- The EJ Kelvin is a well-crafted three-piece razor with shiny smooth chrome plating and the standard EJ DE89 head found on all other Edwin Jagger razors, but with a shorter handle with similar knurling and length as the two-piece Merkur 34C
- Thorough and accurate measurements for the EJ Kelvin without a blade were made and tabulated, including measurements for mass of 59.16 g, length of 83.09 mm, and center of mass of 25.73 mm from the top of the razor
- Blade play with the EJ DE89 head is reasonably small, making blade alignment automatically fairly symmetric
- Photo analysis was performed for the EJ DE89 head with a nominal 21.96 mm wide blade, yielding a blade angle of 30.5 deg, a blade exposure of 0.06 mm, and a guard span of 2.25 mm
- Blade gap of 0.71 mm was physically found with accurate micrometer-measured feeler gauge blade combinations for the EJ DE89 head loaded with a nominal 21.96 mm wide blade
- Tape strips under top cap edges decrease aggressiveness and efficiency due to decreased blade exposure, guard span, and blade angle, while shims under blade provide a counteracting effect and can be used in combination with tape to tailor aggressiveness and efficiency
- The shiny smooth chrome of the EJ DE89 head seems to require more hydrated lather for the same amount of friction during shaves compared to a textured surface subjected to a less hydrated lather
- Knurling of EJ Kelvin's handle is shallow, so slipping occurs more readily
- Blade tab overhang for the EJ DE89 head is small and not a problem
- Cleaning the EJ Kelvin is simple
The Edwin Jagger (EJ) Kelvin safety razor (model number DES89KNAMZbl) was exclusively designed by Edwin Jagger for Amazon and is made in the Edwin Jagger factory in Sheffield, England. On January 25, 2017, I e-mailed Edwin Jagger, asking, "Is the head on the Kelvin your standard DE89 head, the same head as on the DE89L, DE89Lbl, etc.?" The next day, Edwin Jagger responded, stating, "Yes all of the heads on our razors are the same on all of our Saftey [sic] Razors." By placing the EJ DE89 head on a shorter handle with similar knurling and length as the two-piece Merkur 34C, another modern-day classic, Edwin Jagger has made the Kelvin a three-piece hybrid of sorts.
After using the PAA DOC Satin for several months (B&B URL), during which time I briefly tried the Dorco PL602 (B&B URL), I started shaving with the EJ Kelvin on January 26, 2017. The EJ Kelvin is thus my third DE safety razor, but my second safety razor as a daily driver.
Nice Packaging with Razor Perfectly Protected
The packaging is simple, yet classy, and the contents are perfectly protected. As shown below, tissue paper comes above and below the contents, keeping them tightly fitted in the box and protecting them from damage. The contents include a pack of five blades, an insert with information about shaving and razor care instructions, and the razor itself, which is carefully wrapped in tissue paper.
Beautiful Razor with Shiny Smooth Chrome Plating
The EJ Kelvin is a beautiful razor, expertly crafted with shiny, smooth, chrome plating and no visible asymmetry. An example of the quality of the finish is exhibited below in the picture of the handle's flat end, which reflected an image of the camera.
One Small Surface Imperfection
Despite the wonderful craftsmanship that obviously went into making the EJ Kelvin, with its EJ DE89 head, the razor that I received was not perfect. Upon close inspection, I found a small surface imperfection along an edge of the top cap. This small indent is circled in the picture below. Since the surface blemish was so small and was not going to affect razor performance, it did not bother me.
EJ DE89 Head Is a Modern-Day Classic
The EJ DE89 head is a modern-day classic and is sold on many handle variants, forming three-piece razors such as the EJ DE89L with its lined handle. The EJ Kelvin is one such variant with its knurled handle that is shorter than other Edwin Jagger handles.
Measurements of Razor without a Blade
Below is the general table of measurements for the razor without a blade. Mass was measured with a calibrated scale having a 0.01 g resolution, distances were measured with a calibrated digital caliper having a 0.01 mm resolution, and center of mass was measured by carefully balancing the razor on a relatively thin edge of folded paper, noting the critical location, and measuring it with the caliper. Regarding the head, top cap, and base plate, width dimensions are perpendicular to the safety guards and length dimensions run parallel to the safety guards, as observed from the top of the razor. Two base plate widths are given to differentiate between the nominal value and the slight increase at the ends where the base plate flares out a bit. Scallop length was found by averaging caliper measurements across scallops on both safety guards, but scallop depth was digitally measured with an analysis of a photograph aligned with the bottom of the scallops. A composite picture for the scallop dimensions follows the table.
