This week, I took possession of a new razor, a Merkur 39C. Unlike the other razors
I’ve tried, the 39C is a slant head safety razor. If you’re not familiar with this
terminology, what a slant head razor does is to to put pressure on the razor blade,
bending it up on one side and down on the other. What this accomplishes is to allow
the blade to encounter the hairs of the shaved skin at an angle. When a blade cuts
anything “straight on” it tends to encounter the maximal resistance. Think of going
over a bump in your car. If the bump hits both wheels square, you’ll really feel
it. If you can hit it at an angle, where one wheel encounters the bump a moment
before the other, it’s not so bad.
My first try with the slant head 39C, I loaded in a Personna Lab Blue blade and
essentially used it just like any other safety razor in my arsenal. This proved to
be an educational experience. Or, in sports terminology, a “teachable moment”.
Basically, the slant head worked beautifully when shaving with the grain. Smooth,
efficient, and comfortable. By the time I finished three passes, however, I was
feeling it a little. Not wicked pain, but the character of the razor is such that
it’s a little aggressive. My sense is, for me, going against the grain on my neck
is probably not a great idea.
Which, as it turns out, is okay. I have wanted a razor that is effective and
efficient with the minimum of passes, one that works with my blade of choice, the
Personna. My second shave with the Merkur would be educational.
My experience has made it obvious that shaving every time for absolute smoothness
is not a winning strategy. Sometimes you want to go for baby smooth, but sometimes
you just want a decent shave, so you don’t look like a bum at work. If these decent
shaves can be done quickly, and with a minimum of wear and tear to your epidermis,
so much the better.
With two days of growth on my face, I tried another go around with the 39C. I
wanted to see what I could accomplish with a quick brush load, a single pass shave,
and generally replicate the types of shaves I often did, back in the days of
I ended up doing a single pass with Arko soap, going across the grain on my face
but not my neck. This second partial pass was done without lathering again. The
shave was quick and plenty thorough, with no significant irritation. A nice
maintenance shave that lets me go in to work tomorrow giving at least some vague
impression that I care what I look like.
Just like I wanted.
Thus far, I’m pleased with the 39C. It is my first Merkur, and I’m pleased with the
quality. It has a handle very similar to the Parker 99R, with the twisted knurling
and barber’s pole shape. The 39C is, to the best of my knowledge, chrome plated
Zamak, which is a zinc alloy that could be termed “pot metal”. I’m not terribly
concerned about this material, as razors don’t encounter great stress. This is a
heavily built razor that is one of the unusual two piece variety, with a long
threaded spine attached to the top cap. A spinning end allows the razor to be
tightened. It appears to hold tension well during use. The chrome plating is
brightly polished and the finish is uniform.
If I had to level one criticism to this razor, it would be that, when wet and
soapy, the handle knurling proves ineffective at providing grip. Unlike the
“checkered” knurling, you’ll want to make sure that you wash soap residue from your
hands and the razor, so your grip won’t slip. Fumbling something with a razorblade
in it isn’t a solid plan.
My third shave with the Merkur continued to solidify my opinons on it. To me, this
razor’s forte is quick and decent shaves with the minimum of passes. Thus far, my
feeling is that any more than two passes with this razor runs the risk of
irritation. I think that the one pass quick shave or the two pass maintenance shave
is the way to go with the 39C slant. For a critical shave where I’m looking for the
best smoothness possible, the Feather AS-D2 or the Parker 99R is the better choice,
as both of them (especially the AS-D2) allow more passes without irritation.
I went back to the Feather All stainless razor for my Sunday shave, beginning a
test with the Treet Platinum Super Stainless blade. I shaved with the Palmolive
original shave cream, lathering with my Omega Synthetic brush. If you prefer a
shave cream from a tube, the Palmolive is good stuff. The primary problem is
finding a place to get it, as it isn’t a US market product at this time. The one I
have was imported from Portugal. It was a dollar, plus four bucks shipping. I
understand that Palmolive is very reasonable in price overseas, as well as being
available at most drug stores. Well, they’re lucky there, because this is a really
good shave cream. If you can figure out the correct amount of water to use, it
gives you a very nice, creamy lather that leaves great residual slickness.
I have always been a big fan of the Brut scent. My father typically had some Brut
and some English Leather around when I was a kid. It always felt like one of the
classic manly scents to me. Well, I picked some up today, and that was the finisher
on my shave.
I still enjoy the scent, and it appears to leave a nice face feel afterward. Now,
Brute aftershave doesn’t have glycerine. It’s basically water, fragrance, and
alcohol, with a bit of propylene glycol to blunt the astringent impact. So if
you’re looking for a highly protective, vaguely tacky/oily feel at the end, this is
not going to happen. I would describe the finish as “natural”. Basically, what your
face feels like if you’ve just washed and dried it.
In the end? A baby smooth shave again from the Feather, with able help from the
supporting cast. A return to comfortable and known ground after a week of high