Mantic59’s New Razor Blade Search Begins

blade

It’s a sad sight: an empty bulk box of razor blades.  Like most everyone who gets into double edge shaving, I tried a number of blade brands (and if you haven’t, you should!) and found a favorite.  In my case they were the Israeli-made Personna “blue label” blades.  I bought a box of 100 off of the ‘Bay a few years ago and I finally ran out of them recently.  Unfortunately I discovered they were not available anymore, at least in that form.  Supposedly the Crystal brand is the same thing but I have decided that maybe it is time to revisit blades to see if I can discover a new favorite(s).  So, with the help of John at West Coast Shaving (the original “blade sampler guy!”), I’ll be looking at how about 15 different brands of razor blades perform for me.

Methodology

I’m going to tackle finding a new blade in a new way I hope you will find interesting.  Since blades seem to perform differently with different razors (which makes sense, since razor specifications may have different blade exposures) I will be testing with three different razors: a Merkur Heavy Duty (HD/24C), because they’re so enormously popular; a Parker 92R, because it is a good entry level “value” razor; and a Merkur Progress adjustable razor, since that is my own person favorite razor and I know it’s characteristics very well.  I will put a new blade of the same brand in each razor and shave at least three days with each.  I will periodically post my observations with the blade/razor pair here on Sharpologist.

A Blade Close Up

Coincidentally, I recently got access to a scanning electron microscope:

MBxFUac

I will be looking at blades when they are new and after I have used them to see if I can correlate any visual characteristics of a blade to the shave it gives me and will include that in the evaluation post.

I had my first session with the scanning electron microscope recently. The operator and I “got our bearings” by just looking at a couple samples, one of my last  Israeli-made Personna’s and a Studio blade from Walgreens (I believe made by Dorco).  Here is a side shot of the Personna blade edge:

personna blade

And here’s a shot of the Studio blade:

studio dorco blade

Visually, they’re very different.  But will that correlate to the shave?  I’m going to find out.

Some of you may be wondering about variations within blades of the same brand.  I was concerned too, but after viewing this video on how blades are made I think I can be reasonably confident of the consistancy within each brand:

Brands I will be looking at:

  • 7 o’ Clock “Yellow”
  • Astra “Blue”
  • Astra “Green”
  • Crystal
  • Derby
  • Feather
  • Merkur
  • Personna “Blue”
  • Personna “Lab Blue”
  • Personna “Red”
  • Polsilver “Super Iridium
  • Polsilver (Brown)
  • Studio
  • SuperMax
  • Wilkinson (US)

 

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Comments

  1. The Dean says

    Good approach, I think,. It is similar to what I did (without the microscope) before buying blades in bulk. Blade choice seems very good, too (though there are a couple I have never tried).

    Just wondering why you didn’t include Voskhod blades. Very affordable and with a great reputation.

  2. Jody says

    I don’t know why, but this sentence made me laugh:
    “Coincidentally, I recently got access to a scanning electron microscope:” …As you do…

    I look forward to your findings! A blade sampler pack helped me find the blade I currently use (Astra), but I’m considering ordering more samplers. There may be one even better out there. I kept a log of how each brand worked with each razor when I was looking for the one that worked for me.

  3. Snargle says

    Should be an interesting journey…I’m looking forward to reading your impressions as you begin your quest!

    I’m not really concerned about the SEM photos. I’ve seen other guys do similar investigations, and the photos seldom had any relevance to the actual performance of the blade on the face.

  4. kenstee says

    I’d suggest a couple of more Gillette brands JUST to see if they are REALLY different from each other…

    1. 7 o’clock Green Super Stainless
    2. Gillette Super Thin

  5. AFC1281 says

    Make sure to get the Gillette 7 O’clock (Black). These are the best and the smoothest of all 3 Gillette 7 O’clock blades. You can get a very good amount for under $20 on ebay.

  6. SPoZB says

    Looking forward to this. I’m just starting out myself, and am only on my second blade selection while waiting for my sample pack of blades to work through.

    I was amazed at how different the two blades I’ve tried so far performed (Derby Extra vs Feather). Even after reading about it, the actual experience was quite the shock.

  7. J. says

    It’s interesting how varied experiences are with different blade types from person to person. Some nearly universally well-regarded blades like Astra and to a lesser extent Feather are hard on my face and don’t work too well for me. On the other hand, blades that seem to get more mixed reviews (as far as I can tell) like Gillette Silver Blues and Bic Chrome Platinum are smooth shavers for me. I also like Personna Reds a lot.

    There are also some brands I tried when I first started that I had horrible experiences with and never revisited such as Derby and Wilkinson Sword. I’ve thought about giving them a 2nd chance as it may have been my technique at the time that hurt me.

  8. MrMoonbeam says

    No Gillette 7 o’clock blue Ruskies either?
    I’ve read on B&B that the blacks and blues are near identical, with a thorough reviewer giving the slight edge to the blues (which are my go to blades)
    I used to love Sharks, but found the rate of 1-2 in 10 being poor, too inconsistent for me.

  9. Shave Dude says

    This is the ultimate “ymmv” quest. I’ve gotten good shaves out of the dozen or so blades I’ve tried except for feathers…skin irritation everytime.

