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The Ultimate Guide to Merkur Safety Razors

First patented in 1880, the modern safety razor is a shaving tool that utilizes a protective guard between the skin and the edge of the razor. Typically featuring a double head — hence the name “double-edge (DE) razor” — with two opposing sharp edges, the safety razor was the razor of choice among men until recent decades when the mass marketing of multi-bladed razor blades eclipsed DE shaving. So let’s talk about Merkur safety razors.

A leading worldwide manufacturer of quality shaving equipment since 1906, the Merkur Solingen company is a subsidiary of DOVO Solingen Steelware. DOVO is an independent concern headquartered in Solingen, Germany producing a variety of men’s grooming accouterments including scissors and manicure tools.

In 2013, DOVO focused their corporate commitment to reestablish the Merkur brand as the world’s leading razor company. DOVO has greatly expanded their shave plane production, offering super-premium platinum blades and 100% metal shavers (available in brass, non-corrosive steel or die-cast)  with balanced ergonomic designs.

How to Choose a Merkur Safety Razor?

Now that you’ve made the time-tested choice to use the finest safety razor available for your shaving needs, how do you select the Merkur Safety Razor right for you? There are a number of options to consider, all of which can affect one’s shave. For example, the typical newcomer to fine grooming will usually try a variety of blades before finding the one that works best for his shaving needs.

Merkur differentiates their razors by:

  • Handle length
  • 2 or 3 piece construction
  • Closed comb (safety bar) or open comb (“teeth”)
  • Adjustable or fixed razor

One aficionado of Merkur safety razors made the following observation:

All of the Merkur safety bar safety razors are the same head design. All of the Merkur slants are the same. All of the Merkur open combs are the same. Merkur only has 3 non-adjustable head types and three adjustable head types. Three piece has the advantage of customization; handles can be matched with different head pieces.

Note the difference between a three-piece and a two-piece DE shaver

A razor made of 3 pieces has a Handle and a 2-piece head that sandwiches the blade into place while the top of the head of a 2-piece razor (“Twist to Open” – TT0) comes off as you unscrew the very bottom of the handle when inserting the blade. Wet shaving DE neophytes make the common mistake of not correctly tightening the top of the razor to the handle, thus allowing up-and-down play from the blade. This oversight can cause facial skin to be caught between the blade and the guard, resulting in a noticeable cut. Always use caution when screwing the handle into place to keep the blade from nicking one’s fingers.

Merkur Razor Shaving

There is an art to using a safety razor for a close shave and so it is recommended that one observe techniques by watching YouTube videos and starting with a milder shaving razor. A milder razor allows more leeway for a less experienced touch, thereby reducing the chance of cuts and nicks. The difference between a milder and a more aggressive razor comes from blade exposure. Ergo, the less the blade is exposed, the milder the shave; conversely, a more exposed blade means a more aggressive shave. Conventional wisdom says that a non-adjustable razor is milder than an adjustable razor.

When using a double edge razor, do not add pressure with one’s hand let the weight of the razor cut the whiskers. Adding pressure to your hand results in facial nicks or cuts. One way to get a close shave using a DE razor is to make up to 3 passes during a shave. Apply lather with a brush and make the first pass WTG (with the grain), then rinse and re-lather. On the second pass, shave XTG (across the grain); this refers to the direction your beard grows. Usually, beards grow downward so the WTG pass means shaving with down strokes. XTG shaving moves left to right or right to left. If a third pass is desired, many men make an ATG (against the grain) pass, using upwards strokes with the razor.

You may find this type of shaving pattern cuts too close to the skin, causing discomfort. Or you may find that some areas of your face do not need an ATG shaving pass. As one gains experience with DE shaving, he will develop a technique that’s right for his specific facial features. It should be mentioned that shaving with a DE razor by using multiple passes results in beard reduction. Facial haircuts easier and more effectively if shaved from different directions. The key is to take your time, relax and enjoy the sensation of a close shave. Let the weight of the razor cut the hair.

An important consideration when choosing a razor is the shape of one’s face and hands. Men with smaller faces likely will prefer a razor with a smaller head. Those with large hands may choose a razor with a longer handle. Many find that a handle with knurling — a pattern intertwined with the metal of the razor — allows a more confident grip and greater control. Naturally, the characteristics of one’s hair come into play. Men with coarse hair or hair that grows closer to their skin usually find that a razor with an open comb works best.

Whatever your preference, a quality Merkur product awaits to enhance your grooming experience.

