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Parker Variant Adjustable Safety Razor

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[Updated October 2023] I made no secret of my love for the Merkur Progress adjustable safety razor.  I’ve said “you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.”  That opinion officially comes to an end with the launch of the Parker Variant adjustable safety razor, my new “dead fingers” adjustable DE razor.

Variant Vs. Progress

Note: Super Safety Razors, Amazon, and West Coast Shaving links are affiliate.

The Variant certainly bears a resemblance to the Progress.  Obviously, both are adjustable.  Both have a two-piece design.  Both bend the blade dramatically.  Both have an adjustment dial at the base of the handle.  But the Variant addresses most all the nagging annoyances of the Progress and even adds a few pleasant touches of its own as well.


At three-and-a-half inches, the handle of the Variant is slightly longer than the standard Progress’ three inch handle (there is a version of the Progress* with a four inch handle but it is more expensive and not widely available).  But more importantly, the Variant is available with two different non-slip handles!  The Progress’ smooth handle has long been the bane of the slippery-handed shaver.  There are ways to cope with it, but it’s not necessary with the Variant.  The grip is sure and comfortable.

Weight and Balance

The Variant is heavier than the Progress, at about 110 grams on my kitchen scale (the Progress weighs in at about 90 grams).  More importantly, I find the Variant’s weight more “distributed” than other heavyweight razors so there isn’t much of concern about hand fatigue: the balance is excellent.


The off-color, plastic adjustment knob of the Progress has long been considered both an engineering and a visual detraction of what some consider an otherwise elegant design.  There are after-market options but they can be difficult to obtain (as artisans come and go) and add to the over-all cost of the razor.  The Variant addresses this with a smooth-acting metal adjustment knob.  Like the Progress, the Variant is continuously adjustable through the range rather than using click-stops.


The Variant’s adjustment range is wide, though the low end appears to be not quite as low as a Progress (or at least my Progress): a “2” on my Progress corresponds to about a “1.5” on my Variant.  This would be a concern only if you were interested in a very mild razor.  On the high side you can “turn it up to 11.”  🙂


If you’re a fan of sensory feedback or ASMR shaving, the Variant will be right up your alley.  I find it has a very loud auditory feedback and a good tactile feedback as well.

The Shave

If you shave with the Progress, transitioning to the Variant will be easy, although it may take a few shaves as you subtly tweak your positioning to account for the different weight and balance.  If you’re used to a non-adjustable razor you will need to adjust the way you hold the razor, and of course find the setting(s) best for you.  But after you get then hang of it though I think you will get outstanding shaves!


The Parker Variant is now available from a number of sources.
*affiliate link


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

28 thoughts on “Parker Variant Adjustable Safety Razor”

  1. Is the Parker Variant produced using Zamak? Will the threads eventually give way?
    I know that the Rex Ambassador is all SS, but there is something a bit shocking to me about paying $250 for a safety razor.

    Recently I have been impressed by the new Wilkinson Sword butterfly-head DE. Only $17, shaves beautifully, though I know it will not last for decades. It, too, uses Zamak, but at that price point, I understand.

  2. I have been using the Parker Variant for about 2 years now. The spring loaded head is problematic though. It seems like the spring mechanism gets jammed and the blade no longer really adjusts. If I take the blade out I can use a screw driver to free up the mechanism again but it just goes back to being jammed. Too bad, probably just a bad design.

    1. Mike– Interesting, I’ve had mine for a long time and don’t have that problem. Have you tried lubricating the mechanism?

  3. My understanding is that Merkur’s patents on their adjustable razors have expired. (Thus we now see the cheap Chinese copy of the Futur.)
    Parker, on the other hand, has taken a different route: Construct a quality razor that is basically the same price as the Merkur Progress — but tweak the design to fix every single complaint that people ever had about it, but for which Merkur never made any changes.
    Not a bad idea!

  4. This is a 1:1 copy of the Progress. The great thing about the Progress or its derivates is not the adjustment knob, but the head design. Mergress and Digress adressed the problems with the adjustment knobs and still acknowledged where it came from. This is just a shameless copy.

  5. I am extremely grateful for this review. I was looking for a quality modern adjustable razor. I was looking at the Rockwell 6s. From the sounds of it, this is a better deal. I just have a question: what is the head made of? I see the handle is made of plated brass, but what about the head? I am not interested in another cast zinc razor, I have one in the EJ DE89. Any info would be appreciated.

    1. Sadness… I see in an earlier post that the head is made of Zamak. I guess I will proceed with dropping a bill on the Rockwell 6s.

  6. Thanks for the review. I sprang for one of those first (black handled) Variants on the shelf at Super Safety Razors and am very pleased with the appearance, balance, and performance of the Parker Variant. It may even nudge aside my Sledgehammer as my DE weapon of choice!

  7. Thanks for the review. Would you be able to compare the aggressiveness of the different settings of the Variant compared to the Gillette Fatboy?

  8. I just completed my first head shave using The Variant and I am blown away! Never in my life have I not needed to go back for a touch up pass, until tonight. The Variant is amazing! It got parts smooth on the first try that I normally really have to work at. what a treat this razor is to shave with. I had no trouble finding the correct angel to hold the razor, it felt so natural. traditional wet shaving and collecting razors is a hobby of mine. I have many kinds of razors from many brands, so I know this razor is going to be a big hit and a must have for any shave den rotation!

  9. I think I managed to snap up the last one! (or more accurately, my sister did for my Christmas present) I was a little unsure about the Parker name, but ended up pulling the trigger based on Mantic’s reputation and recommendation. 🙂

    1. Christopher Kavanaugh

      Parker’s first efforts were pretty abysmal. They long ago upped their game and are excellent product for the money.

  10. Christopher Kavanaugh

    the Merkur Progress has the pyramid and line on one side to insure proper assembly
    and left to the user to discover when the adjustment wont work. Is this lovely
    feature resolved on the Parker? Interesting how they went with a matt finish to mimick the new generation stainless steel offerings.

    1. Yes. The Progress has a slippery stubby handle and an immensely ugly adjustable knob on the bottom. The Variant has a longer, grippier handle, and also has slots in the underside of the base plate to allow easy rinsing. The Progress has a solid base plate bottom, making cleaning more difficult.
      As Mark mentions, the exposure settings are slightly more aggressive but most users will find a sweet spot.
      My only complaint is that when assembled with a blade in the head, the adjustment knob zero point (starting number) for the Variant is 1.75 instead of 1 as it is supposed to be. Without a blade, the Variant starts at 1. Many Progress examples also have this issue, but my Progress started at the same zero point with the head empty or loaded. A small issue, but bothersome as one would expect what is basically a Progress clone to improve on the original in all ways.
      TLDR: A cheaper Progress with a similar feature set and a much better handle.

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