This topic comes up a lot in wetshaving discussions. Which is better, the straight razor shave or the double edge? We like to think of the comparison as between a manual v. automatic car. The manual has more control, you choose when to shift, and better mpg; whereas the automatic is simple, easy, and makes your decisions for you. Obviously, the analogy isn’t perfect, but let’s look at the differences in depth.
Examining the DE first, we can see many features of standardization from the DE head to the blades themselves. While some very complex DE’s do allow you to control the razor angle, for the most part, the blade angle is chosen for you. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it does reduce some of your options. Yet, it is easier.
The real disadvantage of the DE is the lack of control over the razor blades. While there are different blade manufacturers and some blades are better than others, for the most part all DE blades are manufactured in the same manner, with the same double bevel, and the same blade angle. You can see how they are made in the video at the end.
The straight razor comes in a dizzying array of options, and each option affects the shave in unique ways. First of all, the straight razor has no guide. You, the user, get to choose how steep or shallow an angle you want. You get to control every aspect of the stroke. You can get a completely different shave from a heavy wedge than from a nimble hollow ground razor. The scale material and balance affects how the razor feels when stropping. Each razor has its own honing characteristics, has its own favorite honing methods, responds differently to different hones. Even the bevel angle is unique to each razor. In fact, the person sharpening your razor can even increase the natural bevel angle. Add to that all the different ways in which the edge can be finished, and you have a very customizable experience.
Unfortunately, when you take away the thing that does all of the tasks for you, you have to learn a whole new set of skills. But just like you gain MPG when you switch to a stick shift, you get a better shave if you master the straight razor. And if you decide you want to take the plunge, we are here to help.