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Blackbird razors: Anodized and SS

Interview with Blackland Razors

This weeks post is an interview with Shane Swatzlander from Blackland Razors.  Shane has developed a prototype stainless steel safety razor called The Blackbird Safety Razor.  I have been following his updates on developing the Blackbird and reached out to him for an interview.  Shane was kind enough to accept and the result is below.

1) On the off chance that readers don’t know who you are, please tell us a bit about yourself (family, work, hobbies) and how you fit into the wet shaving community?

My name is Shane Swartzlander. I’m 25 and live in Indiana with my wife, our cat, and our rabbit. I moved here from California to study physics at Purdue and I can’t wait to get back to somewhere with mountains. In my spare time, I like running and learning to play guitar. I have begun training for a third marathon. My dream is to someday backpack the John Muir Trail. Of course, you’re probably here because I’m the designer of the new stainless steel safety razor, Blackbird which is now on Kickstarter (Blackbird Razor Kickstarter)

2) Can you tell the readers anything about your struggles when starting wet shaving or anything you struggle with now?

Shaving my chin! Even after a few years, I still have a hard time shaving the underside of my chin well.

Blackland Razors interview on whyiwethave.com

3) What is your current go to shave set up?

My basic setup is a Blackbird razor (of course!) paired usually with an Astra SP.  My two go-to soaps are Courage by Soap Commander and Proraso/C.O. Bigelow cream. Followed up with Pinaud Clubman. There are fancier shaves that I rotate in, but if I had to pick one foolproof setup for the rest of my life, that would be it.

4) How has the wet shaving hobby changed since you started?

I started wet shaving a few years ago and kept my basic setup for about two years without really getting into the hobby. Designing my own razor really kicked up my involvement and my counter has gotten fuller and my wallet has gotten lighter ever since.

5) When did you start thinking about creating your own razor?

Late in the spring of 2014, I was working on developing a unique clipless bike pedal design I had thought of. I had the idea all worked out in my head, but I can’t draw so I couldn’t get it onto paper. Frustrated, I decided that instead of drawing it, I’d just make it on CAD (computer assisted design) directly. Problem being, I didn’t know CAD. But, if there’s anything I believe, it’s that we’re all experts with the internet on our side. With that, I took to learning rudimentary CAD programs.

One day, during my morning shave, I decided that it would be a fun challenge to make a safety razor in CAD to develop my skills. The whole thing snowballed from there and I began 3D printing prototype after prototype, mainly for fun. After a bunch of these plastic razors, I landed on a design that I really loved and I realized that other people might enjoy it, too. The idea of making the Blackbird razor a real product was born.

6) What do you feel makes the Blackland Razor stand out / makes it unique?

  • The looks. Let’s be honest; this is a sexy razor. It’s got sleek curves, an angular head, long grooves instead of knurling, and comes in two awesome finishes.
  • The quality. It’s machined from solid stainless steel to very tight tolerances by a highly capable manufacturer, and it shows. The fit is truly top-notch and proper blade alignment is guaranteed.
  • The shave. Blackbird is designed with a mild blade gap, but shaves best at a shallower angle like an SE. The unique shaving angle, combined with a mild gap, results in a shave that is simultaneously mild and highly efficient.
  • The options. Blackbird is available with a 70mm handle or a 101mm handle. It’s also available in both a unique black oxide finish and a classic brushed stainless steel finish. Customers are also able to mix and match the finishes on different pieces of the razor. This gives eight unique possible color combinations. Adding in the handle options yields a total of sixteen different possible combinations.

Blackland Razor interview on whyiwetshave.com

7) What are the technical specifications of the Blackbird?

  • Blade gap: 0.58 mm
  • Blade exposure: 0.1 mm
  • Weight(assembled with 101 mm handle): 110g
  • Weight(assembled with 70 mm handle): 90g
  • Material: 303 Stainless Steel
  • Country: US
  • The razor was designed to be both mild and very efficient. To accomplish this, a mild blade gap was paired with a shallower shaving angle more akin to an SE. The shallow angle is 26 degrees and the steep angle is 28.9. The result is a very comfortable and efficient shave.

8) Would you like to give anyone in particular a shout out or a honorable mention?

Darkbulb has been a great ally. He’s a safety razor nut and owns more razors than I’ve ever heard of. Because of his extensive knowledge and huge stainless steel razor collection, I asked him to be the first person to review the razor. You can see his review here.  On top of all that, Darkbulb is just a great guy and an asset to the community.

9) For someone new to this community, how do they get the most out of it?

Start reading and watching videos! There are so many amazing resources available for new shavers. With dozens of quality blogs (like this one), several great video instructors, and countless groups and forums, a new shaver has everything he needs to get the most out of his shave.

