Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Big Three DE Razor Design Factors

Generally speaking, I'm trying to raise awareness in the DE-shaving community of the more esoteric aspects of razor design. This is one of my major themes.

Every once in a while I return to shaving forums when I'm looking for specific information on one thing or another. Each time, I am struck by the superficiality and incredibly poor analysis that is displayed in many of the postings.

I am so tired of reading about balance and weight with no mention of the really important design characteristics of blade exposure (where the blade edge lies in relation to the protective cove of the top cap and safety bar), blade angle (in relation to the shave plane of the top cap and safety bar), and, where applicable, blade-bar gap. Blade reveal (that is, how much of the blade is visible from under the top cap can also be a factor, but the big three are exposure, angle, and gap.

The DE community, both sellers and buyers, are woefully ignorant of the importance of these big-three design factors. I have never seen a razor purveyor publish side-on photos of the blade edge of an instrument for sale. If done, one would better understand how the razor might behave and could make better purchase decisions.

For example, I'd like to consider buying a Merkur Progress razor. However, before I can do that, I would need to know the blade angles at the extremes of the razor's adjustments. Likewise for blade gap and exposure. If I don't know this information, then I'm shelling out about US$70 for a pig in a poke; adjustability in no way guarantees a good shave for every user. Generally speaking, adjustability will influence the big three design factors (angle, gap, and exposure), but only within the range determined by unchanging design factors.

The classic example of this is my Gillette Slim Adjustable. Well made, durable, and of materials that will not degrade over time, it gives me mediocre to bad shaves at every setting because the blade angle cannot be made small enough via the blade-gap adjustment to give me a non-irritating shave over multiple passes.

I will persist in my attempt to raise awareness of the big three design factors in DE razors. If more buyers would demand this objective information in terms of both numerical data and the all-important side-view photos along the razor's mounted blade edge, then more sellers would provide it. Thereby, we could make better purchase decisions without relying on the inefficient trial-and-error method.

Happy shaving!


  1. Probably won't help your RAD, for that I apologize. On the other hand, it might cure it...

    I'm considering this razor in the hope that it will help cure or at least curb my RAD

    1. Coincidentally that article was posted on the same day as your post :)

    2. Thanks, I looked at the B&B page you referenced. It is extolling the virtues of the Merkur Progress razor, and I'm sure that there are virtues; that razor has many dedicated devotees. I do really appreciate the high-quality side-view down-the-blade photos, which have given me good new information about this razor. Kudos to the primary poster for providing those. However....

      I continue to be amazed by the misinformation that abounds in forums. The primary post on that page states: "Due to its design, and unlike other adjustable razors, the cutting angle never changes." Now, I'm not sure what that guy is thinking, but the BLADE ANGLE (that is, the angle of the blade in relation to the shave plane of the razor, which is determined by the top cap and safety bar) CHANGES IN THE PROGRESS WITH THE GAP ADJUSTMENT, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER ADJUSTABLE THAT ADJUSTS RAZOR AGGRESSIVENESS BY MOVING THE SAFETY BAR UP OR DOWN PARALLEL TO THE RAZOR HANDLE. The Gillette adjustables do exactly the same thing, although I acknowledge that the shave character of the Progress is likely different than the Gillettes -- and many think the Progress is better.

      Further, the photos he displays that have the so-called "cutting angle" (the angle of the blade in relation to the top cap alone) can be drawn on other adjustables as well, where it (the so-called "cutting angle") doesn't change as the razor's setting is changed. For example, the angle of the blade to the top cap on the Gillette Slim Adjustable doesn't change with changes in setting adjustment of the razor either.

      What is amazing to me is that most of the other comments are seeming to go along with this gross misunderstanding and gross misstatement of fact.

      Now as for me personally, yeah, I'd like to take the Progress for a test drive. However, at its lowest setting, the blade exposure looks pretty neutral, which I'm sure is sufficient for my face. So I don't think that spending $70 for this razor would be a good investment for me, although I'm sure it's great for many others, no doubt. The adjustability is just likely a wasted capability when used for my mug.

      I DO really appreciate the referral to the post however, both for the great, informative photos as well as the opportunity to try to correct another bit of DE misinformation in an Internet-based shaving forum.

    3. And just to elaborate on my penultimate paragraph above, believe it or not, the $4 Rimei RM2003 has a similar blade angle and exposure as the Progress on its lowest setting. So that will likely be the better option for me, and is about as aggressive as I want to get.

    4. Though I bet the Progress gives a good shave, a word of caution about the handle, which may be unnecessarily slippery when wet or soapy. I love a handle with good knurling that gives a secure grip at all times.