- Gap indicates the shortest distance between the blade edge and the safety bar. This is relatively easily measured with a feeler gauge. Unfortunately, blade-bar gap has little to do with shaving character of a razor.
- Span indicates the distance between the blade edge and the line along the safety bar that determines the shave plane of the razor. See this page for more detail and a picture that may help clarify.]
I've had time to further ruminate on best razor choices. My personal opinion on how many razors one should have for an at-home razor, best case, is three or less -- but one has to choose mindfully. I recommend an upper limit of three -- though a solitary razor could easily suffice -- because the fussiest of shavers may prefer to have high-, moderate-, and low-capacity razors to suit different life circumstances. Of course, hobbyists and aficionados may prefer to have a larger stable; as the saying goes, "you pays your money and you takes your choice."
|A twist-to-open, butterfly-door razor,|
which is open and ready for blade insertion.
Classifications of Razors
|A classic three-piece razor, disassembled,|
with a stamped safety bar. Top cap is fore-
ground left, baseplate with safety bar at
right, and the handle is in the background.
|A slant-bar razor, in which the safety|
bar and blade are not perpendicular
to the handle.
2. Slant bar - These razors mount the blade askew in the head, which both twists the blade and gives it a slant (see photo). To over simplify (there are many subtleties), these razors cut in a guillotine fashion, and are known for their capacity to efficiently mow down whiskers -- even several day's growth -- while at the same time being fairly kind to sensitive skin. The thing to watch with slant bars, however, is to keep your shaving strokes direct -- that is, move the razor head across your beard in a direction parallel to the razor handle (see the illustration below) -- as well as maintaining light pressure. If one ignores these two warnings, it is likely that blood will be shed.
|The direct stroke.|
|An open-comb razor.|
So which type to choose?
The Newbie Question
- If the new user is of a mind to thoroughly and carefully read and view how-to information on double-edge shaving techniques, and apply that information right from the start, then there is no need to buy a special, mild razor to protect the new double-edge shaver from his own ignorance.
- If the new user is an act-first-(and-maybe)-ask-questions-later type, then to reduce blood shed and the accompanying discouragement and possible abandonment of the double-edge option, a mild razor may be necessary to protect the newbie from himself (or herself).
If Your Skin Is Not Particularly Sensitive
- If you have a tough, thick beard, no matter what razor you choose, you will want a very sharp blade. The Feather brand is at the top of that list, but there are others, so read the reviews and try a few sample packs. (By the way, there is no such thing as an "aggressive" blade. There are degrees of sharpness, longevity, and smoothness -- based on blade materials, edge grind and coating.)
- If you shave every day but your hair grows quickly, then you want a moderate- to high-capacity razor, which includes slants, aggressive open combs, and high-blade-exposure straight bars or adjustable straight bars. Also, because your skin is tougher and more round, it probably won't matter whether you use twist-to-open or unscrew-to-open straight-bar designs.
- If you don't shave every day, then you should probably stick to moderate- to high-capacity razors as discussed in the previous bullet.
- If your beard grows slowly and you shave every day, or you have sparse, thin hair, you can probably get by with any lower-capacity, mildly-shaving razor. No need for a slant, aggressive open comb, or straight bar that takes a wide bite.
If Your Skin Is More Sensitive
Also, despite the temptation to get an exceptionally close shave every day, if you have sensitive skin, discretion may be the better part of valor; that is, it may be better to settle for close enough on the average day, and only go for exceptionally close occasionally. So on those average days, one might only take a pass or two; and only save the three-pass (or more) shaves for special occasions.
Lastly, excellent shave prep is key, using products that will be most protective during the shave, and may require additional products after the shave to help attenuate irritation.
All that said, the following razor-selection guidelines should probably be applied, and in general, you will likely want to lean toward two- and three-piece designs, not twist to open for reasons stated above:
- If your hair is fine or thin, you can probably get by with a mildly-shaving razor.
- If your hair is thick, tough, or coarse, you shave every day, and combined with sensitive skin, requires a very sharp blade -- preferably coated for smoothness -- but probably calls for a very mild razor.
- If you don't shave every day, this will allow your skin to rest and heal, and may allow you to use a more moderate to aggressive razor to attack your longer multi-day stubble. Alternatively, you can make more passes with a milder razor. A middle ground is to have a more capable razor for the first pass, and a milder razor to address subsequent passes to get that close but less-irritating shave. (This is how I shaved yesterday.) [UPDATE: This is also the perfect scenario for a mild-shaving open-comb razor such as the Merkur 15C.}
- If your hair grows quickly and you shave daily, this combined with sensitive skin puts you in a category similar to the preceding bullet. Yet you don't skip shave days, so you don't want to have a progressive build up of skin irritation; you need to keep your daily shaves effective enough, yet not irritating. A single moderate-capability razor may be an adequate compromise, but like those who don't shave every day, having a more capable razor for the first pass, and a milder razor to address subsequent passes to get that close but less-irritating shave may be a formula for good shaves and happy skin.
Hope to see you tomorrow for part two....