|Center of Mass from Top||25.73 mm|
|Handle Mass||30.38 g|
|Handle Length||76.38 mm|
|Handle Diameter||12.53 mm|
|Head Mass||28.78 g|
|Top Cap Width||19.02 mm|
|Base Plate Width, Nominal||25.10 mm|
|Base Plate Width, End||25.18 mm|
|Head Length||41.42 mm|
|Center Pin/Post Diameter at Blade||4.88 mm|
|Side Pin/Post Diameter at Blade||4.96 mm|
|Scallop Length||3.22 mm|
|Scallop Depth||0.37 mm|
The razor's mass, length, and center of mass are described above. Each individual develops preferences for these overall parameters, so reviewing them is somewhat fruitless. Nonetheless, I will say that I like the weight, size, and balance of the EJ Kelvin.
Blade Play Is Reasonably Small
Loading a blade in the EJ Kelvin is easy because the blade is automatically loaded fairly symmetrically. This is supported by razor and blade cutout measurements that theoretically quantify the amount of wiggle room when loading a blade. The diameter of the hole at the center of a DE razor blade ranges from 4.93 mm to 5.12 mm with an average of 5.05 mm, and the inner diameter of the diamond holes in the cutout ranges from 4.95 mm to 5.07 mm with an average of 4.98 mm, based on my measurements of many different blades with a precise digital caliper. The EJ Kelvin, with the EJ DE89 head, is one of many razors that has a center pin/post and two side pins/posts on the bottom of the top cap for fitting into the blade cutout and automatically positioning and aligning a blade. As measured with my digital caliper, the center pin/post has a diameter of approximately 4.88 mm where the blade sits, and the side pins/posts have a diameter of around 4.96 mm at the blade when loaded in the razor. These dimensions result in theoretical blade plays of (1) 0.05 mm to 0.24 mm with respect to blade cutout circle diameter and EJ Kelvin center pin/post diameter and (2) -0.01 mm to 0.11 mm with respect to blade cutout diamond diameter and EJ Kelvin side pin/post diameter. Given these estimated ranges, it appears that the side pins/posts generally dominate blade alignment with blade play that gets as large as only 0.11 mm and might even be barely negative depending on the blade. Blade play with side pins/posts cannot get tighter than this without resulting in more blades that would not quite fit in the razor. With the reasonably small wiggle room of the blade in the EJ Kelvin, the blade is automatically loaded in a fairly symmetric manner with fairly even blade reveal and exposure. Reloading the blade has only seemed necessary sometimes when physically examining blade exposure with a small acrylic piece in making blade exposure as perfectly symmetric as possible.
Photo Analysis of EJ DE89 Head with Physical Blade Gap Measurement
Photo analysis of the EJ DE89 head began with trying to find the blade width that causes zero blade exposure, so that photographs down the blade's cutting edge would also be aligned with the shave plane from the safety guard to the top cap in order to minimize parallax error. The blade was loaded in the razor multiple times while making blade exposure as symmetric as possible along both sides of the razor head, as physically confirmed with my small smooth flat acrylic piece. Using my reference blade catalogue, the blade with the smallest width of 21.73 mm (and a thickness of 0.093 mm) was physically confirmed to cause an effectively neutral, slightly or just barely positive, blade exposure. Given the lack of blade width choices, it is likely that the critical blade width for zero blade exposure is a little less than 21.73 mm, but photo analysis would proceed with the best estimate of a 21.73 mm blade width causing zero blade exposure. This estimate was important due to the fact that the blade's cutting edge is difficult to capture very well photographically when aligned with it, but the fact that the razor head's profile from the side might not perfectly match the nominal profile along the blade's cutting edges is probably even more significant, since the nominal profile is what matters with respect to the shave plane.
The razor loaded with the 21.73 mm width blade was propped upright using right angle pieces, and a small metric scale was propped upright with its edge aligned with the side of the blade's cutting edge, not the side of the razor head. Aligning with the side of the blade's cutting edge resulted in enough focus on the blade so that the blade's cutting edge could be photographically captured well. My camera was carefully set up so that its lens aligned with the blade's cutting edge. A bright, secondary light was held close to the razor and positioned and angled just right to highlight the blade and razor surfaces and provide a backlit background when taking photographs. Photographs were taken for both sides of the razor head and for both cutting edges of the blade. The best photographs were chosen for analysis.
