Category Archives: Reviews

Battle of the Budget Razors – Gold Dollar v. Dovo v. Fromm

Having extensive experience sharpening all of these razors, I’ve decided to give the consumer a very thorough breakdown of how each razor rates against the other. The Dovo Best is the gold standard of budget straight razors. Excluding vintage razors, it represents the pinnacle of low cost, great quality straight razor. This post will compare the Dovo Best to the top 3 razors from Gold Dollar and the Fromm straight razor. Click here for a more extensive review of the Fromm straight razor.

The rating system is based on a rating of 1-5. 1 being awful, 2 being bad, 3 is acceptable, 4 is good, 5 is excellent.

Dovo Best Fromm GD208 GD300 GD200/800
Steel Quality 5 4 5 5 5
Master Grind 5 3 4 5 5
Scales 3 2 3 2 2
Fit & Finish 4 3 2 3 3

The steel quality used in the Dovo is very good. Not terribly much room for improvement. So too the steel used by Gold Dollar. Including the stainless steel used in the 200/800 model. Not so with Fromm. The steel they use is carbon steel and can take an edge. It just doesn’t take a very good one, nor does it hold it for long. The shave from a Fromm is “adequate” in my view.

The master grind is the most important grind. It determines the evenness of the faces of the razor. It must be perfect to ensure ease of honing and can cause severe problems if it is off. Gold Dollar does not suffer in this department. Fromm however, does not do a very good job. Every single Fromm straight razor I have sharpened has had uneven spine wear and bevels. However, it is not so bad as to be, well, bad.

The scales on each of these razors is made from plastic. Fromm & Gold Dollar use ABS plastic, and I’m fairly certain Dovo does too. There really isn’t much difference. Dovo’s scales are pretty thick, but the new 208 scales are more than adequate. The scales on Fromm, the 300, & the 200 are kind of thin. The 300 has purple scales which is a minus.

The fit & finish of these razors is where a lot of the difference lies. The Dovo represents the gold standard, but has some room for improvement. The Fromm does very well in presenting a polished looking razor from the factory. However, not as good a job as Dovo. Specifically, the Fromm does not present a very polished and uniform tip across a batch. Other than that, it’s actually not bad, and could be classified as good.

The GD208 represents a budget razor and the fit & finish is nothing to write home about. The blade is stamped from a machine and little to no effort is made to hide this fact. The tip is ground to a round-ish point. Very little attention is paid to this area. The spine is left alone, the tang is left alone, only the master grind is milled. That and the jimps. The GD300 & GD200/800 represent a huge step up from the GD208. The tang is milled flat on both sides, the tail tapers to a nice end, and the spine is actually milled as well. Finally, the tips are even and uniform across batches. Check out these five 800’s I pulled from my stock. Therefore, I give the high end GD’s a solid 4. They are very nice. Dressed up in nice scales, they could make a very decent heirloom piece. The only part that could use some work is the jimps. They are done by machine and could be done better.

Fromm Straight Razor Review

My review of Fromm’s offering to new straight razor users can be summed up in two words: “Why bother?”

But, it’s made in Germany, so it must be good right?

No. The “made in Germany” mark is not regulated. The European Union only requires that the final manufacturing step be performed in the country of origin.

But, what about all my German cutlery? It’s very good stuff!

Of course. But it’s marked “Made in Solingen”. The Solingen brand is highly regulated. Quoting from

  • during all the key manufacturing stages have been processed and finished within the industrial boundaries of Solingen (which, for these purposes, includes not just Solingen but also the neighbouring town of Haan)  and,
  • in terms of their raw materials and manufacture, be suitable for the purpose for which products of that type are made. This means that even cutlery which is manufactured within Solingen’s town boundary is not entitled to bear the name Solingen if it does not conform to the required quality standards


Now, don’t get me wrong, these razors are generally well made and fully functional. However, they come from the factory very dull. You can’t even make the argument that it is possible to shave with these razors out of the box. Unlike Dovo (whose razors are always sharp, but sometimes hit or miss as to shave ready sharp), Fromm razors are not shave ready sharp out of the box. So, unless you sharpen it yourself, that is another $15-20 to tack onto the total price. So, points are deducted for that.

And let’s not forget that this razor is $60!!!


