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Super Adjustable 109 - Black Beauty : Review

I've been putting this off a bit, because it's not going to be as straight forward as I was hoping. Not having a lot of experience, there are aspects that might be user error, not the product, and I will just do my best to describe and leave it at that.

I've not used TTO adjustables before, and was kindly given Slim, that I've already reviewed, and the SA 109 that I'm discussing here. The comparison is also in relation to the two razors I have, the Super Speed Flare, which is fine for chin, and underarms, but just can't keep up with legs that have any amount of growth. The Parker 26C open comb is too aggressive for me, and is why I was in the market for a 'new' razor.

The set up. I used the same razorblade, a Feather straight out of the box, and soap, Proraso green. Exfoliated beforehand with Aveeno daily scrub. I was surprised right from the get go, first the razor didn't feel as naturally comfortable as the Slim did. And, almost immediately there was a bit of a 'dragging' feel. I knew the light handle would probably have the balance off for me, and it did, so I changed my grip a bit, holding it closer to the head, and then muddled about with angles. <at this point I'm using my own terminology as I'm not completely sure of the usual jargon used here, but I will describe as best I can>

I tipped back a bit, thinking maybe I was putting too much angle on it, so tried to do a lighter glide. That did help some. For my chin, the 1 and 2 settings seemed identical, and 3 was hardly better. I really did feel I was getting a closer shave until I hit 4. It was a bit uncanny though, as the razor seemed to glide, but I didn't really feel a sense of hair being actually being cut. I wondered if I'd tipped back so far that I was just gliding the cap along without any contact with the blade at all. Checking, it was cutting, but...even 4 wasn't really a BBS. With the Slim, for comparison, the 3-4 range was the same as my SS Flare, and I was quite satisfied. I played with the angle again, but almost immediately I feel it dragging. So, hiked it up to 5 and try a very light touch and overall not BBS. I don't aim for BBS or make numerous passes to get it, BUT, I expect that most of the area should be BBS/near BBS with some problem spots a bit rough... not the whole shaved area to have a tiny bit of stubble still there.

For underarms, 4 wasn't really workings, so went up to 5 and then 6... but the 'dragging' feeling remained, and now was added by a rather uncomfortable scrapping. "Raspy"? I'm not sure how best to describe it. When I went to 7, it still dragged, but when I went to 8, it seemed a bit smoother, however also more aggressive in that I was feeling a tiny bit of burn. When I went to 9, the dragging seemed to start up again, but also it was too sharp. On the Slim, the 9 was a bit aggressive, but still less than my Parker. In this case I would say the 9 was as aggressive as my Parker, and perhaps even a bit more so.

So, that was weird. I stopped and did a few test strokes on my leg to play around with angle and see if I was somehow part of the problem. I'm picky about balance (length of handle and weight aren't a make/break it for me, lack of balance is...which is subjective to me in terms of how I handle the razor not its 'measured' balance point). It is quite head heavy, and I find the handle too light. Even with a heavy head, if the handle was a bit heavier, it might have helped. It does have a longer handle then the Slim, but there was nothing about the handle length that bothered me, or that I could see it interfering with the shave. So, the test strokes were to see if I could determine angle/pressure variances that might make things work better. I couldn't seem to get it to work... I either had this dragging feeling (its cutting, but it feels like a small eraser strip is insisting on it not being smooth, causing a bit of kick even), or, it was sliding on the cap some and just feeling like a razor with no blade in it, but it was cutting, but not particularly closely, unless I put on some pressure, but pressure upped the aggressive/raspy/sharp feel.