Merkur Standard Safety Razors

Merkur Short Handle Razors:

Merkur 30C Review

With a total weight of 58 g, the Merkur 30C features a lightweight, straight bar head and a matte black, twist pattern handle measuring 7.8 cm. This 3-piece DE safety razor delivers a shave of outstanding quality. The shaver is slightly head heavy; thus the weight of the head facilitates an extra close shave. And the handle’s texture made from knurled anodized metal provides a sure grip, even with wet or soapy hands. The smooth head of the shaver glides effortlessly across the face, minimizing irritation while cutting whiskers. Delicately balanced and well constructed, its heft is designed for men with big hands who want a shorter handle razor.

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Merkur 33C Review

One of the most popular choices for men with tough or very heavy beards, Merkur 33C features an open comb that permits a superlative close shave while protecting against razor rash. This classic is a chrome finished, 3-piece DE razor with a handle of approximately 7.6 cm (3 in) in length and designed with a non-slip grip. Many neophytes transitioning to a Merkur quality razor choose the 33C as their gateway to finer grooming. It is recommended to keep the top “dome” clean and polished so the razor will glide down the face for an even closer shave. It is easy to use and minimizes nicks and cuts that could occur from wielding a more aggressive shave.

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Merkur Classic 3-Piece Razor Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Merkur 34C HD Review

The Heavy Duty 34C HD is a 2-piece double edge safety razor finished in chrome. Designed with a thicker and reliable non-slip grip, its built-for-comfort handle measures approximately 7.6 cm (3 in) in length. The popularity of the 34C HD comes from its classic head which uses its weight to help provide a close and comfortable shave. Easy to use, it’s considered a starter razor as the balance and size is an ideal introduction to those who are unaccustomed to the quality of a precision shaving tool. It gives minimal razor burn irritation but uses minimal effort for a silky and precise shave. Reasonably priced with outstanding quality.

The 34C was voted “World’s Best Razor” in 2013 and 2015 in About.com Readers’ Choice Award for the best safety razor.

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Merkur Slant Bar Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Merkur 42C (1904) Review

A 3-piece razor available with a heavy duty head, Merkur42C comes with an old-school, six-sided retro handle replicated after the Gillette 1904 classic. It is made of nickel plated chrome and has a delightful weight, balanced for a precise shave. The engraved handle provides a sure, non-slip grip. For men looking for a nimble and quick shave, the style and performance the 42C can’t be beaten. Options include a safety bar and both an open and closed comb. Considerably smaller than most razors, many men use it for shaving other areas of their body besides their face. However, those with big hands may find the handle too small and thin for easy use. Perhaps the most competitively priced and best value to be found among the Merkur brand of razors, it can serve as a gateway to DE shaving.

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Merkur Traditional Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Merkur 45C “Bakelite” Review

Debuting in 2010, the Merkur 45C is a durable, 3-piece shaver made from classic Bakelite plastic. Bakelight, developed in 1907, was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark in 1993 by the American Chemical Society in acknowledgment of its significance as the world’s first synthetic plastic. The red/black look appeals to those who favor an old-school retro appearance. It is considered a much more aggressive razor than the 34C.

It is one of the lightest safety razors sold on the market, weighing just 14 g (57g including blade and plastic case) and the handle measures approximately 7.6 cm (3 in). Merkur 45C features a double edge straight bar head and a closed comb with a straight cut. Favored by many as a travel shaver, the case also fits Merkur’s 11C, 15C, 33C, 34C and 37C razors.

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Merkur Classic 2-Piece Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Long Handle Razors:

Merkur 20C Review

Merkur 20C is a 3-piece razor with a DE head and is considered less aggressive than the Merkur 33C. It features a textured, black matte surfaced handle. The chromed knob or cap with the distinctive Merkur logo at the end of the handle disassembles, adding to its functionality. The razor head threads into a chromed ferrule and the protracted spiral of the knurling extend down the extra long handle, allowing for easy maneuvering of the razor during use. Users rave about the razor’s balance and weight as well as its silky smooth, close shave. This high-quality razor has a durable chrome finish that retains its new look even after years of use. Unlike many safety razors designed to appear as antiques, Merkur 20C has a modern, up-to-date style.

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Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor

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Merkur 23C Review  

Also known as the Merkur 180, this 3-piece, premium quality safety razor has an extra long handle measuring 9.5 cm (3.74 in) and a traditional lightweight DE head for a quality shave. Finished in chrome, the handle features a comfortable non-slip grip designed for men with larger hands who desire better control over their razor. Consistently one Merkur’s best selling models, it is the longer handled version of the 33C. It comes with a closed comb and provides a comfortable shave with no razor burn. Users describe it as very forgiving without excessive aggressiveness. Solidly built with heft and effortless to use, the 23C weighs but 50 g (1.764 oz) yet users marvel at its balance and nimble grace.

