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#1

Member
Peachtree City, GA
(This post was last modified: 10-11-2019, 01:38 AM by DanLaw.)
This is my second exposure to offerings from Tatara; the appropriately named Masamune Nodachi DE razor with the Nodachi SB and original Masamune OC baseplate to serve as basis for comparison.  Relatively unknown in the US, Tatara is a small Portuguese based company founded by 3 friends with mechanical engineering education and an appreciation for Japanese swordsmith craftsmanship.  The goal was to apply their engineering acumen and love of all things samurai to improve double edge razors in craftsmanship, design, ergonomics and technology.  Focusing on minimizing blade vibration through a unique fastening system, perpendicularity of the head to handle and tight tolerances they have achieved a classic, dare I state minimalist aesthetique in keeping with traditional Japanese design and a truly unique razor.  
 
The Masamune (正宗) line is named after the greatest swordsmith in Ancient Japanese history from Sagami Province producing blades in the latter Kamakura period.  Of such renown were his swords that the most prestigious award for swordmaking, the Masamune Prize, is awarded at the Japanese Sword Making Competition to this very day (but only to a worthy candidate so not annually).  Masamunesan's swords have a reputation for superior beauty and quality, which was no small feat in that steels were far from pure during his reign.  A hallmark of his swords is the nie () finish, arising from martensitic crystals embedded in a pearlite matrix resulting from the tempering process and said to resemble stars in a night sky.  Nodachi (野太刀) refers to a long sword approximately 0,9m used by unmounted samurai in open field battles (particularly against cavalry).  The sheaved swords are often depicted as being slung across the back, as they were too long to be worn on the waist and the technique primarily employed was downward slashes - think Kendo.  These swords were exceedingly difficult to create due to the length requiring special tooling and advanced expert technique to heat and cool to the consistency required; even honing was accomplished uniquely by hanging the sword versus drawing across stones - one had to be quite accomplished and wealthy to afford such a weapon.  The reason for this brief history lesson will become apparent in the review that follows. 
 
 
Purity is something that cannot be attained except by piling effort upon effort 
 
 
The first thing one notices is that the packaging screams low volume craftsmanship.  While simply boxed in high-grade paperboard and - in an homage to Portuguese heritage - beautiful cork insert, the impression is one of low volume handmade craftsmanship with a nice touch of marketing sizzle.  Inside rests the most uniquely finished steel razor I have encountered; the finish has a texture and appearance imparted from the sandblasting that is so strikingly different that many of the design features are easily overlooked.  Were one to describe it, the best I can offer is it is derivative of the colour and texture of the frame/casing finish of Ducati Reparto Corse superbikes of the 90s and early 2000s.  This is the nie finish effect alluded to above and almost worth the price of admission alone.  As one stares transfixed by the finish and almost afraid to touch the razor for fear of disturbing such a unique piece of kit, other obvious design details begin to make an impression: that of being quintessentially traditionally Japanese in the sense of the simplistic elegance reminiscent of the feudal samurai weaponry that presents an aura of fragility belying its inherent strength and capability.  If the soul of the samurai is the blade, then the soul of Tatara is the blade holder.  

Once beyond the initial visual impression, differences from the original Masamune become apparent: for one, the handle is half-dimpled, half-smooth AND NOTICIBLY LONGER at 105mm.  Handling the razor brings a sense of wielding the longer nodachi versus a katana and to my hands is an improvement: irrespective, the lightness and tactile sensations are almost overwhelming being markedly different from anything else used to date whether the unique handle designs of traditional SE and DE razors, the OneBlade or even the original Masamune.  Nothing approaches how the finish, slim handle, dimpling and weight distribution of Tatara's designs synergistically interact in a positive manner to remind the user that their razors are something unique.  Having acclimated to the look and feel of the razor in hand, the next obvious design element is the retention of a flat stack height of the baseplate cap assembly which promises maneuverability and is a welcome change from the bulbous nature of recent design trends that result in making tight areas, such as around the nostrils, difficult to access.  Gone is the low stress riser/shouldered fastener cap but the Nodachi retains the recessed handle protruding through the baseplate obviously apparent as one tightens the head assembly and thankfully providing one of the most vibration free blade feels on the market.  The shouldered top cap thread was dropped to permit users opting for different handles from other manufacturers, which to my mind would be a mistake - this is a concept razor based on principles of traditional Japanese craftsmanship and design that may have quirks but loses much in translation if not experienced as a unique whole.  One element missing that should be addressed by Tatara would be to offer a nylon spacer to fill the gap between the top cap thread and baseplate eliminating lateral misalignment and movement when employing an aftermarket handle.  All 3 baseplates offered by Tatara seamlessly work the Nodachi handle and cap with the standard Nodachi SB being significantly more efficient yet skin friendly regarding the bar design than either the original Masamune OC and very much more efficient than the original Masamune SB.  The original stand design, a simple semi hemispherical beauty complementing the execution of the handle, integrates and completes the full kit should one desire to be immersed in the entirety of the design theme which, as alluded, is a signature element.  Assembled and presented, the Tatara Masamune Nodachi is even more elegant and tastefully presented than the original Masamune.  While this may be a matter of small importance, in keeping with the samurai ethos, matters of small concern should be treated seriously per Yamamoto Tsunetomo in
Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.
 
