Monday, September 22, 2014

The Best Double Edge Razor in the World! (Maybe)

I do think there is a best double-edge razor. (Photos near the end of this article.) This does not mean, however, that it will be the one that you love best.  [UPDATE: Actually, this razor is my second favorite. I wrote a separate article about my actual, personal-favorite razor. UPDATE #2, 29 DEC 2015: With time, we evolve. This Merkur15C is, actually, now my favorite razor. These days I rarely shave with the Merkur 33C, and more likely, when I'm not using this 15C open comb, I might be using a vintage c.1948 Gillette Tech. I also use other razors from time to time, but actually, I keep coming back to the 15C.]

I repeat: I am not suggesting that you will love this razor the best. But it might be a razor that almost anyone could learn to love -- or at least like and regularly use with satisfactory results. You can't say that about many razors.

What being the best means is that this razor is very reasonably priced as well as being the most versatile, arguably able to give the greatest number of users a very good shave under the following, varied, commonly-limiting conditions:
  • Those with sensitive skin will find it can give a close, comfortable shave. (This was the factor that was most heavily weighted in the decision matrix.)
  • Daily shavers can get a consistently close, comfortable shave.
  • Persons who don't shave every day and therefore shave longer hair will find that this razor will handle longer hair. Heck, you could remove a full-grown beard with this razor!
  • Combined with the right blade, this razor should handle both thick, wiry hair as well as fine, sparse hair.
Things that the user must be able to do to take full advantage of this razor include the following:
The key characteristics that make this razor fairly unique and suitable for most to use are these:
  • The small blade angle in relation to the shaving plane of the razor is more slicing rather than scraping, thus supporting a face-friendly shave
  • The blade exposure is slightly negative, which still allows a close shave, but limits shave harshness
  • The blade reveal is small, which will minimize microvibrations of the blade edge, and thereby limit harshness of the shave
  • The baseplate is an open-comb design, not a safety bar. The open comb allows virtually unlimited hair length without significantly compromising shave closeness. It also removes relatively little lather prior to the blade cutting hair, thus maximizing the protection of your shave lubrication.
Before I identify this best double-edge razor, I can almost hear some readers grumbling that I haven't used all razors available including those in current production as well as those vintage razors now no longer in production. So how could I possibly nominate a best DE razor?

Of course, it is true that I haven't tried all the DE razor designs available in the world. But as I've explained in the last week or so, picking shaving gear isn't all about trial and error. It's about understanding different skin and hair characteristics and, to those, matching the razor-design aspects (and blade-design aspects) that singly or in combination can likely provide a satisfying shave experience.

And the winner is (drum roll)....
The Merkur 15C open-comb razor:
The best DE razor.

The Merkur 15C (and 25C*) razor. (Tah-dah!)

*Of course, the key to this choice is the shaving head, so the family of Merkur open-comb razors could be included in this selection. However, the 15C and the slightly-more-expensive, long-handled 25C are specifically identified because of the excellent no-slip knurling on the handle.

The reasons should be fairly obvious by now. 
  • Its capacity to shave long hair is virtually unlimited, so it can handle the daily shave or if you only shave once a week or less.
  • It is a mild-shaving razor that should be comfortable for those with sensitive skin or those new to double-edge shaving.
  • Yet it is capable of shaving close enough that those with tougher skin should still be able to get a good, close shave (although I acknowledge that these gents would probably prefer a more aggressive razor, which would make it easier to get a very close shave).
  • [UPDATE: Shave plane drawn in, showing blade exposure, which is slightly negative -- contributing to the mild shave.] If you're not used to an open-comb razor, the blade gap between blade and baseplate may look hopelessly small. But keep in mind that the side view of the comb that you see here isn't solid; it is non-existent in the large gaps between the teeth. So the comb largely doesn't force the hairs to lie down under a safety bar just before the cutting edge arrives. This makes this particular razor, though a mild shaver, more capable than it might first appear in a side view as shown above.
This view clearly shows the limited blade reveal for diminished harshness, and also how, for about 2/3 of the blade edge, there is no obstacle (such as a safety bar) between hair and blade.
Okay, now I offer some validation and counterpoint for the skeptics.
  • Yes the 15C handle is the shorter, classic length and smaller diameter. Some will stubbornly insist that it's too small for their hands -- despite the reasonable suggestion that a fingertip grip is probably the most suitable for any DE razor. If you don't like this handle, then choose the 25C.
  • Its weight is only moderate, not heavy, and some really like a heavy razor. Okay, that's true, but the shaving character of this instrument is mild and can be more forgiving in terms of pressure of razor against face. So, then, who cares about its weight?
  • If you have relatively tougher, less-sensitive skin, with smooth, round contours, you may label this razor as one for wimps and beginners. That's your prerogative. However, preferences aside, even someone with tough skin can get a good shave with this razor, and if you're in a hurry, the shave can be really quick without much risk of blood loss.
For this writer, personally, this razor may be not only the last model that I buy, but it also some day may be the last razor remaining in my bathroom medicine cabinet. I don't need razors of higher capacity because this one can handle almost anything. I don't need a more skin-friendly razor because this one is really good on sensitive skin while still providing a near baby-smooth shave in two or three passes -- and a pretty fair shave in just a single, well-chosen pass.

I don't expect that other manufacturers and other models of razors will disappear because of the mass appeal of this razor. No, there is always room for variety of choice, and there will always be individual user preferences that will over ride the mass appeal of a really good one-size-fits-all model. I also suspect that the open comb baseplate tends to discourage many DE shavers from giving a razor like this a try; they might either be frightened off thinking it's too aggressive, or that the less-ancient safety-bar razors -- especially the TTO, butterfly-top razors -- are a design improvement, which in terms of shaving character is certainly not necessarily true.

If you're one of the lucky ones with skin that can tolerate more abuse, you have many options including a raft of razors with more harsh design characteristics such as TTOs, slant bars, and straight bars of a more aggressive character. But if you have sensitive skin and shave daily, the really good options rapidly narrow, and the 15C begins to really stand out. Even more limiting are those with sensitive skin and who also shave irregularly: sometimes in daily streaks and sometimes taking several days off; for those, this razor becomes even more salient as an optimal choice for the owner who only chooses to own one DE razor.

So there you have it: the Merkur 15C (or 25C) open-comb razor is my nominee for the best one-size-fits-all DE razor in the world! It's one that every shaver should be able to use with very good results.

I hope you enjoyed my little foray off the deep end into the realm of hyperbolic claims. I also hope it piqued your interest and your thinking about why a given razor works for you.

What do you think? What would you nominate for the best DE razor in the world?

Happy shaving!

1 comment:

  1. Okay, close enough (to a Tech). I'm not going to argue. :)