What Is The Best DE Razor?

3 razors

“What is the best double edge safety razor?”

I get the question all the time.  Unfortunately there’s no easy answer.  Unlike razors with multi-blade, pivoted cartridges that come from a few large multi-national companies and manufactured to a very narrow set of specifications, double-edge (DE) razors (and blades) have a wide variety of options to choose from.  Lets look at some of the variables and see what stands out.  These are not the only products of course–I’m listing the most popular razors that many people say may be “best” in a particular category–so if you know of a good DE razor not listed here be sure to mention it in a comment!  All the prices here are in U.S. dollars and approximate.  This post last updated 5 March 2014.

These “endorsements” are my own opinion and I was not paid by any vendor or manufacturer for these recommendations.

Price Range

Probably the most obvious factor is going to be price.  There’s no sense looking for something you can’t afford.  I have seen new DE razor prices range from under $5 to well over $200.

There are some acceptable inexpensive DE razors.  They probably will not become heirlooms for the grandkids but they should be acceptable to get started with if you are on a budget.  Sharpologist ran a post a while back about a couple inexpensive razors for under $15.  The $15 to $30 range offers some additional alternatives, including the all plastic Wilkinson Sword, the mostly-plastic Feather Popular, and the all (light) metal Weishi.  You will also find some promising newcomers such as the Matador (open comb–more on that later), Cadet, and Black Tie (which incidentally all come from the same manufacturing facility in India). [DECEMBER, 2013 UPDATE: Maggard razors, another relative newcomer, are also well-regarded and inexpensive.]

The $30-$40 price range is where you will start seeing the more popular, better-made razors. Probably the most recognized models in this range are the Edwin Jagger (EJ) DE8x series and many Parker razors, as well as the low end of the Merkur line (including their popular 180/23C, and 33C) will be in this range too.

merkur hd razor

The $40-$50 range is where you will find the enormously popular Merkur Heavy Duty (AKA “Heavy Classic” or 34C) and Edwin Jagger DE89lbl.

Above this pricepoint is where you will find razors that are popular for reasons other than (or in addition to) performance.  Different head styles (such as the Merkur 37C “Slant” or the Muhle R41), materials (like the Feather All-Stainless Steel, the Above The Tie 7 Piece Razor System, or the Pils), special features (including the Merkur adjustable razors–Progress, Futur, and Vision) or special handle designs or materials are examples of this category.

New vs. Used vs. Vintage

The next factor for finding the “best” razor is whether it is new, used, or vintage.  A new razor is just that: in production, for sale, and not previously used.  A used razor is one that is currently in production but has been used before.  A vintage razor is one that is out of production (both used and “new old stock”).  The previous section described popular new razors.  You can get used versions of these same razors for probably around 75% of their new price–they generally hold their value pretty well.  Vintage prices can be “all over the road” depending on condition and the seller’s knowledge (or lack of knowledge).

There are a number of sources for used or vintage razors, including local antique stores and fleamarkets, internet auction sites, and buy/sell/trade (B/S/T) sections of the internet shaving forums.  Maybe even a forgotten razor in an older relative’s bathroom?  Local stores have the advantage of having something you can see and feel–you are more likely to know to what you are getting.  Internet auction sites can be useful if you know what you’re doing and are looking for something very specific…though there is always the danger of seller shenanigans.  The B/S/T areas on shaving forums are probably the place most likely to get a decent razor for a fair price.  These areas sometimes have “PIF” offers as well: a user wanting to “Pay It Forward” by offering a razor at little or no cost to a new shaver, a member of the armed forces, or for some other reason.  You can find a list of shaving forums at the bottom of the page here on Sharpologist (under “Resources”).

Two excellent “vintage” DE razors include the Schick Krona and various versions of the Gillette SuperSpeed (particularly the “Toggle”)–see this Sharpologist post for more information.  Vintage specialty single-blade razors such as the GEM have their fans as well.

