What is The Best DE Safety Razor?
“What is the best DE safety razor for me?”
I get this question all the time. Unfortunately, there’re no easy answers. Unlike safety razors with multi-blade, pivoted cartridges that come from a few large multi-national firms and manufactured to a very narrow set of specs, double-edge (DE) safety razors (and blades) have a variety of options to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of the variables and see what stands out. These aren’t the only products of course–I’m listing the most popular safety razors that many people say may be “the best” in a particular category–so if you know of a good DE safety razor not listed here, please mention it in a comment! All the prices here are in United States dollars and approximate.
My comments are my opinion and I was not paid by any manufacturer or vendor for these recommendations. Some of the links below may be affiliate links, where PROSaved receives a small fee if a product is purchased, but it does not affect the price of the item to the customer.
Perhaps the most obvious factor is going to be the price. There’s no sense searching for something you can’t afford. I have seen new DE safety razor prices range from under $5 to over $200.
There are some acceptable cheap DE razors. They will not become heirlooms for the grandkids but they must be acceptable to get started with if you are on a budget. PROShaved ran a post a while back about a couple inexpensive safety razors for under $15. The $15 to $30 range provides some additional alternatives, including the mostly-plastic Feather Popular, the all plastic Wilkinson Sword , and the all (light) metal Weishi . Maggard razors are also inexpensive and well-regarded.
The $30 to $50 price range is where you will start seeing the more better-made, popular razors. The most recognized models in this range are the Edwin Jagger DE8x series and Parker razors, as well as the some of the Merkur razor line (including 33C, and their popular 180/23C) will be in this range too.
This is also the range where you will find the popular Merkur Heavy Duty (AKA 34C or “Heavy Classic”) and Edwin Jagger DE89lbl (The LBL variant has since become a bit difficult to find but all handle styles share the same head design).
Above this price point is where you will find safety razors that are popular for reasons in addition to (or other than) performance. Different head styles (such as the Muhle R41 or the Merkur 37C “Slant ”), materials (like the Above The Tie 7 Piece Razor System, the Feather All-Stainless Steel , or the Pils), special features (including the Merkur adjustable safety razors–Progress and Futur ) or special materials or handle designs are examples of this category.
New Vs. Used Vs. Vintage
The next factor for finding the best safety razor is whether it is new, used, or vintage. A new razor is just that: for sale, in production, and not previously used. A used safety razor is one that is currently in production but has been used before. A vintage safety razor is one that is out of production (both “new old stock” and used). The previous section described popular new safety razors. You can get used models of these same razors for probably around 75 % of their new price–they often hold their value pretty well. Vintage prices can be “all over the road” depending on the seller’s knowledge and condition.
There are a number of sources for vintage or used razors, including flea markets, local antique stores, buy/sell/trade (B/S/T) sections of the internet shaving forums and internet auction sites. Maybe even a forgotten safety razor in an older relative’s bathroom? Local razor stores have the advantage of having something you can feel and see–you are likely to know what you are getting. Auction sites can be useful if you know what you’re doing and are searching for something very specific…though there is the danger of seller shenanigans. The B-S-T areas on shaving forums are probably the place most likely to get a great razor for a fair price. These areas have “PIF” offers as well: a customer wanting to Pay It Forward by offering razor at no cost or little cost to a new shaver, a member of the armed forces, or for some other reason.
Open Comb Vs. Safety Bar
Double edge safety razors have heads that can be divided into two groups: Open Comb and Safety Bar. Open Comb’s have teeth that help guide heavy stubble and shaving cream or soap into channels. Safety Bars have a scalloped (or solid) bar that provides some protection to the skin from the blade. Generally, Open Comb razors will not be as gentle on your skin as safety bar razors (the Muhle R41 notoriously so!), though there are some exceptions (such as the Goodfella, a surprisingly mild Open Comb made in New Zealand). Most older vintage safety razors will have an Open Comb.
