Review- GEM Damaskeene, Junior and 1912

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ShadowsDad
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Review- GEM Damaskeene, Junior and 1912

Post by ShadowsDad »

GEM Damaskeene, 1912, and Junior

It could be effectively argued that the GEM Damaskeene is the finest shaving implement ever produced. If I had to argue against that, I have no idea what the argument would be.

All of these razors have heads that I would consider to be a modified lather catcher, but the lather catcher part is so vestigial that I never heard it called a lather catcher anywhere before. I don’t intend to start that trend here. I only mention it because these razors are an obvious evolution of the lather catchers that preceded these models.

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____________Damaskeene___________________1912________________________Junior

Even a superficial glance at the Damaskeene, 1912, and Junior shows the family resemblance. They are essentially the same (frontal view), except for what either is or isn’t imprinted inside the head. According to an expert on the subject (not me- I’m about as inexpert on razor evolution and identification as you could ever imagine), the 1912 model began with the Damaskeene and in 1919-1920 the Damaskeene inside the razor head was discontinued and the razor continued in production as the 1912.

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_______________Damaskeene______________________1912____________________________Junior

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_______________Damaskeene___________________1912________________________Junior

A detailed examination of the three razors shows the 1912 to have a more squat head. If you look at the rear of the razor, notice the flat piece. Measured from the spring cover slot to the handle it measures ½" on the 1912 and 11/16" on the Damaskeene, . That measurement on the Junior is 5/8", so all of the models are slightly different with Jr being in the middle of the 2 extreme measurements. Other than that measurement, the heads on the Damaskeene and 1912 appear identical (more on this later); both having a curved blade cover. The Jr has a flat blade cover. All models were produced with various handles so good luck figuring out if yours is “genuine”. To my eye the Junior is a lower grade of the 1912, lighter gauge metals used and even a plastic handle was put on it. That is to my eye, reality is another story. The Damaskeene and 1912 heads both weigh 20 grams on my postal scale which is only accurate to 5 grams. The Junior is actually heavier at 25 grams, so what my eye sees isn’t real. My Junior has an original metal handle, but some come with a plastic handle which to my eye is huge. The Junior with the metal handle weighs 60 grams and the plastic handle reduces that by 15 grams to 45 grams. The tested weights of the Damaskeene and 1912 are 60 grams and 55 grams respectively. Depending on the handle installed those weights will be different for you. Widths of the 3 heads are virtually identical at 1 11/16". The depth of the head from the comb to the cover “thumb lever” on the Damaskeene is 1 1/4", the 1912 and the Junior are both 1 3/16", so the Damaskeene is all around the slightly larger head. I won’t compare handles because you can get pretty much any handle GEM produced. For those who prefer a larger handle they are all pretty much the same length handle. There is a fat plastic handle option for the Junior. FWIW, while the Damaskeene and 1912 handles can be interchanged, the Jr handle is a different thread. I’m very in tune to the razor/human control interface (the handle) on my razors and I had no issues with any of these. All allowed a good solid grip with no feel of slipping. For me they were all handles that I can live with.

Waits Safety Razor Compendium tells me that the Junior being reviewed is a 1919, but it’s stamped 1912. It’s because of the 1912 stamp that it’s here in this review. FWIW, there is also a GEM Junior shown in Waits Safety Razor Compendium as early as 1906, but that is a full lather catcher and is a significantly different razor. Don’t be confused by that; this particular Junior is not a full lather catcher.

