Double Edge Safety Razor vs Single Edge Safety Razor
When you think wet shaving, you probably imagine a SOTD (shave of the day) set up with a ceramic bowl, blooming soap, broken in badger brush, and gleaming safety razor. But look at your imaginary safety razor again. Is it double or single bladed? For a majority of wet shavers, it is likely a double-edged safety razor that graces your countertop. But why not a single edge safety razor? The answer to that just might come down to simple supply & demand, so let’s explore double edge safety razors versus single edge safety razors.
The Double Edge Safety Razor:
This is the type of safety razor with which you are likely familiar. It usually consists of a handle, a head, and a double edged blade. The double edge razor (whether it comes in one, two, or three pieces) allows both sides of the blade to be used in shaving.
- A one-piece razor has a butterfly (or twist-to-open) head. A knob at the bottom of the handle releases the “doors” on the head which open to allow you to switch out the blade. The benefit is less handling of the blade, but the mechanics/moving pieces leaves room for wear on the razor and more spaces to build up gunk.
- A two-piece razor keeps the base plate (open or closed comb) attached to the handle while a long-posted top cap slips into the handle to hold the blade in place and tightens from the bottom of the handle. This type of razor also keeps blade handling to a minimum as you don’t have to grab the head to tighten it; however, there is the possibility for water and soap to end up in the handle and cause corrosion/build up.
- But arguably the most common is the three-piece double-edge razor consisting of a handle, base plate, and top cap. The blade is placed on the post of the top cap and sandwiched with the base plate (open or closed comb) and the handle is tightened onto the post to screw the whole thing together. This type involves the most blade handling when changing out blades, but the simple design allows for all the pieces to be cleaned with no moving parts to break.
The double edge razor uses the sandwiching (bending) of the blade in the head to create an angle that allows the blade to cut your facial hair. The angle, blade gap, type of blade, and even the top cap geometry all play a role in creating a BBS shave. The blades in a double edge razor are sharp, thin, standard size, and come from a variety of brands. When shaving with a double-edge safety razor, the top cap helps guide the blade to the correct angle as it glides across your skin. There are varying degrees of aggression in the blades, razor geometry, weight, and head design.
The Single Edge Safety Razor:
While a straight edge (cut-throat) razor also qualifies as a single edge razor, we are focusing on the single edge safety razor in this post. Single Edge Safety Razors fall into roughly four categories (with fewer manufacturers than the ubiquitous DE safety razor). SE razors usually take specific blades, but many who try it don’t look back. While there is one standard for double edge razor blades, that is not the case with these single edge blades.
- “Box Cutter” blade. This razor style is named for its resemblance to a box cutter; although it is sharpened with a different angle for shaving. GEM, Ever Ready vintage razors, and new razors from Above The Tie and Blackland are examples of this type.
- Schick injector blades. These razors take a blade with the same width as the box cutter blades but about half the depth. These type are extremely nimble and reach nose and mouth areas well. The small blades are hard to handle so they come with dispenser to reduce handling. (The blade is injected into the razor; hence the name). Schick SE razors are an example of this type.
- Feather Artist Club / KAI blades. This type of single edge was originally for shavettes, so it more closely mimics a straight razor shave with its longer length. They are about ½” wider than other SE or DE blades. These are often the razors that come to mind when single edge razors are mentioned. The razors are not cheap. In addition to Feather Artist Club and Kai razors, Cobra, King Cobra, Mongoose, & Ocam are all examples of this style.
- 4) Lastly, Feather FHS-10 uses “no spine” Gem blade razors. These can be used in vintage Valet Auto Strop razors and recently resurrected in the modern One Blade razors.
Single Edge safety razor blades use a stiffer, thicker blade than their Double-Edge counterpart. This requires a different sort of head, a different technique, and a different feel. The SE is held at a different angle than the DE. With the double-edge safety razor, you are using the top cap to guide the shave. With a single-edge safety razor, you start with the head flat to your face and then tip the back up slightly to find your angle. Single Edge blades are often quite specific to a certain razor, but they also last longer than a double edge blade.
Which One's It?
If you are reading about the differences between single and double edge safety razors, you are probably pretty deep into this classic wet shaving gig, and hopefully, you can acknowledge that you are in the weeds here, teasing out minuscule differences and splitting hairs. Both single and double edge razors hit the marks for why to start wet shaving in the first place.
- A close, clean shave
- A cost effective shave
- A traditional shave
- An environmentally sustainable shave
- A pleasurable shave
The majority of safety razors that you find at West Coast Shaving are of the double edge variety. They are readily available, standardized, and easy to learn. You can find many razors to fit your needs from mild to aggressive, long-handled to short, thick or thin, and every color of the rainbow. And that doesn’t even touch on material, adjustability, blade-choice, weight, and more. We aren’t single edge haters. In fact, we carry a number of box cutter and artist club blades if you do happen to stumble upon a GEM of a razor. (See what I did there, single edge shavers??). But those razors limit you to just a few styles of blades with a somewhat complicated blade changing process and mechanics.
Double Edge razors scratch the itch of supply and demand - they give a great shave, provide an enormous number of blade options, handle colors, etc, and their simple design results in longevity, easy cleaning, and easy use.
Whichever way you go, we’re just glad you’re embracing this classic, wet shaving experience. Tell us about your preferences in the comments below.