It was hard to get an accurate sense of the settings, because it wasn't comfortable. If it is user error, then 5 for underarms would be fine if it was smooth, but I would have to go to 6 or 7, 7 has less drag, but was also too aggressive of a setting (the Slim worked nicely in the 5-6 range). On to legs, despite test strokes, I was unable to change technique in a way that gave any discernable difference. Basically, the leg situations was similar. On 6, it dragged and didn't do a good enough job. Again 7 seemed to be a setting where drag was much better, and it seemed to shave a bit better. It would be what I would call a 'good enough' shave, and again, I don't aim at BBS, but this was still not what I would call a great shave, a clean close shave.... so, moved onto 8, but again drag, and now feeling too aggressive. I finished giving 9 a quick try, knowing it would be too aggressive. With the Slim, 9 was too aggressive, but a bit less so than my Parker 26C, with the SA109, the setting on 9 was the same as, if not even a bit more aggressive than the Parker.

Final thoughts. Even if it shaved very well, I don't like the balance, and on that alone, I'd be going with the Slim. When I picked up the Slim, there was a very short moment of adjusting to the heavier weight, and after one pass I already felt comfortable. With the SA 109, even after stopping to experiment and try different approaches, I never truly felt comfortable with it. I found the range on the Slim much better, with more meaningful differences in the range. So much so, that I could pick a 'quick comfortable' shave, and one to notches later, for a 'super close, be a bit more careful' shave. On the Slim, I fairly easily found these setting ranges for chin, depending on how clos6e a shave I wanted. Chin (3-4), underarm (5-6), legs (7-8). On the SA, it was pretty much chin 4, underarms 5-6 is to draggy, and 7 is too aggressive. Legs, 7 smooth, could have been closer but 8 is too draggy and getting into aggressive territory.

Okay, I know, way too long, but I really struggled with even knowing how to describe things. I'm sure there was too much over explanation, but I also thought recapping some of the Slim results for comparison might help.

I'm keeping the Slim, and am very satisfied with it. I was looking for something to replace the Parker, and it does so admirably. Many men pick a setting on an adjustable and keep it there. My intent is to have something that I can adjust for chin/legs/underarms for a more optimal shave. I'll be keeping my Flare as a 'chin' only for times I need touchups between bath/shower times. The Slim is for bath/shower, where I can dial it down for a chin, and then either pick a 6 or a 7 for a perfectly good shave for both legs and underarms, or adjust more specifically. For example, perhaps a higher setting for legs because of wearing nylons, or going swimming.

Next steps. Continuing using the Slim and after some time to be really familiar with it, I'll be doing reviews of the razorblades I have. I have one sampler pack of blades sent with the razors, and a sampler pack I'm buying. So, that will be down the road. I'm also getting a couple of soaps, so will write about those when they come in.

Hope some bit or piece of this was interesting or helpful. :)
 
Desrgrl, you are a good writer, but you're right. You're way too wordy. Reading through your long and comprehensive evaluation I almost forgot what our topic was. :sad:

While in theory the longer-handled Super Adjustable 109 might seem ideal for leg shaving, I wonder if you might have preferred the short-handled Super Adjustable 84, which is similar to the Gillette Slim which you like. The Slim and the 84 have a similar razor head, a comparable length and width of handle, and they perform much alike. However, the long handle of the 109 may be too much of a good thing for some folks. Long handles can be a mixed blessing. I have both the 84 and the 109, but I prefer the 84.

Thanx for sharing your observations and experiences. I love adjustable razors, even though I'm a "set it and leave it guy" 90% of the time.
 
Desrgrl, you are a good writer, but you're right. You're way too wordy. Reading through your long and comprehensive evaluation I almost forgot what our topic was. :sad:

While in theory the longer-handled Super Adjustable 109 might seem ideal for leg shaving, I wonder if you might have preferred the short-handled Super Adjustable 84, which is similar to the Gillette Slim which you like. The Slim and the 84 have a similar razor head, a comparable length and width of handle, and they perform much alike. However, the long handle of the 109 may be too much of a good thing for some folks. Long handles can be a mixed blessing. I have both the 84 and the 109, but I prefer the 84.

Thanx for sharing your observations and experiences. I love adjustable razors, even though I'm a "set it and leave it guy" 90% of the time.
What is the weight of the 84? The longer handle wasn't a problem with the 109, but it being head heavy wasn't helping.

