Parker SRX vs. Focus R-28 Shavettes

Discussion in 'Straight Razors' started by Bax, Oct 5, 2022.

  1. Bax

    Bax Well-Known Member

    Since being recognized as the world's leading authority on shavettes* I have had literally HUNDREDS of inquiries* seeking my opinion on this shavette or that shavette.* After scouring my ENORMOUS collection* I finally selected two candidates for evaluation as a First Shavette for someone who wanted to get into the straight razor world without making a huge investment.
    Over the last couple of months I've been using shavettes and straight razors, and I don't think they're quite the same, and learning on one may not translate well to skills required for the other. If you want to try a straight razor, do it. If your objective is to try a shavette, then do it. I wouldn't recommend using one as a stepping stone to the other. But perhaps that's just my subjective point of view. Your mileage may vary.
    A quality razor can be picked up reasonably from an online auction site (so long as you're not looking for the gold inlaid razor once used by Christopher Columbus before he met the queen of Spain). I got a few straight razors for $10-$12 and after honing they were capable of great shaves. COST is not a reason to try a shavette prior to trying a straight razor.

    Having said that, I came to evaluate two shavettes often recommended to folks who would like to TRY the shavette: the Parker SRX and the Focus R-28. The Parker sells for less than $30 and the Focus is around $70. At least when I bought mine. But is the Focus worth over TWICE the cost of the Parker?

    R-28 vs SRX.jpg

    BLUF: Yes, the Focus is certainly the winner here. Hands down. Clearly and unequivocally. I felt like I was comparing a Ferrari to a Yugo in a Grand Prix; the Ferrari easily won (although it was more expensive than the Yugo).

    DISCUSSION: When the Focus arrived, I was a little shocked at how LIGHT it was. It's aluminum, so I expected it to be light, but I was still surprised. Fit and finish was immaculate and I was impressed with the build quality. I got to shave with it and try it out. It was light and well-balanced. It was easy to get the knack of finding the right angle to get the best shave. When I started shaving with shavettes and straight razors, I had trouble getting that pesky angle right until I learned to judge my blade angle and pressure by feel (and sound). Some places on my face need slight pressure, but in most areas I "let the razor do the work." The Focus R-28 was easy to hold, easy to use, easy to load, and I was quite pleased with it.

    When the Parker arrived, I immediately noticed how heavy it was, especially compared to the Focus R28. My immediate impression was very positive based on its shiny finish and comforting weight in the hand. Unfortunately, I was unable to open the Parker!
    I'm going to call the entire spine/tang/shank/blade holder mechanism the "shank" just for ease of typing. I don't know if there's a word for the whole assembly that includes the monkey's tail, tang, shoulder, spine, toe, etc... so I'll call it all the whole mess the "shank" in this reveiw.

    The shank was crammed down into the handle so tight that even with my Incredible Superhero Strength* I was unable to open it. I ended up using a pair of pliers to extricate the shank from the handle! The fit of the shank into the handle was terrible. To make matters worse, the hinge point was pretty floppy. My first impression of the Parker quickly crumbled. I could see that the shank when folded rubbed badly against one side when I tried to fold it. The handle looked like it was compressed (squeezed), so there was no way the shank would fold without scraping like crazy along the length of the shank. Now I also noticed that the shank itself was not in line with the handle -- AT ALL! (scroll down for photo) I fixed the bend by hand (bending it back the opposite way to straighten it up) and I had to use my Leatherman tool to widen the gap enough to let the blade actually fold. This didn't fix it entirely, though. Even though the blade was folding into the handle like it should now, I noticed that the inside edge of the handle was sharp on one side... and when the blade portion of the head was folded into it, it was scratching the finish. Out came my trusty Dremel tool and a grinding wheel, then a polishing wheel, to smooth out the sharp edge on the inside of that scale. The handle is just cheap-feeling and flimsy. It was still pretty floppy, like there wasn't nearly as much friction in the pivot point as there should be. After I worked on it, it folded better, but my efforts did nothing to improve the floppiness. I was incredibly underwhelmed. But at least it was straight now, and the gap in the handle was wide enough for it to fold, more or less like it should. Now it seemed like it was in usable condition to compare to the Focus (at last). I have to admit that I wasn't very impressed with the Parker; my initial impression ("Oooo! Shiny!") quickly went into a tailspin. IMHO you shouldn't buy a razor and have to fix it with a Leatherman and Dremel tool before you can use it! Here's an image showing the handle of the Focus, nice and straight. Also shown is the wonky flimsy Parker handle before I worked on it.


