Two years ago I tested the Parker 91R and gave it a less-than-favorable review. The obvious flaws in craftsmanship led me to steer clear of Parker razors for a while. Despite my negative comments, Parker has continued to gain in popularity among shavers, particularly those looking for affordable alternatives to German-made safety razors. I'm open-minded and I don't carry a grudge; I'm giving Parker another chance.
The Parker 98R razor is designed for the fans of heavy duty razors and mimics the style of the Merkur 38C Barber Pole razor. What makes the 98R so attractive, however, is that the razor is almost half of the retail price as its German-made counterpart. In addition, Parker has made significant improvements in razor construction since the 91R I tested a few years ago.
When unpacking the razor, I was most surprised by the weight of the 98R. The handle and cutting head weigh in at approximately 4.3 ounces (121 grams) making this one monster of a razor. The handle design is a variation of Merkur's barber-pole style and has a one direction spiral knurling pattern instead of the diamond pattern found on the Merkur. The knurling is cut deep and uniformly, and it provides a good grip surface on the handle.
The chrome plating on the razor and cutting head is applied well with no noticeable spots of uneven coating. The two-piece cutting head itself lined up properly when loading a blade and reassembling the razor, leaving an even blade exposure on each side of the cutting head.
The cutting action of the razor felt a bit more aggressive than I expected due to its heavy feel in my hand, but the 98R delivered solid shaving performance. I used this razor to shave two days' growth and it did a solid job of cutting my beard down efficiently on the first pass. In my finishing passes, however, I could feel some awkwardness with the heavy weight of the razor, especially with light strokes against the grain as I usually do at the end of my shaves; however, this is a matter of personal preference and might not be an issue for those who are already accustomed to the feel of a heavier razor.
Overall I found the Parker 98R to be well made and a fair alternative to the Merkur 38C. Merkur remains the leader for double-edge safety razors and the 38C is a solid step up in construction quality; however, the Parker 98R retails for only £21.99 ($33.00 USD) making it a good value razor for the budget conscious wet shaver.