He’s the man behind our brand new open razors, the Claymore and the Broadsword, and with years of experience in creating the finest of shaving tools, he certainly knows his stuff. We sat down with master artisan Ralf Aust to find out exactly what it takes to craft that perfect blade – and how a family tradition led to a life-long passion for the trade.
1. What was the initial moment when the idea for your business come into being? (Is there a family tradition, an experience in childhood or something else that that inspired you to begin producing razors?)
“First and foremost, I am artisan, in body and soul! I started my training as a sander at the age of 15, and after my father decided that he was ready to retire, we realised that it would make sense for me to carry on this beautiful tradition.”
2. The manufacture of straight razors at your headquarters in Solingen is a long-held tradition. However, most manufacturers have switched to an almost total automation of production. What motivated you to set up a factory?
“I was bequeathed a very old grinder and all the other tools that I would need to get going. It was a challenge, as I had to quit my secure job at the age of 50, but I wanted to produce handmade razors according to the old tradition as I think that there is something truly special about them. I still do it all single-handedly, and I am proud of the praise I receive from my customers. I love my work.”
3. Are your razors designed with lovers of razors in mind, or are they aimed more at professionals?
“More than anything, they are designed for lovers of razors. My clients are a mix of both wet shaving beginners and professionals.”
4. What materials do you use for the razor and how do you source them?
“I use carbon steel and stainless steel. The blanks are from the drop forge company Herkenrath in Solingen, who forge them for me.”
5. Is there any material used by other manufacturers that you would never use?
“I use only quality products. It’s something that is very important to me, and that’s all I have to say on the matter.”
6. What are the advantages of shaving with your razors?
“With my razors, customers can expect quality products that will last them for a lifetime. I only allow each one to leave my workshop when I’m 100% sure that it is shave ready, and made to the very highest of standards.”
7. Is the choice of grip material for the customers just a matter of taste, or would you advise a particular material?
“I think it’s is a matter of taste. Everyone has a personal preference, and I try to fulfill every request. The feedback I get from my clients makes me very proud, and eager to continue doing the work that I love.”
8. Which razor do you use yourself?
“I use a 6/8 “with Spanish head.”
9. How many steps are usually required to make one of your razors, and how long does it take?
“For a good blade, you’re looking at 60-80 steps, and I can complete this process in around a week.”
10. Which steps are particularly difficult to complete?
“Grinding and shaping the hollow ground can only be achieved with good manual dexterity.”
A big thanks to Ralf for the interview – check out the Claymore and Broadsword for examples of some of his finest work!