Merkur 180 Safety Razor
Based on my last experience with a safety razor I had some apprehension shaving with such a tool again. I was certainly questioning the praises for such a shaving solution. But my test was with a “butterfly” razor and this is one of two possible designs for safety razors.
The butterfly design is the one where the head of the razor opens up like wings to change the blade. See my other review on the Men Essentials Safety Razor. The 3 piece razor on the other hand is a dis-assembling solution. You unscrew the blade holding components from the handle. The “3 piece” name comes from it’s design which results in dismounting the handle, the blade holder and the top.
After some shopping I found a Merkur 180 at a decent price on Amazon. Note that this razor is also known as the 23c. This is a 3 piece razor that offers a longer than standard handle. Most razors have a 3 inches handle. Being a tall man, that size feels too small in my hand. I opted for a Merkur razor based on the number of positive reviews out there. Another razor that would of been a contender is the one from Edwin Jagger. It has just as many praises, but I couldn’t find one within my target price range (less than $40). Yeah, these puppies can fetch a pretty steep price.
From a blade servicing perspective, the butterfly solution is clearly more user friendly and you will never be concerned that your digits are at risk. Now this is where the benefits stop I think. Since the basic butterfly solution essentially just holds the blade in place, it doesn’t offer any angling for the said blade. It is just sitting in one straight position. The 3 piece razor on the other hand, squeezes the blade in place thus curbing it a little. This curvature can further be adjusted by tightening the razor or alternatively, by loosening it. Plainly said it offer better geometry. Seams like a silly detail?! To my surprise, this morning’s shave was superb.
We can assume that the design objective of the butterfly opening was to make the blade replacement a risk free adventure. As much as I agree with that objective, the 3 piece design wins in the actual shaving space.
As for the razor itself, it has a very nice chrome finishing. Every piece shows detailed craftsmanship. The razor feels appropriately heavy, which is an important quality as the weight of the razor helps when shaving so that you are not putting pressure and risking unnecessary cuts and nicks. Merkur razors are made in Germany and the stereotype of excellence for German fabrication is justified.
The Test Stage:
• State: Fresh out of the shower
• Pre-shave: Proraso Sensitive cream (white jar)
• Shaving Foam: Proraso Sensitive (white can)
• Razor: Merkur 180 Razor
• Blade: Shark Super Chrome Blade
I mention the blade because as with all things, I am sure that there will be small differences between each brand and that some will perform better than others. On my first test with a safety razor, it was a butterfly type with a Rockwell blade. At the time, I blamed the blade for my bad experience. Now I am more inclined in thinking it was simply the geometry limitation of the butterfly razor. Whatever the cause, I will be trying a number of different blades to narrow it down to the better shaving experience possible and obviously retry the Rockwell blades.
Having my face foamed up, I was ready for the shave. Each stroke was smooth, effortless and comfortable. Rinsing the razor between passes was a breeze. In fact it was going so well I was almost wondering why I waited a few days before trying this razor. I was suspicious that once the shave was completed I would be once again dealing with numerous tiny cuts and nicks all over my face. But no, it was literally a perfect shave.
The Merkur razor was not cheap at $38, but when you factor in the very low cost of the blades you are in fact ahead. Pacts of 100 blades sell for anywhere between $8 – $50. The norm appears to be about $15 for 100 blades or $0.15 a blade. The word on the street is that a blade will be good for 1-3 shaves. Let’s say 2 shaves per blade for a total of 200 shaves for $15 of blades and $38 for the razor for a total of $53. That should more or less cover your shaving needs for some 6 months. The Gillette cartridge blades are easily $30 for 4 these days. Each of these last me about a month, plus the cost of the razor itself at about $15. Up front the cost are in the same ball park. You are ahead with the double edge razor after the first 4-6 months as your next 100 blades will cost you $15 as opposed to $30 +. I mention this because aside from the actual shave, the recurring argument from the double edge razor enthusiasts is the reduced cost.
In summary, the build quality is impeccable and shaving with this tool was a perfect experience.
The rating of this razor: To me it’s a simple 5 / 5.
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