Like a phoenix rising from its own ashes, I am back with something to talk about. After a good two months of near exclusive use of the Feather Artist Club RG, I have a definite opinion about the thing, though I'm not on the whole sure whether or not it's a good or bad one.
If I'm totally honest, I have been using the Feather Artist club mainly because I've been feeling a bit off of the whole straight razor business. Stropping, rust prevention, honing...there were other things on my mind. The Feather's main advantage there is, it requires pretty much 0 care. Rinse it after use, change the blades when they start to pull, and you're golden.
But having used the razor for a few weeks, I recently felt impelled to dive back into my collection of straights and gave it another shot. Now, with the comparison fresh in my mind, I know what I want to say about the Feather.
The Feather has some real advantages. The aforementioned ease of care is one, of course. In addition, it has all the design bonuses of the Wakamisori: the long handle and the short blade lead to excellent control and maneuverability around the face. It's easy to get into tight places like under your nose and around your ears. Short blades in general are easier to use, in my opinion.
I would also put out there that the quality of this thing is undeniable. Feather makes good stuff, that is clear, and the engineering and manufacturing quality is impeccable. It's shaped just right for use, balanced well and the simple mechanism works just like it should.
The blades are as sharp as you would expect from Feather, and will leave your face clean of stubble for sure. The convenience of replaceable blades is seductive...it really is just a matter of a few seconds to go from a tuggy, dulling blade to a smooth new edge.
The biggest con of these razors is the price. For most outside Japan, an artist's club RG could run well over $100, and blades are $20 or more. In Japan, they are a bit cheaper (quite a bit, in fact) but the running costs are still significant.
Additionally, these razors lack the tradition and charm of the more traditional straight razors, which is one of the major draws for most of us, I think. That's not something to ignore lightly...
Then, there's the shave. This is where the real truth comes in. In my initial experimenting with the Feather razors, I was deeply dissatisfied. In fact, I was in pain. I gave up once, but this time I stuck with it. I worked with the razor, learning its ins and outs for nearly 50 shaves. I got past the initial agony...but I never got to a perfect shave. I am by no means a shaving expert, but I am stymied by this one. I have learned form the Feather how to use negative pressure, how to avoid pushing when I should be pulling, how to use all my tricks to avoid burn and nicks, yet I never achieved that perfect, smooth, comfortable shave that I could with straights or DE razors. Not once. I don't know why, but I just don't get it. What really drove this home, though, was the shave I got when I picked up a straight again.
As I mentioned, I have been using the Feather for pretty much two months. This week, for a couple of weird impulsive reasons, I picked up my Fuji Japanese wedge again. I tuned it up on a Japanese natural progression, and shaved--like heaven. It was perfect, smooth, and above all comfortable. Perfectly, bloodlessly, comfortable. All the little bumps that I always nicked with my Feather were totally fine after the Fuji. It was amazing...and I think I have the feather to thank for it.
Not only was a great shave even more recognizable after weeks of mediocre shaves, but the lessons I learned from the Feather--the negative pressure, the control--all served me to get even better shaves from the Fuji. The Feather is a harsh teacher, but an effective one. One thing I can say is that, for whatever reason, traditional straights honed well are more forgiving of mistakes, wrong moves or skin imperfections than the Feather. This is a good thing, because it makes shaving with them easier, but it's also a bad thing because it can lead to sloppy technique that sometimes comes back to bite us when we lose concentration.
So my final verdict is, the Feather is fine as a lazy replacement for a straight and is an excellent technique polisher, but it generally isn't as good a shaver as a well-honed straight razor.
Oh, and also, I freaking love this Fuji.