Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Uninformed Opinions on DE Shaving and Gear

News flash just across the wire:
There are facts and there are opinions, and in DE shaving forums, one is often confused for the other.

The root cause of this problem is trusting, gullible souls who read an opinion and then repeat it as though it were true. (And I have to admit that I was one of those for a time, but no longer! For my earlier transgressions, I apologize; I have seen the light.)

Below are three common examples of opinions that have not been verified, and in fact are not true (or likely not true). I, myself, have previously perpetuated a few unverified opinions, mistaking them as facts by not verifying them. Here are my three examples for today:
  • The Merkur 33 and the Lord L.6 razor heads have the same shaving characteristics.
  • The Merkur 33 and 34 razors have the same shaving characteristics; the only difference is their weight and handle dimensions.
  • The Rimei RM2003 razor is often sold as being made of stainless steel. Prospective buyers occasionally ask if it's really stainless. All too frequently, people will answer saying, yes, it's stainless (but it's not; it's chrome plated).
The Merkur 33 and Lord L.6 razor heads shave similarly, but they are not the same. Using measurements and observations rather than a vague sense of reality, I have confirmed that these razors have similar design characteristics, but differ most in their respective blade-bar gaps -- the L.6 having the larger gap and, therefore, is a bit less mild in its shaving nature. (I have come to appreciate that slightly more aggressive character.)

Regarding the 33 versus the 34 razor heads, I own and really like my Merkur 33 razor head. It is good for my uber-sensitive skin. I do NOT own nor have shaved with the Merkur 34. Yet, in the past, I, myself, have ignorantly, foolishly recommended this razor in lieu of the 33 because I read in several shaving forums that they are essentially razor heads with the same shaving characteristics. (Yeah, I do know that the 33 is a three-piece razor and the 34 is a two-piece design; still, they have been alleged to shave the same, which I now seriously doubt.)

After I recommended the 34 to a friend, he reported after months of use that he can't get a shave without blood letting, no matter what he does, no matter how light his touch. This caused me to ruminate: hmmm, I thought, this doesn't sound like how my 33 would behave. So I did some more research, and not surprisingly, there are voices in the wilderness that suggest that the 34 is a more aggressive shaver than its cousin the 33. If I could get my hands on a 34 without dropping about forty bucks, I would examine, measure, and compare the two shaving heads and get right to the bottom of the matter. I wish everyone would do that before popping off with half-baked opinions.

The Rimei misinformation is the most troubling of all. There are folk who actually OWN the bloody razor (as I do) and yet will, with a straight face (presumably), advise others WRONGLY that it's made of stainless (for $4 yet)! These guys apparently don't know the difference between stainless steel and chrome plating, yet they're posing as someone who can advise others CORRECTLY on this subject!

My bottom line on this uninformed-opinion issue is that none of us should try to pass off as truth something we have not personally verified, or for which we have not at least seen clearly-supporting data. For many months, my personal motto has been question everything. So let's all go forth and sin no more.

Question everything.

Happy shaving!


  1. Everywhere that I've read seems to indicate that all of the currently manufactured Merkur solid bar heads (save for adjustable and bakelite models) share the same head geometry, and only differ by the handles.

    I wonder if your friend's experience might be due to differences in his skin/beard/technique ... or due to manufacturing inconsistencies and poor quality assurance?

    And on the general topic of knowing the facts/specifications of a razor ... this is a great reference chart:

    (note: please let /r/ShavingScience know if you find any errors or omissions)

  2. Thanks for your comments. I have looked at the reddit chart, which offers NO details at all regarding the differences between the 33C and 34C. So, is it, are you, have I, been guilty of repeating mythology that is not fact based? My suspicions are yes, and, again, there are folk posting on the Internet, who would testify on the side of that difference being real. They are a minority, but the truth isn't subject to a popular vote. It is based on fact, observation, data, and details. Just because Merkur makes several similar safety-bar DE razors doesn't mean they're all the same -- especially if one is a two-piece design and the other a three piece! They may be similar, but more data is needed -- hard data. It's time to be more rigorous in our approach to understanding razors. Just because lots of sellers and users say something is so, doesn't make it so; the Rimei 2003 is the case in point, being chrome plated, not stainless, despite a preponderance of sellers and some goofy users claiming stainless.

  3. The reddit chart does attempt to list your Merkur 33 and the comparing Merkur 34. Under "Merkur" it lumps them together as "Merkur solid bar models (except adjustables and Bakelite) (ex: 34C)". How might I adjust this chart to make this grouping of models more clear, while still keeping it user-friendly and concise?

