Wet shaving has been on resurgence the fast few years thanks to people like the Sharpologist and Nick Shaves who have been talking about their obsession, giving practical tips that men can add this to their everyday routine.
A safety razor is one of the best tools to have when it comes to shaving not only because of the closeness but also for the cost savings.
The biggest stumbling block for anyone would be the steeper learning curve compared to a cartridge razor.
Over the past few decades cartridge razors have dominated the shaving market because frankly these products are very easy to use.
It started with the 2-blade, 4-blade, 3-blade, 5-blade and now even a 6-blade razor (from Dorco).
A little history…
William S. Henson invented the safety razor in 1847. But it isn’t anything remotely close to modern DE razors we have today.
King Camp Gillette conceived disposable razor blade on spring morning in 1895. In 1899 he filed the first patent calling it “new in the art of razor manufacture and use”. This was a precursor to the modern safety razors we have today.
Fast forward to the 20th century, Gillette no longer manufactures safety razors and instead have focused their efforts on the more lucrative disposable and cartridge market.
But still there is demand for this tool that our ancestors used.
Here’s an overview of the best safety razors – just scroll down to see the table of contents plus details below…
|Merkur 34C HD||3"||2 piece||Full review|
|Edwin Jagger DE89||3-3/8"||Chrome||Full review|
|Merkur 37C Slant||3"||2 piece|
|Muhle R41||3.7" to 4.2"||2 piece or|
|Merkur Progress||3.35"||Adjustable||Full review|
|Parker 99R||4.5"||Twist to|
|Feather AS-D2||3.75"||3 piece||Full review|
Table of contents (just in case you’re in a hurry):
- Types of safety razors
- Why choose a safety razor over a disposable razor?
- Single blade = better shave
- Editor’s Choice: Merkur 34C HD
- Value for Money: Edwin Jagger DE89
- For Tough Beards: Merkur 37C Slant
- Most Aggressive: Muhle R41
- Gillette Throwback: Parker 99R
- Stainless Steel: Feather AS-D2
- Best Budget Safety Razors – Cheap Options
- To wrap things up
This razor is basically a one piece razor with two doors with a knob to open it.
Mechanically this razor is the most complicated of all the DE razors. But it is the easiest to load because you don’t have to disassemble anything.
Like its name implies, this razor is made up of two pieces – the top cap and the base cap/handle assembly.
The two-piece design makes it one of the easier razors to load the blade with after the twist to open design.
And this simplicity makes it one of the most durable because there are less moving parts.
The three piece razor is similar to the two piece razor except for one small detail – instead of the base plate and handle being one piece, these parts are separate which makes it a tad more difficult to load a blade with.
The good news is since you can take everything apart, it is easier to clean.
Relatively speaking, these razors are the cheapest in the market because it is easy to manufacture and mass produce compared to other types.
These razors get the name slant because of the angle of which the blade is twisted. Instead of having a flat angle, the blade comes down at an angle that will give it more slicing power than conventional razors.
To give you how it works, think of a guillotine – an ancient tool for executing convicted felons.
The sharp end of a guillotine isn’t straight but has a slight angle. This is by design because if it were straight, it wouldn’t be as efficient.
The same principle works of this razor, the angled blade slices facial hair instead of chopping making it more efficient giving you a close shave with less passes.
The downside to a slant bar razor is that blades get dull faster and you will need to replace it more often. Another downside is the learning curve involved, since this razor is more aggressive (others like to use the term efficient) you have to focus more, use the wrong technique and you’ll end up a bloody mess.
The typical safety razor has a closed comb that protects skin from direct blade contact.
An open comb razor has a slightly different design. Instead of a full safety bar it uses an open comb design where the ends are open. This design looks like a comb hence the term “open comb”.
The tweak exposes more of the blade to give a more aggressive shave.
Experts would not recommend this as an everyday razor but you can add it to your shaving tool kit for those days where you need to shave a week’s growth of facial hair in less than 3 passes.
An adjustable razor gives you the ability to adjust the aggressiveness through the blade exposure that gives you a lot of flexibility. On days that you’re in a hurry, you can turn up the dial to a higher number and get a close shave with just one or two passes.
