Monday, August 10, 2015

Best of Grandad: Merkur 33 Vs. 34HD

[This article was first published on March 2, 2015. To some readers, the conclusions it presents are controversial, arguable, outright wrong. To me, it is iron-clad, without-a-doubt correct. Further anecdotal evidence is that my same friend mentioned in the article also shaved with the Rimei RM2003 razor, which is more aggressive in character than both the Lord and the Merkur 33. Yet he also finds this razor not as effective in a single-pass shave.]

News flash: Common mythology propagated by far too many postings on Internet shaving forums is wrong again: Despite the untested, unconfirmed rumors that the Merkur 33 and 34HD razors have the same razor head design, this rumor is false. They have different shave characteristics; the 34HD has a more aggressive razor-head design than its mild-mannered cousin, the 33 Classic.

Though I have long studied the 33 Classic razor, I have not had the pleasure of measuring the 34HD to get primary data. Thus I have not compared the design specifics of the two models, which most of those who have helped to sustain this myth should have done -- and I'm sad to say, that group includes this writer. But I have seen the error of my ways and hope never to repeat this type of mistake. Still, without primary data on the 34HD, how can I now assert so confidently that it and the 33 Classic do not, in fact, have the same razor head design?

It was a close friend of mine who, unintentionally, busted the myth. Here's the rest of the story:

On the advice of a silly ass, who months ago suggested that the 34HD was an appropriate high-end razor for a DE newbie (that silly ass is this writer), my close friend purchased one. Over the next few months, despite watching the requisite videos and using appropriate shave cream, brush, and diligent due care, was unable to get a shave without blood loss.

He is not one to complain, but when I finally learned about his commitment to DE shaving and the troubled outcomes of his shaves, I was greatly dismayed to learn of his plight and his expenditure on a razor he can't fully enjoy. The very reason I had recommended the 34HD as a higher-end starter razor was due to the common misinformation (or delusion) that its razor head is essentially the same as that of the 33 Classic, and that the only significant difference is the size and weight of the handle. Therefore I had intended to recommend a razor of mild-shaving character that would encourage a new DE shaver by having an instrument that easily provides comfortable shaves.

I immediately suspected the problem was that, unlike my favored 33 Classic, the 34HD was too aggressive for his face. So without telling him my concerns, I simply ordered a Lord LP1822L and had it sent to his home.

Later, when I inquired as to which razor he preferred and why, he thanked me heartily for the Lord razor, saying that though it doesn't shave as closely in a single pass when he's in a hurry, he is consistently getting low-irritation, no-blood shaves from the Lord LP1822L, and much prefers that razor for his morning ritual.

That said, one could easily and correctly infer that generally speaking, since the Lord and the Merkur 33 Classic offer similar shaves, then the 33 and the 34HD certainly do not. And that is exactly what I am asserting. I will even go further. I have measured the Lord L.6 razor head (which is on the LP1822L razor), and it has the same blade angle and approximately the same negative blade exposure as the Merkur 33. Where they differ is in the safety bar cross-section profile, which makes the blade span slightly larger in the L.6 -- meaning it shaves slightly more aggressively than the 33, and this has been born out not only in measurements but in evaluation shaves!

So this means that not only does the 34HD shave more aggressively than the Lord L.6, it also means that because the 33 Classic razor is a bit milder still, the difference in shave character between the 34HD and the 33 Classic is even greater than the difference between the 34HD and the Lord LP1822L!

Myth busted. The Merkur 34HD two-piece razor does not have the same head design as the Merkur 33 Classic, and the 33 offers the milder, more face-friendly shave.

Happy shaving, and continue to question everything!


  1. Why don't you just borrow your friend's old (and presumably no longer used?) Merkur 34HD, take pictures and measure its angles and compare them to your 33 Classic photos ... and draw an *objective* conclusion?

    Nobody is calling your claim "outright wrong". You're misunderstanding. Your pet theory may very well be accurate, but it's the *manner* in which you are coming to your conclusion which is far from scientific. Drawing from your own profession, can you imagine a world of dietary science where all conclusions were based purely on "my friend and I feel" evidence? As a person practicing in a health related field ... you really should know better than to promote such a sample-size-of-two methodology as determing "iron clad truth"....

    Before you go dramatizing this (as you did at ) by likening me to a moon landing conspiracist and yourself to Copernicus arguing that the sun does not revolve around the Earth, consider two quotes from a Nobel Prize winning scientist:

    "The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain." — Richard P. Feynman

    “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Richard P. Feynman

    I have already tried on multiple occasions to get us a good photo of the Merkur 34HD's razor head geometries. To date, I haven't been able to get one for us. But before you go labeling status quo beliefs as incontrovertibly wrong ... just get a 34HD razor and show us the photos. *That* would be a very helpful addition to publically available research on safety razor.

  2. Good information, I think in the end a lot of it is user experience so getting the actual razor and shaving is best. I've been eyeing the 34G heavy duty for sometime but will keep that on the wish list.