#1

Posting Freak
Peachtree City, GA
This is my third exposure to razor offerings from Tatara; a niche artisan manufacturer of razors located in Portugal, founded by three friends with mechanical engineering education and an appreciation for Japanese swordsmithing.  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 minimalist aesthetique in keeping with traditional Japanese design and truly unique razors.  Hitherto they have produced two razors of similar design ethos, the Masamune and Masamune Nodachi, that while traditional 3 piece razors, exhibit a number of design elements based on sound engineering principles that are unique to the razor market whilst staying true to their traditional Japanese design paradigm.  Tatara has since released an adjustable razor, a genre experiencing a renaissance, and applied their substantial engineering skills to addressing design weaknesses whilst delivering upon their flair for design.  Let’s revisit a little Japanese history and legend employed in their previous releases and how they have captured culture whilst delivering innovation in this latest initiative.

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.  He was renowned for his forebearance and grace under stress having no reputation for wielding weapons other than for sale.  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 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 (錵) finish, arising from martensitic crystals embedded in a pearlite matrix resulting from the tempering process and said to resemble stars in a night sky.  One could regard the Masamune line as the yang in the battle of good vs evil.

The Muramasa (村正) line is named after another great swordsmith of ancient Japan’s Muromachi period based in Kuwana, Ise.  Senge Muramasa differed dramatically from Masamune: he was considered a brilliant purveyor and wielder of swords with a violent and unpredictable temper.  Japanese legend posits that his soul was so dark, that its evil was imparted upon the swords he produced: it is stated that once drawn, a Muramasa demands blood be drawn before it can be sheaved.  One can argue that a weapon should never be drawn without intention to kill which was central to the samurai code of Bushido (武士道) but it can become problematic when the Shogunate founder’s family repeatedly falls victim to the swords of a particular smith.  Paradoxically, the very qualities making the swords so popular amongst the samurai resulted in Muramasa swords going from favour with the leadership to being dubbed (妖刀), "wicked katana": ultimately, the evil reputation grew so in local lore that they were completely outlawed, leading to the forced suicide of the Nagasake Magistrate Takanak Ume simply for owning a Muramasa collection.  Muramasa swords are known for their wavelike hamon (村正刃) and fish belly tang (村正中心) while unable to correlate the hamon wave pattern to a design element of the razor, can clearly see the tang design element in the sides of the razor head where one grasps while adjusting.  Thus, one could argue the Muramasa line as the yin in the Manichaean battle characterizing humanity generally but especially feudal Japan.  So, has Tatara created the world’s most sanguinarian razor? 


You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain
Miyamoto Musashi - Book of Five Rings


Having long been a fan of Tatara packaging: simply boxed in high-grade paperboard and - as homage to Portuguese heritage - beautiful cork insert, was surprised to find the new boxing much more elegantly upscale: hard paperboard cased with internal magnetic closure retaining the impression of low volume handmade craftsmanship with a nice touch of luxury marketing sizzle.  However, upon reflection, one should expect that a razor infinitely more complex in design and expensive to produce would necessitate packaging similarly reflecting its sophistication and consequent increased price.  Inside resides the most uniquely finished steel razor I have encountered in the market, with 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 the surface finish, 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.  The razor exudes a quintessentially traditional Japanese aura in the sense of the simplistic fragility and elegance reminiscent of the feudal samurai weaponry that belies its inherent strength and capability.  If the soul of the samurai is the blade, then the soul of Tatara is the blade holder. 

Tatara is the most innovative of the artisans encountered in my decades long shaving journey; while a few of the best producers match their craftsmanship and manufacturing execution, none more distinctly brand nor apply engineering principles.  For example, all have at least read tales of 3 piece razors snapping off the tang stud of the cap upon being dropped, this eventuality is virtually impossible due to Tatara integrating the handle through the baseplate and eliminating stress rising threads well into the handle.  There are numerous such seemingly minor details throughout the Tatara line but minor details that are indicative of sound engineering excellence in practice.  In the case of the Muramasa, Tatara studied the adjustable DE razor universe to design a unique baseplate facilitating not only gap adjustability but also razor exposure whilst adding very little stack height over their very svelte Masamune line.  Instead of pursuing the obvious vertical path to adjustability, Tatara understood the possibility of accomplishing both gap and exposure variability by maintaining a flat plane baseplate and employing an eccentric cam to force 2 halves of baseplate inserts to extend and retract.  Moreover, even if there were no adjustment indicator, simply casually observing the safety bar’s position would be more than sufficient to set the desired efficiency.  This is Colin Chapman of Lotus automotive fame engineering genius: Simple to manufacture, few moving parts to fail with the moving parts sufficiently substantial to be virtually unbreakable and maintenance free.  It really is a marvel for those having background in ergonomics and industrial design.


