Sharpspine and I hatched this plot of reviewing the same razors and putting our independently derived reviews in the same thread. This is the first in the series of planned reviews. The other (not planned) was the review of the EverReady '29, and that's where this all came together.
GEM Featherweight and G-Bar
These razors feature the same shave heads, or so it's said, so that's why we're reviewing them together. That’s where the physical similarities end.
I’m going to give my first impressions of many months ago, but for the purposes of this review I revisited the HFT to get fresh impressions. That is below.
The Featherweight is, as the name implies, very lightweight due to the plastic handle. I’m sure the handle can break, but I’ve never seen a broken one. Or one with cracks in it for that matter. They can get dented if they aren’t loved for a time and put in a drawer. Most of the dents I see are on the base of the handle. I like the handle on the Featherweight. You might think it would be slick, but it isn’t. Combined with the light weight it just works great for me. The Featherweight (FW from now on) weighs 30grams.
The G-Bar or more correctly the Heavy Flat Top (That's what GEM called it, but it's HFT from now on in this review) is an all metal razor, and is significantly heavier than the Featherweight. The first time I handled this razor during a shave my impression was that the handle on this razor is the pits. It appears to have a gripping surface, but the surface seen is all rounded nubs and they’re slick. That bothers me, but surprisingly (to me) it doesn’t bother lots of other folks. For me, the weight combined with the slick grip makes for a razor that I didn’t like and I felt the shave suffered compared to the FW. I’m at a loss to understand why that was, except for what I already stated. The weight of the HFT is 60 grams, exactly twice as heavy as the FW.
Putting both razors side by side the dimensions are close enough by eye as to be identical. The head on both is 1 11/16" wide at the widest part (the spring below the head), and 1 1/8" in depth. The handle from the head to the base is 3 3/16" on the FW and measures just 1/16" shorter on the HFT (longest dimension). Neither handle is designed to be replaceable. Both razors share similar heads.
These shave great for most folks. For me the Featherweight was best, but it’s me who can’t get along with the G-Bar, other folks love the thing. They are on the mild side for a single edge (SE) razor, mild enough to be a good introduction to SE razors. I learned to blade shave this time around on a Featherweight. To put it into perspective, these razors might possibly be a 3-4 setting on a Slim or Fatboy, but that’s just a WAG. Despite the mildness, they will give a great shave. Not as close as a more aggressive razor, but they will produce a BBS with just slightly more effort. I learned to shave using a Featherweight and back then it did draw blood now and again. Today I marvel at that. If I worked at it I probably could find blood with one, but with minimal SE expertise these are useable w/o seeing blood. Sort of like the Tech razors of the double edge world, they are quite forgiving. They ARE NOT Tech mild though! They’d be good for the beginning SE razor user, but aren’t too mild for the experienced shaver.
That was then, this is now...
It’s months after my first shave with the HFT, and in the interest of fairness for this review I had to use it again. Heck, I’m not the same shaver I was many months ago. How will I like it today?
On 12/22/11 I lathered up with p.160 and loaded the HFT with a vintage carbon steel GEM blade. Since it’s a blade that will rust, when I first loaded it I put a few drops of mineral oil (actually Skin-So-Soft) on both sides of the blade to prevent rust. Frankly, the shave was every bit as good as I’ve had many times with the FW. My big concern with the razor is still the handle. While it didn’t pose a problem (it didn’t the last time either) it still felt slippery to me, and I prefer sharp edges that facilitate a light grip. The reason slippery doesn’t feel right to me is because of the heavier weight of the HFT contributing to the “It’s going to slip out of my hand” feel. The HFT doesn’t have those sharp edges as I already wrote. Bottom line... While I’m not a big fan of the handle, I can use this razor.
On 12/23/11 I used exactly the same products and the same blade for todays shave with the FW. I re-oiled the blade after the shave on the 22nd , to prevent rust, and loaded it into the FW. I duplicated as much as possible the shave I used for the HFT; soap, brush, face prep, etc. The razor is an old friend, so there were no surprises, I like this razor. It’s lightweight, and for me that’s a plus. I count on a very light grip for the “pressure” required to maintain razor contact with the face, not the weight of the razor. I was ultra conscious of the handle. The handle on the FW doesn’t have sharp ridges either, but sharper than on the HFT, but the light weight of the razor and the very coarse ridges molded into the handle make it work far better than it should.
Both razors shaved exactly the same for me (they didn’t the first time I used the HFT with the HFT being the loser then). Both razors share the same head, so one would expect a similar shave to result, or at least I would expect that. Of the 2 I prefer the Featherweight, but it’s no secret that if I have the choice of a lightweight razor I’ll choose it over a heavier one every time, everything else being equal. I want to state again though that both resulted in a similar shave this time.
Neither of these are on my short list, but I have them and use the Featherweight once in a while to say “Hi” to an old friend. I still have a problem with the handle/weight combination of the HFT, but at least I can coexist with it now. I was going to eventually part with it, but now I’ll hold onto it and once in a while use it as well. Neither of these razors will be used frequently however. I’m an aggressive razor junkie, and these simply aren’t aggressive enough to be an everyday razor for me.
If I had a bad ice cube the night before, that would be a really good morning for the Featherweight or HFT if you get my drift... or just for kicks. Most often it’ll just be for kicks; really, I swear I rarely get a bad ice cube
. Plus the Featherweight took my shaving virginity this time around with a blade and you’ll never forget your first, or so they say.
Either razor would make a good introduction to SE shaving because you probably won’t find a milder SE razor.
Just a word about that (mild SE shaver). The HFT and FW are as modern as my SE razors get and I have no interest in acquiring a “Clik” (or is it a pushbutton?) GEM. It very well may be milder. As the GEMs get more modern they seem to also get milder, so there may very well be at least one model milder than the FW or HFT. I don’t know, and unless a more modern SE razor gets thrown into my lap (not likely) I’ll never know.
Oh, and the blade I used, the vintage GEM “Duridium process" blade, how was it? It’s not as good as a modern blade. I’ll hold onto them as curiosities, but I doubt I’ll use any more of them. I'm not that nostalgic.