The Master Grind

Let’s talk about the grind. Having had a few dozen pass through my hands, the grind is…worse than a Gold Dollar 208. And that is not a very rousing endorsement of this razor, to say the least. The master grind is the only grinding that really matters. The master grind is the actual hollowing out of the faces of the razor. If the grind is off or the razor warped, you end up with a knife rather than a razor. Unfortunately, the master grind is not as consistent as Dovo (which is not known for being 100% great) and of lower consistency than Gold Dollar 208, 300, 800/200. Yes, a $15 razor has a better master grind than a $60 razor.

You can see the poor master grind as revealed by the uneven spine wear

You can see more evidence of Fromm’s grinding issues in the customer photos in this amazon listing.

Here's another example

Here’s another example

Same razor different face

Same razor different face

Fit & Finish

Moving on to the fit & finish of the razor, the Fromm actually does quite well. Compared to a Dovo Best, the Fromm holds its own quite well. The finish of the blade is even and the satin-like finish is even. The shoulder bolsters are ground evenly. The tang is blued. The polish is decent. The scales are plastic, but what do you expect for $65. Even the razor coffin is pretty attractive.

The scales are mediocre. They’re made from flimsy ABS plastic and don’t even have the decency of having a third pin to help stiffen the scales. But, they work.


Steel Quality

Sadly, although the Fromm straight razor looks decent, it’s all form, and not much substance. The steel the factory uses is not as good as Dovo steel nor is it as good as the alloy used by Gold Dollar. I would classify the steel as adequate. Nothing to write home about, but it’s not defective either. It takes an edge and holds it well enough, but you can buy better. You can even buy better for less money.

In conclusion, I cannot recommend this razor. They are competing with Dovo at a lower price point, but offers a much lower quality product. While it may look pretty, it doesn’t deliver in performance. You are better off spending the extra $10. Factoring in the cost of sharpening this razor, and you aren’t saving anything by choosing a Fromm razor.

There’s a reason I don’t carry the Fromm razor. I most certainly could stock it. The wholesale price is quite good. But the blade is bad. Save your money and move up to a Dovo, down to a Gold Dollar 208, or horizontally to a Gold Dollar 800. You’ll be much happier. I’d throw in a GD300, but the scales are… purple.

Mitchell’s Wool Fat Hard Shaving Soap – The Review

Mitchell’s Wool Fat (MWF) is probably the most talked about and recommended  hard shaving soaps within the wet shaving community, not only because of its unique moisturizing properties (it contains lanolin, hence the name), but because there are so many different experiences in getting it to lather properly. Some have no problems and consider it to be the gold standard of shaving soaps; others say it just won’t lather. This article will introduce you to MWF if you haven’t tried it, give you advice on lathering and loading the brush, and let you know my thoughts on this exceptional soap. Plus, its still made with tallow!

Want to win a puck? Keep reading.

If you decide to splurge on this soap, it comes in a beautiful ceramic dish. A great picture of it is found on Shaving 101’s blog. Now, I personally did not splurge on the ceramic dish for two reasons: 1) I’m not flush with income from this website or income in general; and more importantly, 2) every single tallow soap combination bowl/soap package contains a bowl that is non-functional. Now, don’t get me wrong, the wooden bowls look amazing. So does the MWF ceramic bowl. The Tabac bowl could use a little design work, but seeing as it costs much less, I’ll give it a break. Glycerin soaps on the other hand, come in very functional water and air tight plastic containers. They look cheap, are cheap, but work! Now, they are able to come in these containers because glycerin soaps are simply poured into the container. Tallow soaps are triple milled and rolled. So, now that you’ve read all that, here is my simple solution I published in an earlier post. Use pyrex cups to store your soap.

Using this simple solution not only saves you money, but it prevents this problem outlined by Bruce, from Bruce on Shaving:

“The thing about MWF is that it doesn’t do what other soaps do, it acts almost as if it is a living thing. Use it on consecutive days and it gets better and better, as if it appreciates the attention. Leave it for a week and it will have a sulk and try and give you a bad time. Left for a while it becomes a loner, forming a hard skin round itself. Too long and cracks appear in the surface as it displays its displeasure.”