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Merkur Slant Bar Double Edge Saftey Razor

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 Merkur 38C “Chrome” Review

Featuring a straight bar head and a closed comb, Merkur 38C has a heavy handle with a solid brass core. Modeled after American barber poles, this hefty yet balanced 2-piece razor measures 9.5 cm (3.74 in) and weighs 120 g (4.25 oz). This added mass means the weight of the razor and blade does the shaving work. It has an etched chrome finish with a standard DE head and fits all safety razor blades. The long handle features a spiraled etching for a better, surer grip when shaving.

The 38C has been a favorite of shavers for decades. As a non-adjustable razor with its blade gap and head design angle, it’s been described as a “mildly aggressive” shave. Many laud its forgiving touch; thus, it’s a natural gateway to quality DE shaving. The consensus? It delivers a very close and smooth shave without nicks or bruises.

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Merkur Classic 2-Piece Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Merkur 43C Review

This heavy, long-handled 2-piece double edge razor has a solid, brushed stainless steel handle with a chrome plated, fixed bar safety head and a closed comb. The handle, measuring 9.5 cm (3.74 in), has an end cap which turns to release the head. Merkur 43C is comfortable to hold and is a favorite choice of tall men with big hands. It is one of the heaviest razors on the market, weighing 148 g (5.22 oz), and its well-balanced heft uses the blade to shave whiskers without effort. Considered much less aggressive than many other Merkur models, the 43C causes minimal skin irritation and no razor burn. Works well with even thick, coarse beards.

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Merkur Traditional Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Merkur 47C Review

Chrome plated throughout with 3-piece construction, Merkur 47C weighs 90 g (3.17 oz) with a long 9.5 cm (3.74 in) texture lined pattern handle that is machine tooled (not knurled) for a secure, confident grip when wet. Note that there are tiny triangular shapes set within the grooves of the handle. The longer handle length with an elephant foot design and Merkur logo provides added heft and dexterity for a close, comfortable shave. It has a DE head similar to the Merkur 33C, 34C and 38C but many consider the appearance of this model more modern and refined than the industrial styling for which Merkur is known. Described as “mild” and “forgiving,” the 47C is an ideal razor for the wet shave DE beginner and delivers a silky smooth shave.

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Merkur Heavy Duty Long Barber Pole Safety Razor, Chrome

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Merkur Open Comb (OC) Safety Razors

Here you may find this background about the history of open comb razors useful. The very first Gillette double edge razors were open comb style, referred to as “Old Style.” This means that when the cap was fully tightened on the razor, the blade rested virtually flush against the comb without the blade gap of a safety bar razor. These were adjustable razors; shavers would firmly tighten the cap or knob of the handle for the first pass or two and then loosen the knob about 1/8 of a turn for a closer shave. This technique allowed the blade to rise from the comb, providing more blade exposure.

Merkur Shaving Kit

While many modern razor manufacturers make OC models with shoulders, which behave like today’s safety bar razors, Merkur’s OC razors are based on the Gillette Old Style. One look reveals that the blade lies flush against the comb. So, while open combs are usually considered a more aggressive razor, a fully tightened Merkur OC is actually a relatively mild razor that does not cut all that closely. Loosen the knob as described above or perhaps even less to attain the razor’s maximum cutting potential.

Other observers have made the point that blades of the early 20th century were much stiffer than the thinner, pliant modern blades of today, i.e., 0.254 mm (0.01 in) versus 0.102 mm (0.004 in). Thus one might consider the placement of a shim under the blade of the OC to provide a small gap, thereby increasing the blade’s aggressiveness. Try cutting one from, say a margarine tub lid or fountain drink lid, ensuring that it is several millimeters narrower than the blade. Using the blade as a template, mark the location of the blade’s three holes, then punch them out. Insert under blade for lift.

Hence, using Merkur OCs take some practice. Loosening the knob has a significant effect on the razor’s action: not only does the blade gap open, the amount of the blade’s pre-bend changes. A modern adjustable razor only changes blade gap, not the pre-bend.

Don’t let these particulars deter you from trying Merkur’s Old Style OC razors. Many men enjoy shaving with them; with practice and experience, they adjust the razor for their perfect shave. Those who are accustomed to a straight razor will find no difficulty shaving with an Old Style OC.