I used ARKO to test all of these razors to make that portion as similar as I possibly could. The first shave in the review began with the 3rd shave on the blade, a GEM SS ptfe coated triple facet blade (Ted Pella 121-3). (The same blade was used for all of the testing)

I have a long history with the Damaskeen, and I can’t help but bring that into the review. The Damaskeene is both a very attractive razor with it’s closed comb and it’s a fantastic shaver. It feels incredibly mild, and appears to be able to do no wrong, yet it gives a shave that easily rivals far more aggressive feeling razors. Remember I stated, “It could be effectively argued that these razors are the finest shaving implements ever produced.” ? That is exactly why. It is as close to a perfect blend of razor qualities as I’ve ever found in any razor. The shave produced is close, comfortable, and if it draws blood you either screwed up badly, or had a blemish. It will slice bumps as easily and painlessly as a whisker. The audio feedback is nice with the typical “spreading butter on toast” sound as it mows down the whiskers. Gents, while my favorite razors are far more aggressive feeling razors, if all of my other razors disappeared overnight and all I had was my Damaskeene I would feel little loss. This is one very nice razor. With the MicroMatics I disliked the lack of blade feel with the two bar comb models. I don’t have the same problem with the closed comb on this razor. I think I could stay mentally focused on the coming day while shaving (in La-La land mentally) and not get hurt with this razor while still getting a great shave. Forgive me if I don’t test that though. :-) I prefer to stay focused on the shave.

One observation, and not of the razor so much as humanity, myself included. Many SE folks, myself included, frequently suggest to noob SE razor users to get a Featherweight or G-Bar as a first razor because they are mild. I have no idea why the Damaskeene isn’t suggested more often. It is very nicely behaved and feels quite mild. But why do they give such a close shave? For me this is still an enigma and I never did explain it to my satisfaction. It is a very efficient razor that produces a shave more like an aggressive razor. I think the fact that it is so well behaved makes it a good candidate for a noob SE razor. They are just as easy to find on ebay as the FW (Featherweight) and G-Bar, the price may be slightly higher, but they are a far more attractive razor IMO. Comparing a Damaskeene to a FW is to compare a Ferrari to a Yugo. Both would get the job done, but one you’d want to show off and would have pride in, the other is just transportation.

The 1912, or “Brooklyn” razor is called that because “Brooklyn, NY” is printed inside the head. Before beginning this review I questioned my sanity in doing so because these razors are all alike right? That was my thought before starting this. This razor definitely proves me wrong. While it looks like the basic Damaskeene, it’s a significantly more aggressive feeling razor. It shaves great but doesn’t have the same sophisticated feel to the shave experience as the Damaskeene has. Don’t assume I mean to say it’s not a good razor though, there are those of us who like this sort of razor, and I’m one of them. It surprised me, that’s all. I did expect them all to shave quite similarly. This razor has the Damaskeenes good looks but is a little rough around the edges during the shave. This razor is also more aggressive than the Open Comb MicroMatic IMO.

The Junior...Yet another razor in the family that proves one can’t assume that just because all the bases are stamped “1912" that they are all the same. Same blade, same soap, another different shave. This test shave is with the metal handle that the razor originally came with.

The Damaskeene was mild (for a SE) with a great close shave that said “aggressive” (only the closeness of the shave said that, not the actual shave experience). The 1912 was substantially more aggressive, and the Junior is the “just right” razor. It’s mid way in aggression between the other two. It has the great “mowing the whiskers” sound of most SE razors, is aggressive enough to feel the blade, and gives a nice close shave. OK, so why are they all so different? I couldn’t just leave that alone. I’ll get to that in a bit. There were no surprises with this razor. The major difference is with the mid level of aggression. It’s a nice razor despite being so “cheap” looking. I’d class this as similar to the Open Comb MicroMatic in aggressive shaving.

Some juniors come with a plastic handle that is actually quite fat at the base. I had one on hand so decided to shave with it at least once for this review. I don’t care for large handles, but I was in for another surprise. I don’t think I’d want it for an everyday handle yet I was pleasantly surprised at how nice this was. Slippage was non-existent, and the razor was definitely lighter. One minor problem, and I don’t like using that particular word here because it’s too strong, was my inability to see beyond the fat handle. I had it happen once when working under my nose. One would soon get accustomed to that and after a time not even notice it. I suspect that’s what happened with me because after that one minor incident even though I worked around my nose a little more, I never noticed it again.

