PR Collaborators | Sarah Wolf of Wolf Ceramics

PR Collaborators is a blog series highlighting hardworking individuals who help Portland Razor Co. be the best we can be. We consider the people and companies featured here to be integral to our success and hope our readers will show their support for these wonderful makers.

Several months ago we had the privilege of hosting local photographer and designer Connor Ebbinghouse at Portland Razor Co. Scrolling through his Instagram feed gives viewers a glimpse of Portland life and all the wonderful and interesting people we have the privilege of calling our neighbors. In browsing through Connor's beautiful galleries we came across one such neighbor, Sarah Wolf of Wolf Ceramics. We had been keeping our eyes open for the right collaborator to make shave dishes and scuttles for Portland Razor Co. and we were taken by the quality and aesthetic of Sarah's work immediately. We reached out to her and were delighted when she agreed to take on the project! As an added bonus, it's great to know that it is in fact possible to meet great people on the Internet!

sarah wolf wolf ceramics

Q: Tell our readers about your business. What do you do? What is your company story?
I started Wolf Ceramics about two years ago and shifted to working in my studio full time just over a year ago. Ceramics had been a hobby since grade school, but only a hobby. I studied Geochemistry in college and then almost went to graduate school for architecture. I kept coming back to clay because I love working with my hands and it is incredibly satisfying to make objects that will be well used. I decided to go back to school for ceramics instead of architecture and eventually chose to take the leap and start my own production studio. While gearing up to setup my own studio, I took part in a Mercy Corps small business program, taking business classes and participating in a matched savings grant program to help cover equipment costs. Now I spend my days in the studio and it is so fun. I am energized by exciting collaborations with other Portland businesses (Like Portland Razor Company!), which push me to try new things.

Wolf Ceramics Mug Sample

Q: Why Portland?
Portland is my home! I grew up here in Northwest Portland. I came back to Portland after leaving for 7 years, and now have a studio in the same building as my mother! She is an artist and has a painting studio just up the stairs from my work space.

Q: Is being in Portland important to you and your business? Why/why not?
Portland has been such a wonderful place for my business to grow, and for so many different reasons. Because I grew up here, I feel the support of my family and the community that a grew up with. But beyond that, the creative community in Portland is so welcoming, supportive, and collaborative. I am constantly meeting people who are doing interesting things and thinking of new ways that we can collaborate or work together in ways that are mutually beneficial. I have found the community of ceramic artists here to be kind and generous. The world of ceramics had also connected me with all sorts of other industries, from restaurants and coffee shops to florists and photographers.

Q: What sharp things do you use (knives, razors, axes, etc) at work?
What tools are your favorite to use? Trimming tools! After throwing on the wheel, we let work dry part way, and then flip it to trim and shape the bottom of the piece. I also use razor blades in the studio for all sorts of things, from cutting handles to the right size, to cleaning up glaze lines.

Q: Where do you look for inspiration?
I love textiles, in fact I may have a textile obsession. I also love drawing and playing with shapes and negative space. Sometimes I’ll peruse Instagram or Pinterest for patterns and shapes, start drawing, and just see where it takes me. I also love working from prompts. Sometimes a friend or business will come to me with a question or suggestion. Maybe they love a particular handle or wish that that their mug was different in some way. Maybe they need a particular tool and haven’t been able to find it anywhere. These sorts of conversations always get me thinking and often lead to new forms and new designs.

Sarah Wolf of Wolf Ceramics at Work

Q: We love your product. In your own words, what’s better about it than its big-box store competitors?
I find that I always enjoy using things more when I know where they came from and who made them. Its the same with coffee mugs as scuttle mugs. When I use a hand made object that I know was made with care, it often pushes me to be more thought full and intentional in what I am doing. I find my self taking more pleasure in the experience of using that object and even being more present in that moment.

Wolf Ceramics Coffee Pour Over

Q: What is the most “Portland” thing to ever happen to you?
One day I found myself biking down the street along side a man on horseback.

Q: Do you straight shave? If not, would you consider it?
Nope, but maybe...

Q: What is one thing you wish more of your customers knew about you or your work?
I want to somehow show my customers more about the process that goes into making each piece. In fact, I have been working with a friend on a tiny short film that documents making one mug from start to finish! I think that ceramics often have a low perceived value, because you can go to Ikea and buy 10 perfectly matching, factory made mugs for $20 or $30. Its always a little nerve racking pricing new work, because I want things to be affordable and accessible to all sorts of people, but I also need to charge enough to make my business viable. When I know more about how something is made, and the complex challenges that the maker faces when creating it, I find my self feeling good about paying a fair price for the object and more inclined to treat it with care and make it last. I feel more inclined to own fewer, higher quality things.