    I used one Wlkinson Sword (India) blade that I snapped in half. I'd used half of the blade the previous day in the Focus, so I used the remaining half in the Parker for a fair and equal test. The mechanism to load the blade into the Focus was simple and secure. It was easy to do it quickly and safely. The mechanism to load a blade into the Parker was fiddly and less efficient, particularly closing the locking bar on the two halves of the mechanism after poking the blade into place. I had to be very careful in reassembling the head and snapping the locking bar into place. Don't try this with wet hands! After practicing a few times, I was able to get the technique to load the Parker quickly and safely, but I think it's riskier than loading the Focus. Not a big deal, but the advantage in loading goes to the Focus. After loading both razors, I compared how secure and straight the blade was in the mounting... and they seemed equally secure.

    Blade Mounting.jpg

    The next thing I noticed was blade exposure. The Parker just clamped the blade in and that was it; there was no refinement there at all. The Focus had a groovy end tip ("toe") on the blade mount, to provide some protection from the sharp corners of the blade. The Focus sure seemed like a well-thought-out product compared to the Parker up to this point. After using both, however, I have to confess that this design difference didn't really matter at all in the end. The razor blades (India Wilkies) have a radius on the end of the blade that makes the Focus's extra protection unnecessary. I still think it looks cooler than the Parker's toe, though.

    Blade Comparison.jpg

    Next came the all-important shave test with the Parker! I lathered up with some Cremo in a bowl using my favorite Semogue brush, did my usual prep, and started to shave with the Parker. I'd used the Focus the day before, so this was the Parker's turn. I first noticed that the floppy shank was a problem. The handle on this one is just a bent piece of sheet metal in a tall "U" shape with the shank riveted in at the top of the U. The whole Parker razor was shiny and smooth; it was impossible to hold onto the darned thing with wet hands! The smooth finish was slick as snot and the floppy handle just made things worse. On my first pass, the shank slipped in my wet hands and I almost gave myself a GI JOE cheek scar. I was more careful on stroke #2 and didn't lose my death-grip on that slippery, smooth shank. After 2-3 more aggravating strokes I decided that the Parker was a face-filleting disaster waiting to happen. I wasn't able to get the right "feel" of the blade on my face due to the floppy handle and my inability to get a reliable grip on the shank. I set the Parker aside and finished my shave with the Focus R-28 (which did a great job in no time). The fit and finish on the Focus was top-notch. It was uniformly light (not nose heavy like the Parker), and I could put the handle where I wanted it for a particular stroke and it'd stay put. I change my grip often when using a shavette or straight razor, and the handle of the Focus accommodated my changes with aplomb. The texture of the Focus's handle and shank felt smooth, but was rough enough to ensure a good purchase on the razor, even with a light grip and wet hands! No threat of slipping, and no floppy handle problems. The Focus won the shaving match, hands down. No comparison whatsoever. I think the Focus shavette was happy to come to the rescue, because I think I heard it singing "I am here to save the day" like Mighty Mouse while I was finishing up with it.*

    I took the Parker to my workbench the next morning to see if I could do something about this flimsy sheet-metal handle and loose pivot point. Perhaps some SRG's (Straight Razor Guys) are OK with a floppy handle, but I'm not. After I tightened it up (with a punch and hammer), it seemed much better; no more floppiness -- it stayed where I put it. But when I actually USED it, I found that it wasn't snug enough. It was still too loose while I was trying to shave with the darned Parker. I used it anyway, but am sure I can snug it up better than this.

    After finally working out all the bugs with this Parker, AT LAST it gave me a great shave! The lack of a protective end bit at the toe (like the Focus had) wasn't really relevant in practice. On the Parker, I didn't like the difference in weight between the heavy SRX shank and the razor's flimsy sheet-metal lightweight handle; it was far too nose-heavy. I didn't like how slippery this razor is in a wet hand, either; I think it's actually dangerous. I'm not sure how to fix the slick handle, unless I bead-blast it, add checkering or "jimping." The Parker was a relatively SLOW shave compared to the Focus. Since I'd initially not tightened the handle enough, it started flopping loose now and then as I shaved with it. This caused me to have to stop, readjust my grip, then continue. I was constantly worried that it'd flop in mid-stroke and I'd get a bloody souvenir of my shave. I found myself concentrating so much on my grip and hand position that I was having trouble getting around the contours of my face. I really need to tighten up the pivot point some more. HOWEVER, by taking it slow and easy with the Parker, I was able to get a nice shave every bit as high quality as I got out of the more expensive Focus R-28; it was just stressful and unpleasant... and felt like WORK rather than fun!

