Maggard Razors leapt onto the relatively new wet shaving world in 2012, as an all in one online retailer selling both the well established European brands and the up and coming artisan soap makers. Started by a husband and wife team, Brad and Cassie, in Adrian, Michigan, Maggard has become a well known retailer in the now over-saturated world of shaving supplies.
The vendor has a reputation for excellent service, a relatively honest and open customer review system where even negative product reviews are published, and an increasingly wide selection of products at all quality levels and price points, Maggard’s has also been known for making its own hardware. Besides their relatively recent brushes, Maggard’s first started making their own razor handles and heads from 2013 onwards. This trend has recently culminated in something intriguing: an in-house designed slant razor head. Many relatively small companies make razor handles, fewer make heads, and only a very few make slant heads.
What is a slant? Think of it as a mini-guillotine for the face. Held at a very artificial and uneven angle with asymmetrical blade exposure by design, the slant is meant to offer a more efficient cutting angle for a DE blade which can pay dividends in giving a closer shave more quickly. The design has been around for at least 70 years, but as the DE razor waned in popularity, most slants also vanished from the market. More details on the history of the slant and it’s design can be found HERE.
The sole survivors, and bearers of the slant standard for many years, were the Merkur 37 and Merkur 39 a short and long handled version of the concept. The Merkur’s are fairly mild slants with a quite moderate twist to the head, and a fairly conservative blade exposure. Combined with pretty mid-range weights in the handles, the Merkrur’s are known for being a “gentleman’s slant”, a slant that is accessible for use by even a relatively new wet shaver.
Maggard was aiming for something more radical with their new Slant, (hereafter “MS”). The head is far more radically torqued and shaped than the Merkur slants and the blade exposure is also more aggressive. The MS does not come with its own designated handle, so you can use the MS head on any handle that accepts the very common Jagger / Muhle 87 series head, or you can buy a Maggard handle to accompany the handle.
The Maggard lineup of 13 stainless steel handles vary in weight from around 50g (the MR1) up to the 75g MR6 (roughly comparable to a Jagger 87) all the way up to the bruiser weight MR8, a 128 g behemoth, that makes your hand feel tired just from looking at it. By varying the handle weight, the user can exert additional influence over the aggressiveness of the razor and head combo, and, of course, choice of blade is the final user controlled variable in the equation.
I tried the MS on a few different Maggard handles, with a few different blades, and compared it to a Merkur 37c. I also compared the Slant to two other Maggard heads, the Closed Comb V3 and the Aggressive Closed Comb, V3A. The slant impressed me, but it might not be for all, and more importantly, user choice of blade and handle also will affect the reaction that a shaver will have to this hardware.
Fit and Finish: Maggard’s heads have had a variable reputation in this area, Their first two designs, closed comb knockoffs, of the Jagger 87 head, were considerably more rough around the edges than the usual Jagger or Merkur with visible solder marks, pitting, and blemishes. The Version 3 closed comb finally more or less achieved parity with Jaggers in this regard, but even so, the occasional Maggard head can still come with some small unexpected lapses in quality.
I am happy to report that the MS example I purchased impressed me fully in this area. The matte black finish was smooth and evenly coated, and after past experience with a similarly coated V3A closed comb for a few months, I believe that the coating is a durable and attractive one for the long term, one that can well hold up to the rigors of daily wet shaving use.
The curvature of the head and base plate is carefully and precisely executed and is even more attractive in person than in photos. (PHOTO 2) The head, alas, is zinc alloy, meaning you should avoid dropping the head for fear of chipping the finish, a mishap that will usually lead to the eventual loss of the head as it rusts out. Many of course would prefer a stainless head (or titanium or bronze, etc, etc) but to reach this affordable price point, Maggard cannot really be faulted for its choice of material.
My one complaint with the MS head is actually an ancillary one, mainly that Maggard handles generally do not match the matte coating on the head. The only matte handle that complements the MS head is the MRG (G for “gunmetal”) and that is $5 more expensive than the other compatible handles that can accompany the MS head. (The others are all stainless steel handles, which are not much of a match.) For reasons which we will discuss later, this small price increase is more significant than might be assumed. But, in and of itself, the MS head is a gorgeous and well-made tool. 5 of 5 points awarded for fit and finish.
Ease Of Use: An unfortunate weak point in former Maggard head designs is the need to precisely align the blade manually before use. With most Jagger & Merkur heads, the shaver just drops the blade on the head posts and screws in the rest of the razor and the blade magically aligns itself because of the precise tolerances set on the mounting posts.
I am no industrialist, and so I am not entirely sure why adding two posts that are slightly larger to a head plate is such a big deal, but Maggard has had some issues with this in the past, Version 2 of the closed comb and more recently V3A, the aggressive closed comb, have both had their issues with this, and both require the user to rather carefully adjust the blade to ensure even exposure on both sides before screwing everything down in place.