Short Handle Razors

Merkur 41 (1904) Review

This visually striking model with antique styling, also known as the” Merkur 1904 Classic,” is similar to the now discontinued Merkur 11c with a lighter handle. The 41 is the open comb bar version of the 42; it comfortably shaves the coarsest beards with ease. Lightweight, easily maneuverable and well balanced, it is an adjustable 3-piece double edge razor, nickel plated with a short, diamond patterned handle of 7.5 cm (3 in). The six-sided handle with end knob is designed for a thicker, non-slip grip. While the 41 is recommended for experienced wet shavers, some men prefer a more aggressive razor. An outstanding value, it is often used as a travel shaver or when skipping a day or two between shaves. Those who use the 41 to shave long hair find that having the blade sit on the teeth keeps the razor from clogging, thus making it a superior choice for shaving one’s armpits.

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Merkur Black Handled Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Merkur 15C Review

Featuring a lightweight DE head and a slender, short (7.5 cm / 3 in) handle, the open comb bar of the classic 15C is designed for the coarsest of beards. Considered rather mild (and perhaps not sufficiently aggressive for some), it delivers an extremely smooth, comfortable and close shave with no razor burns. The textured knurling of the handle and knob ensures a comfortable and sure grip. Many users have commented that the Merkur 15C is a thinner, lighter version of the now-discontinued Merkur 11C. It has a neutral balance, not as hefty or as head heavy as some razors, and lighter in weight than the HD razors. The 11C is an outstanding value and another popular choice for travelers. It’s easy to clean, built to last a lifetime and an appropriate choice for newcomers to open comb DE shaving.

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Merkur MK 23C Long-Handled Traditional Double Edge Safety Razor

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Long Handle Razors

Merkur 25C Review

Known as the “Long Classic,” the 3-piece chrome finished Merkur 25C is essentially the same razor as the 15C with a longer (9.5 cm / 3.734 in) handle for superior shaving control and grip. Its open comb and lightweight DE head is ideal for coarse beards and long hair. Many users compliment its balance of handle length to head weight (overall weight 50 g / 1.764 oz) and the ease of finding the “sweet spot” where the razor cuts best. In aggression, it ranks mild to medium while delivering quality, silky smooth shaves. Another excellent starter razor to perfect one’s DE shaving technique, the 25C is a solid value that will last for years.

Merkur Progress Adjustable 2-Piece Double Edge Saftey Razor Add To Wishlist

Merkur Progress Adjustable 2-Piece Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Merkur Adjustable Safety Razors

Merkur 500 Progress / 570 Progress/ 510 Progress “Long Handle” Review

These flagship Merkur products, consistently perennial best-sellers, are Merkur’s entry-level adjustable razors. They are premium quality, 2-piece double edge single blade razors and fully adjustable, allowing the shaver to change the angle of the blade inside the razor head by twisting the knob at the bottom of the base to create either a wider or narrower gap between the blade and the safety bar. Less blade tension and a wider gap mean a closer shave. The blade position can be adjusted from 1 – 5 around the bottom of the handle. The 500 and 570 are considered short handled models; their overall length is 8.731 cm (3.438 in) with a weight of approximately 85 g (3 oz). The head of the Progress measures 4.128 cm (1.63 in) by 2.54 cm (1 in) and the sure grip, rib designed handle spans 7.94 cm (3.125 in) with a diameter of 1.11 cm (0.438 in). Handle and neck are brass plated.

The only difference between the Merkur 500 Progress and the 570 Progress is that the 570 has a hard-plastic travel case while 500 does not. Otherwise, these razors are identical. A postscript: The smaller handle and lighter mass of the 500/570 may be better suited for men with smaller hands.

The Merkur 510 Progress “Long Handle” is the same razor as the 500 except with a longer handle. In fact, the 510 handle retains the same diameter as the 500 yet is longer by 4.128 cm (1.625 in), which many men with bigger hands find more convenient to use. The extra length of the 510 handle adds approximately 15 g (0.53 oz) to the razor, making it slightly heavier than the 500/570.

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Merkur Futur Adjustable Double Edge Saftey Razor

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Merkur FUTUR Review (700 “Satin” / 701 “Mirror” / 702 “Gold”)

German for “future,” the Futur – Merkur’s mid-range adjustable razors — encompasses three models which mechanically speaking are essentially the same.  The difference lies in the finishes; the 700 has a satin chrome finish, the 701 has a shiny chrome finish and the 702 has a gold plated finish.



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The Ultimate Guide to Merkur Safety Razors

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