Q:How can readers get in touch with you?
Check out my website wolfceramics.com or email me at sarah[at]wolfceramics.com!

Introducing the Professional Line

We are excited to introduce the Portland Razor Co. Professional Line Straight Razors! The Professional Line Straight Razors can be fully sanitized due to their unique blade and scales materials, improvements which make them the ultimate shaving tool for professional barbers and stylists. We believe that conventional straight razors not only out-perform disposable razors in many categories, they also offer a waste-free solution to practitioners in search of green alternatives.

The Problem

" --In reality, conventional straight razors can be used in most states with proper sanitary technique."

For decades, disposable razors have been commonplace in shops across the United States. Used properly, disposable blades are perfectly safe and sanitary. That said, blade changes take time, pose an added risk to the professional handling them, often barbers will have to throw out unused blades because they are simply not sharp, and they end up in our landfills as hazardous waste. Students are often told in barber school that there is no alternative, that conventional straight razor use is illegal or unsafe. In reality, conventional straight razors can be used in most states with proper sanitary technique. (We have checked rules & regs in many states including OR, CA, WA, PA, FL, TN, NY, NJ… In fact, the only state we have confirmed prohibits Conventional Straight Razor Use is Rhode Island!)

Even knowing the proper sanitary technique is not enough, unfortunately. Existing razor manufacturers never changed their design or materials to keep up with evolving requirements. For example, all sharp implements which may come in contact with the skin must be fully immersible in a high-level disinfectant. This means the whole razor, scales and all, must be fully immersed to be sanitized. Products like Barbicide do a very good job of destroying organic matter, which makes them great for killing contagions (yay!) and bad for plastics, wood, horn… everything traditionally used to make razor scales. It’s also brutal on most blade steels, causing rust or deformation of the edge.

With these problems in mind, we were ready to get into the shop and find the solution.

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Design Process

Our first and most obvious task was to find materials that are easily sanitized. Our Cascade Steel has the perfect chemistry and edge-retention characteristics to survive prolonged exposure to Barbicide with little to no change in sharpness or surface finish. It’s also easier to clean and maintain than carbon steel blades(such as our O1 razors from our Classic and Artisan lines) without sacrificing cutting performance.

With the blade accounted for, the scales posed our next challenge. We wanted something durable, non-reactive with Barbicide, and easy to work with. This meant metal was out of the question, being either too flimsy or too heavy for our purposes. We settled on resin-based materials, being widely available, lightweight, and easier to work with. After exhaustive testing, we went with a high-impact, chemical-resistant fiberglass and resin composite.

In thinking of how professionals tend to put more mileage on their tools than hobbyists, we decided to upgrade the rest of the hardware while we were at it. Stainless pins and washers replaced the usual brass, making the razor more durable overall.

Once we found all the appropriate materials, we began vigorously testing them in a real-world environment: Portland Shave Shop. Each of our barbers was equipped with a prototype razor, instructed on its care and use, and given license to test them however they saw fit.

It makes sense that a razor designed for use on one’s own face might not be ideal for shaving others. The barbers would work with the razors for a few weeks and come back to us with their feedback, and we would take the razors into the shop for modifications. We started from scratch more than a few times, deciding that we needed two different razors to tackle most jobs in the barbershop. The resulting designs were worth the effort. They come with some obvious changes, a few less-so: we extended the jimps and made them barely deeper to improve grip, and the overall length of the razors was shortened so they would fit in sanitation jars from common manufacturers. The taper of the tang and balance point of the blade were altered to make the razor more comfortable in pinch grips and when held back-handed, grips more common in the barbershop than in the bathroom at home.

Performance

The barbers testing our razors had great feedback. The first thing usually had to do with tactile feedback, or how they could feel the hair and skin by holding the razor. Picture a disposable-blade razor for a moment; a thin piece of metal (the blade) is inserted into a metal or plastic housing with several moving parts, and is fastened together with pins, springs, or magnets. This creates several degrees of separation between the hair being cut and the hand of the barber. All that plastic and hardware absorbs the force of the hair against the blade and it never makes it to the barber’s hand! By contrast, conventional razors are a single piece of steel with only one degree of separation between the client's hair and the barber's hand. This results in an immediate difference in how much the barber can feel on the skin through the razor, allowing them to make adjustments on the fly more naturally than with a disposable blade. This has resulted in fewer nicks, closer shaves, and greater overall comfort for the client.

