TL;DRAfter shaving for nearly 8 years with my Feather AS-D2, the Tatara Masamune has finally dethroned what I once thought to be the absolute best razor on the market. While still having some design drawbacks, the Masamune is a beautifully crafted piece of machinery, delivering one of the closest shaves I've ever had. Hopefully this article will help some readers out there who are looking for a milder razor and a smoother shaving experience.
IntroductionWhile I can't say I have the greatest experience in terms of safety razor brands as many folks here do, I have tried a few over the years such as the Blackland Blackbird, the Muhle R89, and the Feather AS-D2 which I've kept since it was the mildest one of the bunch. I have a very sensitive skin and I shave on a daily basis (I use Pre de Provence soap which is my all time favorite followed closely by Bull and Bell), therefore any razor showing signs of aggressiveness is a non-starter as far as I'm concerned. However over the years I became somewhat dissatisfied with the Feather, especially in the last year or two since the pandemic began. As I was not commuting to work any longer, my daily shaving routine slowly morphed into a 2nd or 3rd day shaving. The once performant Feather was now struggling against my stubble, resulting in triple passes to achieve a moderately decent shave. Not only that but my beard was regrowing half a day later, which i found very annoying. So I started researching seriously and after about a week of dallying back and forth, I decided to pull the trigger on the Tatara Masamune as it promised to be very comparable in mildness to the Feather.
PackagingFor those living in North America and not wanting to wait weeks for a parcel from Portugal and dealing with sluggish customs, The Razor Company does a great job at shipping within a few days across the continent. I also ordered the stand for the Masamune (more on that later). The Tatara comes beautifully packaged in a cork box as we can see in the next picture.
I've read on some other posts online that the manufacturer used to also include a few Feather blades in the box, mine didn't contain any which is OK since I happen to own plenty. While this is not the fanciest packaging, I found it very aesthetically pleasing and minimalistic, which pairs well with their Samurai/Zen branding. Cork is nowadays a rather rare and expensive wood, and its use here denotes a subdued elegance. Albeit being organicI' m not sure how easily it can be recycled, so my recommendation would be to stick to simpler materials that are more eco-friendly and less costly for the company.
The razorThe Masamune at first glance is truly exquisite. Compared to the Feather which has this industrial and utilitarian profile, the Masamune is like a work of art, from the golf-ball textured handle to the base plate adorned with the samurai logo engraving, to the semi-spherical stand, everything exudes lavishness. The steel also exhibits a darker hue than the Feather, and although it's very personal, I did find it more pleasing to look at.
The CNC machining of all three pieces seems very exact and detailed, I could not find any imperfections or scratches. We can see below a side-by-side comparison of the two razors. The Feather has a chromier look and both razors have a similar low profile which makes it very easy to reach those areas under the nose or around the ear lobes. The Feather is slightly longer at 90mm while the Masamune handle is 82mm and a bit narrower.
When shaving, I found the Feather's heavily textured handle to provide a much better grip. The longer handle also gives it more heft and a better balance point, whereas the Masamune was more difficult to yield for those with larger hands (I stand 6' tall so my long fingers struggled a bit to grasp the handle). The Masamune's center of balance is closer to the head, so more care must be taken when shaving, as the slightest pressure may result in a nick (although this has only happened to me once on day 2, and never since!). Tatara offers the Nodachi handle which is a bit longer and thicker than the Feather, and on second thought I should have probably ordered that one instead, but after two months of shaving with the Masamune I've gotten quite accustomed with the shorter handle.
Razor headThe Masamune razor is slightly more aggressive than the Feather, but the difference is just enough to give you a closer, more efficient shave while still preventing nicks and irritation. The base plate design in the Masamune along with the cap, offer the perfect amount of exposure and I think this is where this razor truly shines compared to the Feather. Although the head profiles are almost identical, the Masamune extends the blade edges a bit farther (see pic below) giving it more bite.
