If you are just getting started in the wet shaving world, you probably have a lot of questions about safety razors including the inevitable question of which safety razor is the best for you.
Well, don’t worry as we have the definitive guide on the best safety razors for every budget and need as well.
But for now, in this article, I’m going to be talking about all of the different types of safety razors that are available and what separates them from one another. There are two main factors that differentiate safety razors from one another.
Those two factors are: how they are constructed and the type of headpiece that they use.
Almost every single safety razor has a different weight, length, grip, look and feel to them.
These are not factors I will be talking about in this article.
Let’s start talking about the different types of safety razors and how they will affect your shave.
Differences In Construction
There are three general ways that safety razors are constructed. There are one-piece, two-piece and three-piece designs. Let’s go over them now.
One-piece designs have a mechanism inside them that allows the cutting head of the headpiece to open up from two hinges in order to replace the blade. There are multiple names for this type of safety razor. Common names are twist to open, silo razors or butterfly open razors. Typically there is a knob at the bottom of the handle that is used to open the headpiece. Sometimes the whole handle itself rotates in order to open this mechanism. Butterfly open safety razors became popular due to the extreme ease of blade replacement. Popular razors that are built on this twist to open design are the Gillette Adjustable and multiple Parker safety razors such as the Parker 99R. One downfall of owning a twist to open safety razor is that they are easier to break due to typical wear and tear of the moving parts. The inside of the shaving head on butterfly open safety razors is difficult to clean which leads to soap scum buildup.
Two-piece safety razors are designed to have the cutting head unscrew from the rest of the razor in order to exchange old blades for new ones. The cutting head has a long bar with a screw at the end that is inserted into the handle. A knob at the bottom of the handle is used to screw the cutting head onto the rest of the razor. This two-piece design is favored by many wet shavers because it is not necessary to handle the blade compared to a three-piece safety razor. Blade replacement on the two-piece safety razor is harder than a butterfly open safety razor but easier than a three-piece. Safety razor maintenance and cleaning is easier on the two-piece compared to a butterfly open safety razor, but more difficult than a three-piece safety razor due to the fact that the safety bar and lower headpiece is permanently attached to the handle. Soap scum can go down the entire handle making it virtually impossible to clean inside thoroughly. Although the two-piece design does not have as many moving parts as a twist to open safety razor, there are still areas that can be worn down including the threads and knob at the bottom. Be careful not to over tighten the headpiece as this is the most common cause of wear and tear. Some popular two-piece safety razors include the Merkur 34c and 37C.
Three-piece safety razors are probably the most popular type. The earliest models date back to the early 1900s by Gillette. They are similar to the two-piece safety razor except the base head can also be removed from the handle. The three pieces are the handle, the base of the head and the top of the cutting head. The reason three-piece safety razors are so popular is because they are so easy to clean and maintain. Since there are no moving parts it is very easy to have these safety razors last a lifetime. The only downfall is that blade replacement is more difficult than on a two piece safety razor or a butterfly open safety razor. You need to be very careful when replacing blades on a three-piece safety razor because you will have to handle the blade with your hands a lot more. There are also more issues with blade alignment on three-piece safety razors compared to the other two designs. This should not be of that much concern though because after you practice a few times, it will become an easy routine. Some popular three-piece safety razors are the Edwin Jagger de89lbl and the Muhle R89.
Below is my Edwin Jagger DE89lbl three piece safety razor
Different Types of Headpieces
Besides the construction of the overall safety razor, the types of headpieces that are used can also have a big impact on your overall shaving experience. The types of shaving heads I will be talking about are the straight bar, slant bar, open comb and adjustable heads. Let’s get right into it!
Straight Bar Design
This is the most common design for the safety razor. Probably more than 90% of safety razors use this straight bar design. This means is that the safety bar that is used to take away pressure from the blade is straight. Some people call this design closed comb.
Slant Bar Design
Slant bar designs is where the safety bar is tilted at a slight angle. What this means is that the blade will slice the hairs at an angle instead of chopping them straight down. Think about when you are cutting vegetables with your kitchen knife. If you angle the blade slightly it is much easier to slice through rather than pushing the blade straight down on top of the vegetables. This slant bar design is considered by many to be more aggressive(check out my article on what aggressiveness means). This means that it can handle tougher beards with little effort. This type of design requires a bit more practice to get used to compared to a straight bar design. Some common safety razors that use a slant bar design are the Merkur 37c and 39c.
Open comb design
the open comb design has a safety bar with teeth like a comb does. This means that there is space in between each groove of the comb. This design is to apply more pressure to the edge of the blade compared to the usual straight bar design. They are typically more aggressive and are used for thicker beards. A popular open comb safety razor is the Parker 24C.
Adjustable safety razors are special because they can change the level of aggressiveness used to shave with. A good example is the Merkur futur safety razor. There is a mechanism within the safety razor that can increase or decrease the space between the safety bar and the razor. This increases and decreases how aggressive the safety razor is because it changes how much force is applied to the blade rather than the safety bar.
Conclusion On The Types Of Safety Razors
As you can see, there are multiple different types of safety razors that are available to you as you wind through the wonderful world of wet shaving. One-piece designs are great for easy blade replacement but experience more wear and tear and are more difficult to clean. Two-piece designs will last a long time as long as you take good care of them. Three-piece designs will definitely last the longest but are the most difficult to replace the blades. The type of headpiece you get really depends on how experienced you are at wet shaving and how thick your beard is. If you are just starting out I would recommend going with a simple straight bar design that produces a mild shave. Adjustable safety razors are always a treat because you can figure out how aggressive you need the headpiece to produce the perfect shave. I hope you liked my article on the types of safety razors. Be sure to check out my article Best Safety Razors to find out which safety razor is best for you on any budget. Leave me a comment down below if you have any other questions!
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Ben Rose is the founder and senior editor at Prim&Prep, the definitive guide to male grooming. He is a wet shaving expert, body grooming aficionado, and skincare guru. His work has been featured on many other prominent men’s publications including AskMen, Men’s Health, and GQ.