  10. Serge says

    Having used several different Brands over the years, my no.1 choice of razor blade is Wilkinson Sword (German made) and no. 2 Astra Superior Platinum.

    Both of these Brands seem to last several shaves and are smooth on the skin with minimal scrapes.

  11. Tourettes Tuna says

    I feel like blades are one of the hardest things to recomend to anyone. I’m sure there are a number of brands that work well for most people (and a number that outright horrible), but I’ve tried upwards of 10 brands now and there doesn’t seem to be any strong correlation between one persons favorites and my own. There are just too many unknown variables and variable interactions for consumers to predict the outcomes. We have to worry about metallurgy, grinds, coatings, blade angles, and exposures. Then you have to consider how those things interact with skin chemistry and beard growth. Even the idea of doing a DOE for something like this makes me uneasy.

  12. Doc S says

    The three blades that rose to the top of my list when I did this a while back were Personna “Lab” Blue Supers, Gillette 7 O’Clock Yellows, and Feathers. The Personnas gave me the best edge durability of the lot, and that’s what I now use in every one of my current DE’s save a single-ring Old Type. Someone (accurately, I believe) described them as just very slightly less sharp than a Feather with the comfort and durability of Israeli Personnas (Crystals).

    • Steveareno says

      I just started using the Personna Lab Blues myself and was very impressed with how comfortable the shave was. I had been using the Israeli Red Personnas , but now I think I’m moving to the Lab Blues for my everyday blade. With the Lab Blues I’m getting a close shave with no irritation, no bumps or even nicks (so far).

  13. Wajikay says

    I personally loved the Gillette Blue Silver, Gillette 7 0’Clock Super Stainless (Green) and Nacet Platinum. They seem to cut perfect in an aggressive razor like a slant. For milder razors I’ve found that Feather and Gillette 7 O’Clock Sharp Edge (Yellow) work fantastic since they’re more aggressive blades.

    • Larry says

      I agree that the marriage of razor and blade should be one of opposites. I get a BBS with a Feather in my travel Weishi, but a Feather in my EJ89l is likely to leave me with a serious razor burn and nicks. I cannot get a decent shave with a Merkur blade in my Weishi, yet I get a BBS from a Merkur blade in my Edwin Jagger!!! Everyones beard and mileage vary but for me an aggressive blade in a tame razor and a less aggressive blade in a more aggressive razor yield identical results.

  14. Bassopotamus says

    I worry a bit about the long term availability of DE blades as they seem to be an obsolete technology from a mass market perspective. There seems to be a DE renaissance afoot in the us, but the market is tiny compared to the past where basically every man used them. I get the sense that some of the supply comes from countries and regions (Russia, Turkey, etc) where
    More men wet shave.

    It is analogous, I think, to the market for vacuum tubes. In the 50s and 60s, they were ubiquitous in American electronics. Today, they are only relevant in a few niche markets (guitar amps, audiophile stereo gear), which makes the supply a bit unstable. When I started
    Playing, you could only get leftover tubes from American manufacturers, or new ones from former soviet block countries, where there were still many people with old consumer electronics. I think a few years ago, an American company did start making tubes again, but more or less a a boutique company

    I hope that there are enough wet shavers to support a variety of blade manufcturers for Tera to come

  15. Erik says

    Late to this party, but another vote for the Gillette 7 0’Clock black “Super Platinum” from India. For me they seem every bit as sharp and smooth as a Super Iridium, while being a bit more reasonably priced. Would also interesting to see a microscopic shoot out between these and their blue Russian counterparts, which IMHO don’t feel as smooth as the Indian produced blades.

  16. scott scmitz says

    Hi Mantic,
    Is there a difference in personna blue’s? I ask only because I can get them for you tomorrow. The only thing is, these say made in the USA. There is a barber supply right next to where I work and I buy 100 packs from the. Though Feather seems quite a bit sharper to me, these blades tend to last longer and are extremely smooth. Let me know if you would like, and if so, where to send them.
    Be Well
    Scotty

  17. walter says

    Hello Mantic !
    If you like maybe you could test also the “bic chrome platinum” blades.
    I get very good shaves with a cheap price.
    Maybe you could explain by your analysis how they get this possible.
    Thanks.
    Waltz

    • says

      I am adding some additional content and views from the scanning electron microscope. It has taken a little more time than I anticipated. I hope to have something ready by early May.

      • Scott says

        It’s July 12,2014. Any updates? My battery’s almost dead, keyboard flashing in and out so have to stop searching. Been at this since September 11, 2013?

        • says

          As a matter of fact I have my final session at the scanning electron microscope next week! Final/summary article to follow shortly thereafter.

          • Scott says

            This is indeed good news. Timing is perfect as I’m not always online and just happened to follow through today. Thanks, Mark! I’ll be sure to check it out using my PC instead of this finicky phone. √

          • Neil K. says

            Hey Mantic! Are you almost done?! Please I beg of you I’ve been waiting sooo long and I have been holding off my ordering of new razors just waiting for this!

            Thanks!!

  18. rsilvers says

    You have Personna Blue and Lab blue as two different blades. I am only aware of one type of Personna in the blue box. There is no such blade as the “lab blue” as far as I know – it is just a term that some people call the Persona blue by. Can you please post a link to each blade being sold somewhere?

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