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Blade Comparisons, Please: Merkur, Feather, Derby, Other

Ken, outstanding job! I wonder if it'd be possible to get a cross-sectional view...

I'm also interested in how the blades change with use.

Elgar said:

I hope they are displaying for everyone now. I can't tell for sure from here because the attached ones displayed on my browser.

Great SHOW! (THANKS!) Now, can you bring on an electron-photo-microgaph and give us the REAL DEAL?:lol:
I have been unable to resurrect that R&D Treatise on Gillette's use of CLD tech on the edges.. I wonder what they look like up front and personal?
Brett G said:
I believe that my take on irritation is accurate but may not be experienced exactly the same by every man. Generally speaking, nicks and cuts are caused by not enough cutting power (be it blade related or whatever) and abrasion (aka razor burn) is caused by too much cutting power.
I really have to disagree with this.

Razor burn (irritation) is an abrasive effect. I can testify to that after years of suffering with the most sensitive skin imaginable. Assuming you have a good cutting angle and use the same blades, a sharper blade has less friction than a dull one and requires less pressure to cut, so the irritation will come with the dull blade. (I'm assuming a lot here, but both of us practice some form of reduction, so I'm ignoring the effects of aggressive shaving). So, from simple physics and experience, the dull blade will cause more burn, everything else being equal. In fact, those of us who use str8s will remember having a slight irritation when we first started out. That's friction caused by a blade that cannot be sharpened as well as a machine made razor blade. Eventually, that little bit of abrasion goes unnoticed, but it produces a kind afterglow on the skin.

That's not to say that a sharp blade will not cause discomfort. But that 's not the same thing as razor burn. The sharp blade, if not handled carefully, will shave off a little bit of skin and expose fresh skin. That will be noticed as a sensitivity to touch, but it's very different from abrasion. And it should be easier to control. This is the only way cutting power produces irritation. It's not razor burn.

In my opinion, sharpness is the ultimate characteristic. I find it gives the ultimate shave and the best (closest) finish. It may be that because of my sensitive skin I prefer finishing with an extremely light touch, which I can only do with the sharpest blade- the Feather.

But there is one other feaure that comes up often and is not discussed much- smoothness (again, prep and everything else being equal). It's more easily achieved with a sharp blade, because it has to be smooth to be sharp and because you can work with minimum pressure. But there are other ways to get it, namely coatings, and most companies do it. In their latest blades (Fusion), Gillette has a PTFE (teflon) coating. This can account for the smoothness of those blades long after there no longer very sharp.

As far as nicks go, although they can be caused by not enough cutting power, more often they're caused by a mismatch between cutting power and shaving technique or not holding the skin flat. That's the kind of mismatch you have when an aggressive shaver uses a Feather blade. If you use a delicate touch and hold the skin flat you will not nick yourself, but it has to be delicate enough. The professional barbers who shave you with a Feather blade prove that, as did a certain master barber (regular str8) I knew in my youth. I suppose that mismatch can also come about when a guy is using a duller razor and doesn't have the skill to control the extra pressure, but I don't think that's what happens most often. Most often the blade is just too sharp for the person and is characterized as less forgiving.

I can understand how some guys can play around with sharpness vs. pressure as you do in using the two razors if their skin can tolerate the duller razor and additional pressure required. For my sensitive skin, that has always been a problem, and it may be for others.
Elgar said:
For me, the smoothest shaver seems to be the Merkur, but it tends to pull and drag;
To me that's a contradiction. Smooth means not pulling and dragging. How are you defining smooth?

Feathers are the sharpest, but tend to give me weepers everywhere before I know what happened
This is a typical indication of a mismatch between blade sharpness and technique. THe Feathers are so sharp that they require an adjustment in your shaving style, both a reductionin the aggressiveness of your shave and an extreme reduction in pressure- mch lighter than you might expect. If you're not willing to make that adjustment, those blades are not for you.
Pilot said:
I'm perplexed by the Swedes - I'm on my 4th shave and I've got to really watch my technique as I've got some burn going on. I can't say they've provided me a great experience with my Merkur Progress yet. I'm awaiting a 40's SS to arrive and will try with it. I've only tried Merkur to date and have only been DE shaving for like 6 weeks - so hardly the expert yet.
I'm wondering whether you really have razor burn. Razor burn is a frictional effect, like a rope burn. The likely culprits are too steep a blade angle, too much pressure and overly aggressive shaving. The Swedish Gillettes are quite sharp and not likely to be causeing burn, assuming you're getting good prep.

On the other hand, you could be overshaving, which is easier with a sharp blade. If you shave too close, you'll remove a fine layer of skin and expose new, more sensitive skin. It may be sensitive to the touch, a kind of tingling, but it's not burn. If you're more careful at the finish (or reduce blade exposure) you can avoid this.
Elgar said:
I got really curious about the blades in this thread and what made them so different when they looked so similar. I ventured into the attic this evening and found the old dissection scope I used to use for Roman numismatics. It tops out at only 30X magnification, but I could easily note a number of interesting differences in the edges of the blades and how they must have been made. I've been searching the internet on a comprehensive guide to the processes involved in making blades and the terms used in "blade anatomy" without too much luck. I'd like to know a little more about what I'm seeing.

I wish I could photograph what the stereomicroscope is showing and post the results. We have an image scanner at work with a very high native resolution, so I'm thinking about "scanning" the blades at full resolution and seeing what I can come up with. I'm also sniffing around for a good micrometer I can borrow from someone at work to compare the thicknesses.

Is anyone interested in this?
I'm extremely interested, and I've been working on this kind of thing with str8s. Radio Shack makes a pocket 60-100x zoom microscope which is useful. It costs $10.
Great post Ken. I don't know what magnification you used. I looked at the Feather super pro str8 blades under 200x to compare them to regular str8s. The Feather seemed concave at the very edge of the bevel. I couldn't see grinding striations there, so they must have been very fine, but the interesting thing was that the very edge was not just ground. It seemed to have an edge like a carbide tool, but microscopic. I assume the razor blades are the same because they're equally sharp (but they don't last as long).
Joe Lerch said:
In my opinion, sharpness is the ultimate characteristic. I find it gives the ultimate shave and the best (closest) finish. It may be that because of my sensitive skin I prefer finishing with an extremely light touch, which I can only do with the sharpest blade- the Feather.


I'm with you on this one! We agree on the Feather and the tecnique in which to use it.
Good post Ken keep it comming perhaps you could add more blades for comparison ? Russian Gillettes, Lord, Swedis Gill, ISraeli Person.

I have a love hate relationship with Derby Extra at the moment they keep nicking me. while other blades dont im still to new with all this shaving so cant tell at the moment if I ever will by Derby's again or not. Feather's I have never tried im waiting for Obsessis package to arrive and anticipate some fun shaving with them...
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