In recent weeks I have observed questions on the shaving forums and boards and fielded several emails and comments about traditional wet shavers wanting to find a razor that is more aggressive than their current razor. This is an almost constant subject on a new shaver’s mind once they have mastered the basics of traditional wet shaving with a beginner DE razor. Of course usually this is a razor of the Edwin Jagger DE 89 category or possibly one of the MicroTouch (Weishi style) razors that have been showing up in stores and on television advertisements. All of these razors are quite mild shavers. Most probably a nice, smooth, mild shaving instrument, but miles away from venturing into what most would consider “the wild side” of the wet shaving experience. It's the excitement of the "new" that is "old" that is a huge attraction to our traditional wet shaving hobby for many.
Once someone ventures down the pathway (thinking about a new razor) of potential RAD (Razor Acquisition Disorder) the fever and itch for that “new” razor just intensifies. It doesn't have to be a modern production razor. It could be for a vintage razor. The selection options are almost endless which makes the decision making process for that second, third or tenth razor in your collection so difficult.
Let me put your mind at ease. There is plenty of time to build your razor collection but that piece of advice is rarely heeded and most newbie’s stumble headlong into a series of razor purchases to satisfy that itch, to find that “perfect shaver”, for a more aggressive and efficient shave. Those of us who have gone down that path before have all made numerous mistakes in this headlong plunge. You are in good company.
A simple thing to keep in mind is that if you have a Muhle 89R or Edwin Jagger DE89 razor there are very few razors on the market that are milder. So just about any choice you make will be a step up in aggression and efficiency. Many times your initial urge when looking over all the “razor porn” on the internet is to do like any healthy male does when previewing porn…they are lured by visual beauty and sheer animal magnetism. How that razor looks is a huge influence to which razor you get next. Sometimes that doesn't matter and other times it does. A “pretty” razor that is appealing to the eye doesn't mean it will deliver a good shave for you. Chances are it will, but just keep in mind this fact. A pretty package sometimes leaves you sheared and weakened. Just ask Sampson.
My first advice when the question “what razor is just a little more aggressive than a DE89?” is asked I reply with almost always the same reply – “A Parker Razor.” From my experience the smoothest step up in aggressiveness is any of the three piece Parker razors. The Parker TTO (Twist to Open) style razors are probably in the same category of aggressiveness as the DE89 so it wouldn't be a good choice if more aggressiveness is your goal. In general, if you are using a closed comb razor stepping up to an open comb style razor will result in a more aggressive shaving razor. Open comb razors are designed to be more aggressive but also more protective than the standard closed comb razor that removes almost all of the protective lather before the razor blade encounters and cuts the whisker.
My next response would be a Maggard razor. If someone wants something more aggressive and wants to not just go up a notch or two but 3 or 4 notches up the aggression scale I recommend a Matador or the RazoRock Jaws. Of course in the vintage world any of the Gillette Adjustables would fit the bill for going up the scale but wouldn't quite match the aggressiveness of the RR Jaws or Matador, but almost. Of course the FaTip and Muhle R41 are much more aggressive if you want to go all out. I don’t find the FaTip really much more aggressive than the RR Jaws or Matador, but I do find it less smooth and the overall fit and finish construction seems to be inconsistent. Some claim it to be “very aggressive” but from my experience the perception of aggression is simply a lack of smoothness.
A Gillette Tech style razor is a milder shave than a DE 89 as well as the standard Gillette Super Speeds, except probably the Red Tip (Heavy) Super Speed which is probably a step up in aggression. The Muhle 1904 is much milder as well as many others. You just need to do your research. Google it and find out for yourself, first hand, from available resources. Another man's experience is probably only that...his experience.
So, that about wraps it up for DE razor options. But don’t stop there. There are several other options for a more efficient shave…a more aggressive shaving experience. I was fortunate enough to have passed down to me by my ancestors several SE (Single Edge) razors in addition to another type I had purchased at a yard sale while in college many years ago. SE shaving is a unique experience in and of itself, separate and distinct to its cousin the DE razor.