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Blades are highly subjective and razor dependent in my experience; as such experimented with various blades, finally settling on corked and hand stropped Astra SP and Personna Israeli Red blades that complimented the razor quite well.  Unlike any Tatara razor tried to date, the Muramasa imparts a sense of heft even with a short and proprietary handle, with a decidedly head heavy bias.  While the heft and balance should not be surprising logically, it is after all a 316 stainless adjustable razor, nonetheless it initially shocking to those familiar with the imponderous Masamune series – gone is the impression of almost titanium lightness.  Despite referencing it upon every review, 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 the Barrister & Mann included in the passaround 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.  Adjustability is the raison d’etre for this razor and took advantage of the full range available with abandon, initially for experimentation but later as it suited my needs almost perfectly.  Best results came from executing first passes using the most aggressive setting possible, followed by second passes on the middle setting and the final pass against the grain using the second least aggressive setting.  For those seeking a single razor offering a range of mild to mid aggression, as is my preference, this is an absolutely outstanding option.  It is the best adjustable ever encountered due to its unique adjustment mechanism facilitating a low stack height.  One cannot overemphasize just how slim the stack height of the Muramasa presents; even with a very angular and disfigured face, not once was it necessary to use another razor nor tweezers to remove hairs inaccessible to the razor.  Hitherto, have had great issue with adjustable DEs as the industry standard mechanism inherently results in very high stack height, clumsy heads that are impossible to shave numerous intricacies such as the nostrils, ears, chin&c.  As with all Tataras, this is a truly unique razor designed by engineers addressing ergonomics and existing product weaknesses prior to production! 

Irrespective of just how brilliant is the adjustment mechanism, there is room for improvement despite how much I favour this razor.  If characterizing the efficiency to well-known razors, would proclaim it encompassing a range of Wolfman WR1 from 0,48 – 0,67, Charcoal Goods Level 1 – 2 and Haircut&Shave N075 – P076 – ALL perfectly suited for ME.  Therein lies the opportunity; stated flatly, there is no scenario imaginable where a less efficient setting than the mildest would ever be desired, even for women or adolescents new to DE shaving.  However, my intuition is that Tatara could offer a more aggressive optional alternative be it through a different base plate assembly or (perhaps) cap pairing to expand the efficiency to the more aggressive end of the spectrum for those users so inclined, and there are many so inclined.  Those preferring aggressive razors, over-represented as the most active online shavers, have posted reviews in the various fora calling for a more aggressive range of adjustment.  Further, and possessing admittedly less than ideal visual acuity, the tiny window reflecting the adjustment setting is unreadable, even wearing reading glasses.  Acknowledging the Tatara teams considerable engineering skills, surely the adjustment dial window is appropriately sized from a structural perspective so will strongly suggest they do away with the impossibly too small to read numbers and instead employ a range of colouration continuously ranging from white at the mildest setting to deep red at the most aggressive.  While aware the adjustment indicator moves across the handle from left to right as the setting is increased, changing the indicator to colour gradation from numbers would allow the user to simply glance at the handle to know exactly where they have set the adjustment.  Simple is better: no machining design change necessary, simply employ a different paint scheme on the adjustment wheel. 

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Our razor passarounds have been blessed to have the leading artisan soapmakers provide soaps, splashes and balms.  This round, Will of Barrister & Mann has provided sets of Bay Rum, Seville and Terror for our appraisal.  Will is another of those rare artisans not only producing top quality products but also a level of professionalism in seamless transactions and fulfillment sans drama.

Truth of the matter, Terror terrorizes me, being blessed with badly damaged and sensitive skin, so shall opt out of commenting on it having foregone the opportunity.  However, both Bay Rum and Seville have been stalwarts in my rotation for some time, being particularly fond of Seville’s unique take on the barbershop vibe.  The soaps are consistent, wonderful performers with easy lathering, good cushion and wonderful postshave. 