Open Comb vs. Safety Bar

safety bar and open comb razors

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Double edge razors have heads that can be divided into two general groups: Open Comb and Safety Bar.  Open Comb’s have obvious “teeth” that help guide heavy stubble and shaving cream into channels.  Safety Bars have a solid (or scalloped) bar that provides some additional protection to the skin from the blade. Generally, Open Comb razors will not be as gentle on the skin as safety bar razors (the Muhle R41 notoriously so!), though there are exceptions (such as the Goodfella, a surprisingly mild Open Comb manufactured in New Zealand).  Most older vintage razors will have an Open Comb.

Three Piece vs. Two Piece vs. One Piece (“Twist To Open”)

razor pieces

DE razors are typically constructed in one of three ways.  Three piece are the  classic” (and easiest to manufacture) type, consisting of a handle, a base plate, and a head or cap.  An advantage of a three piece design is that you can sometimes “mix and match” the three pieces from different manufacturers, creating entirely new razors (you’ll sometimes see this referred to as a “frankenrazor” after Frankenstein’s monster).  Two piece have the base plate permanently mounted to the handle.  A one piece “twist to open” (TTO) razor is the type most common just before the advent of cartridge razors: the Gillette SuperSpeed is the classic TTO.

Set Gap vs. Adjustable

adjustable razors

Generally speaking, Open Comb razors expose more of the blade to the skin, making for a more “aggressive” shave.  But even razors with a Safety Bar can be aggressive: it’s all about the amount of blade exposed to the skin.  The vast majority of razors have a set gap size: the amount of the gap distance is determined by the manufacturer for a particular model of razor.  However “adjustable” razors can change the gap to make them more gentle or more aggressive.  There are only three adjustable razors currently made, all from Merkur and mentioned earlier.  There were also some vintage adjustable razors.  There are several lists that rate razors on a scale of the amount of blade gap or blade exposure.  See the bottom of the Sharpologist page under “Resources” for one such list.

Mantic59′s “Best” DE Razors

Here are what I consider the “best” razors in several different categories.  This is based on:

  1. My own experience;
  2. the experience of other users as read on various internet forums and blogs;
  3. reputation of the manufacturer;
  4. length of time on the market;
  5. razor’s general availability and popularity;
  6. razor’s over-all value (quality vs. price).

Remember the old adage, “Your Mileage May Vary!”

Best Low Cost Razor: Lord L6 three piece safety bar (Honorable Mention: ReiMi/Silver Tone razor–not a bad razor for under $3 DEC. 2013 UPDATE: Importers are substituting inferior razors for the ReMi/Silvertone/Sodial; I can’t recommend it anymore.)

Best “Value” Razor: Parker 92R TTO safety bar

Best “Popular” Razor (tie): Merkur “Heavy Classic” 34c two piece safety bar, Edwin Jagger DE89lbl three piece safety bar

Best Open Comb Razor: Goodfella three piece (note that this is a fairly gentle razor).  (Honorable Mention: Muhle R41 with the 2013 head – a much more aggressive razor). March 2014 update: relatively new on the market but becoming more widely available are the new Parker open comb razors, the 24C and the 26C (differing only in handle design).  They shave very well and are  not overly-aggressive.

Best Adjustable Razor: Merkur Progress two piece safety bar (this is admittedly a personal favorite!)

Best Vintage Razor: Gillette SuperSpeed, circa 1950 (Honorable Mention: Gillette  “Toggle” Adjustable TTO safety bar)

Best “Price Is No Object” Razor: Above The Tie 7 Piece Stainless Steel Razor System  (Honorable Mention: Feather AS-D2 All Stainless Steel)

 

A Further Caution To The Beginner: Blades

No discussion about DE razors would be complete without mentioning blades.  Many beginners think “a blade is a blade” and while DE blades may all look similar there can actually be fairly significant differences in the way a blade is made.  Metallurgy (the metal or combination of metals used to make the blade), coatings, and grinding specifications (the blade’s “sharpness”) can all play a part in the production process.  So take the time to try a number of different blade brands to find the one(s) that work best for the razor you’re using (your skin, the mineral content of the water you’re using, and the shave lather you’re using play parts too).  Even if you are already using a DE razor you may need to do some additional blade experimentation if you buy another DE.  Some shaving vendors sell “sample packs” or “blade samplers” to make the process easier: you get a few blades of many different types.  After you decide which one(s) work best you can then buy your favorites in bulk, saving a ton of money!