Second, conventional razors tend to be less aggressive. While some may see this as a drawback, most find that it allows them to give a closer shave that is less irritating to the client’s skin. Our theory is this: you want a razor that is sharp enough to cut the hair with no resistance, but not so sharp that it removes more than the topmost layer of dead skin. The blade should pass effortlessly through hair but glide over the surface of the skin without irritating it.

Third was ease of maintenance. Cleanup is a cinch thanks to the stainless blade, as the whole razor can be rinsed under running water without fear of rust. Sanitation is also simple as with any other sharp in a barber’s toolkit. Because the blade steel and scales materials are non-reactive, they can be fully immersed in Barbicide Plus--or other high-level disinfectants--without the material deteriorating or harming performance. One drawback of course is the need to strop, but this is far outweighed by the benefits of a non-disposable blade. Once the technique is mastered, stropping can be done at the chair while the client is enjoying a hot towel or while your next razor is resting in disinfectant, allowing you to multitask.

On the topic of stropping: we find the edge is durable enough to forego stropping between every client if the blade is only used for neck shaves. Basic lineups don’t seem to put as much wear on the blade, so barbers in busy shops need not take the few extra minutes between clients to strop; only sanitizing is necessary.

Finally, there’s nothing to throw away. We care about our planet and our impact on it, so finding ways to reduce waste is important to us. Switching to conventional straight razors at Portland Shave Shop has allowed us to do away with disposable razors entirely, meaning we both generate less waste and help our barbers save time and money.

1-½” Professional Straight Razor // Line Up

With a shorter blade and a familiar profile, this razor is ideal for line ups and detailed razor work around the ear, or in creative cuts. The blade still has enough weight behind it for a full face shave, but if you are a specialist and are shaving faces every day, we recommend the 2-½” model.

2-½” Professional Straight Razor // Barber Special

This razor most strongly resembles the vintage blades used in barbershops for over 100 years, and brings traditional barbering hurdling into the 21st century. Longer than the Line Up razor, this blade is for barbers whose practice is built around the traditional straight shave. The added surface area allows you to make more strokes before wiping the blade, and the added weight carries the blade through whiskers with less effort.

specs

  • Handmade in Portland, OR
  • 5/8 Round Point Straight Razor
  • 2-1/2" cutting edge
  • Can be fully submerged in high-level disinfectant
  • Durable scales
  • Stainless pins and washers
  • Lower and Upper Jimps for Added Grip and Control
  • Quarter-Hollow Ground Stainless Cascade Steel
  • Hardened to 62 HRC
  • Shave-Ready: Hand-Honed to 12K grit and Stropped Before Shipping
  • Pinned by Hand

Shear and Clipper Sharpening Services

The day-to-day reality of tool maintenance is not glamorous, but we believe it is necessary and something to take pride in. At Portland Razor Co. we work hard to keep grinders lubricated, laser lenses clean, and saw blades sharp! By lapping our hones between sharpenings, we guarantee that each blade will be as sharp as the one before it. Our work would be impossible without these tools, and we honor them and the work they perform by committing time to caring for them.

Just as our tools are essential to crafting a quality razor, so are a barber’s in crafting a quality haircut, shave, or beard trim. Sharp tools work effortlessly, allowing you to focus on the important things: creating a work of art and building relationships with the person in the chair before you.

In an effort to better support our professional clients, we now offer scissor (aka beauty shear) and clipper sharpening services in addition to our very popular straight razor honing service. You can bring your tools to Portland Shave Shop to be sharpened while you wait, or you can mail them in to us, similar to our razor honing service. Barbershops and Salons in the Portland, OR area may also schedule mobile sharpening services to be performed by a Portland Razor Co. bladesmith at your shop!

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Tools We Hone

Straight razors
Japanese-style convex edge scissors
German-style beveled scissors
Texturizing scissors
Clipper blades

All tools in good condition and made by a reputable manufacturer can be sharpened. If it cannot be sharpened for any reason, we will not charge for the service.

