The Probak brand was entirely alien to me until a recent trip to an antique store in Salem VA. It immediately caught my eye because of its excellent condition. After picking it up I noticed that it was a brand I had not come across before yet was none the less interesting.

I have a few open comb (OC) razors in my collection. I find that when used with a light touch and careful attention to angle they give great shaves that are close and comfortable. The Probak razors are no exception.

probak_side

In researching this razor I cam across an important bit of DE shaving history. The inventor of the Auto Strop razor and company also invented the Probak Razor company. Both companies relied on patented blade and razor designs. Near 1921 the first set of patents were expiring for Gillette razor blades.

This lead Henry J. Gaisman to design several different razor guard and caps (the two parts that make up the head of a DE razor). These designs allowed for the use of Gillette and other compatible blades while preventing the use of Probak blades in Gillette brand razors. There were a total of 8 different designs between 1928 and 1933.

cap_style

This all came to a head in 1930 when Gaisman was granted a patent on a "slot style" blade which Gillette was introducing a month later in a new design labeled "Patent Pending." Gaisman sued Gillette. Gillette reasoned it was easier to buy up the AutoStop company stock and merge the two companies. In November of 1930, the two companies became one.

It would take 3 more years for the modern DE blade design with its center slot, corner indents, and transverse slots to become standard. During that time few Probak razors were made compared to their Gillette counter parts however they did experiment a little with the blade design which is why it seems like the year my razor hails is 1932.

The Shave

The first thing I noticed when I was loading the razor was how tight the tolerances were. There was hardly any wiggle room for the blade and the top cap extends a tad past the edge of the blade. I love this and wish more modern razors did this. I hear the RazoRock Stealth Slant is designed this way. I don't like trying to tighten or take off the head of my razor only to have the sides dig into a few layers of skin.

probak_logos

The Probak has a decent curve to it cause the razor to not require too steep of an angle. Very similar to a Gillette Tech OC only a tad more forgiving on angle. I tried to use the razor once with a slightly heavier handle from a Durham Duplex DE. The handle made the razor a bit heavy and threw off the balance. Keeping the steeper angle required to get a close and comfortable shave took a tad more effort. Switching back to the original handle solved this issue.

Barrister and Mann soap is some of my favorite. Their tallow based soaps tend to be on the medium-strong side of scents. Not over powering, better when left to age a month or so. Roam kinda smells like incense, kinda smoky and musky. Not my favorite which is why I am glad

tgn_lather

I only have a sample size, however it does not bother me and the lather is rich and leaves my skin hydrated post shave.

I do have to be careful to add enough water when building my lather. Their soap is thirsty and can take quite a lot of water if added slowly. This does have the downside of taking a long time to build a good lather when you first start out. After you get used to it, building your lather goes a lot more quickly.

probak_teeth

Results

Spending a few mornings with the Probak 1923 OC was nice. The Probak is certainly not as aggressive as some OC razors such as some GEM and EverReady razors. It is a fairly light razor however the balance is on point. The top cap however does appear to be made of "pot metal" give the way the screw on the top cap is wearing.

Due to the wear on the screw, and a small crack in the brass handle, this razor won't see a lot of day to day use. I will however break out the razor if I have a few days growth and don't feel like dealing with clogs.

tgn_grade_a_fan

Also since this razor has a pretty forgiving range of angles that still cut whiskers and not skin, this razor only requires a little extra focus compared to a Gillette Tech.

In addition, knowing this razor helped shape the current design of all future DE blades has it's own historical cool factor.

Grade (out of 5)

  • Looks: 3.9
  • Weight: 2.8
  • Balance: 4.0
  • Aggressive: 3.8
  • Handling: 4.2

all_post