A Final Note

Shaving with a DE razor is not quite like shaving with a modern pivoted cartridge razor–you can’t just take mindless swipes at your face and expect a good shave.  You have to learn a new skill set (and possibly unlearn some bad habits) to use a DE razor properly. It’s not a terribly difficult skill to pick up but there is a learning curve.  And like learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument some will pick it up more quickly than others.  Luckily, I have a few videos to help you out!

Related Content

What Is The Best Shaving Soap?

2 Vintage DE’s For The Beginner

The Evolution of Parker Razors

The Muhle R41 Razor

Cheap Vs. Expensive: A Tale of 3 Razors

Razor Sampler Pack Resources

How Double Edge Razors Are Made

 

Over to you!  What do you think?

Mark H Mark H (482 Posts)

also known as "Mantic59." Shave tutor and sharpologist.


Comments

  1. Good article. A few mild disagreements:

    You underplay the difference between a slant and a straight-cutting razor. The slant is as much a separate type as, say, an adjustable or open-comb: indeed, the adjustable and the open-comb cut the stubble exactly as does any other straight-cutting razor: a straight-ahead chop. The slant’s cutting action (and thus its feel) is quite different.

    I realize putting the slant in separate category is awkward because the category is so sparsely populated, but that type is still distinctly different and should not, I think, be lumped in with the others.

    I find the Silverton/RiMei/Sodial razor (under $3) significantly better than the Lord L6, which costs more than 5 times as much. The L6′s aluminum handle, whose threads are easily stripped, makes it much less value for the money. The Sodial is quite strong and sturdy—and it shaves well. So there I completely disagree.

    I’m a little surprised that the stainless steel crowd has so little mention. The AS-D1/2 and Above the Tie are included, but not Weber, iKon, or Tradere. All of those are excellent razors, though pricey. I particularly think Weber should have been in your list: at $70 it is substantially less than the two stainless razors you mention, and it’s extremely comfortable and efficient.

    Overall, a good summary and categorization.

    • Mark H mantic59 says:

      I was conflicted about the Slant when I wrote this. It is an excellent, efficient razor. But in the end since there is currently only 1 new model on the market (e.g. the Merkur 37C) I did decide to downplay it as you said. I think if/when additional alternatives become available (Ikon, Tradere) I would feel better about adding more about them to this post.

    • Many have said that the Feather AS-D1/2 are so mild that they do not use them very often.

  2. What a great article. You hit the ball out of the park with this one. Though I have not had the experience of so many different razors, I’ve used enough to have a few of my own favorites. The Schick Krona without a doubt is my favorite, a VERY close second is my Gillette Slim Adjustable (1962). For a cheap travel razor I really like my little Yuma, from Turkey (about $2). With admitted limited experience, I like my Parker 22R in the “new” category. I find the milder razors are better for me as I have a rather light beard. Thanks Mantic59 for the great article. I’ll be putting a link to it on my website, if that’s OK with you.

  3. Geekstone says:

    My favorite razor is the Merkur Slant. It works quickly and gives a great shave. I recently have bought a Gillette New and it seems to be quite good. I recently found a second Schick Krona and would recommend that as a great starter razor easy to use and very mild, just not as efficient for me.

  4. I have a Merkur 180, Schick Krona, Gillette Red Tip, and a Gillette travel Ball Tech. Had you asked me last week, I would have said the Schick has a slight edge (pun intended) over the Merkur. But yesterday and today I’ve been using the Red Tip and today I had one of my best shaves. The Schick is a favorite as I picked it up for$14 at an antique mall.

    I agree about trying out a sampler pack of blades. Did that and settled on Shark, which I’ve bought online.

    Still looking for the “perfect” mug, though. The hunt continues.

    Love your blog and videos.

