I was Recently talking with Mike from Grooming Lounge. They were getting questions from shavers who wanted to get into double edge razors but were looking at all the different varieties and undecided about what to buy. Mike asked me if I would discuss the different varieties, and maybe make some suggestions. Here’s an overview of double edge razor designs.
Double edge razors are typically constructed in one of three ways:
Three piece razors are the classic” type (and easiest to manufacture), consisting of a handle, a base plate, and a head or cap. An advantage of a three piece design is that the screw threads are usually standardized so you can sometimes “mix and match” the three pieces from different manufacturers, creating entirely new razors (you’ll sometimes see this referred to as a “frankenrazor” after Frankenstein’s monster).
Three piece razors can also have a thinner head design, which can make it easier to get into those tight places like under the nose.
A really popular razor is the Edwin Jagger DE89 series. It’s a really popular razor that is available with a number of different handles. The DE89LBL may be the most popular version.
Two piece razors have the base plate permanently mounted to the handle. Two piece razors are less common–mainly from merkur but muhle has also made them. they’re usually pretty well-made. An enormously popular two piece razor is the Merkur 34C.
A one piece “twist to open” (TTO) razor was the most common razor just before the advent of cartridge razors: the Gillette SuperSpeed is the classic twist to open. Its probably the most convenient design for quickly and safely replacing a blade. One popular “new” TTO razor is the Parker 99R, another popular razor with a long handle, good balance, and a good value as well (I’m a personal fan of the Parker 92R too, differing only in handle design).
Double edge razors have heads that can be divided into two general groups: Open Comb and Safety Bar. Safety Bars have a solid (or scalloped) bar that provides some additional protection to the skin from the blade. Safety bar designs are the most common type of razor being sold today.
Open Comb’s have obvious “teeth” that help guide heavy stubble and shaving cream into channels. Generally, Open Comb razors expose more of the blade edge and will not be as gentle on the skin as safety bar razors (the Muhle R41 notoriously so!). Most older vintage razors will have an Open Comb.
Double edge safety razors have traditionally had relatively short handles, at least when compared to modern cartridge razors. However you can get safety razors with longer handles as well.
For the most part it’s a matter of personal preference–if you have big, meaty hands you may want to try a long handled razor. But I’ve found that hold even short handle razors just fine if I support the bottom of the handle with my little finger. There are some subtleties involved though, such as how the length of the handle affects the razor’s center of gravity.
A specialty razor is an adjustable razor. The Merkur Futur is one example of an adjustable. The vast majority of razors have a set gap size, which exposes more or less of the blade edge to the skin. The amount of the gap distance is determined by the manufacturer for a particular model of razor. Personally, I think a razor like the Futur is more suited for a razor aficionado who’s looking for a specific experience.
Generally speaking, Open Comb razors expose more of the blade to the skin, making for a more “aggressive” shave. But even razors with a Safety Bar can be aggressive: it’s all about the amount of blade exposed to the skin. Adjustable razors can change the gap to make them more gentle or more aggressive.
And remember, Shaving with a DE razor is not like shaving with a modern pivoted cartridge razor–you can’t just take mindless swipes at your face and expect a good shave. You have to learn a new skill set (and possibly unlearn some bad habits) to use a DE razor properly. It’s not a terribly difficult skill to pick up but there is a learning curve. And like learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument some will pick it up more quickly than others. Luckily, I have a few videos to help you out!
I think Grooming Lounge has a pretty solid lineup of double edge razors. But what if you’re a newbie and still undecided? Certainly the Merkur 34c, its long-handle cousin the 38c, or any of the Edwin Jagger DE89 line are safe bets for the beginner. If you are looking for a razor that’s convenient and a good value as well, take a look at the Parker razors, especially the 99R or the 66R.
This post sponsored by Grooming Lounge.