Friday, October 31, 2014

Analysis of the Merkur 15C Open-Comb Razor Design

An open comb razor is excellent for shaving long hair owing to its virtually unlimited shaving capacity. So those who shave less than daily -- and especially those who skip many days between shaves or who shave and adjust the margins of facial hair -- will find an open-comb razor a useful option.

As I've written before, though many think of open-comb designs as being aggressive and potentially providing a harsh shave because of their unlimited capacity as well as the reputation of some open-comb razors such as the Muhle R41, this aggressive shaving character isn't always the case. The Merkur 15C is an excellent example of an open-comb razor with a very mild shaving character. As we examine side-view photos of this instrument, the reasons for its mild shave will become apparent.

The 15C blade exposure is negative (the red dot highlights the blade edge), the blade angle measures 29 degrees -- very close to the 30 degree angle of its sibling, the Merkur 33C. Though the blade-baseplate gap is very small in the side view as shown, remember that the open-comb baseplate design has large gaps between the teeth, which may allow the skin to squeeze up closer to the blade edge.
The blade edge is more visible in this photo, so the negative blade exposure is also more easily seen.
As both photos above show, the blade exposure of the razor is negative; that is, the blade edge lies below the shave plane. This is one reason that the razor gives such a mild shave. Also contributing to the mild shave is the very small gap between blade edge and baseplate. However, the mildness of this small gap is off set to some degree by the open gaps between the baseplate teeth, which allow the skin to potentially bulge up and be at greater risk for nicks and weepers. However, the tooth design of this baseplate is flat along the shave plane. Some other razors have the appearance of a peaked-tooth profile along the shave plane, which would allow for a more skin to potentially bulge up between the teeth and get closer to the blade edge. So even in this respect, the 15C has a mild tooth profile as compared to some other open-comb designs.

The tooth profile on this Merkur 15C (above) is rather flat and the gaps between the teeth are not the largest of the open-comb designs. For example, compare this to the tooth profile and gap size of the Muhle R41 below.

This photo of the Muhle R41 raor shows the relatively larger gaps between the teeth as well as the tooth shape, which is narrow and rounded. Both these characteristics would contribute to the aggressive, more-dangerous shaving character of this razor.

The blade angle of the 15C measures about 29 degrees, which is similar to some other razors I've measured, and which are listed below:

  • Merkur 33C:  30 degrees (& negative blade exposure)
  • Lord LP1822L: 30 degrees (& negative blade exposure)
  • Weishi 9306-F:  28 degrees (& positive blade exposure)
  • Gillette Slim Adjustable, set on one:  31 degrees (& positive blade exposure)
  • Gillette Slim Adjustable, set on nine:  35 degrees (& larger positive blade exposure)

So the smaller blade angle combined with the negative blade exposure would tend to suggest a very mild shave.

Paradoxically, though this razor is of mild-shaving nature, I tend to get weepers at a higher rate than with the Merkur 33C, while seeming to have to work just a bit harder to get as close a shave with the 15C. My only explanation for this paradox might be that the open-comb design lets looser skin in certain areas of my beard get nipped by the blade, while in the smoother, tighter areas, the mild nature of the razor dominates.

Happy shaving!

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