Central Maine
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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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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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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[Image: 2BE_Jr_Cropped.jpg]

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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.

Bouki, andrewjs18, tdmsu and 3 others like this post
Brian. Lover of SE razors.

Atlanta, GA
Brain thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed review with photos. I have both a Damaskeene and a 1912 and agree the Damaskeene is a very efficient razor. I do find it to me smoother than the 1912.

wyze0ne likes this post

Posting Freak
Great review, Brian. Happy2
Love, Laughter & Shaving  Heart

Super Moderator
San Diego, Cal., USA
What an excellent analysis of the three razors, Brian. I have the Damaskeene and definitely agree with you about the quality of the shave it produces.

Philadelphia, PA
(This post was last modified: 05-02-2016, 12:35 AM by andrewjs18.)
I'm a little upset with myself that I never tried the damaskeene I had before selling it off. I'll be looking for another one here soon, for sure!

thanks for the great review, ShadowsDad.
Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito.

Thanks for another excellent review Brian. Looks like I have some more SE razors to try!
- Jeff

Central Maine
Yes, you should have IMO but they're plentiful and fairly inexpensive, or they were. It's a real looker, one of 2 of those for the 1912 family. I don't use mine much because it's just too mild for me. I might use it for aging a new blade, but I never remember that it's there. Instead I use the 1928 version of the 1912. It's the other of 2 best lookers in the family. Unless someone has but the handle on another head, the head looks something like a Dama', but the handle is fluted. The '28 is by far my favorite of the family. For me it's a Goldilocks razor; it's "just right". It has just the right level of aggression so that if pressed I could use it as an everyday shaver and have, but it's also mild enough to age a fresh blade.

It's not in the review because I discovered it too late. I wish I could remember how I discovered it. It was probably a "Oh, what the heck, pick it up." sort of buy on a b/s/t, but I simply don't remember.
Brian. Lover of SE razors.

Scentsless Shaver
Oakland, ME
Yes, I know this is an older post. But.........................

I am new to the vintage GEM razors. I just had a fantastic shave with what I thought was a 1912, but upon paying more attention, turned out to be stamped GEM Jr. Everything Brian mention above is true. The GEM Jr is one fine instrument. And ShadowsDad, thanks for such a remarkable review! I will be looking for a Damaskeene later this morning!

For the curious, how did I miss the stamped "GEM Jr" on the back, you ask? Well, funny story. I bought a 1912 off of eBay, got it ready to shave, and realized one of the blade stops was missing. If it was in the listing photo, I missed it, as I was focusing on finding a 1912 with the "ornated" or chain-link handle. Once I saw the problem, I went back to eBay and looked again, searching for "GEM 1912 razor" and looking closely at the stops and handle only.

I am so happy that this is the razor I ended up with, as its maiden voyage this morning was outstanding! Again, many thanks to Brian for his review.

And, not that he needs the validation but others might find it of interest, Brian's comments regarding noobs and the Featherweight are spot on. I ran out and got one when a guy I was exchanging messages with told me that it has the best face feel. Wrong. The Jr wins that award. And to my face, the Contour is next. The Featherweight made my face irritable, and I actually finished up with a Schick Hydro-magic! The gent I was communicating with suggested that the blade can sometimes shift, and I should check that. I didn't, as I had already moved the blade to the Jr. in anticipation of this morning's shave.

Ah, this is getting too long and involved, I'll move some of it to my Journal!

The main point is this: Thank You, Brian! Well written and explained. I think I owe you a cup of coffee for all the help your posts have given me!

mrdoug likes this post
- Eric 
Put your message in a modem, 
And throw it in the Cyber Sea
--Rush, "Virtuality"

Overloader of brushes, Overlander fanboy, Schickhead, and a GEM in the rough!

Des Moines, IA
Nice to see an older post brought forward.

I have an Open Comb Damaskene stashed in my archive.  This thread prompts me to go get it and use it.  Its been years since I last used it.

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MaineYooper likes this post

Scentsless Shaver
Oakland, ME
I just had a superb shave with a GEM Damaskeene, which I knew I would get but was still stunned!
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MaxP: WOW! what a beautiful razor kit! The teeth in the comb are curled nicely, and I imagine it gives a wonderfully smooth shave.

Entasis likes this post
- Eric 
Put your message in a modem, 
And throw it in the Cyber Sea
--Rush, "Virtuality"

Overloader of brushes, Overlander fanboy, Schickhead, and a GEM in the rough!

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