What does the difference between a “good” DE blade and a “bad” DE blade feel like?
A contributor on Wicked Edge likened the difference as that between a butter knife and a samurai sword, but he admits that is hyperbole—which, though entertaining, is not very useful. But it did get me to thinking how I would characterize the difference for those just starting to shave with a DE razor and who do not yet know what to look for.
Bear in mind, however, that the shaving quality of a brand of DE razor can differ markedly from razor to razor. Feather blades, for example, can be harsh for me in (say) the Merkur HD (37C) and the Edwin Jagger, but are wonderful in the Feather AS-D1/2, the Wilkinson “Sticky,” and the Tech.
It’s a three-element system: the person, the razor, and the blade. Change any one, and the system can go from working extremely well to being an awful experience. And a change in “person” can be a different person, or it can be the same person using different prep or different technique. Thus which brands are “good” variy from person to person and from razor to razor: take a look at the poll results in this post.
And it should also be noted that some can detect no differences whatsoever between different brands of blades. The proportion of those is small—perhaps 10%-15%, I would guess—but they are out there, just as are the tone-deaf and the colorblind (I am among the latter), and they have an advantage: they can happily use the cheapest DE brand they can find.
So: the difference. I love to cook (and a new one-pot meal is in the oven), and so I use my kitchen knife a lot. The difference between a brand of blade that’s good for you in your current razor and a brand that’s not is very similar to the difference between a kitchen knife that really needs sharpening and one that has just been sharpened by a knife sharpener that does a really, really good job. The brand that’s not so good will “work,” in a sense, but the experience is unsatisfactory, with a strong emphasis on “work.” The newly sharpened knife, like a good blade, makes the experience of using it a true pleasure: you want to do more, to feel again the silky smoothness of the cutting action.
That’s the difference: not the difference between butter knife and samurai sword (both of which do an excellent job at their respective tasks), but between drudgery and pleasure. I should note that which brands are “good” varies
If you haven’t made a habit of trying one blade of a new brand for the first shave each month, you might consider trying it. It’s an interesting version of a lottery, and the odds of a payoff are much better than in Powerball. Tryablade.com sells individual blades, so it’s easy to stock up with twelve brands to do the test for a year. It’s actually sort of fun, and occasionally you get a tremendous jackpot.
The benefit of doing such a test only once a month is that you spend most of the time shaving with a brand of blade that works well for you (some of those tested may not), and in each test you are comparing just two brands: your current brand (which is presumably the best you’ve tried to date) and the new brand (which may or may not be better).