Shavettes: The Truth About Disposable Straight Razors

Discussion in 'Articles' started by PLANofMAN, Aug 24, 2012.

  1. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    About once a month, someone asks a question about Shavettes. Upon reflection, this does not really surprise me. There is not a lot of information out there on shavettes. Reviews and how to's are sporadic at best and mostly limited to you tube. Often, the overwhelming response is just "get a real straight razor." The wikipedia entry for disposable blade straight razors has this to say (inaccurately):

    "Razors which are similar in use and appearance to straight razors but which use either a standard double edged blade or specially made blades are available.
    Disposable bladed straights have many of the advantages of straight razors without needing the stropping and honing of ordinary straight razors.
    Disposable blade straight razors can be resharpened."

    What is a shavette? A shavette, also known as a disposable blade straight razor, is either a fixed or folding blade razor, similar in appearance to a straight razor, that uses disposable blades. The blades are not resharpened. When used by a barber, they are not even reused. Like Band-Aid, Shavette is actually a brand name that became a general term. In this case, shavette refers to any disposable blade straight razor. (Dovo makes the original Shavette). For ease of use, I will refer to disposable blade straight razors as shavettes for the rest of the article.

    What were they used for? The first shavettes were developed for barbers. They were used by the barber for giving a razor cut haircut. The shavette was used in place of scissors or clippers for trimming hair, and for shaping sideburns, hairlines and the nape of the neck. In the past, the most popular was the Durham Duplex. The brand and blades still survive today in the dog grooming industry.

    What are they used for today? Shavettes are still used by barbers and wet shavers. As people became more aware of the dangers posed by blood borne pathogens, stringent laws were passed that regulated the use of straight razors in the barber shops. Barbers began to look for other options to the traditional straight razor. Shavettes experienced a resurgence in popularity as the demand for a disposable alternative to the straight razor grew.

    There can be only one. There are many different brands of shavettes and also just as many blades that can be used in them. Most people are aware of the Feather Artist Club razors, which take special blades manufactured especially for the feather razors and the various shavettes that take snapped in half DE blades. There are also the few razors that take Personna shaper blades. The shaper blades are better known to us as injector blades. More about the different shavettes and blades later.

    The differences between a straight and a shavette razor. Shavettes are not entry level straights. They feel different, they shave differently, and aside from appearance, have almost nothing in common with a straight razor. Someone who wants to try straight razor shaving would be best advised to purchase a professionally honed used straight razor and an entry level strop. Does that mean shavettes don’t have any place in wet shaving? Of course they have a place, just not as a starter straight razor. Many people use shavettes to shave with, they just don’t kid themselves about what they are using. Straight razor shavers who choose not to take a regular safety razor with them when they travel often take a shavette along. Shavettes are lighter, have more rigid blades, shorter blade length and are more unforgiving of mistakes than a real straight razor. On the other hand, with a shavette, you do not have to spend time honing or stropping the blade.

    The differences between shavettes. There is a vast difference between the low end and the high end of the disposable blade straight razor market. There really is not much of a middle ground when it comes to shavettes. The high end shavettes are made by Kai and Feather. The low end razors are made by everyone else. The few razors that fall in the middle ground are mostly vintage shavettes and IBC (Irving Barber Company) and perhaps Sanguine and Dovo. Six names dominate the shavette world. Feather, Dovo, Weck, Sanguine, Fromm and Parker.

    A seventh is on the rise as well. Irving Barber Company is the new kid on the block, but their first entry, a razor that takes DE, Injector, and Feather Artist Club blades, is a solid performer and is as versatile as the original Dovo Shavette, while offering much more value for the money.

    The DE blade. Most shavettes use the DE blade...
    ...or rather, half of a DE blade. The spike points on either end of the edge make these blades the most unforgiving of the shavettes. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend any shavette style razor that only uses DE blades.

    The mini shaper blade. This actually covers a few different blades...
    If the Personna blade container looks familiar, it's because it uses the same blades as Schick injector razors. It merely lacks the key, the blades are identical. These blades are a huge step up from the snapped in half DE blades and a short step below...

    Hair Shaper Blades. In between the Injector/mini hair shaper blades and the Kai/Feather Artist Club blades are the Hair Shaper blades. These blades work in the Weck Sextoblade. The Weck Sextoblade was in production for almost a century and can be found cheaply at online auction sites like eBay or in antique stores. This vintage razor has one huge benefit. It takes modern blades. This one brand of razor left its stamp so deeply on the industry the blades for this razor became the industry standard for hair shapers. And hair shapers are still used today. Modern hair shapers with non-removable guards, unfortunately, won't work for shaving. The blades will.
    Fromm, Personna, Wilkinson Sword, and Schick all make hair shaper blades.
    The vintage Weck Sextoblade razor is based on a straight razor design and has a removable guard. Before it became a "hair shaper," it was sold as a shaving razor. In my opinion, the Weck Sextoblade is the closest one can come to shaving with a straight razor without using a straight razor.

