The Rockwell Razors Kickstarter project that we mentioned Wednesday seems to have been a hit with the wet shaving community. The project met it’s initial funding goal within 24 hours (Kickstarter gives projects 28 days to meet their funding goal)! We have been able to get some exclusive access to Rockwell. Sharpologist co-founder Andy Tarnoff was able to sit down with one of Rockwell’s founders, and Mark (Mantic59) got his hands on a prototype razor.
I was sent a prototype of the Rockwell Razor to examine. I received a couple 3D-printed plastic versions of the razor head and base plates, and a “plain” steel version of the whole kit (razor cap, three base plates, and a handle). A Merkur 23C was also included to demonstrate interchangeability with existing products.
If you’ve read the Kickstarter page, there’s not that much to talk about as far as describing this razor is concerned. It doesn’t look as visually “refined” as the renderings show but, hey, it’s a prototype! You want to know how it shaves.
Pretty darn well.
For my first shave I had a couple days worth of stubble going so I tried the #1 plate side for an gentle first pass reduction. Then I flipped it over mid-shave and finished on #3. Realistically-speaking I probably would not do that during a normal shave with this razor. But it worked well–perhaps not quite BBS but I wasn’t expecting it given this was my first shave with the Rockwell. I was really interested to see how the size of the baseplate and head might interact with getting into tight spots like under the nose, and it worked just fine for me. I liked the weight and balance quite a bit: a “beefy” feeling without being too big.
I also tried using the Merkur handle and it worked fine–the Rockwell uses the standard thread size.
I’ve had one additional shave with it, with baseplate #5. Pretty aggressive (but no nicks! I was being careful). I may try the #6 setting before I have to return the razor, but that will be for another follow-up post.
And yes, look for a Youtube video shortly!
I was able to sit down with Rockwell founder and designer Morgan Nordstrom for a wide-ranging discussion about the Rockwell Razor, manufacturing, and the state of razor design. Here is a condensed version of the conversation, edited for clarity.
Andy Tarnoff: All right. So tell me what you’re doing.
Morgan Nordstrom: We have just patented a double edged safety razor, which I think is pretty impressive on its own. It’s a three piece double edged safety razor, so pretty standard-looking.
But you end up with a modular, hackable system, all flipped around. The concept is that this is … You have six different blade gaps. Six different aggressiveness built into your three blades, all shaped off of one.
Andy Tarnoff: So when you buy the razor, you get these different pieces.
Morgan Nordstrom: Yes. Similar to the Above the Tie system. But we’re doing it differently. We’re not machining, we’re forging all of the pieces.
We can sell this for fifty dollars, in stainless steel. That’s what we’re thinking for retail price with one plate, fifty bucks. So we’re coming in competitive with the Merkurs, the Muhles. For a razor in stainless steel that people are used to paying a hundred bucks for. Very similar to the Weber. They retailed for fifty dollars when they could get them, and now people are reselling them for a hundred bucks online.
Andy Tarnoff: Okay. So the difference in aggressiveness is based what?
Morgan Nordstrom: It changes the blade gap, so the amount of blade that you actually have to shave. If you have the six, that’s a very thick blade gap. You can put a lot of hair in there. If you grow a three day beard, you might want to shave that off with the six. Or, if you have a thicker, curly beard, you might want to use that. Whereas a more mild shave would come from the one.
And the development of these interchangeable plates started with us noticing that this head is exactly the same on many brands of razors. They all use the same standard blade cap for their razors.
Andy Tarnoff: Like, identical?
Morgan Nordstrom: Identical. Down to the millimetre. So we get a modular, hackable system, with all major razor brands.
Andy Tarnoff: Have you shaved with it?
Morgan Nordstrom: I have.
Andy Tarnoff: It’s good?
Morgan Nordstrom: I like it on the three. I like it a bit more mild.
Andy Tarnoff: So, was this your idea?
Morgan Nordstrom: It was. I came up with this in a basement with my partner Gareth.
Andy Tarnoff: Tell me about that process. What do you do? What’s your job when you’re not doing, making razors?
Morgan Nordstrom: I was studying genetics at Western. I’m now studying engineering, aerospace engineering, because that had a bit more of a connection to this. So I’m studying, I’m still a student. But I’m taking a bit of a break right now to focus on this, just because I want to see what happens here.
But other than that, I’m just a bit of a shave nerd. I used to shave with a straight razor, I enjoyed that a lot, and I got into double-edge because it was a little bit more user-friendly in my residence.
Andy Tarnoff: How old are you?
Morgan Nordstrom: I’m twenty. Just turned.
Andy Tarnoff: So you haven’t, had years of using a crappy cartridge razor, then.
Morgan Nordstrom: No, actually, I started on a straight razor. So I’ve never used a cartridge, I can’t travel with a razor.
Andy Tarnoff: So how did this business come to be?
Morgan Nordstrom: Well, I was doing vintage restorations of straight razors for a little while, just doing mostly metal polishing to clean people’s stuff up when they had, like, their grandpa’s old vintage razor.
It was a very small business I was doing in school, but I learned a bit about what was going on here, and I chatted with the right people, and I made the right connections I guess. Its all been moving fast ever since, but so exciting!
Andy Tarnoff: Okay. So then what happened?
Morgan Nordstrom: After meeting Gareth in May we saw there was something here. So we started development. We’ve been prototyping since then.
Andy Tarnoff: Oh, so this is very fresh.
Morgan Nordstrom: This is extremely new.
Andy Tarnoff: Okay. So you designed these using a 3D printer, presumably?
Morgan Nordstrom: Yep.
Andy Tarnoff: So you … This is a little over my engineering head. So you made CAD drawings?
Morgan Nordstrom: Yeah. You CAD model it on a computer, then you can 3D print it in basically just layers of plastic.
Andy Tarnoff: Was that good enough to shave with? To try it?
Morgan Nordstrom: I have shaved with the plastic one. You can only shave with it two or three times, until the plastic safety bar starts to warp. But you can shave with it to get a good test on like, “oh, I actually enjoy that gap. I don’t like this handle”
Andy Tarnoff: Got it. Okay. Is this, are you hoping this becomes a full-time career for you? Or is this going to be an on-the-side thing once you graduate?
Morgan Nordstrom: I like working. That’s my thing. So I took a little time off school to work with Rockwell Razors. We’ll see where it goes.
Andy Tarnoff: That’s pretty exciting. What, anything else that I’m not asking you?
Morgan Nordstrom: We’re focusing on North American manufacturing. We could have done this in China, we could have gone to some super factory and said make it, and it would have been easy. But we stayed in North America, we worked with an electro-polisher here, our forge is here, everything is done right here, and it simplifies our supply chain. Because everyone did go overseas, and now other manufacturers are realizing they’re not saving as much as they used to be. So everyone’s looking for more local supply in their logistics and supply chain.