No one believes me, but I do try to edit. Occasionally I succeed.
 
Welp, I read it. That's the rules; if you make long posts of your own, you have to read other peoples...

...so you know what it feels like being on the other end! :117:

I have nothing to add, but thanks for the read. :)
 
What is the weight of the 84? The longer handle wasn't a problem with the 109, but it being head heavy wasn't helping.

No one believes me, but I do try to edit. Occasionally I succeed.
Here's a strange: The SA 84 and the SA 109 weigh exactly the same on our imprecise manual kitchen scale: 2 1/2 ounces.

They both seem head heavy. My impression is all my adjustable razors are head heavy and I have 11 of 'em. Furthermore, virtually all my non-adjustable DE razors give the impression of being head heavy. To avoid that, you may need to return to plastic cartridge razors.

Please keep us informed as you pursue these issues, and thanx for sharing.
 
Have you tried the Schick M injector? It's a bit too light, but it might suit you. I like the earlier ones better, but they more aggressive the further back you go. And they don't adjust.
 
What is the weight of the 84? The longer handle wasn't a problem with the 109, but it being head heavy wasn't helping.

No one believes me, but I do try to edit. Occasionally I succeed.
Here's a strange: The SA 84 and the SA 109 weigh exactly the same on our imprecise manual kitchen scale: 2 1/2 ounces.

They both seem head heavy. My impression is all my adjustable razors are head heavy and I have 11 of 'em. Furthermore, virtually all my non-adjustable DE razors give the impression of being head heavy. To avoid that, you may need to return to plastic cartridge razors.

Please keep us informed as you pursue these issues, and thanx for sharing.
Have you tried the Schick M injector? It's a bit too light, but it might suit you. I like the earlier ones better, but they more aggressive the further back you go. And they don't adjust.
I thought of mentioning a vintage Schick injector razor as a possibility for leg shaving, but I quickly dismissed the matter. My wife used a Schick injector once and it was a blood bath. The problem is it's awkward to hold an injector razor at the proper angle, as the head is somewhat L shaped and the head must be somewhat "flat to the skin," in contrast to the curvature for a typical DE razor. I've never shaved my legs, but it would seem to me to be awkward to maintain the correct angle, regardless if I were going N to S, or S to N. Or am I missing something?
 
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The SA 84 and the SA 109 weigh exactly the same
Thanks. If they are the same weight, then I'd go with the Slim, unless I felt the balance wasn't working for me. Overall, I prefer medium to long handles, though there are some exceptions.
My impression is all my adjustable razors are head heavy
From my limited exposure, I'd concur. I had a Fat Boy at one point in time, good shave, but head heavy. My Bakelite Merkur was a problem too. I had the idea of filling its hollow handle to give it more weight, but I broke it before that came about, so I don't know if it would have worked.
To avoid that, you may need to return to plastic cartridge razors.
Oh dear gods no. I find it slightly amusing, as I think there'd be mutiny of some kind if when a razor, or razor type, doesn't work out, that going back to cartridges was the go to idea. I do quite like the Slim, but I was given both at the same time, and did a review for each. I was just surprised at the 109, since the Slim had been a really postive experience, but as I mentioned, it could be due to technique.
Please keep us informed as you pursue these issues, and thanx for sharing.
I'll try to the 109 a few more times, if anything changes, I'll definitely mention, new thread, or edit/update to this one. Since I"m happy with the Slim, and not wanting to get back into collecting, this is it, though if I saw something at an antique store or yard sale, I'd probably be in on that....maybeeee something on the Saint Sue auction, but I feel there begins the path to madness if I"m not careful.
 
Have you tried the Schick M injector? It's a bit too light, but it might suit you. I like the earlier ones better, but they more aggressive the further back you go. And they don't adjust.
I'm definitely looking for an adjustable. While there are a lot of of razors out there that look appealing, I don't want to get into buying and finding out it isn't quite right, and having to buy several to get a good 'fit'. (reminder: ex-collector, trying really hard to not get sucked back into that). Also, as mentioned, chin/underarm/legs have different needs, and its kind of nice to have one razor that can handle each well.
 
