With world-class craftsmanship and a good-for-the-earth ethos, a Sandpoint, Idaho, company is grooming for success with straight razors. Carrie Scozzaro reports.
Male grooming is very much a thing and current trends have revitalized an interest in the manly accouterments of yesteryear. Various brands of beard oils and soap brushes have found their way into common retail locations, but shelves are still dominated by plastic handles and non-renewable cartridges. In fact, one Environmental Protection Agency report states over 2 billion disposable razors are added to United States’ landfills ever year. Luke Webster, of Sandpoint, Idaho, would like to change that.
Webster is the owner of The Blades Grim, a manufacturer of straight razors that he says will, “change the way the world shaves.” Straight razors were the de facto shaving tool before safety razors were invented in 1880, and Webster has set about to recapture that old-world style by using new-world technology. Austrian steel is cut using Computer Numerical Control, the blade is tempered to harden it, and then a wet-grind process removes additional material. After etching the company logo onto the metal, the blade is encased into a “scale” or housing made of wood or a composite. It’s then buffed and polished, hand-honed, and put through quality assurance, before being packaged and shipped to such countries as Canada, Australia, and England.
Interestingly, Webster (who originally hails from Alaska) does not have a manufacturing background. He fell into the industry quite by accident. “I just always was wheeling and dealing,” he says about his former ventures that included trading bicycles, motorcycles and cars, then real estate, and eventually e-commerce. After tracking sites like VintageStraightRazors.com, which he purchased, Webster became intrigued with the tradition of blade-making, which dates back to Ancient Egypt, and he saw potential. (Worldwide razor sales, including safety razors, is a $15 billion market.) He started The Grooming Network (which includes Blades Grim as well as soaps, oils and conditioners), hired artisans and set out to create an all-American-made straight razor. Soon the company had to expand into a larger space and it now offers six styles of straight razor that cost between US$150-$550.
As for the longevity of their products, Webster says, “This blade will outlast you.”