Many months ago, I went from a half inch or greater beard to clean shaven. After a few weeks of dealing with cartridge blades, my lovely wife Christine gave me a very nice double-edged safety razor set. A bit of research revealed that the choice of blade was critical to the experience.
Being who I am, the only logical conclusion was to buy a sampler pack covering the most popular blade and try a new blade each week to find one that I liked (and to actually determine whether or not the brand of blade even matters)!
Now that I’m done, I have encountered a few surprises and amassed a handful of questions along the way. So, in a summary:
If you are going to keep a clean shaven face, a double-edged safety razor strikes a nice balance of price optimization and performance.
First and foremost, the quality of shaved produced by a double-edged safety razor is way beyond that provided by a cartridge razor. Notably, my face stays clean shaven for far far longer. With a cartridge razor, an 8 a.m. shave would lead to a rough face by 4 p.m. With a decent double-edged blade, I still have a smooth face 11 p.m. Beyond that, my skin is a hell of a lot less irritated.
Conveniently, it is also comparatively cheap. Cartridge blades are stupid expensive — dollars — whereas a decent quality double-edged safety blade is all of about 6 cents per blade in bulk.
To achieve a decent shave with a DE safety razor requires paying a bit of attention and taking things a bit slow. After a few weeks, it becomes a bit of morning ritual… a bit of calm amongst the storm that is my life.
Which razor am I using and what cream?
The one at the left. It is a relatively plain Merkur straight safety razor. It is of medium weight and not that aggressive (i.e. the space between guide and blade isn’t that wide). Feels good in the hand and is easy to clean.
Before the shave, I use a bit of oil rubbed into my face. As for cream, I’m using the house brand from the art of shaving applied with a badger hair brush. Works well enough, but I’ll probably try some others as this runs out.
What is my blade of choice after all this?
The Dorco, Derby, and Wilkinson Sword blades all proved to be quite good. Of the three, I would lean to the Dorco but may need to give the Derby a try every now and then, too. Though good, the wilkinsons packaging proved stupid (see below).
The Feather was also excellent and I may pick some up, but it was also a very sharp blade and, frankly, was downright dangerous to my face if I wasn’t paying total attention.
While the IP’s that I tried were absolutely horrible, Jonathan LeCour’s Israeli Personnas were excellent, too. As good as any of the above. But that leads me to the next point….
What was the biggest surprise in all of this?
The biggest surprise was the vast difference in quality between two blades supposedly made by the same company. That is, of course, referring to the Israeli Personna blades. Whereas the blade I tried was one of the worst, the blade Jonathan sent to me was one of the best.
Even more of a surprise, though, is that it is quite possible that the IP’s I received might be counterfeit because, apparently, there is a counterfeit blade trade! Even the otherwise completely unremarkable packaging of the Sharp blades had an embedded hologram, as seen at the right, which was likely to prevent counterfeiting.
Though it shouldn’t surprise me, I was also dismayed to discover that there was some extreme packaging stupidity encountered in otherwise good blades. For example, the Wilkinson blades were quite good, but there was actually a little bit of glue on the blade used to hold the paper down. How stupid is that? A bit of glue on a blade that holds bits of hair to the blade? Yeah… that’ll contribute to a quality shaving experience!
How often do I need to change blades
I’ve learned that I generally wear through about 1 blade a week, flipping the blade after 3 or 4 days. Some blades wear faster than others. Hell, some blades provide a smooth shave for half my face before starting to pull more than cut.
And that is really the key. When the blade starts to pull hair, it is time for a new blade or, at the least, to flip the blade over.
One thing I did notice is that blades who claimed “chrome” or “chromed” were the ones that pulled the most painfully the most quickly.
What about a straight edge?
Ahh.. yes.. the cut-throat shave. A real man’s shave. Etc…
I’m sure a straight edge shave can provide an amazingly close shave. No doubt about it and I’m looking forward to receiving a professional straight edge shave.
I’m am not, however, remotely interested in applying such a blade to my face my self. I’m perfectly happy using technology to prevent the slicing of an artery.
What are you going to do with the extra blades?
Anyone want a few blades? Seriously– if anyone wants to repeat the experiment, my email address isn’t hard to find. Ping me.
All blades have been found homes, including the bad blades. Have fun!