The smell of MWF is interesting. At first scent, I really wanted to say it smelled like Tabac. When I put the Tabac puck up to my nose to check however, the difference was strong. The better description would be traditional smelling. It smells very “old school.” One person described it as “typically traditional….perhaps hints of Lavender,Geranium, and of course the Lanolin. It’s non seasonal….you can use it all year round.” A better description is by Russel Chozik, “It has a great powdery, fresh scent that is very natural and pleasant smelling.” After spending more time with the soap, I would say it smells like tallow, if tallow had a scent that is. It has all the base notes found in D R Harris & Tabac soaps. Now, I’m no scent expert, so I really can’t tell you what exactly the base note is, but its common in all tallow soaps I’ve tried unless masked by lavender or other strong scent.

Either case, other than the passing resemblance, MWF smells nothing like Tabac. It is crisp, clean, and subtle.


The loading process is not as easy as I would like. I must be spoiled off of Tabac, GFT, & DRH. Here’s the trick to loading it: use a dense brush. No, really, it really really helps. My Semogue really hates the stuff. It won’t stick to the loosely packed bristles that well. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a good lather in the end, I just have to work harder at it. On the other hand, my Shavemac & Simpson loaded right up. Very easy, although it took a little longer than the other soaps mentioned above. Must admit, a few times I was afraid I overloaded the brush. But alas, not so. This stuff just does not want to load easily. So minus a star for that (okay I don’t use stars in my reviews, but if I did…)

It took me about 30 seconds to get it that loaded


There is only one easy way to lather this soap; face lathering. Bowl lathering makes it finicky. You can bowl lather and get good results, but you must realize that most of the glowing reviews are based off of face lathering and/or soft water. Many people have problems lathering this soap. The biggest culprit is of course, hard water. This is where using filtered/distilled/RO water for lathering really shines.

For my regular readers, you already know I face lather. I just feel it’s the best way to lather. It is also the preferred method of lathering this very famous soap. Now, if you want to lather it in a bowl, Shaving 101 has a suggestion:

“Use a very well wrung-out brush. First load the soap into the brush then add water very slowly while building the lather in a bowl. This works well, but can take a while.”

Now, I haven’t tried this method. I didn’t have to, but its there if you have trouble bowl lathering. MWF face lathered well for me. Like the loading process, MWF did not lather quite as easily as my other soaps. Maybe I’m spoiled, or maybe they’re better, I don’t know. Either case, it took a while to face lather to a good consistency.

MWF does not like a lot of water. Use too much water and unlike other soaps, MWF will dry out on you faster than you can shave. Okay, not that fast, but faster than it took me to shave 3/4 of my face. It was pretty picky about lather consistency. Build it fairly thick so that its not too transparent and it will stay wet and slick for you.

I had to spend considerable time building a good lather compared to Tabac or GFT. Usually I only have to dip the brush once before I start face lathering to get the correct consistency. With MWF I found it better to dip very very lightly the first time, lather, dip lightly again, and lather more. Repeat until you get the consistency you want.

While MWF works fine if you leave it a little more watery, it also works great when extremely thick and rich. I’ve tried it from pretty darn transparent to Santa Claus thick. The performance was great no matter how thick or thin the lather was. That said, if you try to shave with a thin MWF lather, you had best shave ultra quick because it will dry out really quickly. Its almost like shaving with water. So, I recommend building up a moderate lather with MWF for best results.

Check out the photos below.


Left shows a nice and thick lather, right shows a little less thick lather; good for the final pass.


You may think I was going to give this soap a bad rating after reading all that talk about how much more time it takes to lather with MWF. I’m not. While MWF may have its faults, they are mild and it is an excellent performer. The lanolin and tallow moisturize the skin well. If you leave the lather on your face for an extended period of time you will be either rewarded, surprised, or both by a unique cooling sensation. It reminded me of menthol. The sensation is subdued if you shave quickly. The cooling sensation continued for a good while after the shave, leaving my face feeling refreshed and moisturized. I don’t think my face has felt so clean and fresh after a shave! That said, I still recommend an SPF facial moisturizer after you shave. The sun being evil and all.

Now, lets talk about MWF and slickness. I like my lathers to be slick. I also like my lather to provide cushioning. I want the razor to feel like a hovercraft shaving my face. Hence, my preference for tallow based soaps. Let’s talk about the slickness first. MWF is slick. I was surprised at how slick this lather is when it is thick. See picture 1 above. The soap really retains a lot of water in the lather. Shaving with MWF is a joy. The cushioning can be hit or miss however. If you lather MWF thick, the cushioning will be there, but if you don’t you’ll find that the lather can be pretty similar to shaving with water. Really slick, but unforgiving.

