastrous.
 
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I only bothered to think about that when people started telling about it here, too. By default I shave steep and usually need a second shave for razors that rather want a more shallow approach.
I'm with you. I had never even thought about the angle I was using.... Some razors might be less intuitive than others. I have no idea about that. I have a very narrow paradigm when it comes to the razors that show up here.

I looked more closely while I was shaving today, in fact. What I'd call the "natural" position for my Claymore Evo is pretty steep. Way more than half way down toward my face from the neutral 9 or 3 o'clock position of the handle. I don't have a mental protractor but I'd guess I'm at a 70 degree angle, give or take. Probably more. It's hard for me to judge when the razor handle isn't near my face... for the chin strokes, etc.
 
I looked more closely while I was shaving today, in fact. What I'd call the "natural" position for my Claymore Evo is pretty steep. Way more than half way down toward my face from the neutral 9 or 3 o'clock position of the handle. I don't have a mental protractor but I'd guess I'm at a 70 degree angle, give or take. Probably more. It's hard for me to judge when the razor handle isn't near my face... for the chin strokes, etc.
I also go steep with the Claymore Evolution. :)
 
I also go steep with the Claymore Evolution. :)
I'm looking forward to your further reviews on the Claymore Evo... after you'd had a couple dozen shaves with it. I'm glad your initial couple shaves with it were good.

You have so many great razors. Your selection method must be fun for you. It would be daunting for me. Maybe not... I'm thoroughly enjoying my venture into different shaving brushes. I have a pretty set rotation at the moment but I'm getting that Maggard 70/30 reknotted. I don't think it would ever break-in in a way that I'd enjoy.... I know Jim has a lot more wet/dry cycles than I do and his still has issues. Mine is like a porcupine brush and is so annoying. Bob at Elite Razors is going to put in one of his knots for me.
 
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