Dollar Tree TTO

I had to wait a little longer than most, but the new Super Speed clone has arrived arrived at the local Dollar Tree! It looked like the boxes were still in the aisle when I picked up a couple of them on Sept. 13, but honestly, I hadn't checked in at all since asking about them the week prior. The cashier had sounded secretive, suggesting that they might not get the same supplies as the Southwest at all. Like I was going to hoover up the entire shipment or something... okay, well, that does sound like something I would do. But I allowed the huge styptic pencils to go out of stock without purchasing more than 1... and I'm patiently waiting for the return of 3-in-1 lubricating lotion, without complaint. Give me some credit, lady!

First impressions, the thing is definitely better built than a Nanjie, but not by a whole lot. The center bar and end caps are integrated as a single cast piece. Thinking of that as a wide "H," I discerned that it was bent toward becoming an "A," which held up the door opening mechanism a bit. I gave it a bit of a squeeze in a handly "C" clamp, which is what guys who don't have a bench vise use for such problems.

The chrome looks more like silver paint, and it is already coming off the plastic turn knob. But they ground the casting lines off the pseudo end-caps, and the knurl pattern, though obviously executed in the same rough manner as the Nanjie, is much deeper. The same roughness of finish is evident in the safety bar etchings, but inside is quite pretty smooth . It doesn't smell like wet pennies yet, with the retaining ring apparently also plated/painted in chrome.

Overall, it strikes me as an updated Nanjie. Will the chrome-painted nubs that hold the doors attached rub off, causing it to explode like my first Nanjie did? I don't think so. The doors and baseplate are a little thicker. I think all the revisions are correct, aiming to improve performance while keeping cost low. Indeed, the package claims the "holder is free." It's the ultimate razor and blades scheme! Speaking of the blades: punk jewelry fans will appreciate the complete lack of marking. They just mocked one up in illustration on the box and wrapper: "Pacific"/"Stainless Blade."

The Shave

I sure got a good feel of the edge, with a full 2mm of blade reveal from the narrow doors. This was somewhat balanced by the wider, gently-sloping type of safety bar, but the blade was pretty flat, too. Safety was pushed right to the limit on my chin, first shave on the blade. I was using the blade flex as a shock absorber, but that's something I picked up from years on the Rimei. This is not something I'd want a complete beginner using. HOWEVER: There comes a time, fairly early in everyone's shaving career, when only total blade exposure will do. To break the habit of just riding a poorly pitched blade on the safety envelope, cleanly planing the stratum corneum is preferable to splitting it a million times imperceptibly.

I, however, am not at that stage. I will add a narrow, center-support shim and get that blade to curve back to what I hope will be Rimei-like geometry.

No good options

While my second shave went smoother, I saw weepers in the midline and neck. Skin Bracer might as well have been Absorbine, Jr. -- maybe you have to feel the burn to appreciate the cooling. It doesn't seem like I will be able to pull off everyday BBS, though I haven't yet tried my perfect blade. (I actually like the Pacific SS blade just fine.) The scenario in my mind is, total noob, sensitive skin, heard DE was better. One could still:

  • shave every 2-3 days (YouTube: check)
  • only shave WTG (as if any beginner will ever take that good advice, but yes, I suppose this could work as a beginner DE)
  • tell yourself that's just what shaving does to skin -- suck it up

And that's my real problem with the Pacific Free Handle. We could have had a true ambassador in the Dorco PL-602. The material and distribution are impressive, and many DE shavers will get a kick out of this, but I fear this will end as free advertising for disposables. The narrow doors really need a design correction.