Or if you’re just a newbie, you can use the lowest setting and master the technique first before going to higher settings without having to buy a new razor.
Let’s say your neck is more sensitive than your face, you could dial it down to a lower setting when you shave your neck and use a higher setting for the other parts of your face.
The downside is only one brand manufactures adjustable razors as we speak – the Merkur and there aren’t a lot of options though you could go old school a bid for a Gillette Fat Boy on Ebay.
My biggest beef with disposable razors is the price, especially if you use Gillette.
Refill packs of 8 could easily set you back close to $30 (if you buy the 4 blade razor). More so if you buy it retail.
The high cost of cartridges offset the initial low cost and you’ll spend more on refills than DE blades over the long haul.
Now compare this to the prices of the de blades…
If you do the math let’s say you replace the cartridge once a month – that’s roughly $35 on mostly dull blades.
Contrast that to the price of double edged blades, even if you load up a fresh blade every day you’d spend the same amount. And you’ll be using a sharp blade.
If you change twice a month, you’ll double what you’re currently spending.
Men with sensitive skin will have to replace cartridges more often and it will cost a lot.
So the difference is really night and day literally.
The main selling point of multi-blade cartridge razors is convenience and speed.
You can buy this at just about any convenient store and use it without having to learn proper technique.
More blades = more irritation
With the multi-bladed design, companies like Gillette claim that you will get a close shave with just one pass.
But in reality shaving with a multi-blade razor isn’t really good for your face.
Shaving with more blades will result in more irritation. Having a 2 pass shave on a 4-blade Gillete Fusion equates to an 8 pass have in a safety razor.
Do you see where I’m getting at?
Another disadvantage of a cartridge would be clogging. Any razor with more than 3 blades is prone to clogs.
Try it on your 4 day beard growth and see how it looks like.
The most likely scenario would be a razor like the one in the photo above.
A clogged razor is bad for your skin. It will pull, tug and spread bacteria around and a potential source of infection.
If you have sensitive skin this is a big no-no and a likely source of more irritation.
These blades are hard to clean. Trust me I’ve tried and it’s almost impossible after several uses.
Depending on how fast your facial hair grows, you’d have to replace these cartridges at least once every week.
And once the blades dull out, you have no choice but to throw them out.
A single blade double edge razor solves all these issues.
Second, since you’re using only a single blade there is much irritation in each stroke.
Third, you have to learn proper technique.
Proper technique equates to a better shave.
Fourth, with only one blade and the ability to disassemble the razor you can easily clean it. This reduces the risk of irritation and infection.
This may not be the most versatile or the most aggressive but in terms of overall performance, price and build quality it is hard to beat.
Experienced and those new to wet shaving will appreciate the Merkur 34C because it isn’t too aggressive.
Great for beginners
In the aggressiveness scale, it should provide around 5 or 6. Aggressive enough to give you a close shave in 3 passes or less depending on the blade you use.
Merkur was able to tether that fine balancing act of aggressiveness and smoothness and this is a big reason why experienced wet shavers like Nick Shaves highly recommend this product.
I must warn you though that this razor is not for everybody. If you have a really tough beard, you may want to opt for a more aggressive razor like the Merkur 39C or an adjustable like the Merkur Progress.
- Not overly aggressive or mild – it has the great balance of both
- This is a great option for a newbie wet shaver
- Priced just right
- Two piece design makes it easier to load
- May not work for men with really tough beards
- Short handle may not be suitable for men with big hands, if you’re looking for a similar product with a longer handle try the Merkurs 38C with a barber pole style handle
This isn’t the cheapest razor per se in the market but when you talk about the quality, shave and price, it’s hard to beat the value for money proposition this product brings to the table.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Edwin Jagger DE89 would be the smooth chrome finish. Every millimeter of this beauty is coated with chrome even non-visible parts.
Cheaper than a Merkur
Another thing that I like, the price – it’s cheaper than the Merkur 34C.
In terms of aggressiveness, the DE89 is middle of the road which make it a good option for newbies.
- Very good value for money
- Not overly aggressive which make it another great option for noobs
- Fantastic finish
- Not too much knurling – the handle is slippery
- Some concerns about the fit and finish
No two beards are alike.