10)  Has anything surprised you about producing a product, or the response of the wet shaving community?

Producing this product has been full of surprises. The first surprise I ran into was just how long everything takes. To get from my first prototypes to having the finished razor in my hands took about a year. Once I had a product and shipped it out to be reviewed by Darkbulb and Nick of the Nick Shaves YouTube channel (linked below). I was surprised by just how amazing it felt to have other people using my razor and getting a great shave! It’s truly a high I hope to repeat over and over again. I’ve also been surprised by just how supportive most in the community have been. Sure, there are some that are mistrusting of anything new, but mostly the community has been embracing and encouraging.

11)  Where do you see the Blackbird Razor, and yourself, in 5 years from now?

Right now, I’m just hoping we can get funded on Kickstarter and start getting this great razor into customers’ hands. If we don’t reach the funding goal, then Blackland won’t survive a month, let alone five years. I have some loose plans for different offerings down the road, but the next 24 days has my undivided attention right now. If the campaign is successful, I’ll have to come back and tell you some of my long term ideas!

As for me, the next five years will be pretty interesting. If I have my way, I’ll be at the helm of Blackland LLC as we grow and expand our offerings. My wife and I will hopefully be living somewhere mountainous and maybe kids will be on the horizon. Of course, five years ago I was living in California, wanting to be doctor, and now I live in Indiana and design shaving goods. Life is tough to predict, but that’s what makes it great.

Blackland Razors blackbird head dissassembled

12) A lot of people have been trying their hand at artisan soap making, restorations, and honing, and even some new safety razors.  If you had one piece of advice to give to someone who wanted to start a business centered on wet shaving what would it be?

Let people in on your journey! One of the best things I ever did was start a blog on my website and openly share my story. I think people like to see how the sausage is made and sharing your successes and failures helps people build an attachment to you and your product. In such a competitive world, it’s important to make that personal connection. It also helps you get feedback on your project from the very people you hope to sell it to. Don’t wait until you have a product to tell people about it. I wish I had begun my story on the first day I starting designing razors.

You can read about my journey on my blog.

13)  I know you have it on your blog, but what is the story behind the design/name/color of the Blackbird razor?

In designing the Blackbird, I drew inspiration from the iconic SR-71 “Blackbird” reconnaissance aircraft. The razor combines the sleek lines, curves, and sharp angles that have come to define its namesake. To complete the look, we chose to finish the razor in a beautiful and unique black oxide finish. Of course, customers can now choose between a brushed stainless steel finish and black oxide.

14) When your Kickstarter meets and exceeds its funding goal, do you have any idea for “extra rewards” for hitting higher benchmarks?

I have a couple ideas up my sleeve, but nothing is set in stone. I’d love to hear directly from backers about they want! Reach me at shane@blacklandrazors.com with your ideas.

 

I want to thank Shane for taking the time to talk about his project.  He has obviously put a lot of time into his design and I think it shows.  For full disclosure, I was not compensated by Shane or Blackland razors in any way.  However, I have put my money were my mouth is and funded the Blackland Blackbird Safety Razor Kickstarter.  There was something about it that really drew me in.  This will be my first new razor… ever.  Give it a look and I think you will like what you see.  Here is a rundown of the links in the article and also a few reviews.

Nick Shaves:  Blackland Razor

The Shaving Room:  A hands on look at the Blackbird safety Razor

The Shave Den:  Exclusive: A hands-on, first look at The Blackland razor

Blackland Razor blog

Thanks for taking the time to read the interview.  As always, If you liked the information then please share it with others.  Please leave a comment, share, like, or tweet so others can see it.

Have a great day and a smooth shave!

Matt

 

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8 Comments

  1. What are the steep and shallow blade angles?
    Diagrams for clarification:
    http://badgerandblade.com/vb/attachment.php?attachmentid=466906&d=1404045026
    http://badgerandblade.com/vb/attachment.php?attachmentid=466907&d=1404045040
    http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php/410369-So-what-is-the-steep-angle?p=6783213#post6783213
    (note: this last one is a deep link to post #55 in this thread)

    Also, 1.0 mm seems like a very large blade exposure … was this measured in the standard fashion? Basically, this is saying that if the top cap and safety guard both touched a flat surface … the blade would be cutting into the surface by a full 1.0 mm?

    Diagram with standard measurements labeled:
    http://wiki.badgerandblade.com/Image:SHAVE_ANGLE4_jpg

    Thanks!
    Shawn

    • Shawn, great questions (as always). I passed your questions on to Shane and expect he will get back with the measurements.

      Update: Seems the 1.0mm blade exposure was a type. The blade exposure is actually 0.1mm. Post is updated to reflect typo fix.

