I am a huge fan of Disposable Blade Straight Razors (DBSRs). DBSRs fit into my life perfectly, they have the style and unique look of a traditional straight razor, but without the necessary extra work, cost, and maintenance that traditional straight razors require. A DBSR will give me an extremely close and effective shave without having to work too hard for it, and the razors look really cool doing it. The only problem that I have with DBSRs is that, because of their relatively small customer base, they tend to be lower quality razors with quality control issues. This trend is beginning to change as more and more folks discover a love for DBSRs, but it is still an issue. I was hooked on DBSRs from my first shave, I love these razors so much that they have largely replaced both safety razors and traditional straight razors as my preferred shaving tool. Once I became hooked I began my quest to find the perfect DBSR. While my use and evaluation of DBSRs is an ongoing adventure, I believe that I have come very close to finding my perfect razor.
During an internet search for DBSRs I stumbled upon an old forum thread discussing the Sanguine X-D20. Sanguine is a U.K. based manufacturer of barber scissors and razors and is well known for its range of inexpensive half blade DBSRs (DBSRs which use a snapped in half double edge blade). The X-D20 is unique among half blade DBSRs in that it has actually had some serious thought put into its design. The razor has an ergonomically shaped handle, a long tang, a set of jimps on the underside of its spine, and a heavier than usual blade arm. After looking at tons of pictures and reading several reviews of this razor I decided to jump on in and buy one. While Sanguine does have an online shop, they also run an eBay store, which I found to be the less expensive choice. After looking through various pictures and color schemes I settled on a yellow X-D20 (with a nifty leather pouch and 5 Wilkinson Sword DE blades), paid the $15 total price (which included shipping), and began waiting for my new razor.
I ordered the razor on a Thursday and was surprised when Sanguine had it posted promptly the next day. Ten days later, it was in my mailbox. I have found that, with basic shipping or small packets shipping, packages from the U.K. usually take about two weeks to arrive over here in Texas, so ten days is actually fairly quick. The package was a smallish padded envelope with the razor inside and no other fanfare to speak of, which is fine by me because I dislike opening a package to find brochures, extra papers, and large invoices.
When I opened the package the razor was securely enclosed in its leather pouch, which was its self enclosed in a plastic pouch, along with my package of Wilkinson Sword blades. The leather pouch turned out to be fairly well made and was, surprisingly, actual leather. After taking a quick sniff of the pouch I opened it up and pulled out my new yellow Sanguine X-D20. A few things struck me right off the bat. First was the fact that the scales were much more yellow than the web site picture made them seem (I had the same problem getting the yellow to stand out in my pictures), second was that the tang on this razor is quite a bit longer than it is on any of my other DBSRs or straight razors, and third was that the razor felt heavier than many of my traditional straight razors. My initial impressions of this razor were definitely favorable.
After having used the razor a few times I can say that I now have a pretty balanced idea as to its drawbacks and advantages. The Sanguine X-D20 is an excellent DBSR, but it is certainly not perfect, and sadly most of its issues seem to stem from poor quality control.
A brief physical examination of the X-D20 revealed a razor with a lot of potential, but not enough attention paid to build quality. The X-D20 fits well in the hand and feels nice and balanced with a good weight to it, which makes for easier control while shaving. My razor was loose in its scales upon arrival and felt as if that looseness might cause some problems while shaving. I attempted to solve this issue by peening the rivet down to tighten it up, but the rivet continued to loosen after each use. I will probably end up replacing the factory rivet with a brass or stainless steel pin. The scales themselves are plastic and are extremely light, but fairly well made with no rough spots or finish problems. The blade arm is made out of a nice heavy weight stainless steel with jimps on the underside of the spine for a better grip. The blade arm feathers to allow easy blade replacement in a similar fashion to the Parker SR razors, with the main difference being that the head of the X-D20 is longer and heavier than that of a Parker. The arm does not close as tightly as I normally like, which allows for the possibility of blade slippage before the lock secures it in place, I do not know if this is a QC issue or a design flaw. The brass pins which hold the blade in place are placed farther back than a Parker, which unfortunately reduces blade exposure, again I do not know if this is due to poor QC or is by design. The blade lock fits into place securely and easily, negating most of the issues caused by the less than spectacularly tight blade arms. The lock has a sort of diamond shape by its pivot pin as well as the Sanguine name written across it, which I feel gives it a little extra character. The blade arm locks securely into place inside of the scales when it is folded closed, I did not see any tab that worked to keep it snapped in place, so I assume this is simply a function of friction between the blade arm and the scales. The tang on the razor is quite a bit longer than any of my other DBSRs or straight razors and, from the right angle, makes the razor look like a duck…which is why I chose the yellow colored scales (classy, I know, but I thought it was funny). I doubt that the razor’s resemblance to a duck was on purpose, but I like the coincidence and have even started referring to this razor as the “mighty duck” .
Shaving with the Sanguine X-D20 is a bit different than other DBSRs. The longer tang, jimps, and heavier blade arm make controlling the razor easier, but the loose scales and decreased blade exposure do create problems. I found that the scales kept slipping while I shaved, especially when I held them straight and in line with the blade arm, as I usually do when shaving my neck. The decreased blade exposure, while not huge was enough to force me to use a slightly different angle than I normally would with a DBSR. The razor looks great and, once the scales are properly pinned, will likely handle extremely well, but there is not much that I can do about the lack of blade exposure. While I was perfectly able to get a very close shave using the X-D20, the lack of blade exposure did bother me. If the placement of the blade mounting pins is by design, so as to reduce the possibility of nicks and cuts, then I feel that it is a poor trade off and a flawed design choice. If, however, the placement is a flaw due to poor quality control, then this razor has the potential to be my absolute favorite razor, I will just need to find one with proper blade exposure.
At $15, including shipping, the Sanguine X-D20 is hard to beat, but with just a little more attention to detail and some better quality control Sanguine could easily take over the entire half blade DBSR market. Sanguine has excellent looking razors, interesting design choices, and an eye for comfort that other manufacturers simply do not posses; sadly, until more can be done to improve the build quality of these razors they will likely sit squarely in the cheap seats. If you’re looking for an aesthetically pleasing razor and are not afraid to face the possibility of a little extra work, then the Sanguine X-D20 is an excellent choice. In spite of its flaws I really like my mighty duck and will gladly do a little extra work to get it up to par.