Some men will have fine soft facial hair while others have wiry, tough facial hair that will need a scalpel to shave off.
We have that scalpel for you in the Merkur 37C Slant.
For example if you’re African American most likely your beard is hard to cut.
A standard flat bar razor doesn’t cut it because you get irritation – this is were a slant bar comes in.
What is a Slant razor?
Slant bars razors are unique in one aspect. The top and bottom plate twists the blade.
This twisting motion forces the blade to sit an angle similar to a guillotine.
It allows the blade to slice through hair instead of chopping allow for a closer shave.
To see this in action why not try cutting a cucumber and compare how easy it is to cut it with the knife at an angle versus cutting it straight down.
This same principle applies with a slant bar and this also gives it a more efficient cut (others call it aggressive).
Another feature that makes this aggressive is the open comb safety bar that exposes more blade.
Got a four or five day growth? The 37C can mow it down and give you a close shave it just 2 passes.
But I must warn you to be careful not to put a very sharp blade in there if you’re using this for the first time.
You can try a less aggressive blade (but still sharp I may add) like the Personna or an Astra.
- Very efficient in terms of cutting facial hair
- A good option for men with tough beards or sensitive skin
- Not a great option for beginners because it doesn’t give you a lot of room for error
- Blades will dull quicker
This razor has an open comb design and many wet shavers say that it is perhaps the most aggressive safety razor in the market so much so that it got the nickname “The Beast”.
The R41 in the market right now is a less aggressive version of the original R41 that came out in 2011 so if you’re buying this second hand make sure to ask which version it is.
What makes this razor aggressive is the open comb design that has a lot of blade exposure.
More blade exposure means closer shave but at the cost of irritation.
Despite the terrifying reputation of the R41, this should not deter you from buying this product, especially if your facial hair type is on the coarser side.
But I must warn you that you should have your wet shaving technique ironed out before even trying this as it requires focus and a steady hand.
- Great for men with really tough beards
- Gives you a really close shave
- Not for beginners because it gives you little room for error
- Blades get dull faster because of the open comb design
Well enter the Merkur Progress.
This adjustable razor perhaps is the best adjustable razor in the market right now thanks to the simplicity and price.
Why buy an adjustable?
Biggest reason would be versatility.
You could shave aggressive or mild depending on the need.
Let’s say you have a 4 day growth and want a close shave in two passes, you could dial up the aggressiveness and do a 2 pass shave.
And if your neck is sensitive, dial it down to avoid irritation.
The beauty of this is you don’t need two separate razors for this.
When you compare it side by side to the Futur (another Merkur product), it does not have the fancy looks but it makes up for it with old school functionality.
In essence this razor is a two piece razor with an adjustable head – this means when you load the blade, it stays locked in unlike the Futur that uses a clip on mechanism that may not last as long.
The biggest downside would be the smooth handle that lacks grip. This issue is solved with the right technique…
Another downside would be the quirks to using this adjustable.
First and perhaps the biggest would be the inconsistencies of the adjustment knob not lining up with the numbers.
This does not affect the shaving quality and performance but you’re O.C. this could be an issue.
The second quirk would be holding the top of the razor as you tighten it – this ensures even blade exposure.
But these are just minor when you compare to the performance you’ll get from this product. Yes, experienced wet shavers like the Sharpologist use the Progress as their everyday razor and absolutely love it.
- 5 adjustable settings –give you unparalleled flexibility
- Simple design ensures that it will last for years
- Slippery handle
- Manufacturing inconsistencies in terms of the alignment of the adjustment knob
Earlier in this article I talked about a classic Gillette razor called the Fat Boy and finding one of these in pristine condition can be tough and possibly costly.
Here’s an alternative, the 99R from an India based manufacturer Parker.
It looks like the Gillette Fat Boy and it’s heavier thanks to the solid brass frame.
Easy to use
Both the Gillette and Parker use a twist to open mechanism to load and secure the blade in place but unlike the Fat Boy, the 99R isn’t an adjustable.
Parker has come a long way and has improved their razors.
In 2010 they re-engineered the twist to open head and used thicker metal – particularly on the hinges, the weakest link of any TTO razor.
This ensures better quality and longevity. In terms of aggressiveness, this razor is considered a mild so men who are looking for a starter razor can opt for this Indian made product.