OK, so why the huge differences in the shave experience of this family? I took my glasses off (really) so that I could see tiny differences in the heads and what I came up with I hope is shown in these pictures. They are the Damaskeene first, then the Jr, then the 1912. Notice the blade in relation to the curve of the comb. The Damaskeenes blade is relatively far away from the comb, the Jr a little closer and the 1912 is almost on the curve. The difference that I noticed and show here is in blade exposure, though there may be some other more subtle differences that I didn’t see.

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Damaskeene

Image
Junior

Image
1912- the blade is for illustration only

The GEM Damaskeene is arguably "one of" or "the best" single edge razor to ever have been produced, but the others show they are part of the family. They all give a fantastic close shave, the Damaskeene has almost no blade feel and they progress all the way up to “Yikes! There’s the blade!” sort of aggressive feel. I like these razors a great deal. If someone has basic shaving technique down pat I feel confident that one of these razors will perform admirably and produce an easy BBS. They are also plentiful and inexpensive. The Damaskeene is gentle enough for a noob to SE razors, but I wouldn’t suggest it to a novice shaver as a first razor. There is something for everyone in this family of razors.

These will definitely stay in my rotation.
Brian

Maker of Kramperts Finest Bay Rum and Frostbite http://www.krampertsfinest.com/
Or find it here: Italian Barber, West Coast Shaving, Barclay Crocker, The Old Town Shaving Company at Stats, Maggard Razors; Leavitt & Peirce, Harvard Square
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Straight Arrow
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Post by Straight Arrow »

Thanks for a very thorough and detailed review. I have each of these models but have not used the Damaskeene because one of the blade seats is missing. The Junior, I agree, is a very pleasant razor to use.
Rich
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SharpSpine
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Post by SharpSpine »

I really enjoyed your pictures of where the edge of the blade rests near the comb when compared amongst these razors. That definitely explains quite cleverly the difference that most people note in these razors. I don't have a Damaskeene for comparisons but I can concur that the 1912 and Jr. definitely shave different. I'm not sure why but I don't find them to be nearly as aggressive/efficient as the OCMM though as the OP does. Any of these razors that I have require at least 1 if not 2 extra passes to get the same closeness of shave that I get with the OCMM. Many times due to these extra passes I also come away with more irritation. Therefore, the 1912 and it's isotopes do not see much face time for me.

Again, another fine review by ShadowsDad and I'm still blown away that you were able to find that difference in blade location on the comb. I never would have thought to check that. Very cool!
> Brian < Shave On & God Bless!!

Mongoose B1 + Hempel Spiral; Feather Pro
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ShadowsDad
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Post by ShadowsDad »

Thanks. I'm enjoying doing these. I'm learning more than the readers, and I enjoy learning and experimenting.

It could be the blades we use Brian. Could be the amount of pressure, most anything. YMMV.

I almost wish these reviews could be more scientific, but once the human factor enters in, there goes any try for scientific measuring. There is simply no way to quantify this stuff because there are too many factors involved in just aggressiveness alone and how the factors react with an individuals skin and beard. It's probably harder to measure than what makes a great blade. I have no idea how many other factors enter into a shave, but I bet it's more than I care to think about.
Brian

Maker of Kramperts Finest Bay Rum and Frostbite http://www.krampertsfinest.com/
Or find it here: Italian Barber, West Coast Shaving, Barclay Crocker, The Old Town Shaving Company at Stats, Maggard Razors; Leavitt & Peirce, Harvard Square
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ajsaxs
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Post by ajsaxs »

Wonderful write up !

I started out as a dedicated Damaskeene user.

I picked up a Junior on a whim. I liked the utilitarian look of it.
I liked the shave even more. It's become my choice for 1912s.
bbqncigars
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Post by bbqncigars »

Great review. I haven't tried a Damaskeene yet, but the two 1912s I tried rivaled the Muhle R41 in closeness. The Junior that I tried (not 1912 stamped) was unbearably mild. It appears that there might be some variations in the Junior line.


Wayne
"Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most." A. Brilliant
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giammi
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Post by giammi »

Thanks for the review. I guess I will have to buy a Damaskeene now...
Giammi

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