[Updated April, 2021]. You’ve decided to give a single blade safety razor a try. Congratulations! But which razor? There many different types of “old school” double edge safety razors. Some are based on designs that have been around for many years. Others offer a new take on the old stand-by’s. Which ones are the best bets for beginners? Let’s take a look at my recommendations for safety razors under different circumstances.
Your Individual Circumstances?
There are a lot of excellent safety razors on the market (that article also has a ton of information about the different types and designs of double edge safety razor). But some are best wielded by experienced hands. For the “newbie” I think there should be some specific parameters:
- Reasonably widely available.
- The razor head engineered to be more “forgiving” to someone learning their technique.
- The shave experience should not overly aggressive but still reasonably efficient.
- A handle with a sure grip and a good balance.
First, a “tl;dr” list, alphabetically. Then let’s dive into the details. Amazon, West Coast Shaving, OneBlade, and Rockwell links are affiliate.
Now for the details.
Beginners Looking For A Low-Cost Entry
The Dorco PL-602 is an inexpensive, all plastic (well, except for the blade 🙂 ) double edge safety razor. If you want to try shaving with a single blade at minimal cost, this is the razor you should get. HERE is Sharpologist’s full review of the Dorco PL-602. Some find loosening the handle very slightly will result in a different shave characteristic, improving the shave even more for some people.
Beginners Following The Leaders
Would you rather make a single purchase you can probably use for the rest of your shaving life? Want to look for the closest thing to a middle-of-the-road, “safe bet” in a safety razor? Then either the Merkur Heavy Duty (also known as the Heavy Classic, the HD, or the 34C) or the Edwin Jagger DE8x series are what you should be looking for. They are both enormously popular in the “old school” shaving community.
While the Merkur razor has a single variant (the 38C), the Edwin Jagger series has many handle options (over 40 at last count)–though they all use the same head. By far the most popular Edwin Jagger razor version available on Amazon is the DE89LBL. There are many, many reviews available for those razors: a simple query of your favorite internet search engine will find the most relevant for you. Check out Sharpologist’s review of the Merkur 34C and the review of the Edwin Jagger DE89 series.
Beginners Looking For The Easiest Transition
Here a great solution is the OneBlade razor. The Oneblade is not a classic double edge razor but if you want to make the transition between cartridge razors and shaving with a single blade as easy as possible, A OneBlade razor may be the way to go. It combines the best of both worlds: a pivoting head like a cartridge razor but uses a single blade. There are a number of models at different price points but they all use the same technology. It can make shaving practically effortless. HERE is Sharpologist’s extensive review of the OneBlade.
Beginners Open Comb
The “open comb” (OC) is one of the original safety razor designs, made for back in the day when men didn’t shave their faces very often so there was a lot of beard hair to cut. The comb channels hair and lather to provide a more consistent cut to thick stubble. So if you have a heavy beard, or you don’t shave very often, an OC razor might be worth looking at.
Historically, OC razors are not as gentle or forgiving in technique as other razor designs (some notoriously so). But I think a few are suitable for beginners.
The Parker 24C (and it’s sibling, the 26C, differing only in handle design) is a well-thought-of OC razor and often recommended to beginners. While it is not nearly as aggressive as other OC razors it still works efficiently and comfortably.
One design element of a double edge, single blade safety razor is the size of the gap between the blade’s edge and the razor’s safety bar. 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. Adjustable razors can change the gap to make them more gentle or more aggressive. There are only a few adjustable razors currently made, though more have appeared recently, and fewer still suitable for the beginner.
The Parker Variant is a relatively new razor that takes its inspiration from an established product, the Merkur Progress. The Variant addresses most of the short-comings of the Progress, including a handle that can be slippery in inexperienced hands. HERE is Sharpologist’s full review of the Variant.
Also relatively new to the market is the Rockwell 6S. It is not an “adjustable” in the normal, continuously-adjustable sense, but rather it offers different base plates. Each plate has a different amount of blade exposure set.
A Caution To Beginners: Double Edge Blades Are Not All Alike!
No discussion about double edge safety razors would be complete without mentioning blades. Many beginners think “a blade is a blade” and while blades may all look the same 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). 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!
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