All in all, I love Mitchell’s Wool Fat shaving soap. It is staying in my shave den/kit. I definitely recommend this soap to anyone looking for a tallow based soap or an excellent performer. I wouldn’t recommend this soap to those who bowl lather using hard water.

If your interested in this soap, you can purchase a puck below.

Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap Refill

I thought you said I could win a puck?

That’s right, I did. You can win 1 of 2 pucks!!! Here are the details.

  • You must have a Facebook or Twitter account.
  • Entries are limited to the first 50 (1/25 chance of winning!) entrants, winner will be announced December 1st.
  • To enter the drawing, click the button below to share with your friends and enter the drawing.
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ASR Reviews: Geo F. Trumper Hard Soap

I’ve been using Geo F. Trumper hard soaps for over two or three years now. A few years ago, they reformulated to a vegetable oil based formula. The old stuff was based off of tallow and worked great. The great news is that the absence of tallow in the new formulation is hardly noticed! Whatever GFT has done, they have actually replaced tallow with something other than glycerin! And it works amazingly. This article will cover both the old formula and the new formula. Of course, as you can already tell, since the new formula performs almost identically to the old tallow formula, there isn’t much difference in the results.


These soaps load up extremely easily. Possibly quicker and easier than Tabac. Definitely a little easier than DR Harris soaps and Mitchell’s Wool Fat. Just a few seconds of loading on the puck and your good to go. The soap also loads just as easily using a denser brush. Normally my Shavemac takes a few more seconds to load, not so with GFT. I can get a great load with just a second or two more. I should note that GFT soaps seem to be more “hydrated/moist” than the other tallow soaps I’ve tried. This could be responsible for the ease of loading. Yet, whatever the reason, it is a joy to load the brush. It loads quickly and easily. Better than most glycerin soaps too.

The lathering process is also quick and easy. Face lathering produces a great, thick lather in one pass. Bowl lathering produces a thick lather very quickly. GFT is not as finicky as DR Harris, responding well to a greater variety of water to soap combinations. They lather up pretty similarly to Tabac. Very easily and thick if desired. Shaving with Geo F. Trumper soaps is just as pleasurable. The cushioning is great and the slickness is exactly what Iexpect from a good tallow soap.

Purchase your favorite scent by clicking the picture below.


Geo F. Trumper has a wide variety of scents. Each smells great. I particularly like the rose and sandalwood scents. Other notable scents are lime and violet. However, since the violet smells almost exactly like DR Harris’ violet, there isn’t much reason to own both. Click here to go to Geo F. Trumper’s site and see the entire list.


The performance of this soap is amazing. Both the reformulated and tallow versions provide a nice, thick lather that doesn’t dry out quickly (if that’s what you want). Or, if you prefer a thinner lather (I think it works better for straight razor shaving), GFT soap works great for that too. Personally, I like to use a slightly thicker lather for the WTG pass. I like the added scent and the cushion-y feeling I get. Then, I just dilute the lather for the ATG pass. Either case, the cushioning feels amazing. Its like the razor is a hovercraft hovering an atom above your face.

More important than the cushioning is the glide. GFT is slick. It allows the straight razor to do its thing without interference. Unlike glycerin based soaps, this formulation is, again, amazing. I can’t say too many great things about this soap. I wish I was paid to say these things…. Anyway, the glide is great. Glide is extremely important for straight razor wet-shaving because a straight razor doesn’t rely upon teflon for reducing friction. Instead the straight razor relies upon the edge polishing. A slick lather helps the straight razor cut through the hairs like a laser through…well, everything. To make most lathers slicker, you dilute them with water. In GFT’s case, it responds exceptionally well to dilution. Some soaps just turn into water if you dilute them too much. GFT can be diluted pretty far before that happens. Your virtually having water being suspended on your face by this soap.


Geo F. Trumper hard soaps are sold in 80g pucks. They also cost a pretty penny at ~$20/refill when you add shipping. However, the scent and ease of lathering is above par. Also, these refills are likely to last you a long, long time. Perhaps even two years. We haven’t even dented ours after over a year of use. So, regardless of the cost compared to other soaps, any shaving soap is actually a great value over the long term. That said, the consumer should take care not to buy too many refills because they last a very long time. You could have a lifetime’s worth of shaving soap if your not careful.

