Quest for the Perfect Blade

Recently, I took up shaving with a double-edged safety razor, a badger hair brush and a high quality shaving cream. A rather extreme change after 20+ years of shaving no closer than the “shave” afforded by your average electric hair clipper.

Blades Scaled.png

I opted for the double-edged safety razor both for the excellent quality shave and because it is one hell of a lot cheaper (and less wasteful) than paying for multi-blade gimmicky cartridges.

MSNBC has a fantastic (and fantastically long winded) article on the art of shaving (thanks again, Dave!).

Of course, there are about a zillion different blade manufacturers and even more opinions on which particular blade is best. There is no clear cut winner, but there is ample evidence that the best blade varies from individual to individual.

Amazon offers an assortment pack of DE razor blades (DE Razor Blade Mega Sample Pack #6 – 75 Blades
) that covers all of the most popular blades with a handful of others thrown in for good measure.

My plan is to use a new blade on Thursday morning and use that blade for an entire week (or less, if a particular brand wears out quickly). I’ll skip Sundays which will give a good challenge for Monday morning.

I figure I’ll rate each blade on durability, tendency to make me bleed (the DE razor, though, has made me bleed much less often than one of those stupid cartridge razors), quality of the resulting shave, and how easy it is to keep clean while shaving.

As I’m a total n00b at this, I’m welcoming suggestions.

Personally, I’m hoping that the Irsaeli Personna blades prove best. Just because I like the name. Wilkinson Sword is kinda cool, too, though.

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25 Responses to “Quest for the Perfect Blade”

  1. Cody Brimhall says:

    That MSNBC article inspired me to take up shaving with a DE safety razor about a year ago. I’ve only used the Merkur Super blades, but they’ve worked really well for me. I’d be interested to hear just how big of a difference the choice of blade makes for you.

    Definitely would not want to go back to my old Mach 3 and Gillette shaving gel. And though the DE blades and badger brushes and expensive shaving creams are great tools, I think a big part of the difference is simply that I’m now much more inclined to slow down and shave with deliberation and care. I usually make three passes—once North to South with the grain, then diagonally in either direction, NE-SW and NW-SE. My skin is usually too sensitive to shave directly against the grain, but if you can pull it off, it’s a wonderfully close shave!

  2. John C. Randolph says:

    I found many years ago that the closeness of the shave I could get depended primarily on how long it had been since the last time I shaved. Shaving on consecutive days was a lose. I use Gillette Atra, two-blade pivoting razors, and they work quite well, as long as I don’t use them more than about twice. Also, I shave in the shower, after my whiskers have had a good fifteen minutes or so to soften in the hot water.


  3. Pierre Bernard says:

    No bleeding with “Wilkinson Protector”. Ever. I use it for months at a time before changing blades!

  4. Matthew Schinckel says:

    I have used the Astra blades for the past few years: mainly because I got a bulk pack cheap on eBay, at a time I couldn’t find a local chemist who stocked any DE blades.

    I am much happier with the closeness of the shave I get, and I only go once over every area, with the grain. Going against the grain gives a closer shave, but has a higher chance of ingrown hairs resulting.

    I generally last about a fortnight per blade, but I don’t generally shave every day. If it has been a while since my last shave, I’ll often put a new blade in, as it generally makes a difference.

    Make sure you have a stand of some sort to let your brush dry out without standing it on its end: it will last much longer if the section near the handle stays dry. Otherwise the bristles tend to fall out.

  5. Zach says:

    I like the Feather blades.

    What kind of shaving cream/soap are you using?

  6. Jonathan LaCour says:

    Welcome to the club! Your face will thank you 🙂

    I’ve tried pretty much every blade under the sun. The sharpest (by far) are the feather blades. The problem is that they are a little *too* sharp, and very unforgiving. Unless you are extremely careful, you’ll walk out of your shave looking like you’ve just left the battlefield! The *safest* blades, in my experience, are the plain-old Merkurs. They are easy to find, and give a relatively close shave, while being extremely forgiving. Now, my favorite blades are the Israeli Personnas. They give me the perfect balance of sharpness to safety. In addition, you can find them on the internet for next to nothing. I bought a 100 pack several years ago for about 20 dollars, and I *still* haven’t had to buy any new blades. Amazing.

    Here’s the thing though. Shaving with a safety razor is a lot more about the cream/soap and preparation than anything else. The best thing you can do to learn how to shave properly is to visit a really solid barber, like The Grooming Lounge in Washington, DC, and get a proper shave. I was in DC for my birthday earlier this month, and had a fantastic experience at TGL. The shave took upwards of 45 minutes, with more hot towels, oils, creams, and after shave products than I care to count. The result was the closet shave I’ve ever had, with no dryness, itching, or negative effects.

    Obviously, this is the extreme, but getting a high quality cream, some pre-shave oil, and a really solid after shave product will do much more for you than the blade. There are a ton of options out there, but you can’t go wrong buying some of the products from The Grooming Lounge ( They have a starter kit that is definitely worth picking up and trying out.

    Best of luck to you in your quest!

  7. houman says:

    Congrats! You won’t go back to shaving any other way. I started shaving with a straight razor a couple years back but have not tried a DE. I initially got most of my supplies they are a bit pricey but excellent service. Even though it’s not specific to DE razors, these folks have great reviews and
    some great tips,

    I’m more of a soap guy, I’ve purchased several creams but I keep going back to Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Soap (Sandalwood) Classic Shaving has a ton of different soaps/creams. Most of the stuff from the UK is great.

    Go spend some money 😉

  8. houman says:

    ^^^Sorry, fell asleep at the well – wasn’t paying attention.