  5. Not looking to start a big debate – just your personal take on this one Mantic. Merkur Progress is your preferred over the Futur – what didn’t you like about the Futur?

    And great article as always! Keep ‘em sharp!

    • Mark H mantic59 says:

      My main beef with the Futur is it’s too-smooth handle. I also think the head is a bit too big for maneuvering around tight spots.

      • David Packard says:

        ^
        I am with you, Mantic59, that the head of the Futur can be a bit cumbersome, in the tight places, but the handle is not slick at all (IMO, I have one).

  6. The Dean says:

    Great article. I assume it is mostly for beginning/recent-convert DE users, and as such makes a good starting point.

    A couple quick notes. You say there is a blade-gap by razor list in the resources below. If it is there it isn’t clearly labeled–I can’t find it. And the link labeled “Help Identifying Vintage Razors” resolves to a Go Daddy landing page for countryjoescollectiblestuff.

    • Mark H mantic59 says:

      I don’t know what happened to that link in the footer, I’m trying to recover it. But HERE is a link to blade gap information over on B&B.

  7. arbarnes says:

    I’m a fan of vintage Gillettes, but am unfamiliar with the Super Speed Toggle. Are you maybe thinking of the Toggle Adjustable? It was made from 1957 – 1960, but is sufficiently rare that it’s more a collectors item than a daily driver.

    • Mark H mantic59 says:

      Whoops! I meant that the ‘winner’ was the Superspeed, circa 1950, and the Toggle adjustable as a tie. I will edit the text to reflect that.

  8. Didgeridoo says:

    I’ve yet to find a better razor than the Gillette “Guard”
    Only available from India (via eBay).
    Dirt cheap, great shave.
    If they were sold world-wide Gillette would make squillions !

  9. Just a couple of comments from a retailer’s point of view…you say “(including somewhat popular razors such as the 180, 23C, and 33C)”. First, the Merkur Model 180 and the 23C are the same razor, the US Distributor for Merkur, Colonel Conk, made up their own model numbers for Merkur Razors and 180 is their designation for the MK-23001, also known as the 23C. Second, I think “somewhat popular” is a pretty big understatement. From my own experience (plus talking to other retailers) it’s pretty clear that the MK-23001/MK-23C is likely the highest selling, currently-manufactured safety razor in North America and is easily the most ordered safety razor from Merkur. Next week when Jens Zeitvogel from Dovo/Merkur is in our store I’ll see if I can get him to confirm it.

  10. Shave Dude says:

    All hail the mighty Merkur Slantbar! A totally different beast, but one that I love equally, is my Edwin Jagger DE89. The slant has given me my best shaves ever, but the DE89 is foolproof. Great article, as always, Mantic.

  11. Bambooculm says:

    YMMV: your mileage may vary are the truest words ever said, loved the article, but want to put in a good word for the Feather Popular as well, the reviews on Amazon say it all for me.

  12. Thanks for posting an interesting thread, Mantic. I enjoyed it because it made me think about my own favorites in a lot of categories. Perhaps at some time we might have a “Peoples Choice” type of award with nominations and final voting process by readers. I wonder what members would choose for their own favorite categories and choices, given an opportunity.

    You’ve done an excellent job in the this year’s “Editor’s Choice” picks. Please make this an”annual” feature.

    Maybe there’s some way to open nominations and final selections to all Sharpologist readers. No other site has the courage to do it!

  13. Great article!! Thanks Mark.

  14. Below are listed some of the best razors I own: Those numbers that have an (a) behind the number could easily be rated equal to the preceding razor.

    My razor pedigree:

    In the Stable; 
    1. Gillette Slim Adjustable Setting 1 .015 Blade Gap (pristine)
    1a. Merkur Futur Gold Setting 1 .044 Blade Gap
    2. Merkur 1904 Open Comb .0015 Blade Gap (Nick Free)
    2a. Gillette Tech Fat Handle or Ball End .022 Blade Gap
    3. Gillette Fatboy Gold Setting 1 .022 Blade Gap
    4. Weishi Gunmetal 9306c Chrome .022 Blade Gap. (Great for beginners)
    5. Gillette Travel Tech .022 Blade Gap

    Not ready for Prime Time, (Turned Out to Pasture);
    1934 Gillette Gold Open Comb .016 Blade Gap
    Gillette Superspeed
    Edwin Jagger DE89lbl
    Feather Popular
    Parker 22R
    Goodfella
    Merkur 34C
    Merkur 1904 Open Comb
    Gillette Bigboy 1920

  15. Great stuff – but I have a big question : I shave my head as well. What’s your opinion on a DE safety razor for shaving your head?

