Razor Review: Merkur HD34C

Posted: April 22, 2016 in Shaving Articles
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Over the last few months, my shaving patterns have fallen into a fairly comfortable rhythm. I would shave around three times a week, switching between my Feather AS-D2 and my Merkur 39C slant. After a flurry of blade tests, and the resultant test fatigue, I wanted to get back to just shaving. Constant experimentation can be a bit tiresome after a while. There were still blades out there I wanted to test, but the ones that were easy to get and piqued my interest had probably already been done. So.

So, I was loading my Feather with Feather blades, then Wilkinson Swords, until they ran out. I was feeding my 39C a steady diet of Personna Lab Blues. Life was pretty good.

But.

But, it occurred to me that I didn’t really have a travel razor. I am not totally confident that things won’t get lost on a trip. Bags find their way to the wrong airport. Things get left on the sink in a hotel room. Thus, I wasn’t super excited about taking my AS-D2 out on the road with me. It’s not disposable. At all. My 39C, on the other hand, is built like a tank, and just seems a little bit stupid-big to be putting in a shaving kit for the road.

Solution? Well, initially, I was going to get the Merkur razor that they make out of Bakelight. It looked cool, and was the right size and weight. Downside? It doesn’t have inset metal threads in the handle, so it’s metal 0n plastic in there. I am, shall we say, not always subtle. If it can easily be broken, I might figure out how to do so. Growing up, I heard this phrase with some frequency: “The boy doesn’t know his own strength.”

Out goes the Bakelight idea. I looked around for a short handled razor that would do the job. I found the Merkur 34C. It is nearly universally praised. It’s one of the go-to beginner’s or sensitive skin razors. Some of the guys I watched on YouTube to learn how wet shaving was done use it as a reference. Thus, not a huge gamble. Besides, it’s fairly reasonable to buy. Compared to the Feather, it’s almost disposable. Shrug. Not really. Anywhoozle…

The 34C came out of the box with good fit and finish. It’s a two piece, and comes together without issue. Blade alignment is good every time. The knurling on the handle is good, much more effective than the barber pole style on the 39C when wet. There were no voids or oddities in the plating.  (This is a chrome plated pot metal razor, which is what you’ll get for the price point. Since the metal is not under serious stress, it shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re hurling your razor down on concrete or using it to tune up your Jeep, you may need a different material. Brass or stainless will cost you, though.)

I tested the 34C with three blades, two shaves a piece. The first was the Personna Lab Blue, then the Derby Extra Stainless, then the Astra Superior Platinum. All shaves were three pass, full bore deals. All yielded excellent results, with baby smooth cheeks being the watchword. In the shaves, I only had one weeper, and the very minimum of irritation. Actually, perhaps slightly less than normal, even for the smooth operator AS-D2. Functionally, I was completely satisfied. The shorter handle, which I had imagined might take some getting used to, was no problem. It actually makes the razor easy to control, as you can put a finger on the end of the handle.

I found the dynamics of the razor interesting, and actually quite instructive at times. What I found was that the 34C demanded a much shallower angle to the face than my other razors. In fact, I could essentially address my cheeks directly, with very little “dial in” for the blade at all. It seemed to work best and be most comfortable well below the oft-stated 30 degree rake.

The 34C tended to have more “blade feel” on the face than the 39C and the AS-D2. It was somewhat more akin to the Parker 99R, although it was much gentler and less prone to judder. With the Feather razor, the first pass happens with very little sense of there being a blade touching your face. It can be used almost like a cartridge razor, just pulling large swatches of hair from your face in pseudo-magical style. The 39C’s first pass performance is somewhat similar, the slanted blade angle allowing it to tear through the stubble without a hint of slow down, provided your blade is reasonably sharp.

That ain’t the 34C. No, it demands you to work in short strokes, and keeps you aware of the blade that’s trundling down your epidermis. I don’t mean to say that it pulls, pinches, or abrades your skin. That’s not it. The 34C is just a communicative razor. As you feel for the angle it likes, you can sense the way the blade is addressing your face. It actually seems to help me slow down and work at the pace the tool requires, where I sometimes get a little cavalier with the other razors in my rotation. Because of this, I do think it would be a really good first razor. Shaves great, tolerates blades across the sharpness spectrum, and gives you feedback in terms of how much you’re digging in. All this at a reasonable price.

Which blade did it like the best? Easily the Astra Superior Platinum. That’s not to say that the others had any issue. There was no real difference in the end result, but the Astras, being sharper, left the least stubble for the later passes, allowing the least irritation.

I have to say that, for going six shaves without a “maintenance shave”, this is the least irritation I’ve had in a while.

So, I can easily say that I’ve found my travel razor. If I didn’t have such an excellent pair of primary razors, I would find it somewhat tempting to make it my primary go-to.

Well, that’s about it. Thanks for tuning in.

Patrick

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