    Straight Razor Place forums were the sites I was trying to lead you towards.

  9. Nat says:

    I mostly use the Feather blades; the Merkur are nice, but shaving with the Feather feels a little smoother.

    As far as I’m concerned, the real variables to pay attention to are the cream and pre-shave oil. Lots of good choices there.

  10. Shad says:

    Blade choice seems to be very personal, I love the feathers (and haven’t found them to be too sharp at all) but found the Merkurs to be horrible and the personna blades to be just average. There are a variety of blades from each manufacturer making it sometimes difficult to reliably get a blade like the one in your trial pack. I loved some gillette 7 o’clock platinum super sharps from a blade sampler, but haven’t been able to get the same ones again. I can find plenty of blades with similar names, but they are all slightly different.

    I highly recommend Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving cream. It is the most comfortable shave I have found so far.

  11. Luc J says:

    I think the 4 and more blades stuff is a bit exaggerated. I’m using a Wilkinson 3 blade razor myself, but what bothers me is the price of new blades. What even bothers me more is that, where I live, the disposable blades are more expensive than the complete disposable razors using exactly the same blades. Who can make sense of that?

    One tip: don’t change blades weekly, I used to do that, but now I change when they’re blunt and they last several weeks.

    Another tip, take shaving oil for traveling, it’s incredibly compact:

  12. Luc J says:

    Missed the link:

  13. Jason Harris says:

    I spent about 3 years working my way through a 100-pack of Personas and was very happy with them – they’re sharp but forgiving. Then I spent from WWDC until last week working my way through a 10-pack of Merkurs. I found them to be excessively sharp. And now I’m just starting to work my way through a new 100 pack of Derby Extras. It was a big shock going from the Merkurs to the Derbys (lots of blood) but I seem to be getting used to them. I think overall, though, the Personas have been my favorite, or maybe just the ones I was most accustomed to.

    I’d love to go back to using a straight razor, though – that’s where it’s really at. But unfortunately, I’m just completely worthless at stone honing and you need to do it every six months or so.

    The other big thing is the shaving cream. When I got into this hobby, I tried a lot of pricy ones and wasn’t really super impressed with any of them. But I love and adore my 2€ “Spanish old man” shaving cream in a metal tube – La Toja Clasico (

    Anyway, welcome to the club! It’s really a nice feeling not needing to spend billions of dollars on environment-killing disposable plastic cartridges.

  14. annbb says:

    I am thankful every day I don’t have to shave my face. I’d probably be a nicked up bloody mess.

  15. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » DE Razor Review: Feather says:

    […] This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. Widgets « Quest for the Perfect Blade […]

  16. Papa Joe says:

    How ironic that u “discover” the double edged razor.
    my first shave was with a Gillette razor. used the Personna also. they were good then too.
    used my father’s mug & brush & soap too.
    the best shave was from Dominick the Barber of course.
    he gave me my first haircut and i continued to go to him even after i was married & living in Brooklyn(he was in the Bronx) Went to him over 30 years.
    he used a straight razor that he stropped many times during the shave to keep the razor sharp.

  17. Andrew James says:

    I couldn’t find a shaving razor that i liked, too many razor blades and not a good shave. So I designed my own safety razor based on the classic double edged razor. Using computer aided design with modern materials I’ve now created the perfect shave. To find out more visit my website or visit my blog Shaving & Razors by Goodfella now

  18. Terje says:

    I can only second the Feather recommendation here. I’ve tried a few of the others in your picture – merkurs are allright, but most of the others feel like they offer no precision at all after trying the Feather blades. They’re sharp so you have to be careful but that’s only a matter of practice.

  19. Terje says:

    Oh, I forgot: try a jar of Proraso pre-shave cream, both for before and after your shave. It does wonders for giving you a smooth shave and cooling your skin when you rinse with cold water after, great feeling.

  20. Darrel says:

    I switched to DE shaving a few months ago and couldn’t be happier with the results. I haven’t tried the Feather blades yet, mostly due to the ‘unforgiving’ label they had at the time I started wet shaving. I’m ordering some tonight. I have tried Merkurs (completely underwhelming) and the Derby’s (my current favorite). For cream I use Taylor of Old Bond Street or the Proraso cream. I like the Taylor better.

  21. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » A Bit of Shaving History… says:

    […] my recent over-engineered adventures in shaving, it seemed […]

  22. Joe Moreno says:

    Try replacing shaving cream with Noxzema.

    I’ve tried shaving with basic canned shaving cream and I’ve also tried great shaving soap (and a badger hair brush), and various other methods. But, nothing beats using a jar of Noxzema with a cheap (stiff) shaving brush (the expensive badger hair brushes just don’t mix well with Noxzema).

    The big secret is, once you’re done shaving, put on another coat of Noxzema and just leave it on your face and wash it off while in the shower. The menthol in the Noxzema has the same effect as gently icing your razor burnt face.

    I just used a simple Trac II blade (more blade than that, like three or four, don’t work for me – I can’t get into the “tight” places like under my nose).

    Also, shaving in the shower is another great tip too.

  23. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » DE Razor Review: Astra Superior Platinum says:

    […] As much as I would love to stick with the Derby’s, I shall persevere in my quest for the perfect blade. […]

  24. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » DE Razor Review: Wilkinson Sword Classic says:

    […] of the waste that is the card pack upon which the blade pack was attached (seen here), the Wilkinsons come in a plastic box with each blade wrapped in was paper. The box has a slot for […]

  25. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » DE Razor Review: Sharp Stainless says:

    […] shouldn’t be surprised that the last blade from the sampler that was new to me would yield some unexpected results (I still have the Merkur to review, but that […]

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