When looking to buy a razor, there are many different types out there both old and new, so you will need to consider which one will be better for you and your shaving needs. By all means read product reviews before you buy, this is just a brief introduction to the many different types out there.
Open Comb razors have an open guard and are generally preferred for heavy beard removal. They are considered to be a more aggressive shave and as such are not really recommended for people new to Safety Razor Shaving.
Closed Comb razors have a closed guard and are an ideal choice for people who are new to Safety Razor shaving due to their general mild shaving attributes. Some people argue that there is no difference between an Open / Closed comb razor but typically people with sensitive skin will notice the difference, especially with some of the more aggressive Open Comb razors out there.
A Three Piece razor is a razor that screws apart into three pieces. The razor will come apart into the handle, as well as the top and the bottom part of the razor head.
Sometimes referred to as TTO (Turn/Twist To Open) razors, these razors have a compartment for the blade which opens when the handle, or a certain section of the handle is twisted. The blade is put in place and then the handle is twisted to lock the blade in place.
Some razors out there have adjustable settings. The main ones out there would have to be Merkur Progress and the Merkur Futur. The main advantage of these razors is that you adjust the settings which control how exposed the blade is. This customizability can account for a great shave, and also allows you to adjust the aggressiveness of your razor for different passes. Please note if someone in an online review says they had a great shave with x setting, do NOT jump straight to that setting. Always start with the mildest setting working your way up, to make sure you don’t aggravate your skin.
Some Safety Razors out there have slanted guards, an example would be the Merkur 37C. These razors allow one end of the blade to be more exposed than the other. Imagine a slant bar razor as a hybrid between a closed comb and an adjustable – they have different settings of blade exposure, only they are fixed.
There are hundreds of types of different vintage Safety Razor out there. These are mainly Gillettes, but there are other manufacturers too. These vintage razors can fetch a hefty price sometimes, but some are known to be “old reliables” such as the Gillette Super Speed (which itself has many different variations of sub-model available), and that is why they are so sought after.
A main factor when looking for vintage razors is their year of manufacturer. Many people like the idea of owning a Birth Year Razor, but often these razors are from the USA, and UK Gillettes did not use date codes for quite some time, which can make exact year identification harder.
Most (but not all) people who get involved with vintage razors end up collecting them, but if you fancy owning one do a quick search, and there are loads of articles on quality models to look for, such as the Super Speed mentioned earlier.
Single edge razors such as GEM’s and Ever-Ready’s have just that – a single edge to the blade instead of using a double edge blade. You would really have to try both to compare, but the same principles mentioned in our Beginners Guide apply to using one.
There are examples of razors which are unique mainly because they use a special blade type. Two main examples come to mind which are the Eversharp Schick, which used an injector design to insert special blades. The other is the Gillette Wardonia, which takes double edge blades with holes in slightly different places to a standard double edge blade. These Wardonia blades will be incredibly hard to find nowadays, whilst the Schick blades can be found readily available. It is possible to modify standard blades to fit a Wardonia however we would NOT recommend this, as it could result in a very aggressive shave if done incorrectly.
Shavette / Straight Razors
Shavettes are simply a beginners’ Straight Razor, they use a standard double edge blade snapped in half. This means that there is no need to stop and hone the blade as is necessary with Straight Razors.
Most of the time one would often get accustomed to using a Safety Razor before using a Straight as the technique, whilst different, uses the same principles (i.e. getting the angle / pressure / grip right).