If practice, you'll find that just about any razor is usable to get a good shave, give it time. You might be doing the same thing I initially did, when returning to traditional wet shaving, and going down the adjustable rabbit hole a little too early, until you've hone the skills. Problem is many less experienced shavers will begin changing things, rather than working on the skill, and with an adjustable, it just adds in twisting that adjustment knob, and not settling in on getting the feel for the razor.

What I've found with the Gillette Adjustable models is the angle varies between them a bit, since the heads holds the blade a bit different, or curves it more or less, depending upon the model. The Fat-Boy is the 'smoothest' or easiest on the face, however, the angle of attack is a bit different than the Slim/SA-109. The Slim has better balance in the hand, and shaves a tiny bit closer than the Fat-Boy, and the SA/BB (Super Adjustable/Black Beauty) seems the most 'aggressive' (I hat that word), or efficient, but with more blade feel than the others. - Yes, the SA/BB can also feel like it's scraping a bit, especially if the angle is off, and 5 on the SA is closer to 7-osj on a slim, the adjustments don't quite align between the models. The SA/BB also seems to like a sharp, yet smooth blade, a Feather doesn't do well in one for me, yet load a Rapira Platinum, Nacet, or KAI blade, and she becomes so much smoother. (Like I said, too many variables to play with).

Hone your skills, and try a smoother blade the next time, you'll like the SA/BB, once you're familiar with the feel.
 
If practice, you'll find that just about any razor is usable to get a good shave, give it time. You might be doing the same thing I initially did, when returning to traditional wet shaving, and going down the adjustable rabbit hole a little too early, until you've hone the skills. Problem is many less experienced shavers will begin changing things, rather than working on the skill, and with an adjustable, it just adds in twisting that adjustment knob, and not settling in on getting the feel for the razor.
I've been DESR shaving for seven years now (before that I wet shaved with Sensor Excel 2 blade cartridges), but unlike most men, I don't shave everyday, and in winter very little. After less than a year here in 2015, I've not been back until a few weeks ago, so I've missed out on a lot of education I could have picked up along the way, so that is why I generally make it clear (in particular for those new to DESR) that I'm not a voice of seasoned experience. I can't speak for less experienced shavers than me, but I've used some of the razors I had in the past, and the two that I've had for the past seven years enough, to have a general idea of their handling.

I actually kept the variables the same: soap, brush, blade, prep. I used Feathers as it was all I had on hand that I had used before (and was rather familiar with). Because I was familiar with the strengths and short comings of the razors that I had, and knew what I wanted, I showed up here after a very long absence, because I know their is an amazing amount of skill, experience, and good advice to be found.
What I've found with the Gillette Adjustable models is the angle varies between them a bit, since the heads holds the blade a bit different, or curves it more or less, depending upon the model. The Fat-Boy is the 'smoothest' or easiest on the face, however, the angle of attack is a bit different than the Slim/SA-109. The Slim has better balance in the hand, and shaves a tiny bit closer than the Fat-Boy, and the SA/BB (Super Adjustable/Black Beauty) seems the most 'aggressive' (I hat that word), or efficient, but with more blade feel than the others. -
That was pretty much what I had found.