    This lumping of all Merkur solid bar razors into the one row on the chart is based on my research by posting the question myself at B&B, and also reviewing a dozen similar threads. In approximately a year since I started researching razor specifications, your post here is the first I’ve seen asserting that the 2-piece and 3-piece Merkur SB models have different head geometries.

    To me the real problem is that manufacturers need to be more upfront about their razors' specifications, or at least explain the differences between their similar products. If the manufacturer and vendors don't disclose official information, nor correct long-standing razor comparisons publically available on the Internet (even in 2 high visibility razor comparison charts) ... I'm not sure how often we can feasibly do better.

    Sometimes an imperfect conversation with best-available information is better than no conversation at all.

    1. Thanks again, shawnsel, for your response. I must emphasize that there are voices on the Internet suggesting that the 34 is slightly more aggressive than the 33 -- a minority, but sometimes even a minority of one can be right.

      I agree totally with you about the manufacturers publishing design specs; they should. I also agree about keeping the conversation alive, which you are helping so well. I am keeping an open mind, but a skeptical one until sufficient data is available.

      Thanks also for all the work you're doing on information of this sort. Best regards.

  4. If it's not steel, do you have an idea what the underlying metal of the Rimei is? Pot metal or brass? The reddit list linked above doesn't provide it.

    1. I must emphasize for clarity, I didn't say it wasn't made of steel; I said it certainly isn't made of STAINLESS steel. The Rimei RM2003 is chrome plated, which would never be done over stainless.

      I have looked up pot metal (check Wikipedia), and would suggest that probably no razor manufacturers of any note are using this random, non-specific mixture of scrap metals. (Despite many disgruntled razor users who have broken a cast razor head make this accusation of parts being made from pot metal -- so often, in fact, that I believe that it has become another scrap of misinformation and misunderstanding in the shaving community. I suspect that most who make this complaint haven't even taken the time to understand what pot metal is and is not.)

      The better razors with cast parts that are plated are probably ZAMAK (check Wikipedia on that one too -- it's a zinc alloy with aluminium, magnesium, and copper) or something similar. Bear in mind that this is my speculation, not fact. (We don't want to start more rounds of misinformation that might soon be considered not only fact, but common knowledge! ;-)

    2. Anterras, I just yesterday received my second Rimei RM2003 razor; unlike the first one, this one seems made well enough with which to safely shave. Looking into the threaded part of the handle, where the chrome plating disappears, the handle looks to be a brass-like material and has a nice heft to it. (I'll weight it soon and report on that.) As for the materials of the baseplate and top cap, I would guess NOT brass, but need to give the matter more study.

    3. Awesome, thanks for the information! Yeah, "pot metal" is often used as a term for zamak, but you're right that it's a bit of a misnomer. If the head isn't brass, the likely materials would be either zinc or steel?

    4. My best GUESS at this point is that the baseplate is stamped mild steel under the plating. My best GUESS about the top cap is that it is something like ZAMAK (as are most cast razor-head parts) underneath the plating.

      BTW, I did a quick review on my first shave with the RM2003. Check it out:

  5. Have you heard of trivalent chromium? It's what I'll be using for my Shave Select Merkur 34C replica seen here:

    1. Hey, Shave Select,

      Ok, since I didn't remove your gratuitous plug for your store ;-), how about paying for your ad by really contributing to this discussion with data: if you're making a 34C knock off, what are the razor head design specs of your version as well as the original?

      Specifically I'm looking for the following esoteric design specs, which are most important in determining the shave character of a DE razor head:
      o Blade-bar gap (in mm +/- mm -- measured along the shave plane formed by where the top cap and safety bar would simultaneously contact a flat surface)
      o Blade angle in relation to the shave plane (in degrees +/- degrees; this is the acute angle formed by the exposed blade and the shave plane)
      o Blade exposure (where the blade edge lies above, on, or below the shave plane, and to what extent)
      o Blade reveal (how much of the blade is not covered by the top cap, expressed in mm +/- mm)

      The units of mm +/- mm means that any dimension will have a statistical range, an uncertainty. So a typical design spec example for, say, blade reveal might be 1.2 mm plus or minus 0.1 mm.

    2. Also, Shave Select,

      Also, after going to your web site, I see that you're offering a Rimei RM2003 for $6. Where does it ship from, and do you have quality control to ensure that the razor shipped is defect free? (Both shipping time and manufacturing defects are significant issues when buying Chinese razors, even the 2003.)