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Ever since I began shaving I’ve used the big-brand cartridge razors, until recently I had a revelation:  I hate spending money on overpriced razor cartridges.  My local knife store turned me on to the old-school pleasure of wet-shaving with a double-edge safety razor.  Blades cost 25 cents apiece — and there’s something cool about shaving the way my grandfather used to shave.

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There are many options in razors — I use a vintage 1950s Gillette — but one of the best razors that balances cost and quality is the Merkur 33C safety razor.  It runs about $26 without blades. If you’re interested, check out Badger and Blade where you can find anything and everything related to shaving.

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Merkur 33C [West Coast Shaving]
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16 Responses to Blast From The Past

  1. Blind says:

    Switched to that style a while ago and have converted a friend or two. They are great razors.

    Also have a straight edge that takes the same blades (so I don’t need to worry about stroping or sharpening). Good stuff.

  2. DrunkenMessiah says:

    Modern disposable cartridge razors, especially those participating in the multi-blade penis-measuring contest are indeed crap. As a 20’s college student I can’t help but be amazed at the sheer quantity of razor burn that is lived with by dudes in my classes. The old school Gillette single razor blades and their respective mounting hardware are ergonomic and do the job well enough, but some of the oldest of school accuse it of profit mongering. As shaving connoisseur Christopher Moss put it:

    “The invention of the safety razor by King Gillette in 1904 marked a
    turning point after which it was the declared objective to make
    profit first rather than serve the needs of the shaver first.”
    -The Straight Razor Shave

    Personally, when I sought a better shave than a modern cartridge razor I wound up with a classic straight razor. I had simply begun with the classic soaps and brushes for lathering which are far and a away superior to the aerosol can junk, especially the gel stuff that’s always all loaded up with menthol to numb the crap out of your face so you can’t tell how much your razor sucks (talking about cartridge razors, old single-blade safety razors work pretty well). I’ve found that a modern hollow-ground high-carbon steel straight-razor sharpened with an old ceramic Swatty-style wetstone and maintained with a basic leather strop is pretty low-maintenance. If you’re careful with them you only need to sharpen a straight razor twice a year or so. Still, I maintain that a lot of what it takes for a nice shave is applying lather with a good badger brush. Don’t just paint it on there all delicately; work it into the little beard hairs on your face, rub it in for a bit. The whole advantage of single-blade shaving is that it exfoliates: lifting and scraping old dead skin cells off of your face that would otherwise collect nastiness and cause you to break out in some way. A hot towel and/or showering before hand plus massaging the lather into where you want to shave greatly soften up the hair that is to be removed and as far as I’ve seen completely eliminate irritation. Skin on the face tends to be clearer, have much less acne and generally look healthier. Its achievable with a steady hand holding a straight razor or a fresh and well-maintained disposable like this post is about. The replacements are dirt-cheap in the modern day of cartridge razors, but I think its more fun to maintain an old cutthroat razor even if it takes a bit more time.

  3. Joe says:

    I heard if you stack two or more blades in there, you get a better shave. Something about the first blade pulls the hair . . .

  4. Benjamen Johnson says:

    @DrunkenMessiah:

    Straight razors scare the crap out of me.

    I have found that I do get much less irritation if I use a single blade disposable — adding more blades doesn’t seem to improve the shave anyhow.

    You’re right on too about massaging the lather into your beard rather than just wiping it on.

  5. Old Donn says:

    Haven’t used one of these since my Army days. Personally, I preferred the Schick injector razors back then.

  6. Jonathan Peterson says:

    I tried the safety razor deal with fancy japanese feather blades. I took 1/64″ off my face the first day. I eventually got the hang of adjusting the blade, but after a month I gave it up.

    I can shave faster, closer and more easily with a modern multi-blade razor. I like the shaving brush/soap combo, but it doesn’t make 1/10th the difference of the blade.

    I’ll assume that different beard types are why some people prefer the old school. My beard is fine and grows in multiple directions – I shave against the grain in the shower as the last thing before getting out.

  7. Chuck says:

    I had a similar experience with Jonathan: tore up my face using the Parker Safety Razor with Feather blades.

    My son bought me a RetroRazor for christmas not realizing I already owned a safety razor. It came with a few types of blades, and I settled on the Red Personna blades. No irritation, no nicks of substance…yet 😉

    I think a lot has to do with the combination of handle and blade. I have also heard that older Gillettes are excellent for those with sensitive skin.

  8. Bren R. says:

    Multi-blade safety razors were invented by a man with thin facial hair. For those of us with wire brush faces, the first chunk of whisker that gets under the blade deforms it into a round-face spokeshave like the one on here a few days ago.

    Then again the one and only time I tried to use an electric razor it was less “the three heads pivot” and more “the three heads grab your stubble, twist it around themselves and then the motor stalls” – so I went golfing that day with three 1″ crop circles missing from my facial hair after I tore the demon machne free.

  9. Andrew says:

    knifecenter has a shaving section. clark howard found drying your razor thoroughly keeps your razor sharper longer, use a towel or hair dryer.

  10. tim says:

    HaHaHaHaHaHa!

    You guys shave.

  11. duck says:

    No matter what you say shaving is one royal pain in the ass.

  12. melvin says:

    If shaving is a pain in the _ass_ you’re doing it wrong.

  13. Keith says:

    In addition to shaving my face, I also shave my head. I used to swear by the triple-bladed razor, as it cleaned both my head and face reasonably well and fairly quickly. (Take my word for it, electric razors don’t like shaving head-hair at all!)

    I switched to the Merkur safety razor last year, and I’ll never go back. I have less problems with my skin, and get a better shave than I ever did before.

    I will warn you though, these types of razors have a learning curve. Using them in the same way that you’d use the triple-blade razor will rip your face off, and leave you a bloody mess. The triple ones are designed for one long stroke while pressing in pretty hard. The safety razors and straight blades are used in multiple smaller, softer, slower strokes. Shaving properly with a safety razor, or a straight blade will force you to slow down and take the time to do the job right, or else.

    An essential accessory for the new safety razor convert is a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding.

  14. Rob says:

    Technique is key with the single blade safety razor. You really don’t want to or need to press against your face, just let the blade do the work. It took me a while to figure this out but since I did, the razor works great.

  15. blore40 says:

    @duck: You shave your ass? I can imagine the pain! 🙂

  16. Gentlemanbeggar says:

    If you’re new to wet-shaving, I’ve compiled some simple, not-so-obvious tips:

    http://gentlemanbeggar.wordpress.com/?s=%22not+your+father%27s%22&submit=Search

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