    • I tried replying to this a few hours ago, but I guess it didn’t work for some reason. Anyway, thanks for the questions, Shawn. The razor was designed to be both mild and very efficient. To accomplish this, a mild blade gap was paired with a shallower shaving angle more akin to an SE. The shallow angle is 26 degrees and the steep angle is 28.9. The result is a very comfortable and efficient shave. As Matt mentioned, the proper exposure is 0.101mm. Thank you for catching my mistake.

      Shane

      [This information has been added to the interview article–Matt]

      • Hi Shane,

        Thanks for answering questions here. I personally very much respect and value manufacturers who share the details of their products, and certainly it seems like you should advertise and be proud of your razor’s design and specifications!

        From what razor head geometry data I’ve seen, yours has a slightly shallower-than-average (average being about 30 degrees) cutting angle, paired with a medium blade gap and a slightly positive exposure. It seems like it might be similar to an ATT R1, or to the Wolfman but with a shallower blade angle.

        On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being defined as a 2011 Muhle R41), how aggressive would you rank the Blackbird Razor to an average shaver? NOTE: I define aggressiveness as being primarily a lack of protection from the blade, usually also providing a more efficient shave, and often being more irritating in the hands of a less-experienced shaver.

        For comparison:
        http://wiki.badgerandblade.com/Modern_Double-Edged_Safety_Razors_Ranked_by_Aggressiveness

        Also, I’m usually an advocate for raw (passivized only) uncoated/unplated stainless steel razors. This sounds like your brushed steel model? The theoretical issue with coatings is that they could (1) inhibit DIY repairs if they are scratched or (2) some coatings could (theoretically) hasten the development of rust underneath the coating through crevice corrosion (like capillary action and trapping moisture in a low oxygen environment) or through a chemical galvanic sacrificing of the steel as the coating protects itself. Are there any such risks with your black oxidized coating?

        Also, as a clarification, I believe I’m reading this as both the head and handle will be produced with CNC machinery? No parts or cast or sintered?

        Thanks!
        Shawn

        • I think perhaps the best way for me to answer the aggressiveness question is by quoting somebody with a much broader collection of safety razors than myself. In his review(http://theshaveden.com/forums/threads/exclusive-a-hands-on-first-look-at-the-blackland-razor.45454/#post-845066), forum member Darkbulb says, “It felt mild but not as mild as, say the Pils 101 or Gillette Bluetip. I’d say maybe the equivalence of a ‘5’ on a Gillette Slim.” “Mid-mild razor head with an interesting angle to it that gave a very clean, efficient shave.”.

          That probably puts it somewhere in the 3-4 range on the chart above and think that’s fair.

          About the finishes:
          Black oxide is, technically, not a coating. It’s a chemical conversion process that causes the surface molecules of the stainless steel to convert to black oxide. So, unlike a coating, black oxide is not adhered to the surface, but actually becomes part of it. This means that it will not flake, but it will wear as the metal wears. It’s also beneficial because, unlike a coating, the part maintains its dimensions. The “downside” is that because it is a molecule thick, black oxide is not a deep, uniform black like DLC. Instead, it’s imperfect and varies in depth and will patina over time. Black oxide does not hasten the development of rust because there is no thickness to it. However, the razor can still flash rust where it contacts the blade if a wet blade is kept in too long. The rust just wipes off.

          The brushed stainless is raw, passivated stainless steel with no added finish or coating.

          You are correct. All parts are machined from solid 303 stainless steel here in the USA by a very capable manufacturer in Massachusetts.

          Thanks for the questions! Hope I’ve helped. If anybody has any questions feel free to comment here or email me at shane@blacklandrazors.com.

          Shane

  2. Hey Matt,

    Just wanted to notify you that I mentioned this blog post in my new blog 🙂
    http://www.falconrazors.com/index.php/2015/07/08/first-post/

    François

    • Francois,

      I just checked out your blog, very nice looking prototype you have there! Thank you very much for the link and best of luck with the beautiful razor.

      Matt

  3. Hi Shane,

    I’ve recently added Blackland Razors to our Razor Specs Comparison Chart for Crowdfunding (and Prototyping) Safety Razors:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/ShavingScience/wiki/crowdfunding-razor-specs

    Falcon Razors recently became the first to also share their “Guard Span” and “Cap Span” measurements:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/ShavingScience/wiki/crowdfunding-razor-specs

    Would you also be willing to more fully explain the science of your razors by sharing these additional two specs?
    https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1WXnd0VrZVx2ws8wHhqliYuvvNiAzqIQyH9v5dvmfU1Y
    https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1fcStr2bFUhrXckJwOgqp74VXTsmdLfv56cJ2R5wTHjA

    Thanks!
    Shawn

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