    • I have never shaved my head so I don’t have an opinion on it. I have read of a number of DE head shavers on the discussion boards though. Personally, I think a purpose-built razor is the best solution for the top of the head. Sharpologist will have a review of one such razor soon!

    • Merkur 1904 Open Comb .0015 Blade Gap (Nick Free)

  16. Marc Friedman says:

    Thank you for the great article.
    Of the DE’s in my rotation, my two favorites are a vintage Gillette tech and an old Star. In addition to optimal blade exposure, these are attractive, well balanced and satisfying to use.

  17. Mantic,

    Great information. I want to say thanks for your educational, and humorous, wet shaving videos and this blog. This has inspired me to migrate over to Wet Shaving. Not only just for the experience, enjoyment, and healthier skin, but also for my younger sons (ages 10 and 4) to see their daddy ‘do it right’ in hopes they will carry that legacy with them…

    I just received my Merkur 38C, Badger brush, Taylor’s Sandalwood Shave Cream. I will continue to learn and partake from this community; those who share this fine interest! Thanks, again, Mantic.

  18. Really good write-up. I’ve used that Merkur safety bar in your picture and it cuts really good. DE razors provide some of the closest shavers for sure.

  19. I have sensitive skin and a medium beard with fine hair. I get perfect shaves with my Weishi and EJ89L. The EJ is as aggressive as I need a razor to be for my beard. Younger shavers with tougher beards will disagree, but YMMV.

  20. Mike Long says:

    The Merkur 1904 Open Comb .0015 Blade Gap always give me a nick free perfect shave. Thanks for the write up, I couldn’t do it better myself.

  21. I got a great quality Merkur razor and even the best quality blades are cheap and long lasting. And, it’s the closest shave you can get and easy to use.

  22. I see you that your favorite adjustable razor is the Merkur Progress. What is the advantage of an adjustable razor as a day in day out razor and why do you favor the Progress over the Future?

    I currently use a basic low end Merkur (i think 33C) which is the only model we find in stores where I live, and I’m thinking of getting myself something better (if there really is such thing).

    • David, I like an adjustable razor because I can comfortably use it in a variety of circumstances (trying new shaving lathers or blades, variations in weather, or if I have a particularly sensitive area I want to get at). I prefer the Progress over the Futur because for me the Progress is easier to hold, the razor head is a bit smaller, and the range of adjustability is wider.

  23. Great article! Thank you for taking the mystery out of the whole safety razor epic! I learned a lot in a very short period reading your article.

  24. Mantic, I’ve read this post before but saw the update you made in the Best Open Comb section. You mentioned the new Parker 24/26. Have you shaved with it yet? Any chance of a post comparing it to some of your favored safety bars?

    • Yes, I have shaved with the new Parker open combs a couple times now. My initial reaction is very favorable–they are much smoother than the typical open comb. I need to use them more before I post my thoughts in a regular article though. Perhaps later this month….

  25. I want an adjustable, but I am not a fan of the designs of the Progress, Future, or the Vision. Each for different reasons. I will have to swallow my dislike for old Gillette and get a Slim. I am more comfortable with it’s design, in spite of my reservations about using someone else’s razor.

  26. A DE razor worth $200? I’d easily go with an electric razor instead. Less pain and more safety!

    I’ve seen my dad use these though and yea was one of my childhood dreams to use one someday lol!

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  1. [...] Sharpologist, named a Parker razor as the “Best Value” Razor of 2013 in this article, What is the best DE razor?   Sharpologist also has this great article, The Evolution Of Parker [...]

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