PR Collaborators | Rick Molitor of New Basin Distilling

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.

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We met Rick Molitor of New Basin Distilling Co in 2015 via a chance encounter and, as one does over a dram of good American whiskey, we hatched an idea. Rick had just finished bottling a batch of Resignation Rye and needed to retire one of the Oregon white oak barrels used to age it. Though no longer useful for aging fine liquor, Rick hoped we might be able to turn it into something other than firewood. We happily obliged by making a limited set of co-branded Cascade Steel straight razors with unique engravings and scales which showed off the unique character of charred, rye-stained Oregon white oak. Rick has helped us over the years to raise funds and awareness for men’s health issues, supported our business by co-sponsoring events, and keeps our friends and clients happy with a steady flow of luxurious libations at the Portland Shave Shop.

Q: Tell our readers about your business. What do you do? What is your company story?

New Basin Distilling Company is a true Farm to Bottle distillery. We are proud to take our own farm grown grain and turn it into liquid magic. Our story started like any group of drinking buddies. It doesn't take long

Q: Is being in Oregon important to you and your business? Why/why not?

This is a catch 22 - we love Oregon. 3 of the 5 New Basin partners are multi-generational Oregonian. We have fertile fields for our grain production and the world's best water-Opal Springs water can't be beat for natural purity and flavor. Being 100% Distilled in Oregon is important to us. However, the business climate and tax structure for distilled spirits in Oregon is a huge obstacle for Oregon distilleries. The current tax structure on distilled spirits range from 31 to 51% of the listed price just in Oregon. With these numbers, along with local and Federal taxes we are starting to see distilleries close or move out of the State.

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Q: What sharp things do you use (knives, razors, axes, etc) at work? What tools are your favorite to use?

We love the collaboration with Portland Razor with the creation of a razor with scales made from one of our Resignation Rye Whiskey barrels. This is the sharpest item I've carried in our tasting room.

Q: Do you straight shave? If not, would you consider it?

I have received many straight razor shaves but never shaved myself. Would love to learn!

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Q: Where do you look for inspiration?

My son is currently attending OSU in the Food Science/Fermentation Studies Program. He has helped New Basin Distilling create more efficient and effective distilling procedures. I'm excited for younger distillers to challenge and change the landscape of what make a true American Whiskey.

Q: We love your product and are proud to serve it in our barbershop! In your own words, what’s better about it than its big-box store competitors?

You really can't compare locally grown, milled, mashed, fermented and distilled product. I can literally walk you into one of our rye and wheat field. Also, as stated above, naturally raw and untouched water from Opal Springs makes our whiskey that much better!

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Q: What is the most “Portland” thing to ever happen to you?

Serving New Basin Distilling Cocktails at a Portland Fashion Week party!

Q: What is one thing you wish more of your customers knew about you or your work?

How passionate and true we are to making an amazing Farm-to-Bottle Oregon Whiskey!

Q: How can readers get in touch with you?

Get a bottle at your local liquor store, swing in the distillery at 2063 NW Andrews Dr. Madras, OR, 97741 give us a call at 541-980-4595, on the web at www.newbasin.com, follow us on Facebook @NewBasinDistilling or search #newbasindistilling

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It's time for a good old-fashioned rant : 1 minute on an american-made soap box

Portland Razor Co. received an email from Gold Dollar this morning asking if we would like them to manufacture our straight razors for us. I followed the link they had sent and found it odd that I recognized the photos (having never looked into buying a gold dollar myself). Look familiar? They stole photos I took for our manufacturing page and are using them to market their own razors!! To Gold Dollar's credit: someone over there knows their way around photoshop and did an excellent job replacing our logo with theirs!

gold dollar straight razor stolen photos

A few thoughts on this:

  1. I'm pretty sure this isn't how they make their razors, but it IS how we make our razors!
  2. Gold Dollar claiming images of our straight razor manufacturing process as their own is intentionally misleading and co-opts the authenticity of us smaller makers who take time and care in our process. It says, "this wasn't made in a black box overseas. Look! This was made by a real person. You can trust us as much as you trust small batch manufacturers!" But the truth is, you can't!
  3. I've seen much discussion and many many examples in the past year of larger faceless corporations ripping off independent artists on Instagram. This is a massive problem in the age of the Internet and it is a fact of life that it is hard to take the bad with the good. While sometimes legal action can play out in favor of the independent artists, there is a great deal of power which lies with you, our audience and customers, to choose to support us: the originals, the artists and makers who work hard to produce quality work and push our own limits every day. I hope you see the benefit of supporting small, honest companies such as our own. I want to re-enforce that your support and contributions never ever go underappreciated.
  4. We've been meaning to update our manufacturing page, so this gives us a pretty good reason.
  5. And OF COURSE, all of our razors will always and forever be American Made.
 
stolen gold dollar straight razor photo with photo shop skills

Aaanyways, looking forward to meeting Scott's hand twin in China some day! Happy Wednesday everyone!

