DOVO Bismarck 6/8″ Straight Razor Review
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Today’s article is a DOVO Bismarck review.
In this day and age, gentlemen should not skimp on grooming. Good grooming, especially a shave elevates how you look and feel and boosts confidence in yourself, impacting your personality. And what better way to do it than with a classic straight razor such as the DOVO Bismarck?
Many brands providing wet shaving tools claim their tools are the best – but this much is expected. Considering expert and customer reviews of different products from different brands, one thing is true, DOVO offers unmatched quality, not only with their straight razors but also with safety razors (under the brand name Merkur), and other wet shaving accessories such as shave soaps, strops, shavette razor etc.
The DOVO Inox and Bismarck as well as their replaceable straight razor – the DOVO Shavette products – are particularly legendary. While they might cost more than mass-produced straight razors, their value is more than we can argue with. Before you think it’s all hype, here’s a deep dive and review into what the DOVO Bismarck offers.
If you choose ‘close shave’, learn wet shaving. Sure, it takes time to master the technique and do it without nicking or cutting your skin, but you are a step closer to a mind-blowing experience with the right shaving tool.
The ‘Bismarck’ Name History
How did the Bismarck name come to be? The history of the Bismarck brand is quite interesting and can be traced back to Otto von Bismarck, popular as ‘The Iron Chancellor.’ He is one of the most notable figures in German history for gathering and merging tiny German states into a nation to found modern Germany.
Contrary to popular belief, DOVO didn’t name this traditional straight razor. All the credit goes to Arthur Müller who named his brand after Otto von Bismarck. The making of this brand was well-timed since it came after many of the classic Solingen knifemakers started making straight razors. Soon after, hard times followed, and the professional barber and therefore also most barbershop straight razor brands went under – only Bismarck came out on top for its reliability and robustness. Eventually, Bismarck was sold to DOVO in 1957.
To note is that this high-end cutthroat razor is on some sites misspelled as DOVO Bismark, DOVO Bizmark.
For a premium straight razor, the unboxing experience is a bit anticlimactic. The DOVO Bismarck comes in a simple, blue cardboard box, and inside is a paper detailing how to care for the razor plus the straight razor blade wrapped in plastic paper. I feel they could have done a bit better job at presenting these rare straight razor blades. The first impression is important.
Though the unboxing experience could use some work, DOVO as usual does pay more attention to the look, feel, and quality of traditional straight razors than the presentation. Fair enough!
The DOVO Bismarck is a beauty. There is no doubt about that. The first thing you’ll notice is the thick spine, tang, and tail, indicating that the straight edge razor is made to last long. Even better, the length from the tail to the tip of the spine is gold plated and offers great contrast with the metallic gray on the face and the pearl acrylic or ebony wood on the scales. Aside from giving Bismarck a luxurious look, the gold plating on the spin, tang, and tail helps prevent corrosion of the carbon steel used.
But that’s not all; the spine has intricate file work, which adds to the beauty and, in some instances, grip for the few men who rest their fingers on the spine. On the face and scales is a large golden ‘Bismarck’ and Solingen etching, respectively. The tang is also etched ‘2 Bismarck’ to remind you of the premium product you’re using.
As with a high-end Japanese straight razor, DOVO goes through 80 processes to make this masterpiece. They use high carbon steel for the 6/8 blade and incorporate a fully hollow and shoulderless design. How do these choices impact the experience of using a DOVO Bismarck?
The carbon steel material is hardy and easy to strop, and the sharp edge lasts longer. Unfortunately, carbon steel doesn’t fair well against rusting. Though the 24K gold plating on different parts offers some protection, but unlike replacement blades razors (such as Feather Japanese razors as an example), extra care in maintenance and storage is key. Remember to dry the razor completely after use and store it in a cool and dry spot. You can apply a light coat of petroleum jelly or camellia oil to protect it from moisture for added protection.
The 6/8” description of the blade refers to the height from below the spine to the cutting edge. The 6/8” is one of the most popular sizes wet shavers reach for. This is because it works well on strong beard growth, as well as if you have bigger hands. And because of the weight of the blade, it gently glides over the skin effortlessly.
Like most 6/8 inch blades, the DOVO Bismarck is shoulderless, making it even more flexible to shave the contours on your face with ease. Moreover, it makes honing easier.
You can tell the blade grind scale of a straight razor by staring down its barrel. Different grind scales affect blade flexibility and determine who it’s best for. In this case, Bismarck has a full-hollow grind which means the blade is thinner and flexible enough to follow contours on your skin with ease. However, it means it’s less forgiving in shaky hands, hence a better choice for more experienced wet shavers.
DOVO went with a round point on the Bismarck, which is popular and reduces the risk of injury when shaving but is still sharp enough to shave around the nose and ear.
DOVO offers the Bismarck in 3 options;
They all have ‘Solingen’ etched on the sharp blade.
Now, ebony wood is lightweight, water-resistant, and dense. As such, it’s durable and offers a beautiful contrast to the rest of the razor. While the fake mother of pearl acrylic option is beautiful too, it seems counter-intuitive for a premium straight razor with gold inlays to have a plastic handle.
Whichever option you pick depends on personal preference since they all perform great.
Note: There is also a version (26830) that has ebony wood scales with an oxidation process (burnished) on the steel blade. This version is also known as the DOVO Black Prince. This version is a bit hard to find. It is now available in the DOVO Black Duke kit. The distinctive finish is shared with the DOVO Diamant and also with the DOVO Black Star straight razors to a certain degree.
DOVO markets the Bismarck as shave-ready, and most people take this to mean they can use the razor immediately after unboxing. Unfortunately, the Bismarck will not give the closest, smoothest, and most comfortable shave right out of the box.
So, what does shave ready mean? Well, it means DOVO performs basic work on the razors every right before they dispatch them. So while the razor is sharp, and will be ok as a basic straight razor shave, you need to strop the razor to have a great experience and get the best results. This is why a strop is usually included in a straight razor kit as well as in the best DOVO straight razor starter kit.
Some online retailers give their customers the option to have the cut throat razor professionally honed before shipping. This is a great option if you are a wet shaving beginner and don’t know how to hone a straight razor. However, since a straight razer does not have replacement blades you’ll still need to strop the razor before every shave to align the edge and ensure clean cuts. So it’s a good idea to purchase a quality strop with the Bismarck.
And if you stick to wet shaving in the long run, you can purchase several honing stones and learn the proper honing technique.
But if you are an expert fixed blade straight razor shaver, you already have a strop and a honing stone. Use them on your Bismarck for a great experience despite the ‘shave ready’ marketing.
Should You Buy the DOVO Bismarck?
Where to Get It
The DOVO Bismarck straight razor as well as the best straight razor for barbers (as a general rule) is available at several online retailers. Some might be temporarily sold out, but since all versions are still in production the shortage is temporary. The only difference is the DOVO Black Prince, this one is (at least currently) a bit harder to find.
The price doesn’t seem to vary that much from store to store. There don’t seem to be any seasonal changes regarding the price.
Some online stores (think ‘Boutique’ kind) offer a pre-honing service as well. There are not many “addons” to straight razors, that is the beauty of it, but there are curved straight razor stands available.
My name is Don and welcome to Luxury Shaving Razors! The idea behind the site was born in 2016 after trying to find a decent safety razor for my own personal use. I decided to document my journey.