On paper, the Feather has a larger blade gap (.73mm) vs Masamune (0.63mm for the closed comb pictured above and 0.73mm for the open comb which I have not tried). The Masamune cap is narrower, giving the blade a negative exposure of (-0.13mm) and this is what makes it more aggressive, as the skin will fill the gap when the razor is pressed against the face. Using the Masamune I was able to get that baby bottom shave in only 2 passes (wtg and atg) while with the Feather, i need at a minimum 3 passes (a 3rd one xtg) and sometimes even a fourth. Even so, the Masamune shave keeps my face free of hairs for at least half a day longer which is a big plus. I can even skip one day when I shave with the Masamune and it hardly shows. I used both Feather and Dorco blades (at half the price of a Feather blade on Amazon) and I find they both work very well with the Masamune.
Another cool thing about Tatara is that their razors (Masamune and Nodachi) have interchangeable parts, which means you can swap handles, base plates and caps to give you the exact control and aggressiveness you require. This picture, taken from their website, shows all the possible combinations:
Note that the traditional stock Masamune with closed comb, is the mildest combo. One small drawback is the cost; just like the razor itself, these are quite pricey, therefore anyone wishing to acquire 3 or 4 individual parts will look at a ballpark 350-400$ investment. This is pretty steep for most people, so I feel the flexibility of swapping parts is negated by the cost. But...for a life-long investment and for the quality of the manufacturing, one may argue that it's absolutely worth every penny! Another thing to consider is that for whatever reason, the Nodachi handle, while being longer and heavier is also thicker (12.5mm vs 11mm for the Masamune), which means the Nodachi base is not compatible with the Masamune one. So if you are looking to swap handles (or own both), you will also need to buy two bases (or get the Nodachi one and have the Masamune wobble in it). Ideally these handles would be fully compatible in width with a single base and I'm sure it would also reduce Tatara's manufacturing costs.
We can see in the above picture the blade sticking out a tad more in the Masamune. The longer edge makes it more flexible and there's this faint "singing" when it slices your hairs, akin to the sound a straight razor makes (those that have used one know what I'm talking about). I found this to be a quite soothing and satisfying experience, instead of the regular dull scraping the Feather makes.
Another difference that can be observed in the Masamune (which the Feather does not have) is the end of the blade sticking out on each side. This is not a mistake from the designers by all means, and is intended to allow you to better grip the blade in between your fingers when you screw/unscrew the handle and while positioning the base plate. I do appreciate such small details which make your life easier and Tatara has definitely gone that extra mile.
One small pet peeve for me was the inordinate number of threads on the handle. It takes about 14 rotations to screw in the Masamune handle into the cap while the Feather has about half the amount. While I realize this is very personal to me, I just don't think it's necessary to fasten the handle so deeply. Half the threads provide the same security and stability.
ConclusionThe Masamune has been a true awakening for me after years of mundane shaving with the Feather. I now realize that although the Feather is well praised and has its merits, the company has not been keeping pace with the recent revival in high-end artisan razors, and small companies like Tatara have proven they can deliver a much higher quality of shaving through an exquisitely well handcrafted device. I will no doubt look to sell my Feather in the upcoming months as I have no longer a need for it.
The Masamune is as close to perfection as a razor can get, and it can close that remaining gap in the future by tweaking a few things which are easily remedied; such as improving the grip (perhaps raised golf-ball dimples on a section of the handle), a better balance (shift the weight of the handle towards the tip and away from the razor - or simply come up with a single handle design that would represent a middle ground between the Masamune and the Nodachi) and implicitly, better compatibility in width for the Nodachi/Masamune handles/bases (this ties-in with my previous point). I really like their logo and I think it would be cool to see it featured more prominently on the cap. Right now it's underneath the base and it's hard to see. This detracts nothing from the quality of the shave, it's just my own stylistic preference.
I would also like to see some kind of price incentives for those wishing to purchase various parts (close comb, open comb, different caps, etc) or perhaps discount codes to attract return buyers. I'm also hoping to see a bigger Tatara presence across shops in North America so we can easily order new parts or replacements if needed.
Finally I would recommend the Masamune to any wet-shaving enthusiast, especially those that have been stuck with the Feather for so long and are afraid of taking the leap into new shaving territory. My only regret is not having done this sooner. You cannot go wrong with this razor!
Disclaimer: I have not been influenced by Tatara not been given any incentives whatsoever to write this review. This is purely a matter of personal opinion.