P.S. we won't hold it against you if you share this with people you know who also care about the integrity and quality of the goods they purchase with their hard-earned money! ;)

 

Shortened Lead Times, New Location

We are proud to announce that our lead time on straight razor orders is now only three to four weeks!

Yes, you read that correctly. Our straight razor backorder is weeks, not months.

Making Straight Razors in SW Portland

This efficiency increase can be almost entirely attributed to the setup at our new workshop. In February we began the search for a larger, more permanent space in which to make our straight razors and strops. Thanks to the venerable Kelley Roy, owner of ADX, we were directed to the building we now call home. The former cabinet shop, located just a few blocks south of Downtown Portland, recently changed ownership and is currently being renovated to house other Portland Makers. We are fortunate enough to be the first tenants in the building and look forward to meeting our future neighbors. It took a few sleepless weeks of dust masks, epoxy paint, and bribing our dads to help us out, but we are very pleased with our new 1200 square-foot space!

Straight Razor Production Upgrades

Easily the most exciting result of our move: production is faster than ever! Lead times on our straight razors are currently three to four weeks, down from three to four months this time last year. The new shop affords us space to layout our straight razor manufacturing process and allowed us to invest in more sophisticated equipment. Much of what we’ve learned comes directly from sharing ideas with fellow makers (it is just better when you work together!). I hope other makers and creatives can learn from our experience. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite upgrades we have made to our shop to improve our straight razor output:

  • Organization. One of the big selling points for the new shop is the natural, logical division of space. The warehouses we looked at prior to finalizing our decision were open-layout and would have been more effort (read: más money!) to build out. It also allowed us to separate ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ operations, improving overall quality control. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than finding steel dust from grinding razors on your half-dried wood finish. Having these divisions in place also means we can set up our old work benches and optimize them for specific tasks. Which helps create…
  • Orderliness. Far better than our old multi-multi-multi-purpose work table, each step in our straight razor production process has a dedicated station. Raw steel waits by the door to go to waterjet, straight razor blanks go by the grinders. Scales materials stay by the laser-cutter and laser-cut blanks are stored on the assembly station. We have a sink dedicated for sharpening straight razors and an anvil on a stand closeby for assembling a straight blade into scales immediately after. Leather and poly-webbing are stored inside our sewing table and strop hardware is within an arm’s reach. Relevant tools are stored at each station, and each station has its own set of tools. This one was especially helpful to me, since I tend to forget where I set things down.
  • Visual Inventory. This ties in with having dedicated stations for each step. Visual inventory just means that all materials and parts are prominently on display. This lets you know when you need to make more of something or order more material. One forgets how quickly you go through 500 brass washers until you’re down to 5 and you really, really need 6 of them...
  • Batch Production. Straight razors in production are done in batches of four and travel in a box from station to station. The order number, straight razor model, straight razor scales material, and other straight shaving add-ons in the order are printed and slipped into a cardholder on the lid of each box. This way, we always know exactly what needs to be done to complete an order. This saves time mapping out our day, we don’t check the master list as often, and assures that orders are constantly going out the door rather than languishing at a particular station for days. The 4-8 straight razor batch size seems to be our sweet spot, being able to move quickly while guaranteeing standards of quality are met at each step.
  • Automation. We have invested in a few pieces of equipment that have majorly slashed our production time. We have written before about using our Laser Cutter and Thermark to brand our razors. Our Laser Cutter also cuts templates, cuts prototype parts, and engraves our straight razor boxes. Being able to cut out a custom part in seconds is a very powerful thing if you know your way around CAD. We also purchased a clicker press. It is basically a terrifying cookie cutter. Before the clicker press, we would painstakingly cut out strop pieces by hand: first the basic shape with a rotary cutter, then the internal corners with a chisel, then the hardware holes with a hand punch. The clicker press makes very quick work (about 2 seconds!) of cutting out our strop components.
  • Error Proofing/Quality Control. Bad things happen fast, good things happen slowly. Having quality control steps built into the straight razor production process helps us achieve balance in making the best straight razor or strop possible, while getting it out the door in a reasonable timeframe. Work at every station starts and ends with a quality control step to guarantee that every batch of straight razors and strops meets our high standards. Each batch passes through multiple hands between steps, getting fresh eyes on the product and catching errors well before it gets to final assembly. If a straight razor doesn’t look exactly right, it’s far better to stop the line and take it back a step than to try and fix it after everything has been put together
  • Friday, Fun Day! We dedicated our Fridays to shop improvements, process innovations and experiments for a couple reasons.
    • First, it forces us to finish projects outside of normal straight razor production- things that are too new or risky for a normal day. This can be hanging a bike rack, setting up garbage and recycling systems, setting up lighting for our product photography corner, or nabbing great stuff from free piles around Portland (our huge cutting table was rescued from it’s destiny in a landfill on the corner of SE 3rd and Morrison). Other projects usually take the form of custom straight razors that require developing new techniques or build on our existing skillset. Each of these straight razors is a unique work of art unlike anything in our production line. These have resulted in some of our best work so far, and can be seen on our in-stock customs page.
    • Second, it helps us grow. Decorating a retail space, fabricating a new straight razor display, programming the laser-cutter, experimenting with gold plating… every project presents a challenge and an opportunity to learn. They frequently take a left turn and become something completely different from what we imagined, but that’s another fun part of the the process and why we insist on making time for it. You never know what might come of it!
    • Third, it keeps things fresh and interesting. The core straight razor production process--though much refined--has remained largely unchanged over the past three years. Although I’ve gotten much faster and more consistent at it, surface grinding my 500th straight razor felt a lot like my 50th… it’s hot, sweaty, dirty work. Knowing I get to try something new at the end of the week is a great motivator for me when work starts feeling repetitive.
    • In Short: It’s a fun way to grow individually and as a company, constantly improving and staying relevant.