New Formula

Geo F Trumper redid their hard soap formula several years ago. While the original experiments didn’t receive much praise, the stuff their selling today will impress. The difference in performance between the tallow soaps and non-tallow versions is minimal. I daresay you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference in a blind lather test. While tallow is a great indicator of a soap’s “awesome-ness” it isn’t the be-all-end-all. Now, that isn’t to say that glycerin based soaps are better; they are different and will always be different until someone figures out a new way to make glycerin based soaps. Now, all that said, the new vegetable-formula by GFT is amazing.

This new formula simulates the cushiness and slickness of tallow extremely well. It should be noted that tallow isn’t the magic bullet. Other ingredients play a key role too. The new formula provides both a great scent, ease of lathering, and everything you expect from the tallow formulation of this soap. If you try it and still think the tallow version is hands over fist better, I’ll buy the puck off you for what you paid for it. I’m that confident you’ll like it. However, GFT isn’t using this new formula in all their hard soaps. As of this publishing date, their Eucris soap is not the same formula as their other soaps. Consequently, this review does not apply to the Eucris formulation. In other words, don’t buy it based off this review.

All in all, the vegetable formula is a smash hit. GFT did a great job in reformulating the soap and making it vegan friendly. GFT still remains a top soap in my shave den.

D.R. Harris Soaps – Still Great and Still Using Tallow!

I have been using DR Harris soaps for several years now and they are definitely one of my favorite soap makers. Still using tallow in their ingredients list, DR Harris soaps provide a comfortable, slick, and aromatic shaving experience.

Lathering up DR Harris soap is a little finicky, but with practice you will get excellent lather. The soap is triple milled for ease of lathering. I didn’t see much difference from other triple milled soaps. I highly recommend using filtered or soft water with these soaps for best results. Using hard water has been known to make lathering harder. I also recommend face lathering for best lathering results. That said, once you get the knack for lathering DR Harris soaps, they make an excellent straight razor lather. Not too thick, not too thin. The lather cushions perfectly and is slick.

While Tabac provides just as good a lather as DR Harris does, DR Harris wins hands over fist in the aromatics department. Unless you really like the “old man” scent of Tabac, DR Harris is your soap. I like virtually every scent DR Harris has to offer. Lavender is a nice flowery fragrance. It may sound unmanly (cue Miller Lite commercial), but no one watches you shave. I like the smell. Marlborough smells of woods and manliness. Arlington is clean, crisp, and fresh. Great for the warmer months. I didn’t like the almond scent too much, but to each his own.

Click the pictures to buy DR Harris Soap!

DR Harris doesn’t present the consumer with a whole lot of value if you compare the weight/price to something like Tabac. However, considering a puck will last you at least a year, the price is not bad at all. Plus, the smell is infinitely better. I much prefer shaving with DR Harris over Tabac for this reason alone. All in all, DR Harris is a great tallow soap. I highly recommend buying a refill. Don’t forget to put it in a Pyrex bowl to save money!

ASR Reviews: Groom Room – Sweet Gale Glycerin Soap

Essence of Scotland by Gentleman’s Groom Room is a glycerin based soap from the other side of the pond. Available at Razor Emporium. I was given a puck of this soap to review. After lathering up for a few times, here are our thoughts.

This soap is extremely easy to lather with. Just like a good glycerin soap should, the lather was easy, quick, and thick if I wanted it to be. Shaving with it was pretty typical of very good quality glycerin soaps. Using the right combination of water and soap, you get a pretty darn good shaving experience. However, tallow based soaps are still better. I have yet to come across a glycerin based soap which provides the same level of cushion and glide as a true tallow based soap such as Tabac.

The box is a simple design. A plastic tub with a screw on top. Very convenient for storage. It doesn’t require the consumer to purchase a “luxury wooden soap bowl” or a superior pyrex bowl just to keep the soap fresh. I really love soaps who provide you with their own storage bowls. While this probably isn’t the greenest option, it sure is convenient.

The aromatics are the real strength of this soap. Just as advertised, from the moment the lather hit my face, I felt as though I were shaving in a Scottish gale. No, seriously, it smelled as though I were shaving in a forest. The fragrance was sweet smelling, but woody. It was fresh, with a hint of citrus. All in all, a great scent. I definitely recommend this fragrance. It also tends to stay with you for a while too.