I appreciate the feedback, particularly about angle, as I figured that must be part of the issue, I just couldn't seem to compensate in the right way for that. It's not a complete lack of skill on my part... before it broke, I was using my Merkur bakelite, along with my current Super Speed Flare, and the Parker 26C... all have a very different feel, balance, and handling...including angles of approach. I think given the heaviness of the head on the SA109 that it might have been part of the issue for me.
Yes, the SA/BB can also feel like it's scraping a bit, especially if the angle is off, and 5 on the SA is closer to 7-osj on a slim, the adjustments don't quite align between the models. The SA/BB also seems to like a sharp, yet smooth blade, a Feather doesn't do well in one for me, yet load a Rapira Platinum, Nacet, or KAI blade, and she becomes so much smoother. (Like I said, too many variables to play with).
I described it as best I could. It didn't feel like a 'scraping' as I'd find if I was feeling some irritation/burn, such as could be the case of say using a Feather in the Parker 26C and using it with a heavy hand... this was less about sharp, more about dragging, as if there was a little rubber strip on the edge causing it not to glide. *shrugs*... I have no reason to believe it is anything other than not having a good angle somehow. It did occur to me that a different razor could change things up, which is why when I start testing razor blades, I'll make a point to post back if that changes things for the SA 109.
Hone your skills, and try a smoother blade the next time, you'll like the SA/BB, once you're familiar with the feel.

I think skill honing is an on-going thing, and many people find it takes a few shaves with a new razor to get a really good sense of it. However, I already like the Slim, the two-part review I did of it outlines what I like about, and why. I do believe that even getting a smoother shave out of the SA 109, that I'll not like it enough to keep. I really dislike razors that are too head heavy, and the overall weight and balance of the Slim makes that heaviness negligible by comparison.

I do plan on playing about with both the Slim and the SA 109 and will be trying some different blades. I have two sampler packs (one I received with the razors, one that is on order with some soap), and will be reviewing them all, eventually.

It's quibbling, but during the time that I was collecting razors, I'd say that just about any razor in good condition can give you at least a moderately adequate shave. There are ones out there that at least for me, I'd probably do better just holding the blade in my hand.
 
Any chance all these many decades old razors can vary greatly in performance? Personally my very clean slim shaves awfully for me yet my very clean 109 and toggle are rather great. I find tremendous difference in their (slim/109) performance even though both are in seemingly remarkable shape. Lots of old moving parts, perhaps the tolerances between a dozen identical slims vary greatly?
 
Any chance all these many decades old razors can vary greatly in performance? Personally my very clean slim shaves awfully for me yet my very clean 109 and toggle are rather great. I find tremendous difference in their (slim/109) performance even though both are in seemingly remarkable shape. Lots of old moving parts, perhaps the tolerances between a dozen identical slims vary greatly?
Well yes, I think that is a given. I think most reviews try to just explain their experience. However, sometimes there are similarities, or known problems. I don't know enough that I could say definitively 'issue is user technique", so just thought it better to describe it. I've not seen many reviews where people have had much of a problem with them (more mundane stuff, like too mild, or not liking the build) or Slims, so was a bit surprised at it acting that way.

I was given the razor by a reputable member here, along with the Slim. Both seem in great order, no noticeable misalignments (again, not an area that I have a lot of experience in, but everything looked right visually, and when opening/closing, and the adjustments 1-9, thought the SA 109 was less smooth in that regard). I do think that as was mentioned, and as had crossed my mind, that it is a matter of blades. It is a ymmv topic here, but there are those that insist that razor can act very differently based on the blade. I'll definitely be checking that out.
 
I do think that as was mentioned, and as had crossed my mind, that it is a matter of blades.
That is the bit that does the cutting of stubble so blades do play a very important part in the shave. The adjustable razors just take a little more time to get to know when you have the added variables in play.
 
Well yes, I think that is a given. I think most reviews try to just explain their experience. However, sometimes there are similarities, or known problems. I don't know enough that I could say definitively 'issue is user technique", so just thought it better to describe it. I've not seen many reviews where people have had much of a problem with them (more mundane stuff, like too mild, or not liking the build) or Slims, so was a bit surprised at it acting that way.

I was given the razor by a reputable member here, along with the Slim. Both seem in great order, no noticeable misalignments (again, not an area that I have a lot of experience in, but everything looked right visually, and when opening/closing, and the adjustments 1-9, thought the SA 109 was less smooth in that regard). I do think that as was mentioned, and as had crossed my mind, that it is a matter of blades. It is a ymmv topic here, but there are those that insist that razor can act very differently based on the blade. I'll definitely be checking that out.
I agree, ymmv is the key often. It would be a fun experiment to trade both our our razors with each other for a week…..for science 🤓. Maybe someone could start a lease program for all these new bomber razors as well, I would very much be interested in such a program.
I was speaking with my wife about DE leg shaving and she would like to ask how long it takes for an average leg session? On the weekend, I can easily enjoy a 30 minute session for my face. I would fathom I would not finish even one leg before my coffee was cold lol.
 