I’m sure a lot will change in the coming years, but I can say with confidence that it will only get better. The focus has always been--and will continue to be--on making the best American-made straight razors we can and providing you with essential straight shaving knowledge.

With a bit more time on our hands, I’ll be attempting to create more content for the blog, videos, and tutorials. Keep your eyes open here and subscribe to our YouTube channel for updates. If you’d like to see a blog post or a video about something, let us know in the comments!

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In our last shop, this work table was used for scales assembly, finishing scales, razor assembly, razor honing, etching straight razors, packaging finished razors, shipping, and sometimes eating lunch.  Now it is dedicated to packaging and shipping.  

In our last shop, this work table was used for scales assembly, finishing scales, razor assembly, razor honing, etching straight razors, packaging finished razors, shipping, and sometimes eating lunch.  Now it is dedicated to packaging and shipping.  

 
 
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Pasted Strops, Revisited

We gave customers the option to paste the inside of their prep strop several months ago and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. If you are on the fence, here is what you need to know about pasted strops.

What does "Pasted" mean? A pasted strop has had an application of very fine polishing abrasive, in our case: chromium oxide paste. This is applied to the inside panel of the prep strop and allows for more aggressive stropping action to prolong the life of your razor's edge. 

Why paste my strop? If your stropping is solid (check out our stropping guide) then stropping occasionally on paste will make your razor's edge last longer, which delays (but does not replace) the need to pay for honing services or buy your own stones. On the other hand, poor stropping on paste will only make the problem worse

How often should I strop on paste? We generally strop our razors on paste every 10-15 shaves, or whenever you notice that your razor is not shaving as efficiently.

Do I need to reapply paste? When we apply paste at our shop, we generally apply more than an individual shaver should ever need for their own use. That said, if you notice that the paste has worn away or is no longer doing its job, it may be time for a reapplication (but more likely, it is time to hone your razor).

How do I apply paste to my strop? We offer a one-time application for $5, but there are several other types of abrasives you can purchase and apply to your strop: powders, sprays, and wax pastes. We prefer the wax pastes because they are easy to apply and go a long way, simply color in the part of your strop you'd like to paste just like you would with a crayon. 

Where do I find chromium oxide paste? Check with your local hardware store to see if they carry chromium oxide paste, just ask for "green jeweler's rouge" or "green buffing compound." If you can't find it locally, there are plenty of quality sources from online knife-making stores to Amazon.

We hope you found this information helpful!