- This is a mild razor suited for noobs
- Thicker metal on the hinges ensure longevity
- Long handle make this suitable for men with big hands
- Barber pole design looks pretty
- Quality control still an issue but less than before
The majority use chrome to give it a layer of protection from the elements and if you use proper techniques to take good care of it, it will last for a very long time.
However there will also be a risk of the chrome plate chipping off and that could be the beginning of the end if that happens.
Let me introduce to you the Feather AS-D2, one of the very few razors the market that has a stainless steel finish.
This Japanese made product is all about precision.
Quality is as you’d expect from a Japanese made product is great.
Look under the top cap and you’ll see why – it has four posts on all four corners that hold the blade in place. This helps align the blade when you tighten it.
Look at the handle and you’ll see more precision engineering. The knurling at first glances looks like a Merkur but when you look closely, the grooves are deeper and it goes all the way down to the base so grip is excellent.
This is precision engineering at its best.
Not very aggressive
In terms of aggressiveness, you will not mistake this for a slant razor anytime soon because it has minimal blade gap which make it a mild razor but combine this with a sharp razor like a Feather and it still can give you a very close shave.
I wouldn’t recommend this to men with tough beards but for the rest, this is a great investment that will not corrode and something that you can pass on to the next generation.
- Stainless finish will not corrode
- Superb build quality and craftsmanship
- Four posts on the top cap ensure blade alignment every time you load it
- Knurling is deep and runs all the way down to the base
- Very expensive
- May not be suitable for men with wiry facial hair
Not everybody can afford a $150 stainless steel razor on even a $50 adjustable razor so in this section we’ll talk about budget razors. And no I’m not talking about cheap knockoffs but quality products that will give you at least decent shave.
I’ll enumerate some of the options you have below the $30 range.
Weishi Safety Razor
Design wise it looks very similar to the One Touch razor endorsed by Rick Harrison of the Pawn Stars and the Dorco Razor so I’m guessing all of these comes from the same factory. Between the three , I’d get this.
I wouldn’t consider this cheap but it still falls under the $35 range.
What sets it apart from other Merkur razors is the handle. The 20C has an anodized handle that men say has a better grip compared to the chrome handle.
It is rather long at 4.2 inches so if you’ve got large hands, this is a good option.
Merkur 180 Long Handle Razor
If the 20C is still too expensive for you, here’s a cheaper option.
It has roughly the same length and same handle thickness, the biggest difference would be the handle – this one’s got a chrome finish.
Performance would be roughly the same since both of these have the same head.
The Clean Shave
If you’ve never heard of Clean Shave – it is a Pakistan based company.
This razor is exclusively sold in Amazon and costs around $15 (as of this moment).
It is a three piece razor with crisscrossed knurling on the handle similar to the Feather which gives it pretty solid grip. If you’re not brand conscious gives this a try because it seems to shave well.
These products have a double edged design which I think is superior to the single edge design because you can use the blades a lot longer so it saves you in the long run.
Why the Merkur?
For men looking to wet shave for the first time, the obvious choice would be the Merkur 34C. It is actually one of the cheaper options of the seven DE razors but the quality is one of the best.
It doesn’t have the stainless steel finish a Feather but it won’t cost you $160. The 34C provides the right balance of aggressive and mild that wouldn’t require you to do a 4 shave pass just to get a decently smooth shave.
Load a sharp blade like a Feather and you’ll get a fairly aggressive razor that will shave close. A less aggressive blade would yield a more relaxing shave so it is quite versatile.
Speaking of versatility – the Merkur Progress is the most versatile safety razor with 5 settings to work with. It is a good second safety razor for men looking for some flexibility with their shaving to go from aggressive to mild and vice-versa.
The Merkur Progress would cost almost twice as a 34C and Edwin Jagger DE89 but it is essentially multiple razors in one.
These are not for newbies
Other razors here such as the 37C Slant and Muhle R41 are products that newbies shouldn’t touch because these are ultra-aggressive. The only reason for men to buy these two is if they have really tough facial hair and want a tool to shave close efficiently.
If you think I’ve missed any brands, please feel free to contact me or comment below. I look forward to hear from you.
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