It would be a fun experiment to trade both our our razors with each other for a week…..for science 🤓.
Possibly?
I was speaking with my wife about DE leg shaving and she would like to ask how long it takes for an average leg session? On the weekend, I can easily enjoy a 30 minute session for my face. I would fathom I would not finish even one leg before my coffee was cold lol.
This really varies.

How much of the leg is being shaved? I usually just do knee to ankle, and then every now and then a bit of upper thigh. I get ingrown hairs and irritation there really easy, so its usually just a 'try to look moderately presentable in a one piece' in summer kind of thing. Touch ups/spot checks kind of thing. Also, I almost never do against the grain.

How much hair? If I were to be swimming or going to a gym every other day, and wanted to be freshly shaven, then that growth will be almost negligible. If its winter and I haven't had anywhere fancy to go, it can be four weeks of growth and almost long enough to braid. That long and sometimes there are a number of passes/de-cloggings needed.

Location? I can manage shower shaving in a pinch, quick swipe and hope for the best. I do not have the balance to be trying to bend and shave legs. I have also, in a pinch, just sat down in the shower and tried to see what I am doing with water raining in my eyes. The preferred, is a bathtub full of water. This can the long hot soak my back loves, or a quick stretch and do legs and then shower.

Prep. I didn't like can foam, or bottle gel, when I switched to DE, so I do the tub/tube of shave cream with brush. This does add to the time frame a bit.

Skill. I can zip along pretty fast, but I've always been a bit slow over my shin bone and around my knees.

Sooo... I can't really say how long it is for me, since I've never really timed it, and because it is only a part of a process...I never shave legs without also shaving armpits and chin, and I don't break those out to specific times.

My best guess is that it is probably about the same as with a cartridge. Cartridges I didn't do my own soap, so that was faster, but I did find they clogged pretty easily (for transparency, I was using a 2 blade Excel at the time, I have no idea what the infinite numbers of blades do now), so that was slower. I suppose to is the extra attention to things like properly rinsed out brush, properly hung to dry. Rinsing the razor well. I used to just toss the cartridge in the soap slot of the shower caddy.

*shrug*... I didn't switch for speed. I did it because I hated throwing out razors, I hated the idiocy of 'X number of blades are what you need' at exorbitant prices. I like the vintage/retro/nostalgia factor....remembering my dad shaving, liking things that are made of real materials like wood, metal, glass, etc.

edit:
I would never try to do coffee and shaving. I want to just enjoy my coffee without anything else. Wine, maybe in a tub to soak, but not for shaving. Again, any relaxation factor goes out the window if you have to sit up and shave before hopping out.
 
I enjoyed your short story.... I didn't think it was too long. Again, I'm trying to learn more about what women want and need in wet shaving.
 
I enjoyed your short story.... I didn't think it was too long. Again, I'm trying to learn more about what women want and need in wet shaving.
*smile*... I do try to edit, but on the other hand, if I'm self-editing to the point of it being distressing, it doesn't make hanging out here as fun. I figure the one's I annoy can just skip on by when they see the flowered scuttle.

I kind of think its a bit of a service too. I think it's important to remember all sorts of different people shave, and its not all lumberjacks with bowie knives around a campfire. When I used to hang out here a handful of years back, there were a few guys that opened up more about sensitive skin, and not needing to shave every day, and it was nice that this was a welcoming place for them too. I have a male friend that does his underarms (I am sooo trying to get him to try DE shaving).

I've been told some women do their legs with a straight razor. That's a bit beyond my comfort zone, but I can see how it would be efficient.
 
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