As truly outstanding as the soaps perform, most notable are Will’s splashes, which are used at least weekly.  The splashes are tastefully distinct and ideal for restoring the skin, amongst my very favourites and in a variety of scents not widely available elsewhere.  It is refreshing when artisans intentionally tweak traditional scents and do so tastefully.  Credit to Will for his willingness to repeatedly go out on limbs and admiration for his ability to keep from plunging to the jagged rocks below.  In keeping with the theme of plunging to the sharp rocks below, managed to drop and break the Seville AS – apologies to Will and the passaround participants for its absence although my kitchen shall forever remain free of lingering cooking odours.

In summary, Tatara has cemented their reputation for producing beautiful razors, engineered to the highest standards and branded with a unique aesthetique.  The Muramasa is a breakthrough design fulfilling the promise of an adjustable razor while retaining the maneuverability of the nimblest 3 piece nonadjustable – something critical to those with narrow angular faces.  I loved this this razor and would suggest 2 updates requiring minimal capital investment be incorporated as soon as possible:

1, Instead of the tiny numerals on the adjustment ring, paint a continuous spectrum of white to red that can easily be discerned by the user simply glancing – DO THIS YESTERDAY PLEASE

2,  Offer an optional baseplate assembly that would range from setting 4 of the standard Muramasa razor to significantly more aggressive gap with conservatively and  progressively increased blade exposure.  Make the optional baseplate assembly available as an included set along with the original to comprise a Muramasa Master version or offer the more aggressive baseplate assembly as a complete shoulder Muramasa Wicked Blade version.  Perhaps the increase in aggression can be accomplished through an optional cap although blade exposure may present a smoothness issue. 

Thanks to Tatara and Barrister & Mann for their products in this passaround.  The razor is off to other passaround participants that will join this thread and opine.  Any interested in joining, please PM me directly.


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AQU, ALI, Calm_Shaver and 16 others like this post
#2
Excellent write up Dan, I own the Muramasa and completely agree with your assessment

DanLaw, Dragon, Scaramouche and 3 others like this post
#3
Thank you for your effort in organizing these. It is a huge part of the positive experience here. Your time and effort is greatly appreciated! Sent you a pm. Can’t wait to try this one out

AQU, Scaramouche, ExtraProtein and 2 others like this post
#4

Member
Midwest
(10-13-2021, 12:45 AM)Shavemd Wrote: Excellent write up Dan, I own the Muramasa and completely agree with your assessment

And ditto! I prefer a mild razor, so the range fits me completely, but I can see where it would be less than perfect for someone who likes even a moderately aggressive shave. I did hear a rumor that Joao was contemplating a "Mark II" with more range, but can't recall where. Of interest, and not a criticism but an observation, although the razor appears to be made completely of stainless steel (and no springs!), there is a tiny rubber "O" ring around the internal adjustment column that keeps it centered (and attached to the outer adjustment column without the handle in place). I would suspect that this is a part that will need replacement, maybe more than once, in the lifetime of the razor due to wear and dimensional change (it's rubber after all). But the good news - it's a common metric size (9x7x1), and you can get a lifetime supply on Amazon (50) for about $5.

cornbread, Shavemd, Mpescado and 3 others like this post
Something wild is loose
#5
In. Sending you a PM. Thanks!!

Calm_Shaver, cornbread, ExtraProtein and 1 others like this post
#6

Posting Freak
Peachtree City, GA
(This post was last modified: 10-13-2021, 02:22 AM by DanLaw.)
(10-13-2021, 01:30 AM)Scaramouche Wrote:
(10-13-2021, 12:45 AM)Shavemd Wrote: Excellent write up Dan, I own the Muramasa and completely agree with your assessment

And ditto! I prefer a mild razor, so the range fits me completely, but I can see where it would be less than perfect for someone who likes even a moderately aggressive shave. I did hear a rumor that Joao was contemplating a "Mark II" with more range, but can't recall where. Of interest, and not a criticism but an observation, although the razor appears to be made completely of stainless steel (and no springs!), there is a tiny rubber "O" ring around the internal adjustment column that keeps it centered (and attached to the outer adjustment column without the handle in place). I would suspect that this is a part that will need replacement, maybe more than once, in the lifetime of the razor due to wear and dimensional change (it's rubber after all). But the good news - it's a common metric size (9x7x1), and you can get a lifetime supply on Amazon (50) for about $5.