The value is quite good at just under $20 for 120g. While not quite as great a value as Tabac, the fragrance and included bowl make up for the price discrepancy. In addition, 120g should last you at least a year, probably two or three.


ASR Reviews: JA Henckels Stainless Steel Straight Razors

JA Henckels produces quality kitchen cutlery seen around the globe and in department stores everywhere in the USA. They’re even sold at Costco. Many years ago, they produced amazing straight razors marked as Friodur. While this line is no longer in production, JA Henckels continues the long tradition of straight razor manufacturing. These new straight razors from Hencels reflect the quality you have come to expect from their kitchen knives and other fine cutlery. These razors are stamped with Solingen Germany on the tang and come with plastic scales. Priced at just over $130 at Amazon, this razor is priced competitively with mid-level Dovos.

Packaging, Fit, & Finish

The razor comes in a tin with foam padding. Much more than can be said of most other razors. The only razors I can remember being sold in this packaging are a few top end Dovos. As you can see in the picture, its not a bad looking case. Much more than expected from the MSRP. The scales are lackluster in comparison, however. They are plain plastic scales. All function, no form. That said, they are exactly in line with what is expected of a razor in this price point. There is nothing wrong with the scales, but at the same time, there is nothing to write home about either.

The blade is the important part in this package. Crafted from stainless steel, presumably at the Henckels Solingen factory, the razor lives up to your expectations from Henckels. The grind on the blade is fairly consistent, but could be better. Without knowing more about who actually makes the razor, it appears to be made using a double wheel grinder such as those used by Dovo and Thiers Issard. Small inconsistencies aside, the grind is well done and Henckels has managed to mass produce a stainless steel hollow ground razor for the every-day man. The blade lacks any embellishments and is purely utilitarian; much like the scales that come with the razor. The tang has the same makers mark as is found with nearly all razors.


On to the actual cutting edge. The Henckels razor sadly does not live up to its predecessor’s fame and reputation. The new Henckels are not the equivalent of the old school Friodurs from decades past. Of course, comparing the $130 price tag to the ~$400+ some NOS Friodurs command on certain auction sites, the disparity in quality is not surprising. Yet, in today’s razor market, the Henckels certainly does live up to the competition. The blade is stainless steel rather than carbon steel, which is of added benefit to those who want an edge to stay sharper a little longer and would like less maintenance. Not too many stainless steel blade options are available to the modern consumer. In fact, only Dovo comes to my mind at the moment (unless you wish to go custom). In sum, the blade is very good. Certainly on par or better than Henckels top of the line cutlery. A worthy competitor of Dovo’s mid to high end lines. Certainly a worthy addition to your shave den if a modern stainless steel blade is what you seek.

In sum, Henckels ranks about the same as Dovo in terms of blade quality. The scales are nothing special, but the box that is supplied is above par.


ASR Reviews: Tabac Shaving Soap

Ah, Tabac. No other soap elicits such diametrically opposed feelings. Sold in a 4.4 oz puck, Tabac is one of the cheapest $/oz tallow soaps. But for all its praises, Tabac has one severely fatal flaw. But if you can get past the one middling side effect of Tabac use, you will enjoy some of the best lather to be had.

Let me start off with the good. Tabac makes some excellent lather. In fact, in terms of lather quality, I cannot think of a single soap that exceeds the cushioning, slickness, and ease of lather that Tabac exhibits. Tabac easily lathers up using hard, soft, or filtered water. The shave quality is excellent, providing a very slick lather and does not dry out terribly quickly. This is not to say that Tabac does not dry out, you probably want to re-wet your lather after shaving half your face, but if you are quick, you can do an entire pass without re-wetting the lather. Which brings me to cushioning. The cushioning of Tabac is everything a tallow soap should be. Which also means that you shouldn’t buy this if you are a vegetarian.

Finally, we get to the negative part. And after such a glowing review, you must be asking yourself “what could possibly be wrong with Tabac?” Well, that would be a good question if this were any other soap. It isn’t the price. Dollar per ounce, Tabac probably represents the best value for performance out of any shaving soap. Yet, for all its glowing qualities, Tabac has an extremely odorous scent. I’m not saying it smells bad. But I am saying it has a strong smell. Now, that said, some people actually really love the smell of Tabac, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, Tabac’s scent is…unique, for lack of a better term. This unique scent is extremely powerful as well. Lather up a fresh puck of Tabac and you are instantly assaulted with the smell of…well, Tabac! I really cannot describe the smell. Some say it smells like old man, some say it smells like baby powder, others say it smells awful. I just call it Tabac. It is unmistakable and very pungent.

