Thursday, May 10, 2012

Merkur 23C Long Handle Safety Razor Reviewed

merkur 23C
I've recently taken an interest in traditional wet shaving using a double edged safety razor. Although there is certainly no shortage of reviews and thoughts on the tools and techniques of wet shaving on the web, I thought I would add to them with my own photo review. Above is the topic of this review, the Merkur 23C Long Handle Safety Razor. I bought it for myself from westcoastshaving.com, and I'll add that I am not associated with that company or Merkur. You can see from the image that the knurled texture is pretty nice, it affords a good grip when you have wet hands.The enlarged bit at the end of the handle really does not serve a purpose in my book, but it looks nice. Around the bottom of the handle the brand mark is engraved, it says "MERKUR" and then in smaller letters "GERMANY - SOLINGEN" along with the Merkur head that is on the box (pictured below.)
merkur 23C
Here is the razor again from a different angle. Compared to the other safety razors out there I have been told this one is actually on the light side. I think the handle and head together weigh about as much as a table spoon or fork. I had been expecting a massive weight that would do the cutting from its sheer heft on my face, but I find that you do still need to hold the razor up to your face with some amount of force for it to work.

I enjoy the nice plated finish on the razor, it is easy to clean. So far I have only used Proraso Sensitive Skin shaving soap that leaves a whitish film on anything it dries on, and it cleans off with a little hand soap and warm water. The plating is also silky smooth on your skin when you're rubbing the cap plate and comb across your face.

Also of note is the 4" long handle. I guess that most of Merkur's line (HD, 37C, etc) have shorter, fatter handles that are 3" long and actually heavier, but I thought I would need to longer handle length because I have very large hands. Actually, I find that when I am shaving, I prefer to hold the razor up near the head with a light touch. I don't even use the last inch or so of handle that I paid for, and the extra handle length does not make the razor any easier to maneuver on the face. My advice is if you're considering the 23C to just go right to the HD (heavy duty) and get the extra weight and skip the extra handle.
merkur 23C disassembled
Here is the Merkur 23C razor disassembled. You can see it is a three piece razor, the shiny cap (at right) has two pins and a threaded center pin that extend through the blade (which happens to be a Derby brand blade, at bottom right) and the comb piece (shown top side up, bottom center) and screw securely into the handle (left). It is a simple design that seems rock solid and should last a lifetime. Another bonus of the three piece design is it is easy to clean when you take it apart. You do have to be careful to handle the blades and the head by the sides when you're unscrewing it though. Get how it goes together? I didn't really understand until I took it all apart for myself, since there aren't a lot of exploded views of this bad boy available.
merkur 23C
Here is another shot showing the pins on the underside of the cap and the side profile on the comb piece. If you look at the above image with the razor fully assembled again you can see that the blade is actually held in a curved position when clamped into the head. If you look closely at this image you can see some manufacturing marks on the comb piece where the pin holes are, so the manufacturing process isn't flawless, but it is definitely rock solid and more than adequate.
merkur 23C head
Here is the head ready to be screwed on to the handle. The cap plate is at the bottom, the blade is in between, and the comb piece rests on top the blade. As you screw the handle on, the blade bends slightly and becomes curved. There is a warming in the box about not screwing the handle on too tightly, but I have not had any trouble with that.
merkur 23C box
Here's a shot of the box I received my Merkur 23C in. Not sure if this is the norm but there were some questions on one of the wet shaving forums about if the box was suitable for giving as a gift. I would say yes! Maybe in the past they were shipping them in plain cardboard and tissue paper but this is plenty nice for gift-giving.

Takeaways:
1. This is a great first safety razor for someone new to traditional wet shaving.
2. Given the opportunity I would not purchase it again, instead I would go for the HD which is shorter and heftier because the long handle is not really as useful as it sounds.
3. The blade is clamped in the head in such a way that it is curved, I didn't get this until I saw it myself.
4. It comes in a nice box, at least mine did, which is fine for gift giving.

The trouble with wetshaving is that there is so much gear - razors, brushes, soaps, creams, blades, and other paraphernalia that you will want to try everything. I've only been at it about 1.5 months and already I want to try to Merkur 37C slant bar razor. . . but I'm still working through my second pack of blades from my sample pack!

Edit: I've acquired a 39C as well, check out pictures and a brief review by clicking here.

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