What's the deal with open comb razors?

Discussion in 'Double Edged Razors' started by chrisb, Oct 6, 2008.

  1. Still more or less a newbie here...

    Was wondering what the deal is with open comb razors? Do they provide a
    more aggressive shave?

    I am envisioning little rows of closer contact being made as some of you skin/whiskers squeeze through the open sections of the comb as opposed to the uniform stretching a straight bar provides.

    I come up with all sorts of theories with no real proof :lol:
    Just ask my girlfriend
    (I always say you state anything with enough authority and it can pass as truth. :001_smile )

    Other than my "theory", what's the thought behind the open comb set-up on some older razors and merkur open combs?

    Just curious.

  2. I find I get an easy close shave with my Hoffritz. I heard that the combs help stretch the skin to provide a closer shave.
  3. jkh


    After researching open combs here is what I have come to believe:

    (1) No they are are not inherently more aggressive. Aggressiveness is typically a measure of the blade exposure. The more exposure, the more aggressive ... this is why we have adjustables.

    (2) Supposedly, the open comb lends itself to behaving better with longer stubble. I have found no scientific evidence for this, but it makes sense (to me anyways).
  4. The open comb style razor was the norm early on with the Gillette Old Types, New Improved and News in the three piece razors and the Aristocrat in the TTO. The open comb is more effective on longer growths and is is easier to avoid clogging. But, the problem was that the teeth were very susceptible to bending or breaking so the solid bar became more popular over time. I have heard another reason for the disappearance of the open comb was the fact that daily shaving decreased the need for the heavy beard capabilities of the razor type. Many of the early open combs are more aggressive, but it is not the comb itself which is the reason for the aggressive nature, it is the fact that they were designed for a thicker blade than the modern blades. The Gillette New was the first open comb designed for the "modern" thin blades and is a milder shave than its predecessors.

    Modern open combs can be less aggressive than some of their solid bar counterparts. Hope this sheds a little light.
  5. Hi Guido,

    Very informative and helpful!

  6. He's got it covered, I guess my job here is done....:biggrin:
    Nice job Guido!!!
  7. Makes sense that the open comb design would be for longer stubble/growth. I start to think of those old electric hedge clippers.

    I often like to go a couple of days without shaving (blaspheme to some of you guys, I know!), so maybe this will legitimize adding another razor to the collection. :001_smile

    Thanks for the info!
  8. Guido covered the points very well.

    I'm currently using a Gillette Goodwill (an old-style open comb). Yes, they look aggressive and I was a little intimidated at first.

    But with a Gillette Platinum blade, this is one impressive shaver. Very close shaves with minimal irritation. It compares very favorably to my Aristocrat (with a safety bar). It might even be just a tetch better. :punk:
  9. I've used the New and found it much more aggressive than any other vintage Gillette. All other things were kept constant in the comparison.
  10. I thought I read in the forums here someplace that the open comb allows for greater soap coverage where the blade meets the skin giving better glide and whisker removal by the soap. Where I guess the bar scrapes away more soap.

    However, I shave with a straight, so what do I know! I do have both a Gillette open comb and bar but not enough face time with either to offer an opinion.
  11. I feel like I read here somewhere that the open comb razors were fazed out due the more involved manufacturing process.
  12. I have shaved a few times now with a 1912 single ring comb. I must say, I don't find it aggressive at all -despite the fact that it was designed for the thicker blades. I do find the neat rows of lather left behind interesting. Kind of like the freshly furrowed rows in a field - but in reverse.
  13. The most aggressive (an English old style Gillette) and the least aggressive (a lovely German Grafco) razors I have in my collection (about 30 - mainly vintage) are both open combs. I do believe however that the open comb design results in a better shave as it doesn't squeegee off the lather before the blade arrives and this results in a closer and more comfortable shave. I find that second to this that what I call a hybrid head is best. I have an Edwin Jagger, and a vintage Hoffrtitz that both have the Muhle style straight bar but with deep grooves it them and these are good shavers. The deeper the grooves in a straight bar the better (IMHO). I'd be interested to know if others find this as well. I have read that the reason they stopped making open combs was that they were (and I assume still are) more difficult to manufacture. I have a number of vintage open combs and only one bent tooth in the lot so I don't think that is much of a reason to stop making them but it may be that the bent and broken generally got tossed.
  14. An old thread, but interesting to note that the Gillette Guard, the single blade cartridge razor that P&G is introducing this month in India to wrest the budget minded shaver away from his DE razor, has...an open comb.

    The P&G literature indicates that they found a lot of Indian DE shavers don't have running water for rinsing the razor, and don't shave every day, so clogging and dealing with longer stubble was an issue with existing cartridge razors.

    The answer from P&G? An open comb, even if it is plastic teeth on a disposable cartridge.

    Kind of ironic that this original design feature from King Camp Gillette's earliest razors my help finally put an end to DE shaving by the masses in developing markets.
  15. I'm not an expert but doesn't that indicate you have angle wrong?
  16. I was going to say that! No expert either, but my daily razor is a short comb US NEW (before that an OLD). If you can see the teeth in your lather your angle is off. You should shave all the lather of your face. One of the things that attracts me in open combs is this feature: you can see when your angle is off.
  17. Did you also try an OLD? To me the NEW is not more aggressive than the OLD. About the same I would say. Very good and smooth shavers.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2010
  18. I have only used two open combs, the #15 and #77, and I would call neither an aggressive shaver. There's very little difference to the solid guard Gillettes I've used (mainly British made), at least for me. But the open combs do look better. :001_cool:
  19. Depends. Some safety razors have zero, or almost zero, blade exposure and rely on the ability of the skin to push up past the guard (into the "gap") to reach the blade.

    I saw a thread here the other day (I think it was an old resurrected thread) where someone showed close-up pictures of a good selection of safety razors where the varieties of exposure and gap combinations were quite clearly visible. He also had some very plausible explanations on how the different variations affected the shaving characteristics. There were a couple of zero-exposure examples.
  20. It depends on the razor. For example, I have a Minora razor that is at its closest when it leaves track marks in the foam whereas a NEW would certainly be very much at the wrong angle. With an Old type, it doesn't seem to matter as there is a bit of leeway with the correct angle you can use, as long as you don't go too far.

    By far the best way to tell when your razor is at the correct angle is by feel, in my opinion. I think the advice not to let your open comb razor leave track marks is oft-repeated dogma that isn't always helpful.

    One of the things I like about the Old type is that it gives a lot of sensory feedback and feels much closer.

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