On the 8th of August, I ordered a Merkur 39C Barberpole Slant from Lee’s Razors, one of the recommended retailers at a forum I frequent. I waited and waited, and didn’t get any kind of shipment verification. Eventually I saw that Lee experienced some kind of website snafu and lost several orders into the internet aether. I waited a little longer, hoping mine wasn’t one of these, but this was in vain.
To the phone I went, ready to cancel the order if necessary. I wasn’t in any special hurry since my Gillette Super Speed was working just fine, but resolution is always good to have. Lee surprised me tremendously! He called me back within an hour of confirming my order was lost, and added a few packs of double-edge blades (four packs of Derby and a pack of Feather) as a sort of penance. I really didn’t know what to say about this–I honestly didn’t expect any special treatment, but got it anyway. I may give the website a wide berth for a while, but he has a phone, and as far as I’m concerned, has won me over as a lifelong customer. If you’re looking to try out double-edge shaving, his site has plenty… I just wish I found it before I started this whole foray into the unknown.
So far as the 39C is concerned, it’s ridiculously awesome. The SS usually did a pretty good job, unless I used a crappy blade (for my iron-reinforced stubble, anyway) like a Dorco. But the 39C? I had a pack of Wilkinson Swords I picked up at Bed Bath & Beyond, commonly regarded as good standard blades, but not especially sharp or otherwise noteworthy, and in this device, even against-the-grain passes were easy. I could tell from the first pass which reduced two days of growth down to stubble, that I’d stumbled onto something special. So if I’m ever in a hurry, I can at least look presentable in record time.
So, why the difference? Most razors, double-edge or otherwise, present the blade to the hair at an angle to basically cleave it from the face. Imagine a loaf of bread, and instead of holding a knife perpendicular over its surface, introduce a shallow angle. But bread has a hard outer crust and a soft inside, much like the cuticle around a hair. Just pressing the knife into the crust, no matter the angle, will crush and deform rather than cut. This is why bread knives are usually serrated and meant to saw. Serrating razor blades isn’t really an option, so what the slant did was twist the blade on a slight axis, so pulling down on the razor drags the blade ever so slightly across, introducing a slicing motion. You can do this with a regular razor by pulling the razor in both an X and Y axis, but that’s a highly advanced technique that can lead to serious cuts if the movement component parallel to the blade is too high.
I’d read the stories and heard the explanation, but I was skeptical. Now I wonder what I’ll do with the other two razors I’ve acquired in this quest to replace my electric. Eight hours after I shaved with the slant, my face resembled the mild stubble the electric always left, and did so with less irritation, even under my inexperienced and likely bumbling ministrations. So, does anyone want a Braun 8585 Activator?