    Weck Sextoblades come with a removable guard, and most people stop using the guard after the first shave. You have to flip the guard around when you switch to shaving the other side of your face, and it's impractical to use during touchups.

    The blades are not quite as sharp as Feather/Kai, but they are more affordable, easier to find, and can be stropped, just like a straight razor.
    Here's a "How it's made" video about Barbasol, in the last few minutes the presenter gets a barbershop shave from a barber using a Weck Sextoblade.

    Feather Artist Club Blades. Light blades for sensitive skin, Professional blades for every skin and hair type (these are the original blades), Super blades for thick or coarse hair growth, and ProGuard blades for the safest shave.
    Kai Blades. Double diamond hair cut blades.

    Feather and Kai disposable bladed straights should not be included in the general lumping together of shavettes. They were and are designed specifically for shaving. The shaving technique is slightly different from using a straight razor, due to the wider body of the blade holder, but the resulting shave is the same. CJB is a Korean copy of the Feather razors. It comes in a folding and straight (Kamisori) version. The quality of the finish and materials used are not as high as a Feather, but it uses the same blades and the shave will be identical. The last time I checked, they sold for about $15, but the company does not do international sales.:angry019:
    The few that are available are either from a Badger & Blade co-op from a couple of years ago, or recently purchased on eBay.

    Shavettes have their place as a travel razor, or for those who want a budget version of a high quality disposable straight, but it is important to remember that they were originally created and designed to cut hair, and it is only recently that people have begun using them as shavers. They are DE or Injector razors that happen to look like straight razors and you control the angle of the shave.

    More shavette resources:
    Shavette DE blade replacement guide
    Review of various models of DE shavettes
    Straight Razor vs. Shavette
    Comparison of a Sanguine and a Dovo Shavette
    Comparison of a Mr. C and a Monsieur Charles Shavette

    It seems I must add an update to this article. A new razor has come to my attention, and this one is neither "fish nor flesh, nor good red herring."

    It turns out that many members of the Badger & Blade forum had Grandfathers who shaved without base plates or cut the safety bars off of their DE razors. A razor is currently made in India which has the improbable name of the "Barbe Bleue BB Model X doubled-edge straight." This razor traces it's lineage back to those brave men (because women aren't that stupid). :p

    This razor has a very long handle and no safety guard. It was dubbed the "Devette."
    The shave has been described as like shaving without training wheels. Make of that what you will. There is a long thread about it here.
    No guard DE
    Gytis had this to say about devett shaving. Please read with the understanding that English is his third language.
    Thanks to @AGHisBBS I had the opportunity to try one of these so-called DEvette's. After some initial experimentation, I settled on using a steep angle (with the handle almost parallel to my face). That might seem counter-intuitive, but a person is less likely to cut themselves using a steep, rather than shallow angle. I did two passes with the grain, and by the second pass, I was using the razor much like any other DE razor.

    I didn't get any cuts, nicks, weepers, gashes, gouges, or even any irritation. All in all, a rather anticlimactic shave.

    More musings on shavette vs straight:
    Lack of maintenance. Pop a new blade in whenever you want.
    Blade choice.
    Cost of entry

    Depending on the model, many shavettes are more flexible (handle and blade holder) than a straight razor. The blade itself tends to be more rigid at the edge than a straight razor.
    The angle is not intuitive except with a few brands.

    Long bladed shavettes that take Personna hair shaper blades or the Kai or Feather Artist Club (AC) blades are the closest you can come to a straight razor shave. It's easiest if I compare it to shaving with double edge vs. single edge razors. The technique is the same, the feel is different. The holders that most look like actual Japanese straight razor blades in either kamisori or western folding style, and take Feather AC blades will be the easiest to learn proper angle on.

    All of the skills learned on a shavette will transition from the shavette to the straight. You'll still need to learn how to strop and hone after transitioning. It's the difference between knowing how to drive a car, and knowing how to fix it too. This also applies to the question are they "on the same level?"

    You never have to worry if a shavette is sharp enough. You also miss out on the joy of caring for a live steel edge. Honing a straight or stropping a straight razor can be a deeply meditative moment in your day.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2020
    Stefano73, Nicked, Tinmantoo and 48 others like this.
  2. sparky5693

    sparky5693 Administrator Staff Member

    Congrats on your first article :)
    Mike-R41, alpla444 and PLANofMAN like this.
  3. KLF

    KLF Doctorin

    Very good and informative article ! Congrats !
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  4. macaronus

    macaronus Sir Nice-a-Lot

    Great write-up, Ryan! I was always wondering about the difference between the types and thinking if I went to str8, which type to go to? Now I've got something to start on. Thanks!
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  5. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
  6. richgem

    richgem suffering from chronic clicker hand cramps

    Thumbs up!
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  7. IAmTheJody

    IAmTheJody Gillette-i Master Staff Member

  8. swarden43

    swarden43 "It's your shave. Enjoy it your way."©

    Good job, Ryan! :happy088::happy088:
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  9. Neolithium

