Single edge razors (“SE”) have taken a back seat to double edge razors for many years. But despite the obscurity some have endured and a couple are even thriving. What is the best single edge razor in 2019? I’ll offer some perspective.
(Amazon, West Coast Shaving, OneBlade, and Supply links are affiliate.)
The Single Edge Blade Conundrum
Generally speaking single edge razor blades are thicker and stiffer than their double edge cousins. Some people, particularly those with thicker stubble, believe these blades provide a more efficient shave with a lower chance of nicks compared to the design of DE razors.
But I think one major issue that single edge razors face is the physical shape of the blade. Unlike double edge (DE) razor blades that have evolved into a “standard” shape, single edge blades come in a number of different formats: GEM, Injector, FHS/Autostrop, barber style (AKA “Artist Club,” “shaper,” “nape & body,” “Shavette”), etc.
I think the lack of blade shape standardization has held back the evolution of the single edge razor.
Related to blade shape, and perhaps more important to wider consumer acceptance, is the problem of loading a single edge blade. GEM and FHS/Autostrop blades are large enough to be more confidently-handled. Injector blades are much smaller but have the advantage of being housed in a magazine that can provide a “hands off” method of blade changing.
Barber-style blades can present some challenges to the “every-guy consumer” because their shape can make safe blade handling problematic.
Complicating the issue further is the fact that some single edge razor designs do not take advantage of blade shape to make changing blades easier. For example the original GEM razor designs (now vintage) had a pop-up head design that made blade loading easy. Modern, artisan-made GEM-style razors are generally three piece designs that can make blade changes fussy.
So What Is Available Now?
There are actually a few more single edge razors available now since I first wrote about them in 2015. Most of them take either GEM or barber style blades but other formats are definitely in the mix.
GEM Style Single Edge Razors
I think artisan single edge razors that take GEM style blades appeal more to the nostalgic side of the wet shaving enthusiast (shave nerd).
Above The Tie (ATT) was the first artisan to try their hand at a “modern” GEM razor with the ATT G1 razor. The design got off to a shaky start but ATT quickly tweaked the tooling and it’s been on their site for some time, though apparently not a big seller. The G1 is on the mild side for most people: I prefer mild razors generally so shave-wise the G1 treated me OK (some suggest a razor blade “shim” to give it a bit more blade feel on the skin). But, like other modern GEM razors, the G1’s three piece design is just too fiddly for me–it’s difficult for me to get the blade alignment just right.
Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) offers their Starling GEM single edge razor. This design also went through a revision. In one respect the Starling is at the other end of the spectrum compared to the G1: my own use and the other reviews generally regard it as a fairly aggressive razor. Like the ATT I find blade loading of the Starling a bit fiddly.
Blackland, a (relative) newcomer to the scene, offers their Sabre GEM single edge razor. Blackland offers it with two different base plates, “L1” for a (very) mild blade gap and “L2” for a more middle-of-the-road feel. Blackland has a reputation for top-notch build quality (at a commensurate price) and the Sabre is no exception. The razor feels solid and well-balanced in my hand, though it does have this quirky rectangular top cap post, threaded on two sides, that can make razor reassembly after blade insertion…interesting (for me, anyway). I think the blade angle “sweet spot” is quite narrow on the Sabre but after you get a handle on it the razor works very well.
Autostrop/FHS Single Edge Razors
The vintage Autostrop razor is long-since out of production but Feather makes their FHS blade that fits the same form factor. The FHS design could be considered a relative of the GEM blade, having many of the same characteristics but without the GEM blade’s “spine.”
These blades are used in the modern OneBlade razor. It’s no secret that I love using the OneBlade: to me it’s the best of both worlds, a single blade razor that uses modern pivot technology. It’s my favorite razor. Some consider it too mild but for an effortless close shave I think it just can’t be beat. And there are now three versions of the OneBlade at different price points: the introductory, resin-molded Core; the deluxe, all Stainless Steel Genesis; and the new, mid-priced Hybrid. Blade loading is a snap.
By the way, some have had good success using modified GEM blades in the OneBlade, so there is some greater blade choice possible with it.
Injector Single Edge Razors
The Schick (later PAL) Injector single edge razor was the perennial “number two” competitor to Gillette’s double edge razors, back in the day. Injector razors had a unique “hands off” blade loading mechanism, where the blades were loaded in a magazine and fed through the razor. And it had a devoted following, too, before Schick also switched to razor cartridges and joined the “blade wars.”
The Supply Single Edge razor is a modern follow-up to the Injector style razor. The Supply SE is a Stainless Steel razor available with three base plates (something the original Injector never had, though PAL did make an adjustable razor at one time) for a mild, average, or aggressive shave. I think it’s built like a tank and shaves really well!
Perhaps just as importantly, the Supply Single Edge razor uses the same blade loading system as the original Injector razors–”click…slide…slide…click” and you’re done.
Another modern take on the Injector is the Mingoose razor. Produced by the same folks who make the Mongoose single edge razor (more on that below; the company maintains its presence on Facebook but Maggard also sells them), the Mingoose is essentially a scaled-down version of the Mongoose that accepts Injector blades. This razor is also Stainless Steel and built quite well. However, where the Supply razor uses the traditional Injector loading scheme, the Mingoose is a three piece razor that requires that you take apart the razor, eject a blade from the magazine, and load the head manually. I think it’s a fatal flaw in an otherwise fine razor (though admittedly most shave nerds seem to be OK with the process).
Most of the artisan-made single edge razors these days use blades typically found in barber razors. A number of have come and gone through the years but they just keep plugging away. Here are some of the major ones.
The first artisan single edge razor was the Cobra Classic, followed by the King Cobra Classic, still available from Classic Shaving. The Cobra’s inspiration came from some hardy shave nerd’s discovery back in 2005 that a modern barber blade could be cut down to fit in a vintage Injector razor. That idea was twisted on itself and an Injector-like razor that accepted unmodified barber blades was created. That idea begat a number of other products, with varying degrees of success.
Classic Shaving also sells the Occam’s Razor, a single edge razor that uses barber blades. But Occam’s is also available with different base plates and includes a small tool that may make blade replacement a bit easier.
I previously mentioned the ATT G1. ATT also makes an “SE” razor series that uses barber blades. You can also find them (with reviews) at Maggard and even Amazon.
The Mongoose razor has a bit of a mystique surrounding it, partly because of its build quality and partly because of its availability. This Sharpologist article that goes into more detail.
RazoRock takes a bit of a different tack with their Black Hawk single edge razor: while the other artisan razors are sold at an artisan (read: expensive!) price point, the Black Hawk is more value-priced. While most of these other razors are Stainless Steel, the Black Hawk is made from aluminum. It’s lighter in weight compared to others but I think it’s quite nicely balanced and it shaves me well.
There are other single edge razors: I’ve left many that are listed as “out of stock” on artisan websites off this list. I’ll add/edit to this article as needed.
Single edge safety razors continue to capture the curiosity of shave enthusiasts, with both artisans and small businesses vying for attention. Most are well-made and offer alternatives to the classic razor formats. However I believe many single edge razor designs will be relegated to a niche’ within a niche’ until problems with blade loading are solved.
What do you think of single blade razors? Leave a message below.