Friday, November 28, 2014

Finding a Razor for a Dull Blade?

A couple of weeks ago, I found that the SuperMax Titanium blade seemed to give me a better shave with the Lord L.6 razor than the ever-so-slightly-less-aggressive Merkur 33. The idea to try the L.6 with the SuperMax blade stemmed from the fact that, compared to other blades in my inventory, the SuperMax was smooth but seemed just not quite as sharp. I hadn't previously noticed the slight difference in shave characteristic with this blade, so though perhaps not quite as sharp as my Personna Labs or Red Labels, or my Astra Superior Platinums, the SuperMax blade has been sharp enough -- though apparently just a touch less sharp than the others I've been using.

It seems that my weekly blade trials and accompanying weekly-shave-review articles are making me more perceptive of the subtle differences in shave outcome with different blades and razors.

So this week, in giving the Derby Extra blade a trial, my first pass on Sunday morning seemed to pull more on that initial run than most of my other blades do after a full week of shaves. That single pass combined with some on-line reviews that I've read, which claim the blade is dull. . .  well, that lead me to think the blade was DOA (that's dead on arrival) and set it aside, using instead an Astra SP blade to finish that shave as well as shaves on the following two days.

Lord L.6 razor head on the
Maggard MR3B handle.
Later in the day after Tuesday's shave, I got to thinking about the Derby Extra blade, and wondered if I hadn't been too hasty in declaring it a goner for my beard. I speculated that perhaps, like the SuperMax blade, by putting the Derby into a razor with slightly more aggressive shaving characteristics (but not much), that it might perform adequately. After all, I really wanted to like this blade because of the apparent complexity of its coating, which I hoped would give an uber-comfortable shave, and also because of the Derby price, which is inexpensive when purchased in bulk.
Merkur 33C

So on Wednesday, I lathered up my slickest, creamiest shave soap, Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy for Sensitive Skin, and did two full passes with the Derby Extra in the Lord L.6 razor head, paired with the extra-heavy, extra-fat Maggard MR3B handle.

Both passes seemed to tug, and neither was particularly close despite using oblique strokes for both. I was also feeling just the slightest subtle irritation -- perhaps due to unconsciously pressing too hard to compensate for the blade; so for the third pass, I returned to the Astra blade in the Merkur 33 razor. The shave outcome was good, being pretty close and, in the end, not irritating. I do believe, however, that the shave was saved by that final pass, which comfortably cleaned up the remnants of the first two passes.


If one has a blade that is sharper than needed, it makes complete sense to use that blade in a mild-shaving razor. This can balance the shave characteristics of the razor-blade combination, and perhaps give the perfect shave for that face.

But going the other way is tricky.

If a blade is just sharp enough for one's whiskers, then putting that blade in a razor that has larger capacity or other more aggressive design aspects such as a more positive blade exposure or is a slant-bar razor, this choice may improve the quality of the shave outcome. However, if the blade is not quite sharp enough to cut one's whiskers even when using oblique strokes, a different razor is unlikely to save the day.

Such is the case with the Derby Extra blade on my face. Despite that I wanted to love this blade because of its price and the promise of a smooth shave due to its complex coating, the blade I tried just isn't sharp enough for my hair. (And if one blade isn't sharp enough, then I don't want to use the brand even if other blades in the pack are better; if a company can't manage its quality control, then I don't need the blade, when there are so many others that are both good and consistent.)

So despite being beloved by some other users, for me the Derby Extra blade is not quite sharp enough to do the job on my beard. And because there is not a razor that can fix this situation, my remaining inventory of Derby Extras will be given to friends as appropriate for them to try.

Happy shaving!

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