A recent episode of the Wet Shaving Talk Podcast mentioned something exciting – a $1 razor with five blades from Dollar Tree. Is it possible to make a decent safety razor and sell it for less than a pack of gum? Or is this a case of buyer-beware? I’m a sucker for novelties so I headed to my local Dollar Tree to pick one up.
A potential game-changer
I had high hopes (but low expectations) for the dollar razor. I was hopeful because a quality $1 razor could be a game-changer for thousands of people. I struggled with the aftermath of cartridge razors for years and it wasn’t until I discovered a safety razor that my ingrown hairs and complexion issues cleared up. I want as many people as possible to have the same experience I did.
I was fortunate that $50 in starter shaving gear didn’t break the bank. But I realize not everyone is in the same position. Some people don’t have the ability or the interest to invest that money in something they may not like.
A $1 safety razor could be a useful tool to expose more people to the benefits of traditional wet shaving. That is the goal of this blog and I hoped that the dollar razor could be a useful tool to spread the good word. It’s not fair to expect high-quality craftsmanship at this price point. But I would settle for a halfway decent shave for a buck.
I put the dollar razor to the test with Gillette Platinum blades to start…I didn’t quite trust the blades that came with it.
Something struck me as soon as I pulled the razor out of the packing. Most of the components, including the doors and the base plate, are stamped rather than cast. In many butterfly razors these components will be cast (injection molded) out of a zinc alloy. Zinc is soft, but has more than enough strength for the demands of a razor. The benefit of casting is that the components can be relatively precise with tight tolerances.
The dollar razor had components that were stamped out of metal. Stamping is not inherently bad – in fact stamped components can hold some pretty amazing tolerances. But this is not a precise aerospace component. It is a $1 razor. Not surprisingly, it is not a precision tool.
The components did not line up symmetrically when the razor was closed and the blade had a very slight twist as a result. I was concerned that the sloppiness in the construction/design would lead to a rough shave…that suspicion was quickly confirmed.
In terms of size and weight, this razor is slightly smaller and substantially lighter than my Dorco Prime razor. The narrow handle has very shallow knurling. It feels unsubstantial, but I wouldn’t expect much more for the price.
Aggressiveness / Quality of shave
I found this razor to be quite aggressive. The blade juts out of the razor head nearly perpendicular to the handle. To compensate for this design I had to hold the razor an an unnaturally acute angle with too much of the cap touching my skin and the safety bar barely making contact (if at all). Even with the changes in technique the razor still gave an aggressive shave (unpleasant may be a better word). The sound of the blade was audible but not in a good way.
I took my first shave very slowly and I was able to achieve a somewhat decent shave. If I were on the road and this razor was my only option I would use it. But I wouldn’t get any joy out of the experience.
The razor came with 5 blades. I tried one of them, but not in the dollar razor. I was concerned about the razor/blades turning my face into ground beef so I tried the blades in something more familiar – a Merkur 37c.
I found the blades to be unremarkable but functional. I got a decent shave and didn’t get a lot of tugging and pulling. Given how cheap blades are and how many great blades are on the market I am not inclined to use the remaining four.
I did notice that the blades look darker in color than most of my stainless blades. It makes me wonder if these are carbon steel rather than stainless. I didn’t leave a wet one lying around to find out, but if I get the urge to test it I will update it in the comments below. Side note – the razor itself did rust near the shaft of the positioning bar after sitting around for a week.
My hopes of a quality dollar razor have been dashed. But what is most frustrating is that this razor may be the first introduction to traditional wet shaving for some people. They are almost certain to be disappointed and might abandon wet shaving completely. I want people to get a great shave and enjoy all of the benefits of traditional wet shaving. My fear is that this razor will do more harm than good.
The dollar stores have missed an opportunity to provide an entry-level razor at an affordable price. I don’t know why they chose to go with a poorly-designed metal razor rather than something in plastic. I recently picked up a Wilkinson Sword Classic Razor with blades for about $5. If the dollar stores could sell something similar for $1 it would be a better user experience in my opinion. People considering a very entry-level razor should consider something like the Wilkinson over the dollar razor.
This is a good example of “you get what you pay for”. Maybe it is impossible make a decent $1 razor – it does feel like a tall order. I don’t expect perfection, but I would rather have no $1 razors on the market than having BAD $1 razors on the market.
Am I being unfair? If you have used this razor and got better results than me please let me know in the comments below!
I recently started making modern reproductions of the “Gillette Khaki Set” safety razor cases. The cases are made from modern 1000D nylon and sewn by a military contractor in the USA. If you are interested in a compact and durable safety razor case for travel please check out SpearheadShaving.com