A Head is a Head Right? Not when it comes to safety razors. (Part 1)

Everything you wanted to know about razor heads but were afraid to ask…. (almost!)

Disclaimer: Men have found more ways to shave than you can shake a stick at. The safety razor, and the myriad of blades that go with it, have stood the test of time. But with an infinite variety of head types, razor blade types, skin types and beard types, your mileage may vary from the opinions expressed here. Your opinion is also important. Have a comment?? Leave a comment.

So much choice…. Really!

There are so many choices of safety razors, heads, and blades, that it may be confusing for some people. In this post, we will examine the characteristics of the various options available in selecting a razor with a good head on its shoulders – LOL!

A General Overview.

There are many variations of razor heads. In general there are two broad categories….

  • “Butterfly” Heads (also called TTO, or Twist to Open.) This head makes blade changes and cleaning the razor somewhat easier for some people.
  • 3-Piece and 2-Piece Heads. This type of head is simpler and may in some cases support the blade better. I find that it is still pretty easy to clean and change blades.

Each type of head can be further broken down into types. Let’s examine the types that are made and their individual characteristics.

Butterfly Head:

  • Closed comb
  • Open comb.
  • Adjustable.

2 or 3-Piece Head:

  • Closed comb.
  • Open Comb.
  • Slant.
  • Adjustable.

With respect to this type of head there are three major versions:

  • Edwin Jagger Style Head – really invented in India in the 1940’s, I believe…
  • Gillette Tech Style Head – invented by King Gillette and it was the first razor head that was cast and / or stamped. It was really inexpensive to produce and it shaves great. There are many razors that use this head today such as our JAVA Sumatra and VINTAGE Black Tiger.
  • Merkur Style Head – These heads are by far my favorite. They just feel so soft against your face when you’re shaving.

Actually designing and developing razors is a pretty technical accomplishment. No two razors shave alike unless they are the same model, with the same blade, on the same face!

We always start out with a design objective. For example, our new VINTAGE Jasmine Razor for women had the following objectives:

  • It needed to have a long handle. At least 4 inches. This helps make parts of the body easier to reach in a sitting position.
  • It has to be designed to cut body hair. That means that the head design has to be mild, yet efficient.
  • It has to be a butterfly head because blade changes are easier and besides which, it is just more elegant from a woman’s perspective. (Note: we conducted a real, live focus group.
  • It would have to be submersible. A woman is likely to use the razor in the bath, or in the shower.
  • The handle had to be easy to grip when wet.
  • We wanted the razor to sell around $12 – $15.

So you see that there are all kinds of factors that are taken into consideration before the product is made. Then there are production samples to be tested and revised again and again until we feel that the product is to our liking.

Now that you see what a manufacturer considers before bringing the product to market, let’s explore the differences that exist between razor heads.

Let’s start with “butterfly” razors:

I find “butterfly” razors are somewhat unpredictable. At least that’s been my experience.

Each razor model can have really different characteristics from another from the same manufacturer. That is true about 3-piece razors as well, but after a while you learn what to expect from each style head and how to spot the subtleties between similar heads. Anyway, my experience with the TTO design is that it is pretty difficult to tell what you are getting before you try it.

I have returned more of this type of razor after trying them, than any other kind!

I will use Parker as an example. They produce quality razors at reasonable prices. One razor that I like is the Parker 90r. But I had to go few testing 5 different models before I found the one that suited me. Even then, I went through 3 of that model until I found one that was just right.

A closed comb butterfly razor is the most common type. Some are very gentle razors. But I find many to be aggressive. Again, that’s just me.

It is easier somewhat faster to change blades and clean the butterfly head. That therefore is their major benefit and attraction.

We will not discuss the open comb variant of this kind of razor because I don’t think they are very popular and although we have one in development, we have specific design objectives in mind. We will be soon offering one in our Calypso Series, designed specifically for men of colour. In general open comb razors have more blade feel than closed comb ones and are usually more aggressive.

Here is a short list of “butterfly” razors and their suitability for various kinds of users.

Razor modelCharacteristics.Who is it best for?
Parker 86rExtremely mild razor but very well made.

About $25.
If you have sensitive
skin and a light beard.
Feather
Popular
Very inexpensive
razor with a plastic
handle. This razor is
also gentle but very
efficient.

About $15.
This is an ideal starter razor. Use it with a
sharp blade though
such as a Feather or
Dorco Prime. If you
have a normal beard
and sensitive skin this razor may be perfect.
Parker 96R
Nice grip-able long
handle. Beautifully
finished. More
aggressive than the
razors above. Also
heavier.

Under $40.
This razor is a bit too
aggressive for
newbies, but it shaves wonderfully especially with an Astra or
Gillette Green
(Russian) blade.
JAVA Espresso / JAVA
Americano. Also the
Weishi 9306C and the differences between
them.

Also mild but very
well made and
efficient. Our JAVA
twins have a slightly
modified blade gap (+3mm) and a better
open/close
mechanism.

About $15 – $25.
These razors will last a lifetime. Made of solid brass they are very
nice to shave with. I
thought that the OEM model needed improvement. Our JAVA
Espresso and
Americano razors can be used by new and experienced shavers
alike. The 9306C may
be better off with a
new shaver. Best
blades would be Astra SP or Gillette
Wilkinson Sword
(India.)
Gillette Superspeed
Flairtip.
This is a vintage razor plentifully found on eBay and Etsy. It comes
in 3 models. The red
tip is more aggressive. The blue tip is very
mild. I love my 1956
silver tip. It is perfect
for me.

Found on eBay for $20 – $30.
How can you argue with perfection? These
razors have a great
track record for
durability. Start with
the silver
tip, it will suit most
skin and beard types.
Baili 176 Series.Truth be told this is a
great razor. It is made of zink and chromed
to perfection. It is very predictable. It is on
the mild side but it is suitable for all beard
and skin types.

Under $10. The finish
on the chrome is
simply stunning.
Really good razor for beginners. Works well if you shave every day. Good blades in this
razor are Gillette
Silver Blues, Astra SP, Voskhods, and Shark
Platinum.
Vikings Blade
Chieftain
Could this be the
PERFECT razor of any kind? It is really
engineered to
perfection. It even has a fail-safe mechanism that will not allow the head to open unless
the razor is vertical!!!

About $45 and worth
it.
Gillette Slim
Adjustable, Gillette
Adjustable, Gillette
Black Beauty.
Great adjustable
vintage razors made
by the King himself.
Well made. You can
adjust the blade gap
and therefore the
aggressiveness of your razor.

About $25 – $75 on
eBay or Etsy
depending on the
model.
These razors are a
great investment. Just turn the dial from 1
(the gentlest setting,)
to 10. You can see the blade gap change as you turn the dial.
Should
shave just about
anyone. Almost any
blade will work well
with these because
you can compensate
for them.

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