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Shaving 101

Your First Razor

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One of the first hurdles that one has to overcome after making the decision to take up traditional shaving is to choose the correct razor. While the range of different double-edge safety razors produced today is fairly narrow, there are a lot of options for weight and handle designs that can make more of a difference than you may expect. Selecting a razor that is well balanced, comfortable to hold, and appropriate for a beginner's skill level is critical to enjoying your first shaves while you become acclimated with using the double edge.

The most common double-edge safety razors on the market today are the Merkurs from Germany. These razors are readily available and reasonably priced. Merkur makes a variety of models from basic chrome razors to high-end gold and specialty razors, such as the Futur and Vision models that cost significantly more. In recent months newer brands have started becoming more widely available. These razors look visually appealing and are priced attractively; however, some models that I have inspected and used had obvious construction issues that made me question their quality.

If you have browsed online forums or auction sites, you have probably found a wide range of vintage double-edge razors available. The majority of vintage razors are by Gillette, including the twist-to-open and adjustable models. These razors were very well made and can provide great shaves; however, without some experience in identifying good quality vintage pieces and basic knowledge of the restoration and sterilization process, a newcomer to traditional shaving would benefit more by purchasing a new model razor from Merkur and eliminating as many unnecessary variables as possible.

The best choice for a first razor is one of two models that are commonly available from most retailers that carry the Merkur brand. These razors are considered "fixed head" models because the gap between the blade and safety bar cannot be adjusted. Adjustable razors can provide additional benefits, but if you are just starting out it is likely you'll spend more time tinkering with the adjustment dial instead of learning the appropriate pressure and cutting angle. A beginner should stick to the standard models and experiment with the adjustables only after he has become proficient with using a fixed-head razor. Either of these two fixed-head razors will not only make a fine starting razor, but will also provide years of reliable service:

Merkur 34C and 23CMerkur 34C "Heavy Duty" – This razor is considered by many to be the standard for double-edge razors. The 34C has a short-length handle with a larger diameter giving it a hefty feel in your hand while shaving. The added weight and short handle provide a good balance to comfortably achieve the proper cutting angle. This razor is available from most retailers for around $40.00.

Merkur 23C "Long Handle Classic" – This razor is ideal for men who are accustomed to shaving with the longer handled mass-market cartridge razors. While it has a smaller diameter handle than the Heavy Duty razor, the added length provides a comfortable grip. It is weighted so that you can easily shave on the proper cutting angle. This razor is available from most retailers for around $35.00.

Either of these razors will be a good choice for a beginner to traditional shaving. The most important factor is to select a razor that is comfortable, well balanced, and appropriate for your skill level so that you can become proficient with using a double edge. Those who are interested in eventually trying straight-razor shaving will greatly benefit by starting out with the traditional safety razor and mastering its use. Doing so will make the transition into straight razors much easier and make the experience more enjoyable.

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How much should I tighten the head of my Merkur long handle razor after replacing the blade? If I tighten it all the way that leaves no room between the blade and the head. Am I doing this right?

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