Reader, I am one of those sad fellows who has an awful intuitive grasp of spatial relationships. This sad disability has kept me out of Mensa, it means I need to follow Ikea directions inordinately closely and pathetically slowly, and it means whenever I am called upon to eyeball a razor blade and make sure it has even exposure on both sides, I usually botch the job, This means a bad shave in one way or another; either stubble in some spots, razor burn in other spots, or all of the above. Moreover, even when I realize during the shave that things are awry, I feel disinclined to take the head apart and reassemble it, so like a great power in Afghanistan, I just get myself deeper in the hole and make things worse because I can’t just back out easily. I have given myself some damned awful shaves with both the Maggard V2 and V3A, so when I saw all the legalistic text in the MS product description on the Maggard site along the lines of “don’t buy this unless you feel comfy with manual blade alignment”, my spirits sunk a bit.
To my pleasant surprise, the Maggard Slant was easier to setup than I would have guessed. Indeed on all four uses so far, I aligned my blade accurately on the very first try. The blade certainly looks unevenly aligned, but that is due to the sharply raked head design on the MS, one based on a vintage Mercuto / Muller design from the 1930s. But in use, all works as kit ought to, and I can say confidently that if a clod like me can go 4 for 4 on blade alignments, the more spatially gifted shaver (that is, most of the rest of the species) will have no issue.
The weird / interesting thing is that the MS has the end caps of the blade completely covered by head and base plate, so the usual method to align the blade by holding on to the end tabs of the blade as you tighten the head down does not work properly here. Despite this (or maybe because of it?) the blade alignment so far seems remarkably bulletproof.
So once you have the blade aligned, what happens next? I am pleased to report that nothing too terrible happens, Slants have a reputation for being widow-makers, and while the MS is indeed more aggressive than a Merkur 37, as long as you ease up on the pressure and use a typical angle of approach, you should get a neat shave with no bloodshed. I did indeed knick my cheek once with the Maggard, right beneath the eye, but that could well have been my technique misfiring rather than the MS being extraordinarily dangerous. The cut was minor and did not need alum at the end of the shave, so we’ll declare no harm, no foul.
Two caveats though: though it is hard to cut yourself if you have even basic DE shaving experience, it is kind of easy to miss spots if you don’t pay attention, as the MS has little aural feedback (you can’t hear the hair being cut) and due to the very diagonal angle of the blade, you have a more narrow field of effective attack than you would with a more standard closed comb design. To reiterate, if you have been DE shaving for a bit, you will have no issues with getting a good shave, but if you have not shaved a lot, you may find yourself ending up with a surprising amount of stubble at the end of a shave, especially if you were expecting the follicle devastation effects of a vorpal blade crossed with a light saber from your first slant use.
Second caveat: I suggest using a fairly mild blade with the MS, Used with a humble Derby, the MS was quite effective and pleasant; used with a Wilkinson or Gillette yellow, the MS is marginally more efficient, but needs shorter, slower strokes to avoid razor burn, and also needs relatively more intense concentration to use well. If you shave daily, or even once every two days, and if Kryptonite has no effect on you, I suggest using a Derby, Merkur, or maybe a blue Personna at best with the Merkur Slant.
My belief in general is that most shavers get a poor impression of the less sharp blades like the Derby and Merkur when they first start shaving and don’t really know what they’re doing. They get bad shaves from the blades that came with their Jaggers or Merkurs and figure they need Kais, Polisilvers, Feathers etc. I suggest all shavers, especially daily ones, revisit the inexpensive world of Derby after six months and see how things work out once your technique has been perfected. In any case, I humbly suggest that the Maggard Slant is not the ideal testbed for your immensely sharp blades, though of course, YMMV.
All in all, this is an easy 9 out of 10 points for ease of use. In case of user error, stubble is the more likely outcome rather than mutilation and exsanguination, so this is not a bad intro to the world of slants, but I think more experienced shavers will be the more logical audience for this well designed and reasonably easy to use razor head.
Closeness of Shave: Based on experience with this and the Merkur 37, I feel the efficiency of slants has been misstated to an extent in the popular community dialogue. When I shave with a slant and a Derby, I need the same number of passes to get a BBS level shave. If I use less passes with a slant, I will get a more effective DFS level shave, but there will still be some patches of light stubble in some of the harder areas to get a clean sweep: in my case, the jawline, chin, and some areas of the throat.
Three passes are needed for a clean sweep, but the slant benefit comes in with the perfection of the area shaved and the stubble free duration. So three passes from say a Merkur 34c will give me a BBS for say 7 or 8 hours – the same number of passes with a Maggard Slant will give me a closer shave upfront and then about 12 or 14 hours of stubble free worry. If five o’clock shadow haunts your visage, the slant is your potential best friend.
I admit this was a surprising result. After hearing about the unparalleled efficiency of a good slant, I was anticipating a 10 minute single pass shave. That won’t happen; even with a Gillette Yellow (as sharp as Feathers IMO), a one or two pass shave with either slant in my collection felt better than a two pass shave with a conventional closed comb, but still did not feel as close or smooth as I prefer.
To be clear though, a 12 hour smooth face is a rare and wonderful feel for me, as my beard tends to regrow quickly, so with the single pass from a cart shaver that I used to be accustomed to, I would feel cross grain stubble within 6 or 7 hours. Getting twice that stubble-free duration with a DE razor is more than enough to make me a happy camper.