Single edge razor blades are simply that, a blade with only one edge. This can be the standard SE type blade with the spine on the back edge or it could be an injector style razor. These blades are significantly thicker and stiffer than the standard DE blade, therefore it offers a different “face feel”. SE razors are generally loud shavers offering far more “audible feedback” than most DE razors. A DE blade flexes more during the shave and therefore it can feel possibly “closer” or ‘smoother” when first experienced. It is different and requires a slightly different technique, touch, and general approach to the shave. Not only does it involve learning another angle of attack but a refinement of a different muscle memory and “touch” while shaving. SE blades do not flex and if too much pressure is applied beyond the weight of the razor it will feel harsh.
SE razor blades, although often harder to find offer an option unavailable with DE razor blades. They are made with and without coatings and in stainless steel and carbon steel. Carbon steel is more brittle and can be sharpened to a finer edge, therefore are sharper but could dull quicker and could easily rust in high moisture environments if not protected with a coating of oil (olive or some other natural type). Sometime it only takes a few hour for a wet blade to begin rusting. I myself have not found a carbon steel blade that feels comfortable to me. I like the coated stainless steel version. A word of caution. Special blades made specifically for shaving or laboratory/medical applications are the only kind of SE blades you should use. There are tons of “utility” SE blades out there...the hardware store variety. They will butcher your face if erroneously and foolishly used to shave your face.
I personally like the change of sensation when I switch from one style of shaving instrument to another. I celebrate the differences. An injector razor is probably offers the closest transition from using a multi-blade cartridge to traditional wet shaving single edge razor methods. Injector razors are generally very light. The razor head is designed similarly to the multi-blade cartridge razor. The muscle movements are similar but with one huge difference. With a cartridge you must push to get the thing to work right but with an injector the “no pressure” mantra is the same as with other types of traditional wet shaving safety razors. The head of the injector razor does not swivel or pivot but remains fixed. I find an injector razor shave with a good sharp blade can be the easiest path to BBS perfection with the least amount of effort, once the basic skills are mastered. The blades tend to last a little longer also. There are several styles of Schick injector razors with some older and some newer. The only other player in the injector world is the PAL Injector. Both Schick and PAL have adjustable and fixed head models.
In the SE world the master of the universe is the GEM razors followed by EverReady. Some are closed comb, some semi-closed and others open comb styles. SE style razors aren’t adjustable. A few styles can accept spineless Feather SE blades. A few are aggressive, a few are mild, but most offer a very special kind of shave that is enough different from DE style shaving that if you haven’t tried it yet you are missing something good.
SE style razors particularly the Gem 1912, EverReady 1914 and 1924 razors offer very comfortably moderately aggressive shaves. Very efficient and unusually close and usually quite comfortable. The SE razor requires a steeper angle of attack that requires a complete rethinking of how you handle your safety razor. The blade is closer to the angle of a straight razor. This general style of razor I classify as an older method of shaving. It was very popular during the first 20 years of the 20th Century and when looking at old baseball photographs, advertisements for Gem and EverReady are usually prominent in the major ballparks of the day.
Single Edge shaving was more of a working class style of shaving. The razors were generally cheaper and of a more utilitarian construction. There were various stroppers available for the SE style blade that enabled a shaver to refresh the edge of the blade a bit, just like the early safety razor shaver had done with his straight razor. The now prized EverReady Streamline and Jewel razors often came with a separate stropper and leather strop.
There is no way to fully present all of the options when seeking a more aggressive razor. Your experience is unique and will always be unique, meaning that the only way you can know for sure if a razor is good for you or what you are looking for is to simply try it. “Pass-arounds” of razors used to be pretty common on the shaving boards but sadly due to razors being lost for a lack of simple responsibility by certain individuals it now is a non-existent phenomenon. Having said that once trust and a relationship is established with other wet shavers “loaner” and “razor swapping” can be arranged. Using the razor in question is the only way to determine if a purchase is the right choice.
Finally there is another type of razor that could offer a more aggressive shave. The vintage Valet Autostrop razor was in production from about 1910 until approximately 1950. There are 4 or 5 versions of this razor. It requires a proprietary blade or a modified modern blade. Feather SE blades do fit several versions out of the box and the other with minor modification. Standard SE blades can be modified to fit some Valet Razors. The Valet Autostrop razor is a unique experience and I find it to not be the smoothest of razors but the steam-punk appearance and history of this razor makes that shortfall acceptable to me.
I have several videos available on my YouTube Channel (just look around on other articles for a link) regarding the different types of razors discussed in this article. If a particular type of razor is of interest viewing it in action is often very beneficial in your decision making efforts.
Good Shaves, Be Happy, Be Safe