I hone a lot of straight razors and have developed some opinions about razors. In the last year I’ve been receiving a couple of Chinese made straight razors every week. They’re generally nice looking razors. The scales are done well. The pivot pin is usually pretty well executed i.e. not sticking up too far and sharp. The razors’ geometry and edge are the big problems. A razor is usually honed by laying it down on a stone and abrading it against the stone in order to form an edge. The correct angle is built in as a result of the spine and the edge contacting the stone at the same time. Not so with all of the Chinese razors I have had come my way.
The way the razors were made is that they’ve been held up to a belt sander at about a 30 degree angle to finish both sides of the razor. The angle should be between 14 and 18 degrees. What happens is that the normal practice of honing doesn’t even touch the edge as the shoulder of the bevel holds the edge off of the stone. I’ve gone 100 strokes on a Shapton 1000 grit stone and when I look at the bevel under magnification, there’s a nice shiny spot on the shoulder of the bevel but the edge hasn’t even been touched.
To get rid of all of that excess metal in order to create the correct angle requires a lot of grinding. This wears down the spine, reduces the belly of the blade and creates almost a wedge instead of a full hollow or half hollow blade. As I only use slow speed wet grinding, the process of reestablishing the bevel can take about 45 minutes. I won’t use a belt sander to do this as it would heat up the edge of the blade and take out the temper. Which brings me to the next point.
As the original maker of the blade held up the edge of the razor to a belt sander (I can tell this from the grind lines under 60x magnification), there is no temper at the edge of the blade. It was removed by almost immediately going above 400 deg. F at the very thin edge. It happens fast! So, the end result is that even if the correct bevel is restored, the metal has no heat treatment left to it. This means it doesn’t take an edge well and certainly it won’t keep that edge.
So why do people buy Chinese straight razors? One answer is the clever marketing. They’re given names like Krieger, U.K or Sheffiel (notice the spellings and punctuation) to imply the quality of a British or German razor. To the casual viewer, it looks like one is getting a quality razor. You have to look hard for the “made in China” label which is required by Customs. I think another answer is that they’re cheap, low cost, and inexpensive. I couldn’t agree more.