They are also shipping a redesigned o ring that reduces the force required to change settings. Reach out if needed

Gopneg, Scaramouche, AQU and 3 others like this post
#7
Sending you a Pm.  Thanks for setting this up DanLaw

DanLaw and ExtraProtein like this post
#8
I have just finished my turn using the new Tatara Muramasa razor and Barrister & Mann soaps and splash. Let me start by thanking Tatara and B&M for allowing us to test these products because it really helps us decide if it works for our facial hair and preferences. I am Italian so design is an important element of all things; we view it as an integral part of our visual and tactile life experience – it is our culture. Tatara’s commitment to unique, elegant and simplistic design really stands out and this razor is no different. Their unique treatment of the design elements of the handle texturing and blast finish are nicely done as a signature design and the adjustment mechanism is an engineering marvel unmatched in any other razor I have tried. The adjuster is pure mechanical art. Not only is this a great advancement in safety razor design, but a bar-raising innovation that redefines the possibilities for all other adjustable head razors. I have come to expect a higher level of sophisticated, integrated design from Tatara and even then was stunned by how well they designed the stand, it was almost as beautiful as an Italian lamp. 

Dan had warned me that the razor would feel strangely heavy compared to the other Tatara razors and he was right. The razor felt very heavy to me and the handle was much shorter than I prefer but it still fit my hand comfortably. My favorite characteristic of shaving with previous Tatara razors was the auditory feedback; I like to hear the blade working even if some attribute this to blade vibration as it really helps me get a better shave but this razor was surprisingly quiet. An element that I did find amazing was the razor's low head stack height. My current everyday razor is a custom Wolfman 0.61DC with long WRH2 handle that is the best shaver I have ever used when paired with a Timor blade; I find it shaves marvelously and is easily maneuvered around tight areas such as the nostrils and a goatee. The Muramasa was almost as agile and able to quickly and effortlessly get in places that are nearly impossible to access with other adjustable safety razors. I can’t overemphasize how pleasantly surprised I am at Tatara’s design breakthrough.

I tried Timor and Astra blades with the razor, finally settling on Astras. After experimenting with all the settings, I found that the middle setting gave the best results. I say the middle setting because the numbers are barely visible and truly hard to see clearly. One of my few criticisms is that there needs to be a larger window and numbers or some other way to indicate where the razor is set. I have read that some people think the razor is too mild even on its highest setting but for my normal type beard growth this razor would work well whether shaving every day or once a week.

Barrister & Mann also provided some soaps and splashes; I tried the Bay Rum and Seville.  Both soaps lathered extremely easily in my hard as rock water.  They were both outstanding in glide but lacked the postshave I have come to enjoy from Grooming Dept Mallards; so even though they are both good soaps at a good price point, it is unlikely I will switch.  Between the 2 scents, Bay Rum was easily my favorite.  The aromatic qualities are consistent with my preference of striking a nice balance without being overwhelming.  My current bay rum aftershave is Derby Chop Shop but this was good enough that I may buy a bottle 

The Tatara Muramasa is ideal for somebody with the desire to keep one razor to shave any type of beard growth; it is able to cover a wide range of shaving for the majority of people. Like all the Tatara razors I have tried the design standard is superior, the production quality is outstanding if not quite on a level with Wolfman, the handling is a tactile treat and the mechanical innovation is the best there is in safety razors – these are huge complements for a European designed and manufactured razor of its price that is readily available.  Again, thank you for the chance to try this razor and I would be interested in following up with future offerings from Tatara.  Thank you Tatara and Barrister & Mann for making the products available. 


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Dragon, Calm_Shaver, ExtraProtein and 9 others like this post
#9
(10-18-2021, 10:15 PM)Ok Maditalian Wrote: it was almost as beautiful as an Italian lamp.  
And here I was thinking your review was so complementary that it was sounded like you were about to say the Portuguese design was nicer than Italian  Tongue

DanLaw and ExtraProtein like this post
#10

Posting Freak
Peachtree City, GA
Enzo is Roman, do you really think he would concede any designs are more beautiful than those Italian? Haha. But in all seriousness, you should see his house or how he dresses, even to bum about. In Italy, even the homeless look like models.

AlanH81, HighSpeed, ExtraProtein and 1 others like this post


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