All four views down the blade edges were digitally analyzed using a free scalable vector graphics program. Cutting edges in the photographs either implied neutral or slightly negative blade exposure, which was not surprising, but given the previously discussed physical inspection, the intersection of the blade and shave planes was taken as the point of zero blade exposure for the 21.73 mm width blade. From this point, analysis was extended for a hypothetical blade having a width of 21.96 mm, which is the current average blade width based on my extensive measurements of many different blades. Analysis included consideration of steep- and shallow-angle shaving.
Overall, averaged results from photo analyses of the EJ DE89 head with a nominal 21.96 mm wide blade are pictured below. Photo analysis of the four views with a theoretical blade width of 21.96 mm yielded an average blade gap of 0.68 mm. However, using my accurate set of micrometer-measured feeler gauge blade combinations (B&B URL), blade gap was accurately measured on both sides of the EJ DE89 head loaded with a 21.96 mm wide blade and then averaged as 0.71 mm. The physically measured blade gap is 0.03 mm larger than the digitally estimated blade gap from photo analysis, so the height of the safety guard may be a little higher near the sides than along the interior, similar to how the base plate width is 0.04 mm larger near the ends than along the interior. It should be noted that the blade gap of 0.71 mm that I measured is similar to, but likely more accurate than, the currently reported value of 0.76 mm (B&B URL).
Combination of Slightly Positive Blade Exposure and Large Guard Span Is Too Aggressive for Me
As documented above for a blade width of 21.96 mm, the blade exposure is 0.06 mm, the guard span is 2.25 mm, and the blade angle is 30.5 deg. The handle angle was found to be 41.5 deg. The fairly neutral blade exposure explains why the estimated blade and handle angles do not vary much when considering steep- and shallow-angle shaving. My shaving experience with the EJ DE89 head has been with respect to its normal shaving angle. Immediately upon switching from the PAA DOC Satin, which has a relatively large negative blade exposure, the EJ Kelvin seemed significantly more aggressive, yielding closer shaves with lighter pressure. In fact, it was from shaving with the Edwin Jagger that I learned to use much less applied pressure and improved my shaving technique. However, no matter the blade used, the slightly positive blade exposure and large guard span makes a combination that is too aggressive for me, even though the EJ DE89 head is reported as having an aggressiveness of 2.5 out of 10 (B&B URL). It is possible that the scallops of the EJ DE89 safety guards are a factor, since scalloped safety guards allow for more blade exposure, which increases razor aggressiveness and efficiency.
Tape under Top Cap Edges Decreases Aggressiveness and Efficiency
Shortly after I started shaving with the EJ Kelvin, I began experimenting with decreasing its aggressiveness. The thought occurred to me that I could add tape under the edges of the top cap in order to push down the blade's cutting edges and decrease blade exposure, guard span, and blade angle. While experimenting with a few different tapes, I experimented with many different blades, including Astra Superior Platinum, Derby Extra, Shark Super Chrome, Polsilver Super Iridium, BIC Chrome Platinum, Gillette 7 O'Clock Super Stainless, Treet Platinum, and Kai. The aggression of the EJ DE89 head is especially aggravated for me with the Kai blade, which is sharp and has the largest blade width of any blade that I've measured. However, I ended up preferring the Kai blade for its sharpness and smoothness, as long as the blade exposure due to the added tape to the top cap was effectively neutral. Different tapes have different thicknesses, and multiple layers can be used to build up a desired thickness. I tested the use of clear tape, foil tape, ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) tape, and blue painter's tape. Given its ease of use and longevity, painter's tape became my favorite. Specifically, one layer of painter's tape, as pictured below after a few cycles of use, with a Kai blade became my favorite combination. Efficiency is decreased with the decreased blade exposure, but the efficiency is still enough for decent or good, not BBS, shaves. After many shave cycles with multiple blade samples, the strips of painter's tape hold up well. Replacing the tape strips when they wear down on the EJ Kelvin or another razor should theoretically not be frequent enough to cause frustration.
I searched B&B and found only one member who wrote about using narrow strips of tape under the top cap edges to decrease aggressiveness. In 2012, @JeffOlson used strips of duct tape, three layers thick, in taming his Mühle R41 (B&B URL). Pictures were not included, but the description was clear.