The good news is that if you can get past the smell, Tabac is one of the best shaving soaps available. The even better news is that the smell eventually dies down, although unlike a new badger brush, the smell is very pungent for months. The weird news is that you might actually like the scent.

Bottom line: Best bang for your buck shaving soap.


ASR Reviews: Thiers Issard Straight Razors

Thiers Issard has been making quality straight razors in France since 1884. In addition to razors, they produce other fine cutlery such as kitchen knives. Today, they are one of the two biggest manufacturers of straight razors in existence. Over the years we have honed and used many Thiers Issard razors; from older vintage razors, NOS Le Grelots (not actually a Thiers Issard blade), to modern Silverwings. Over the years, Thiers Issard has proven themselves committed to providing the customer quality cutlery. The scales on the above razor were a custom rescale job we did. We also polished the blade to bring out a true mirror finish. Yet, even with all the upgrades, you can tell this razor is a truly great piece of steel. The lack of a bolster and curved thumb holder are excellent features. This is one of our favorite razors.

The steel Thiers Issard uses on their standard razors is excellent. Thiers Issard has been called the “shaver’s razor,” and this nickname is entirely accurate. Out of today’s mass manufacturers, Thiers Issard is quite probably the best steel. Read our article on what makes a razor sharp for more information on what makes steel good. Thiers Issard normally hones up to an extremely keen edge. However, honing a Thiers Issard is not for amateurs, it is extremely time consuming and much more difficult than most other razors. Once the Thiers Issard is honed to perfection, it tends to stay that way for a while and provides a most excellent shave.

The scales and quality controls are Thiers Issard’s Achille’s heel. While Thiers Issard makes an excellent blade, the same cannot be said of their scales. For their most basic razor, the scales are just a cheap plastic with cheap pins. The pins are the same regardless of how much you spend on your Thiers Issard. It is generally said that you get what you pay for with Thiers Issard, so it is best not to buy their cheaper razors. While their pricier razors come with nicer scales, the quality does not scale with the price particularly well. The bottom line is that the scales could be better, but they are fully functional with pretty good balance as a whole.

Thiers Issard’s quality control and gold wash is not particularly good. It is sad to say that Dovo actually produces a better gold wash. Some TI’s have misaligned gold wash and in the past the gold wash has been very thin. Thiers Issard increased the thickness as of late.

For all their faults, the only real downside with buying a Thiers Issard is the price. While you generally get what you pay for with Thiers Issard, they get extremely expensive, extremely quickly. The only other downside is the difficulty in honing. This is not a DIY razor, it is highly recommended to consult a professional hone-meister.


ASR Reviews: Dovo Straight Razors

Over the years we have had a lot of experience using, honing, and sharpening Dovo straight razors. Dovo has been in business since the early 1900’s. They are one of the few *GOOD* modern mass manufacturers of straight razors. Dovos come in many shapes and sizes to fit your budget. From the very basic, to the extremely ornate, Dovo makes it.

But how is the steel? The good news is that the steel is very good. Not as good as a vintage razor, but Dovo is the gold standard against which all modern razors are measured by. Dovos hold their edge relatively well, only requiring a re-honing about every six months. Dovos have a good heat treatment and take very well to a honing, sharpening to a keen edge. The shave they give is very good.

The scales Dovo puts on their basic models are unfortunately simple plastic. However, they are 100% functional. The balance is good, for the most part, and the scales will last. On the higher end, the scales become intricate and aesthetically pleasing. In general, the more you pay for a Dovo, the better scales, gold wash, and steel you receive.

The Dovo Inox line is stainless steel. The steel scales that come with some Dovos do not balance particularly well. The stainless steel blade is hard to hone, as all stainless blades are wont to do. The edge it takes is pretty good, and the longevity is slightly longer.

Bottom line: Dovo makes a great quality razor, they hone up very nicely, producing a sharp, keen edge. The scales are very nice, but with Dovo, you get what you pay for. We definitely recommend Dovo if you are looking for a modern straight razor.