The so-called "shave ready Gold Dollar" isn't shave ready, is bent where the Chinese manufacturer banged a stamp on it, and is made of trash-grade Chinese steel that won't take or hold an edge. I've got better paring knives. I talked to "customer service" both via email (don't waste your time - the email support person(s) are just jerks) and via phone (which was surprisingly pleasant, especially considering I'd already talked to the email clown and was angry before I even dialed the number... this was literally a last chance before I filed a complaint with the BBB and the FTC). The nice phone lady promised they'd ship me a new Gold Dollar that actually was sharpenable and presharpened to a shave ready state, and even said I could keep the one I had!!! But they didn't.
I looked around online and found that Gold Dollar is infamous for its trash quality. It's always been Chinese and it's always been 1 in a million that isn't bent by their cheap-o mass-production methods.
The strop that came with this kit is flimsy and synthetic. I don't like the look or feel of it.
When I got an email from classicshaving.com asking me to rate their items, I literally had to wait until later because I didn't have much but plain profanity for them. When I went and finally broke the seal on the "blunted for practice" Buffalo Horn Damascus razor, it was just to be able to say I had tried everything in the box before I filed complaints.
I could immediately see the quality in the blade. The spine flanges are flattened (not beveled) so there's no mistaking that you should put a 15-20 degree bevel on it yourself. It's also so perfectly flat, straight, and evenly spaced on each side (from the center where the bevel goes) that my high-tech defect-finding eyeball couldn't detect an imperfection.
The same spine design makes it easy to use the spine as a guide while stropping.
The steel is so hard that it took around half an hour with heavy pressure on a 220 grit stone to get a cutting edge on it, maybe another half to get the cutting edge straight and even. It didn't take much stroking on a 325 to make it slide across my thumbnail and leave a gash. I was able to shave dry with it and leave the coarsest stubble by the time I was done with a dozen strokes each on a 600 followed by 1200 grit stone.
After just minutes on the 4000 and 8000 stones, the thing was sharp enough to dry-shave the rest of the hardcore stubble left behind when it was fresh off the 1200.
The "Damascus" pattern is just etched on (not foundried in) to the blade. The pattern (not the steel) chipped in places where the stones ground it back. Just ****** aesthetics. Frankly it kind of mucks up the whole experience to know that, but doesn't detract from the quality of the engineering or the material at all. It really looks, feels, and behaves like somebody who knew what they were doing took a single ingot of quality steel and ground a hollow out of it before shaping the spine.
It turns out that flimsy, synthetic strop works pretty well too. I did less than 2 dozen passes and the Damascus edge was smooth as deadly silk. Perfectly dry it scrapes my upper lip clean where my mustache has been described as "barbed wire" by barbers who tried to trim it.
I haven't tried or even opened the soap or the brush. It doesn't matter a bit.
The Buffalo Horn Damascus Straight Razor is worth every penny I paid for the whole kit. If you're thinking about buying one, just be damn sure you know what you're doing with sharpening before you go for it. You absolutely do not want to use this quality razor for "practice sharpening."