    Neolithium I am Canadian, eh

    Love it! :)
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  10. Metro

    Metro Well-Known Member

    Great article!
    Now that I'm getting comfortable with DE, I was looking at getting a straight for Christmas. I didn't consider shavettes because I thought the results weren't as good as with a real straight. According to your article, they produce the same results but the technique is different. Can you comment on how different it is? Also, what would you recommend for each an entry level shavette and straight, that would keep me on a light budget? Cheers!
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  11. Switchermike

    Switchermike Active Member

    :thanks: Thanks! I had wondered about the type razors. This answered a lot of questions. Sooooo I just have one more about the blades. Could you use Feather Artist Club blades in a injector razor...and if you could, would you?
  12. Slipperyjoe

    Slipperyjoe Rusty Metal Tetanus

    Outstanding article Ryan! Might make for a sticky..nudge nudge wink wink...
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  13. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    For the shavette I currently own (vintage dorko), it shaves exactly like a straight razor. The only difference is the blade holder is heavier than a real straight blade, and the shape of the holder makes it want to stick to your face. I have a sanguine on order, and that takes DE blades, so we will see if the technique is different for that one. I didn't notice any learning curve, but I also started using straights when I was 18. Based on this, I would suggest you learn on a real straight, then try shavettes. I think the vintage dorko is the closest one can get to a feather without actually using a feather.

    Entry level shavette? Sanguine for the DE Shavette, Mr. C for an injector style.
    Entry level straight? Whipped dog "sight unseen" deal, or one of Glen's DFS razors.

    Vintage Hess shavettes come with two blade attachment options one is for injector style blades and I believe the other is for feather style blades. The Mr. C can use both injector blades and Feather Artist Club blades.

    If you are talking about a regular injector razor like schick, the answer is no, feather blades will not work. There is the Cobra, which is a regular razor, and it was designed to take feather artist club blades. Hope that answers your question.
    Switchermike likes this.
  14. Falcon43

    Falcon43 Active Member

    Very informative article Ryan. You cleared up my misconception that shavettes were just straights with disposable blades.
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  15. byrd

    byrd Well-Known Member

    Great article sir. I gave my shavette away several months ago. Just ordered another. (Another incredible exhibition of self control by this guy)[​IMG]
    macaronus and PLANofMAN like this.
  16. Xezmer

    Xezmer Active Member

    I enjoyed the article but tend to disagree with the above statement. Saying you shouldn't lump the lower ends with the feather and kai is fine. They really are different. Saying the resulting shave from a feather or kai and a real straight are the same is not fine. A real straight can be honed to suit different needs and provides more feedback, I think. Also the varying preshapes of real straights can make for different styles (full hollow vs wedge). The technique required should also be taken in to consideration because it's not just about the result, it's also about the process. I'll also be damned to find that the result might even be the same. With the vast variety of even traditional straights, it's hard to even determine what the end result of a traditional straight shave is depending on the blade handler, hone, strop, etc. Too many variables to classify! Some of like to be deterministic, but I like that I can never really reproduce a shave. I think it's exciting.

    I did like the last part. I didn't know lower end shavettes weren't originally designed for shaving. Thanks for sharing that piece.
  17. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    The reason I separated the Kai and the Feather razors from the general mass of shavettes was because they were and are designed for shaving, not just trimming hair. That being said, just because I said they should not be considered shavettes, does not automatically confer on them straight razor status. They are in their own niche.
    What I said is:
    You can get just as close of a shave from a Feather Artist Club razor as you can from a straight. If anything, people who have used Artist Club blades insist that they are sharper than a straight razor's blade. I am not saying that they shave identically to a straight razor, I'm saying the end result is the same.
  18. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    I thought it should go in the straight section, and then I thought it should go in the tutorial section. Wracked with indecision, I finally made it into an article.:cool: Maybe in a few months we'll see if it should be moved. I'd like to see if it is actually helpful to people first.
    Slipperyjoe likes this.
  19. Xezmer

    Xezmer Active Member

    I agree that they are in their own niche. I didn't say, suggest, or accuse you of saying that their function and lack of similarity with shavettes vs straights confers any status. I only disagreed of their end result, which, from your statements is based on the opinions of others (presumably including your own for this article). And again, this all boils down to subjectivity and opinion. I don't feel the need to reiterate why I think the end result of the shave isn't the same, but also why it can't be the same. I've owned some 30 DE razors, 5 straights, 3 shavettes, and a slew of other miscellaneous razors and I am just sharing my findings.

    If you find a Kai or Dovo is similar enough for you, then I envy you because it sure beats my straights in terms of easy of maintenance, an important factor of functional items in my life!
    Carbide Mike and PLANofMAN like this.
  20. oscar11

    oscar11 Well-Known Member

    Nice write up Ryan. My shavette is my travel razor. At home, I use my straights. I did want a Feather in the worst way for a while but I think I'm over it now. I could easily be a big fan of Feathers and Shavettes (I am, actually) but I just have to remind myself why I got into straights in the first place, old school self sufficiency.
    PatrickA51 and PLANofMAN like this.

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