Mantic59′s Razor Blade Search: Derby


I am still searching for my new “go to” razor blade.  Having previously tried Crystal, Astra, and Dorco blades, this time I look at Derby.  Derby blades are made in Turkey but are widely available.

Derby, What Have You Done?!

Derby has been my #2 “go to” blade for years and coincidentally, like my Israeli Personna “blue label” blades, ran low at about the same time.  No problem, I thought, I’ll get get another bulk pack.  But having seen quite a few reviews (mostly on the shaving forums) that Derby’s are now not as good as they used to be, I decided that I should get a smaller pack and try them as if I had never used them before.

That turned out to be a good decision.  Derby, what have you done to yourselves?!?

The Derby blades I was accustomed to were sharp, consistant, reasonably forgiving, and reliable.  They must have changed their manufacturing tolerances because I now find them much less sharp and not nearly as reliable.  All the razors I tried them in (Merkur HD, Parker 92R, Merkur Progress) resulted in ingrown hairs and generally poorer shaves.  Examination under a scanning electron microscope (SEM) was inconclusive.

Here’s an unused blade:

derby unused


Here’s a used blade:

derby used

The “softness” of the focus comes from whatever non-stick coating is being used.  It’s interesting that the coating remains pretty intact on the used blade.  And the blade edge isn’t chipped.  But something has clearly changed from Derby blades from a few years ago.  I’ve found an unused “old” example and plan to compare it to a “new” example by looking at the blade edge-on: I’ll immerse them in liquid nitrogen then snap them in half for a clean cross-section.  Stay tuned….

Special thanks to John at West Coast Shaving for his help with this series.

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  1. OldManDon says

    Call me “still searching” also. It’s very early in my search (only been double-edging it for about 4 months). I started out with Personna Blue. I then began my quest with trial packs of Gillette 7 O’clock, Wilkinson Sword, and Derby Extra Super Stainless.
    Results: I’ll buy the Gillettes and Personnas again. The others are off my list. I admit my old face (read thin skin) does not take kindly to the more aggressive blades. So, with the 7 O’clocks and Personnas as current players, I’ll continue the search for the blade that treats me the kindest.

    • Gary says

      Me, about 2 months now, the Merkur 180 my first and now my Edwin 89LBL my 2nd. The 89LBL came with 5 Darby’s. So maybe that’s the source of my neck problem. Time to try another blade in my sampler pack. Shark’s been my favorite so far.

  2. bruce says

    i have found that the Derby works well in my older Gillette New, but in most everything else i’ve used them in, not so good. i end up having to go over areas that just won’t come clean plus i get razor burn. i won’t be keeping many of them around except for use in the New.

  3. Dr. K says

    I too have given up on Derbys. They were the first blades I tried when learning DE shaving (they came with my razor, and they were so cheap I bought more), and I wonder if my learning curve would have been easier with a different blade. They seemed okay at the time, but then again maybe I was attributing my razor burn and irritation to my inexperience. Whatever the case, I went away from them for a time. I always thought they were fairly mild and gentle, but the last time I tried one it tore my face up. Even with very careful technique and minimal pressure, the irritation was substantial. And yet still not a close shave despite all the burn. I don’t know if it was even an issue of old blades versus new blades. Maybe the blades changed, maybe I changed, but regardless they don’t work for me anymore. I’ll use the remaining blades to score bread loaves, but I’m not going to run them over my face ever again.

    For what it’s worth, my go-to blade are Personna Medical Prep blades. For me, they approach (but do not equal) Feathers for sharpness and cutting efficiency, yet are more forgiving and less irritating. And they are well priced to boot.

  4. steve says

    I’ve tried shaving with Derbys in all kinds or razors and I simply can’t make ’em work. Shaving with a Derby is like shaving with a warped butter knife.

    I’ve got 3 go-to blades, depending on which razor I choose to use. The Red IPs are great all around blades. If I need something sharper, the Personna Labs are slightly better. If either two don’t work, I go to the Super Iridiums/Polsilvers, which are a little rough on the first shave because they are so sharp. But by the second or third shave, the sharpness levels off just a tad to provide the perfect shave for the week or more. 1 of these blades typically last me 7 to 10 days.

    • Larry says

      I felt the same way about Derby, until I tried it in my EJ89 and got comfortable BBS shaves. That being said, it doesn’t give me a good shave in my other razors. Astra works well in them though …so I’m set.

  5. says

    THANK YOU! I’m not crazy… whew… I started DE shaving a little over a year ago. And I always hear about how people love Derbys. So I tried a 5-pack. Awful! Felt like a very dull and scratchy blade. After a while, I ordered another pack after reading even more positive reviews. Same thing. No more Derbys. Now Polsilver SI? That’s another story altogether…

  6. trauma says

    I started with Derbys but found them too mild for my face. My current go to blades are Feather’s and Wilkinson Swords. I do still have some Derbys, which I actually find work well for my legs (being a competitive cyclist) with my Merkur Futur dialed up a bit for aggressiveness.

  7. Justin says

    Ah, that stinks. I have only been using Derbys since I loaded up on them 6 years ago. I still have a couple of “bricks” of them. I guess I should have been even more compulsive and bought even more of them. I noticed the reviews on Amazon for the Derbys were becoming negative and I actually defended the blades and the commentators replied saying something changed with the blades and they were no good anymore.

    I guess I will use Wilkerson’s Sword or something when these run out?
    I have some Israeli Personnas that seem to work well (Little white box with blades tightly packed inside). I had some Personna’s in red wrapping that absolutely sucked that I tossed. Hmmm. Where to go next?

  8. JBC says

    I really like some of the blades coming out of a factory in St. Petersburg, Russia. They include Astra’s, Gillette Blues, and the current version of the Polsilver Super Iridium. I would love to see a comparison of the these blades under the ole scanning electron microscope to see how different they really are.

    As for the Derby’s…..they are not for me. A friend I introduced to wet shaving said that he got a quite a few nicks and was relieved when he switched to a different blade.

  9. Astrobufff says

    Please do test out the Supermax Stainless Plus, Platinum Plus and the Zorrik Platinum (Saloon Favourite) from India.
    They should provide a pleasant surprise along the likes of the 7 O’Clock Green and Black at a lower price point.
    Found them much better than Dorco 300 but below the Feather.
    Please review them.

    • Larry says

      retried them in my EJ89 and they gave a wonderful comfortable close shave! Matching a blade to a razor is like alchemy, no way to find out but by trial and error

  10. says

    I fell in love with Feathers after trying a number of other offerings. And proceeded to buy a 100-blade box of Derbys by not carefully looking at the webpage I was using to order.

    I’ve hated them in every razor I have [Merkur 34C; 1960 Gillette Super Speed Flair tip; an open-comb Gillette from the ’30s; Feather, Lord] except the Edwin Jagger DE89 [smooth shaft]. It’s a great , great shave for me. To my astonishment, I also have an EJ DE89 with the lined detail, and it delivers a horrid and irritating shave. I’m a rational fellow, but there’s something to this notion of alchemy. . . .

    (PS back to Feathers, with a brick o’ Derbys sitting largely untouched)

  11. Mister says

    I was disappointed by the quality control on these, especially after reading a good number of favorable reviews on these. I’d get a smooth shave from one and terrible nicks from the next two. Plus, they’re not sharp enough, at least not my Gillette fatboy.

  12. Darb says

    Derby’s are the favorite of the friend who introduced me to wet shaving, but I can’t understand what he sees in them. I switched them out before finishing the first pass. It’s interesting to read that other, more experienced shavers have had similar experiences.

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