Having started my DE shaving adventures about three weeks ago, I got to the point where I was getting consistently clean, irritation free shaves, and felt bold enough to try something new and different.
My original setup consisted of Arko soap, Astra SP blades, and two Baili razors - BD176 3-piece and BD179 TTO. Both are very mild shavers, BD176 especially so, but both are perfectly capable of providing BBS quality shave even for a novice like myself.
So, I decided that I needed a higher quality, adjustable razor that I could grow into, as well as experiment with increasing blade aggressiveness and using different settings for different blades / parts of the face. As probably is typical for most people, my cheeks are far less sensitive than my throat / under the chin.
Fit & Finish
I ordered one with a graphite handle, having read that the past flaking problems have been resolved by going with a different coating process. In the product photo on Amazon, the handle was black. In the real life, it's medium grey, kind of what you get if you rub a pencil on a piece of steel. I actually like it more than black. The top plate and base plate have matte steel finish, which looks very nice and goes great along with the handle. The only shiny part is the knob at the bottom. The color in this photo is pretty accurate.
AFAIK the head is made out of Zamak, and the handle is brass, but if I didn't know that I'd think it was all cast and machined steel.
Overall, the finish is impeccable, and the knurling on the handle provides a very secure grip. It was the beautiful design and the knurled (as opposed to the slippery smooth) handle that made me choose this razor over Mercur Progress, and I feel that it overdelivered in these two categories. The fit seems correct too.
Assembly & operation
This is the first two-piece razor that I used, and I like it far more than a 3-piece design, fewer parts to juggle. To replace the blade, you unscrew the knurled knob at the very bottom until you can remove the top plate. The same knob is used to set the blade gap. The alignment of the knob is very good, when fully threaded on the selector dot on the handle aligns with "+" sign on the knob.
There's a vertical notch on the head and a corresponding notch on the base plate, these notches must be aligned or the numbers used to select blade aggressiveness will be out of order. The opposite side is smooth. So, notch over notch or smooth over smooth = correct, notch over smooth - the head has been installed backwards.
The tabs are exposed and stick out a little on each side, but it's a really small amount. Other exposed tab razors that I've seen have more of the tab sticking out. This one feels very scratch-safe.
Size and weight
Compared to my Bailis, this is one hefty implement. It's a little longer, but feels a lot heavier. Per specs, it weighs 110g. It feels well balanced in hand, but it's certainly something I have to get used to. Another razor I've considered was the beautiful Viking Emperor, but I decided to go with Parker because it had a longer established reputation. Given that Emperor is even larger and heavier, it would probably be a wrong razor for me at this point.
Here's the photo next to my "benchmark" razor, Baili BD176. Note the difference in head thickness and overall length. You can also see a bit of tab sticking out, while the blade in Baili is completely enclosed.
Well, today is probably not the best day to give my ideas on the quality of shaving with Variant, as I used it set at (3) which was a bit too aggressive, and ended up with some nicks / irritation. In a hindsight, this was dumb. Being still a noob, with a brand new razor, and so very different to what I am used to, I should have been very cautious when using it for the first time.
Still, some observations:
- With the weight of the razor, not applying any pressure comes naturally. Basically, all of the unneeded extra pressure I would sometimes inadvertently apply while shaving ATG is now used to keep this razor on my face.
- The knurled handle is a joy to use
- The thickness of the head may be an issue for someone shaving under their nose. I have a small goatee so not a problem for me.
- This razor doesn't glide as easily as the Baili. It may be the combination of extra weight, a little extra surface of the guard contacting the skin, and matte as opposed to shiny polished finish, all resulting in slightly higher friction. This is not at all noticeable when my face is fully lathered, but was somewhat noticeable when I did clean up passes using just water and the remainder of lather film. So, this razor will definitely need some technique adjustment.
- That said, the razor is undoubtedly very effective... a little too effective if set to a too aggressive setting. I can't see me fully retiring my trusty Baili just yet, but I do think that Parker Variant is a great razor to grow into.