Having experimented with various blades in quick succession, I settled on Astra SP blades which complimented the razor quite well.  As with the original Masamune, there is an overall impression of almost titanium lightness despite being constructed of 303 steel but thanks to the longer handle, the head bias that was present with the original Masamune is completely absent yet the thin almost medical instrument feel of the handle is retained.  Despite experience to the contrary, there were qualms that the slim handle and dimpled design would be quite slippy when combined with slick modern soaps such as Grooming Dept and Wholly Kaw but between the sandblasting and dimples, there was never a moment of jeopardy over the course of a couple weeks' shaves.  The finish feels unique on the face and instead of being an impediment to smooth gliding as feared, actually seems to facilitate both short and long strokes.  Indeed this is a rather unique razor!  Starting with a weeklong beard growth, the OC was used for the first pass of the first shave resulting in adequate beard reduction thanks to the unique feel afforded by the sandblasting and very defined teeth.  The second pass and every subsequent shave was undertaken using the new Nodachi baseplate solely, which was pure magic.  The combination of new smoother straight bar and more aggressive blade gap resulted in a shave similar to the interpolation of a 0,61 and 0,67 WR1 SB Wolfman - the razors used exclusively in my daily rotation along with a BBS-1 (for special occasions).  THOSE CRITICAL OF THE ORIGINAL Tatara Masamune REALLY NEED REVISIT THIS NEW MODEL.  Unlike the original Masamune, the Nodachi requires no particular technique to deliver brainless, irritation free and bbs shaves on a daily basis or even with moderate beard growth to cut through.  The wider gap also makes the razor tolerant of thicker soaps and heavy whiskers simply requiring a momentary flush under mildly running cold or warm water to clean the blade.
 
My conclusion is that this continues the beautiful and unique aesthetique Tatara has established but now combines it with one of the best shaving razors available in terms of skin friendliness, beard cutting efficiency and maneuverability.  It is limited in availability, beautifully designed, well executed and yet quite affordable.  Frankly, am adding a Nodachi to my rotation - that is the impression made by this latest offering.  I loved this this razor and would suggest 3 additional options be made available to this particular model requiring minimal additional capital:
 
1, Include a standard nylon ring filling the circumferential gap between the cap thread and baseplate for those using an aftermarket handle
The design would be all Delrin: cylandre 6,6mm OD/5mm ID extending 2,5mm height with a washer 10mm OD/5mm ID 1,0mm height

2, Offer an Open Comb and Dual Comb version of the Nodachi baseplate available using the newly designed smooth to the face blade guard

 
So now the razor is off to other passaround testers that will join this thread and opine; some are industry people and others highly experienced with DE razors well known/regarded on the forums.  It will be interesting to read their impressions and looking forward to the feedback which will be shared with Tatara.  There are extremely limited slots available, if you would like to be included in the passaround, PM directly.  Thank you for your time and best to all forum members.
 

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Shavemd, mr. smith, Burtonburger and 2 others like this post
Just an old slow fat man
#2
Agree on most counts. But as much as I appreciate the effort on the handle it's simply too long for me to enjoy shaving with, especially on my head where I prefer a 3 inch handle. Tibam titanium handle works better for me (with nylon washer).[Image: 054fd652c19c68d78895c49eb1c4788f.jpg]

Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk

DanLaw likes this post
#3

Member
Peachtree City, GA
Fair enough.  Have turned over a design layout for the Delrin Insert to Tatara guys.  Really feel they need include it as there is yet that circumferential gap even with a nylon washer.  Blade rigidity is critical for me using this razor.  But found the Nodachi to be an incredible improvement, no?

jmudrick likes this post
Just an old slow fat man
#4
What an excellent and thorough review of the Tatara line. I really enjoy my Nadochi although I ordered mine with the original Masamune handle. It is an extremely smooth yet very efficient razor that still allows some blade feel. It is a mainstay in my collection

DanLaw likes this post
#5
(10-10-2019, 10:57 PM)DanLaw Wrote: Fair enough.  Have turned over a design layout for the Delrin Insert to Tatara guys.  Really feel they need include it as there is yet that circumferential gap even with a nylon washer.  Blade rigidity is critical for me using this razor.  But found the Nodachi to be an incredible improvement, no?
Yes it is.

Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk

DanLaw likes this post
#6

Member
Northern NJ
Another impeccable review Dan. Thanks for the effort put into that.


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