3-Piece Vs. 2-Piece Vs. 1-Piece (Twist To Open)
DE razors are constructed in one of three ways. 3-piece are the classic and easiest to manufacture type, consisting of a base plate, a handle, and a head or cap. An advantage of a 3-piece design is that you can “match and mix” the three pieces from various manufacturers, creating entirely new razors (you will sometimes see this referred to as a “Franken razor” after Frankenstein’s monster). 2-piece have the baseplate permanently mounted to the handle. 1-piece TTO (twist to open) razor is the type most common just before cartridge razors: the Gillette Super Speed is the classic “TTO”.
Set Gap Vs. Adjustable
Open Comb razors expose more of the blade to your skin, making for a more aggressive shave. But even razors with a Safety Bar can also be aggressive: it’s all about the amount of blade exposed to your skin. The vast majority of safety razors have a set gap size: the amount of the gap distance is designed by the manufacturer for a particular model of razor. However, adjustable safety razors can change the gap to make them more aggressive or more gentle. There are only two adjustable safety razors currently made, both from the Futur & Merkur and mentioned earlier–the Progress. There are also some vintage adjustable razors.
New to the markets is the Rockwell 6S. It’s not an adjustable in the normal, continuously-adjustable sense, but rather it has various base plates. Each plate has a various amount of blade exposure set.
Mantic59’S Best DE Safety Razors
Here are what I consider the best safety razors in several different categories. This is based on:
1. My experience
2. The experience of other people as read on different internet blogs and forums
3. Reputation of the manufacturer
4. Length of time on the markets
5. Razor’s general popularity and availability
6. Razor’s overall value (price vs. quality)
Remember the old adage, “Your Mileage May Differ!”
Best Open Comb Razor: Goodfella 3-piece, available in satin black or chrome (note that this is a fairly gentle safety razor). Honorable Mention: Parker open comb safety razors, the 26C and the 24C (differing only in handle design. Both are not overly-aggressive and shave very well).
Best Adjustable Razor: Merkur Progress 2-piece safety bar (this depends on the personal favorite!). Honorable Mention: Rockwell 6S (not truly adjustable in the normal sense, it has various base plates you can swap out for varying degrees of a shave).
Best Safety Razor For Those With Big Hands or Partially Disabled Hands: Merkur 40 “Barrel Handle” 3-piece safety bar. Honorable mention: eShave Long Handle 3-piece safety bar (an aggressive razor, not for the beginners).
Best Vintage safety Razor: Gillette Super Speed, circa 1955 (Honorable Mention: Schick Krona, circa 1965).
Best “Price Is No Object” Razor: Above The Tie Seven Piece Stainless Steel Razor (Honorable Mention: Feather AS-D2 All Stainless Steel). Special Mention: the OneBlade safety razor. Strictly speaking, this is a “single edge” vs “double edge” razor but it is a perfect razor.
A Caution to The Beginner: Blades
No discussion about Double Edge razors would be complete without mentioning blades. A lot of wet shaving beginners think (a blade is a blade) and while Double Edge blades may all look the same, there can actually be fairly big differences in the way a blade is made. Metallurgy (the metal or set of metals used to make the blade), coatings, and grinding specs (the blade’s sharpness) can all play a part in the production process. So take the time to try a numerous of different blade brands to find the one that works best for the safety razor you’re using (the mineral content of the water you’re using, your skin and the shave lather you’re using play parts too). Even if you are already using a Double Edge razor you may need to do some blade experimentation if you purchase another DE. Some shaving sellers sell (blade samplers ) or (sample packs) to make the process easier: you get a few blades of many various types. After you determine which one work best you can then purchase your favorites in bulk, saving a lot of money!
A Final Note
Shaving with a Double Edge razor is not quite like shaving with a modern cartridge razor–you can’t just take mindless swipes on your skin and expect a great shave. You have to learn a new set of skills (and possibly unlearn some bad practices) to use a Double Edge razor properly. It’s not a very difficult skill to pick up but there is a learning curve. And like learning to play a musical instrument or ride a bike some people will pick it up more quickly than others.