Review: Portland Razor Co.’s Honing Service ($20)
(2018) I have worked at several bike shops and a similar scenario unfolds regularly. A rider from a previous era brings his/ her bike in for service. The intention is to make the bike rideable again, but first it ‘needs a little love.’ On first glance it is tempting to label the bike a goner but after a couple of days the mechanics make it sparkle. Sometimes all the bike really needed was a new set of tires and a wash.
I have witnessed bikes roll out the door ready for another season after mechanics take hold of it, spend an afternoon with it, order a couple of parts for it, and alert its owner of the update. I am sure the owner has heard the decree that it would be equal pricing to invest in a new rig but often riders are connected to their machines. Why not spend the same amount of money to continue the travels with a bike that has so much history?
Given the regularity of this circumstance I took part in a similar sort of prolonging history. I had an old Frederick Reynolds near wedge razor that needed updating. I had been enjoying the custom straight razor created by Portland Razor Company for a couple of months before I decided to send them my dull and spotted razor. There was one special request: to remove the scales and replace it with their desert ironwood. I wanted a natural look that mimicked the custom razor it would be joining.
Late last year I purchased finishing stones to continue the maintenance on my straight razors. I tried but never succeeded in pulling off the perfect hone. No bother; I only attempted a handful of times. Perhaps I could learn a lot more from a Portland Razor Company honing class. Until this point I swallowed my pride and pushed my vintage straight razors to the back shelf and reluctantly shaved with either a double-edged razor or a shavette. It was then that I discovered the Portland Razor Company’s honing service and thought how nice it would be to update one of the razors with new scales. Twenty dollars is a small price to pay for a professional honing. Sixty dollars is just as small a price to pay for new scales.
Like turning over the favorite bike, posting a vintage razor comes with reluctance. It could get lost in the mail, dropped along the way, or found to be splintered and unable to be repaired. Handing over a vintage razor to professionals runs the risk of the dreaded, ‘It’s not worth fixing’ diagnosis. Those allegiant to their ways are left with hunting for someone to tell them what they want to hear or writing off the razor. The Frederick Reynolds straight razor in the creakybottombracket.com office is dated to before 1890. Losing the blade is losing more than 120 years of history. No matter, the shaving piece was placed in the mail and sent to the Pacific time zone.
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What was returned yesterday was much like an old bike needing new tires. The razor itself was a gift from the Missus a long time ago. The Missus had completed one of those weird events where cyclists don’t ride hard enough to be satisfied with their outing so they swim beforehand and run afterwards. Iron is strong, therefore Arizona desert ironwood scales was selected, especially since the Portland Razor Company gift card was from her. It’s gold radiance and deep color tells a story as complex as a relationship. Portland Razor Company charged a modest $60 for the Arizona desert ironwood scales on top of the honing process.
Speaking of the honing process, the blade came back to life tonight. Shaving with it was a reunification like cyclist and bike. A few odd sheepish maneuvers morphed into familiar controls. Be advised: The razor is back to its sharp ways, very sharp ways.The Frederick Reynolds near wedge straight razor with barber’s notch resumed its place in history as functional art. It would not sit on a shelf and act as a conversation piece; the blade was razing stubble in the time-honored tradition of brush and blade. I enjoyed having the old friend back. At twenty dollars the professional honing service is a steal, especially considering Portland Razor Company donates half of the proceeds to a rotating list of charities.
This is why I turn over cherished items to professionals with alacrity. I do not know everything, and admitting this fact makes it quicker and easier to identify when I am out of my realm of knowledge. Hunter Lea and the bladesmiths at Portland Razor Company certainly put out great products, be it custom or service items. It is worth parting ways with a beloved razor for a short length of time to polish a cherished item, sometimes centuries old. This is something that completes the shave of the day on Sundays after the long weekend ride has finished. Preparation for the workweek is best started with a hot lathered wet shave. Because of Portland Razor Co., that shave is only twenty dollars away.