Shims under Blade Work in Combination with Tape under Top Cap to Tailor Aggressiveness
The picture above shows the EJ DE89 head with a Kai blade and (a) without any modification, (b) with painter's tape added under the top cap edges, and (c) with painter's tape added under the top cap edges and a shim added under the blade. With the Kai blade, I may or may not use a shim, and with other blades, I might even use two shims. The strips of tape under the top cap edges push the blade edges inward while any shims under the blade push the blade edges outward and raise the blade up overall. Thus, shims under the blade work in combination with tape under the top cap to tailor aggressiveness and efficiency. Shims should also increase blade rigidity, but I did not notice any significant difference when using one shim or no shims in combination with tape under the top cap edges of the EJ DE89 head. Nevertheless, adding tape and shims might be used together to increase blade rigidity while producing similar aggressiveness and efficiency as with no tape and shims. When using tape strips under the top cap edges, I might decide whether to add shims or not based on quick checks of the blade exposure using a small smooth flat acrylic piece. If the blade exposure is negative, for example, I might add a shim and make the blade exposure effectively neutral or slightly positive.
Adding normal shims under the top cap will increase aggressiveness and efficiency, partially countering or overcoming the effect of narrow tape strips under the top cap edges, but narrow shims can be used instead to work with the tape and cause the blade edges to curve inward even more. The latter situation was described and tested by @JeffOlson in taming his Mühle R41 (B&B URL, B&B URL). He called the combination "quite kludgy", but effective in bending the blade and decreasing aggressiveness to some extent.
Smooth Chrome Requires Good Lather
Starting to shave with the EJ Kelvin caught me by surprise with respect to friction. My prior DE shaving experience was practically limited to using the PAA DOC Satin. When I switched to the EJ Kelvin, I was really disappointed by the significant friction and sticking that I was getting, even when using the same high-quality soaps as before. Simple tests that I conducted with top caps moved against dry and wet skin on the inside of my wrist seemed to prove that friction increases under wet conditions, but the textured satin finish of the PAA DOC Satin produces a little more friction while the shiny smooth chrome of the EJ DE89 head produces a lot more friction and stick-slip (B&B URL). My request for help led some B&B members to suggest that my lather might be lacking water, and sure enough, they were right (B&B URL). It turns out that with the PAA DOC Satin, with its textured satin finish and double open combs, I could get away with less hydrated lather, but with the EJ Kelvin, more hydrated lather is needed to cut down on the inherently higher friction from the shiny smooth chrome. In a way, I was forced to improve my lather-building skills. I studied the addition of painter's tape and UHMW tape to the top cap in an effort to reduce friction, but neither tape seemed to help (B&B URL).
The potential for more friction from smooth chrome seems to clearly exist, but the level of friction someone actually experiences probably depends on his skin, as I've theorized (B&B URL). In my case, good hydrated lather has helped to reduce friction, but there is still an overall level of friction that I don't like from the smooth chrome on my skin.
Knurling Is Shallow, so Slipping Occurs
When using the EJ Kelvin, especially with slicker lather, I occasionally experience a little slipping of my grip on the handle, forcing me to reposition my grip. As shown in the picture below, the knurls of the EJ Kelvin's handle are very shallow, not close to being deep. The knurling along the handle changes right near the end, where the knurls become smaller and deeper and feel like they provide more grip as a last resort if the handle is slipping out of one's hand. I would have preferred the smaller and deeper knurls along the entire handle.
Blade Tab Overhang Is Small and Not a Problem
Blade tab overhang is pictured below. On average, blade length is 42.84 mm based on my measurements of many different blades, so with a head length of 41.42 mm, the blade tab overhang for each side of the EJ DE89 head is only 0.71 mm. The blade tabs are covered enough to allow the razor head to get into tight spots, such as around the nose and earlobes, without allowing the blade tab corners to contact the skin and potentially cut it.
Cleaning Is Simple
The EJ Kelvin cleans easily with soapy water and a toothbrush. When drying the razor, I use a cloth towel to quickly wipe back and forth inside the scallops of the safety guards, which might have residual soap scum in them. Also, I use a tissue to wipe off the residual soap scum that is often left in the corners of the long cutouts next to the safety guards.
I wish that I had switched from the PAA DOC Satin to the EJ Kelvin sooner because the EJ Kelvin essentially forced me to make better lather and use lighter pressure in order to achieve better shaves. The EJ Kelvin may be more difficult for the beginner to use, but it is a better beginner's razor because it forces better technique. Nevertheless, if I had started with an Edwin Jagger, especially when I wasn't making lather like I am now, I might have given up on DE shaving before I really started. That would have been a shame. The EJ Kelvin is too aggressive for me, even with my tailoring of aggressiveness with tape and shims, but at least the razor feels smoother on the skin and more powerful than the PAA DOC Satin due to the EJ Kelvin's more ergonomic head profile and higher center of mass.
The Bevel safety razor has been sitting on my shelf for months. It is time to open the box. I'm hoping that the Bevel provides less guard span, for less aggressiveness, compared to the EJ Kelvin.