Meet Handcrafted America’s Artisan Dan Janssen, Imperium Woodcraft

Dan Janssen, Imperium Woodcraft

In years past, shaving was a ritual where men drew sharp straight-edge razors across lathered cheeks. The razor handles themselves were works of art that graced the washstand alongside a fine, hand-turned brush.

An experienced woodworker with an eye for the elegant, Dan Janssen was tired of seeing his unattractive, disposable plastic, double-edged razor at his sink in the morning. After searching for a more stylish razor, he discovered his taste and his budget were not aligned. So he put his skills to work. His first razor was 24-carat gold-plated, and made with rosewood. He showed it to friends, who were impressed with its beauty, workmanship and functionality. He made razors for them. They, in turn, wanted razors to give to other friends, and Imperium Woodcraft came into being. Dan started as a hobby, selling his razors online, while still holding down a full-time job. In 2014, he took a leap of faith, quit his office job, and opened a shop, which he runs with his wife and part-time staff.

All of his razors are handmade in the USA of sustainable hardwoods. He and his staff turn the handles from raw wood, sand and coat each piece with a crystal acrylic then polish it to a slick shine. The finished product is a classic work of art, yet long-lasting, water-resistant, and fits today’s most popular razor cartridges.

Meet Dan…

What drew you to your chosen craft?

I have always had a love for handmade, well-crafted things. I have worked with wood as a hobby for a while and turned a few razors for friends, who in turn wanted some to give to people they knew. It grew slowly from there.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?

I like working in a shop with my hands. I’ve had jobs in an office and jobs doing endless volumes of paperwork and it kills me to sit behind a desk. I feel we are missing the satisfaction we were once so in touch with, of seeing something through from start to finish. So much of today’s work is emails, meetings, Excel, etc. and we miss out on that crucial feeling of making a real tangible “thing.”

Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?

So much of what we surround ourselves with is cheap, plastic, ugly, junk that falls apart. I think we do ourselves a disservice by having so much of this stuff in our lives. When you have something handmade you know it will last, that it was made with effort, and it enhances the overall aesthetic quality of our surroundings. It reinforces the idea that not everything is throwaway and cheap…That somethings should be appreciated even if it has flaws or because it has flaws.

In what ways are hand-made goods better than those that are mass produced?

Well, handmade isn’t always better and it is almost certainly more expensive, but given the choice and the funds I would choose handmade almost every time. I like the renaissance we seem to be having in America with handmade coming back. And I think on a practical level it’s better for the environment, communities, and as I mentioned in the first answer better for our lifestyle.

What does the future hold for your type of work?

With the internet the world is wide open. Before the internet I would have been working in my shop and maybe selling locally in a few shops. But now anyone who makes a good product can get it out there. I am a little wary that once the handmade trend grows larger that the quality of handmade goods will get diluted but we will see. For now, I’m going to continue to make the finest razors on earth, and grind.


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