    CONCLUSION: If you want a really high-quality shavette that will impress you right out of the box and do the job as advertised, then the Focus R-28 is the better choice between the two. At $70, it's the more expensive of the two as well. Workmanship and quality between the two was like night and day; the Focus was well-made and seemed like a quality tool ideally suited for its intended purpose; like it was designed with the barber in mind. The Parker seemed like a quickly stamped-out mass-produced "this might be good enough" product; like it was designed to maximize profits in retail sales.
    If you have some tinkering skills and don't mind working on a razor before you can use it, then the $30 Parker SRX might be for you. Personally, I'd go for one of the OTHER Parker models and skip the SRX. I think the other models (SRW, SRB, or SR1) are pretty much identical except the shank isn't as heavy as it is on the SRX. The SRX is supposed to be the heavyweight model. I just didn't expect all of the weight to be in the blade with none in the handle! I suspect the lighter blade of the SRW, WRB, SR1 would better balance-out the flimy lightweight handles.
    Maybe I'll experiment and see if I can mount a heavier handle or scales on the SRX. As mentioned above, I need to do something about the grip, too. The SRX might not be a good shaver right out of the box, but it should be a great jumping-off point for DIY projects to see if the end user can improve it! If you want a powerful computer, buy a MSI MEG Aegis Ti5, and if you want a toy to play with and use for projects, buy a Raspberry Pi.

    AFTERTHOUGHTS: Some people speak highly of the Parker and love it; I am not among them. Perhaps I just got a lemon. The Focus was a well-made shaving tool while the Parker looked cool from a distance, but really didn't perform as well because of handle issues, slick texture, and poor balance. With concentration and great care, it COULD be made to shave as well as the Focus. Since the Focus didn't require a lot of grip-changing or worry about the handle flopping at an inopportune moment, my shave with the Focus was much faster, more efficient, and more pleasant than it was with the Parker SRX. I was able to daydream and make occasional motorboat sounds as I shaved my manly square jaw.* The Focus r-28 is a no-kidding serious shavette that is now a permanent part of my Shave Den rotation. I think the Parker SRX might become my "beater" razor that goes into my camping stuff. I'll store it beside my first aid kit, in case the handle gets floppy again...


    - Bax

    * Not true - I made that up.
  2. Chappy_Stan

    Chappy_Stan Member

    Great write up, Bax!
  3. Bax

    Bax Well-Known Member

    I made a Version 2.0 of this razor. The floppiness was UNSAT, so I yanked out the rivet at the pivot point and replaced it with a bolt. The rivet was too flimsy to drill out, so I ended up just picking it out with needle-nosed pliers. I re-used the friction washers and added a bolt, screwed on a nut, and tightened it to the point where I liked the level of friction. Then I used my trusty Dremel to cut off the excess threads, and a grinding wheel to smooth out my work. It may not LOOK as elegant as it did before, but I sure like it better as a useful razor now! Pics below show the disassembled SRX (with friction washers and bits/pieces of the mangled cheap tin rivet), and both sides of the finished razor. It ain't pretty, but I sure like it a thousand times more than I did before the mod. Heck, I was on the verge of throwing it away...
    - Bax
    SRX version 2.jpg
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  4. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    I mean, the Parker was designed to be an edging tool for barbers, and the Focus was designed to shave with.

    Unfair comparison.

    But seriously, I am really astounded by the fact that there are thousands of razor designs all based on a single double edge blade design.

    The further a person goes from Gillette designs, the more extreme the design changes get, but all of them are just a holder for the 'blade.'

    There are thousands more people who use a Parker than a Focus, much like there are way more Prius owners than Dodge Hellcat owners. It doesn't mean the Prius is a better vehicle than the Hellcat. It just means more people can afford a Prius.

    I am grateful to live in a country where shaving products are part of my disposable income and not a serious choice between new blades or a meal, as it is in so many parts of the globe.
    SterFry and brit like this.
  5. Bax

    Bax Well-Known Member

    I used the new improved Parker today, and, as modified, it did a great job!
    - Bax
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