How We Hone

All honing services are performed by hand on traditional Japanese waterstones. This process results in the finest possible edge with the least amount of wear and tear on your blades, meaning your tools are safer to use, more functional, and longer-lasting than if they were sharpened with mechanized sharpeners.

We do our best to research and match the honing practices of the original manufacturer. Please be familiar with your manufacturer's warranty and repairs policy before honing with us.

House Calls

We know barbers and stylists carry full schedules. If you are a barber or stylist in the Portland Area who would like to avoid the hassle associated with mailing or dropping off your tools for sharpening, we’ll come to you! To schedule a House Call at your barber shop or salon, call us or email us with your location and availability. We are usually available Wed-Fri afternoons for House Calls. There is no minimum to schedule a House Call and no added fee. We look forward to helping you soon!

Portland Razor Pro : Bronze Certification

We are proud to introduce this educational series for professionals interested in using Portland Razor Co. straight razors! This series will help you get the most out of your conventional straight razor, improve the quality of your services, and help you stand out.

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"Straight Razor", "Cutthroat Razor", "Open Razor", "Conventional Straight Razor", "Folding Razor", whatever you call it, you have probably heard that these razors are illegal to use in barbershops in the United States. In most cases, this is not true. Just like clippers and shears, there are rules for HOW to use them to keep you and your clients safe. If you are a licensed barber or stylist looking to take the leap, our free course is here to help! Read on for full details.

Our Bronze Certification is completely free and packed with useful information for new and veteran barbers alike. We believe straight razor shaving to be at the heart of traditional barbering, so we are very excited for the opportunity to contribute to its resurgence in the American barbershop.

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Unfortunately, we have heard from many hair professionals that instruction on the use of traditional straight razors is not widely available. We want our customers to have a great experience with their razors, so we developed our own series of courses to help barbers further their understanding of these traditional tools. Topics discussed in the Bronze Certification include, but are not limited to:

  • Straight Razor Anatomy
  • Strop Anatomy
  • Safe Handling of the Razor
  • Special Care Considerations
  • Stropping
  • Honing // When to hone, who can hone
  • Sanitation

Licensed professionals are expected to perform due diligence and check with their local health authority for specific guidelines and regulations controlling the use of straight razors before using them in a licensed facility.

To become Bronze Certified, read through the information document and take the online exam. After you submit the exam, we will review and contact you within 5-7 business days with your results.
Again, the Bronze Certification is completely FREE. Even if you do not intend to take the test, the free info document contains a wealth of knowledge that will help you get the most out of your razor.

We know that you expect a lot from your tools. Good tools are an investment in yourself, your best work, and your clients’ satisfaction. We believe that conventional straight razors are superior to disposables in every way, and want you and your clients to have the best possible experience with our product. Whatever your experience level--novice or expert--we strongly recommend you read the free intro document and take the test if you want to get the most out of your straight razor. Take care of your tools, and they will take care of you!

December & January Impact | Outside In

For the months of December & January, we are donating proceeds from Honing Services to Outside In, a Portland-based non-profit helping homeless youth and other marginalized people move towards improved health and self sufficiency.

There are an estimated 1,500-2,000 homeless youth in Oregon. These young people experience homelessness for a  variety of reasons including family poverty, violence, mental and physical illness in their families, sexual minority issues, unemployment, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Without a home or medical care, these young people are forced into difficult lives and on average must be independent a full decade before their peers. Outside In, with its team of trained medical professionals and volunteer network, works tirelessly to step in and change the life path of these at-risk youth for the better. They offer a wide array of services including: housing, education, employment, counseling, medical care, healthy meals, and safety off the streets.

From Outside In:
For 49 years, Outside In has been a grassroots social justice organization supporting disenfranchised members of the Portland community.  Our mission is to help homeless youth and other marginalized people move towards improved health and self-sufficiency.

We are...

  • Service providers and advocates.
  • Experts in understanding adolescents.
  • A Federally Qualified Health Center.
  • A licensed Mental Health Agency.
  • Leaders in serving LGBTQ youth.

How It Works

Portland Razor Co. will donateº $10 from each Straight Razor Honing Service sold during the month of December 2017 and January 2018, in support of OutsideIn. These donations will continue through the end of January. We hope to aid those in need as much as we can and thank you for your support.

If you would like to make a donation on your own accord, you can donate directly to Outside In here.

 

ºIncludes sales to Portland Razor Co. retail and web customers, and authorized retailers. No portion of the purchase price is tax deductible.

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