I also note anecdotally that I can shave a bit more rapidly with the slant over the tricky areas of my face and get good results. I would never recommend an accelerated DE shave for any user, but if you are experienced, and you do want to “shave” a few minutes off your time and also end up with a smooth, clean face, a slant will probably serve you well.
10 of 10 points awarded for Closeness.
Post-Shave Comfort: As mentioned, you might end up with irritation or even cuts, if you use too much pressure. Assuming you don’t make that mistake, the Maggard Slant is surprisingly forgiving and even generous. I deliberately shaved against the grain on my chin with the MS, something that has an excellent chance of giving me lasting razor burn for the day even if executed with a conventional closed comb design. The Slant left me feeling fine, at last after the end of the shave and application of a post shave of some sort (a mix of Barrister Reserve splash or Chatilipn Lux salves varying from one day to the next).
During the shave, I felt a bit uncomfortable at moments due to the very close shave, but by the end of the third pass, no significant pain lingered, and after the post shave, my skin felt superlatively fine for the rest of the day.
Given the extremely close and long-lasting shave, I was very pleased with this outcome. 9 of 10 points awarded for Comfort, given the need for care and also the fact that maximal comfort was obtained (for me) only with Derby blades. The more popular Astra, Wilkinson, and Feathers used commonly might not be quite so trouble free.
I would also suggest using a relatively light Maggard handle (or any other handle for that matter). Anything over 100g weight tended to make the MS harder to maneuver and increased likelihood of burn. I would say the MR6 is about as heavy as you want to go here; the heavier MR3 and MR8 handles both complicated matters and added no benefit and some liability to a shave, rapid or otherwise.
Value: Here’s the catch, dear readers. My first Maggard head, a closed comb V1, was $8, back when an entire DE87 from Jagger cost $34. A Maggard head and handle combo came to $28 and was much more impressive in heft than a DE87, if not in appearance. The prices crept up on the Maggards heads over the years, and now the MS head by itself, is $20. Equipped with a Maggard stainless handle, like the MR6 seen in my pictures, the combo comes to $30.
On the Maggard site, the Merkur 37C costs $50, so the MS, which looks nicer and shaves nicer, is still a great bargain for $30 plus shipping right? The answer would be yes if Maggard was the only site that carried the Merkur brand, but Amazon (among others) also carried the 37, for a price of $35 – $40, with free Prime shipping from many sellers there. That means that the Maggard MR6 / MS combo ends up costing as much as a Merkur 37. And if you want the matte handle (the MRG) to match the matte head, it comes to $34 plus shipping (unless you order enough from Maggard to get free shipping). That means a matching slant head and handle from Maggard can cost more than a Merkur 37, the very epitome of slantedness. Is the Maggard worth this premium price?
Depends. The Merkur is easier for newcomers to use, Merkurs are always impeccable in fit and finish in my experience, and there is no chance of head mounting mishaps. Newcomers to wet shaving and those unsure as to whether or not slants are for them may well prefer the gentler, kinder Merkur slants to the Maggard MS.
The MS is harder to use with a more narrow sweet spot of blade attack, and the occasional history of spotty quality control occasionally seen even from recent Maggard heads make the superlative fit and easy alignment of my example MS possibly non-universal. The Maggard V3A I own needs lots of adjustment to ensure a comfy shave, and even one of the recent V3s I ordered came with pitting marks on it, so Maggard QC is not a layup by any means. The cheaper Merkur slant is a more reliable purchase, especially for newer wet shavers.
4 of 5 points awarded for Value.
Conclusion: If the last full paragraph in the Value section does not discourage you, then the Merkur slant is probably for you. 37 of a maximum 40 points awarded, which comes to 93 points, a very solid A/A-. If you are an experienced wet shaver and can get the angle right consistently without overpressure, you should definitely get a Maggard Slant to try, especially if you can live without the matching Maggard handle. If you have an existing handle that can hold the standard Jagger style head, an old Maggard handle that you can alternate or swap heads on, or can stand the aesthetic privation of ordering a cheaper Maggard stainless handle to mismatch the matte head, that makes the decision to buy even easier.
Comparisons to Other Maggard Heads:
The Closed Comb V3 is a carefully designed head, offering (usually) excellent build quality and aesthetic appeal. It is perfectly effective with a wide variety of blades, and IMO, is slightly less aggressive than a Jagger 87 head, though much more aggressive than a Merkur 34c. If you are a newcomer and want a reliable and appealing work horse, the V3 is your head. It can get a lot more aggressive with sharper blades, but can also give you a BBS shave with a Derby or Merkur with some minimal investment of patience and skill.
The Aggressive Closed Comb V3A is harder to use than either the V3 or the MS, This is due to the wonky post fit which allows entirely too much play in my example of the breed. Even when adjusted with even blade exposure, the V3A is still a wild ride, needing very light pressure and lots of care in the nooks and crannies of your face. If you shave every few days and / or have a Viking beard, the V3A may be your cup of tea, and even then, take care in aligning the blade. I think most experienced users would be better off with the Slant.