A disquisition on blade sampler packs

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by Leisureguy, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. Leisureguy

    Leisureguy Read My Blog

    Current as of 3/26/2008.

    I’ve mentioned blade sampler packs so frequently—and it’s such an important idea to convey to the novice DE shaver—that I thought I should do a post just on that topic.

    The sampler packs arise from the unpredictability of any individual shaver’s response to any brand of blade. Each brand has those who love it and those who hate it, along with those who are indifferent. Some brands may have a preponderance one way or the other, but even if only a few hate (or love) a brand, what if you are one of those few? You can’t use the brand statistically: “I love this particular blade 60%, and hate it 35%, and am indifferent 5%.” With the individual shaver and a particular blade, it’s a 100% decision. So the individual shaver has to try multiple brands, rather than simply pick those that are (statistically) popular. (See this post for results of a series of polls on how well shavers like certain brands—and note that for every brand, some like it, some don’t like it, and some are indifferent.)

    If it were not like this—if shavers responded in the same way to a blade (which many novices believe is the case, and simply ask “Which blade is sharpest?” as if that would be the best blade for them)—then there would exist only one brand of blade: THE blade. Perhaps it would be sold in different colors of packages, or with different decorations printed on the blade, but everyone would use it because it is the “best” blade.

    But life is not like that, and so the sampler packs exist. Originally, there was only one sampler pack, offered by LetterK on BadgerandBlade.com and ShaveMyFace.com. LetterK later established a Web site to sell the sampler packs (WestCoastShaving.com), and two other vendors began selling sampler packs (Connaught in the UK, and RazorandBrush in the US)

    So far as I know, these are the only three current sources for sampler packs. So far, there is no sampler pack offered in Canada, though these three vendors do, I believe, ship to Canada. Links to the vendors’ packs, in alphabetic order:

    * Connaught (in the UK)
    * Razor and Brush (in the US)
    * West Coasting Shaving (in the US)

    I’ll discuss each in turn (and ignore shipping costs in the comparisons). In general, I suggest getting as many brands to try as possible: the largest sampler pack, and sampler packs from both RazorandBrush and WestCoastShaving if you live in the US. Moreover, try as many brands as you can buy locally. You have only a statistical prediction of which brands you’ll like, and for your own individual experience, that’s not enough (as pointed out above). So the more brands the better.

    Some of the blades (Treet Blue Special, Treet DuraSharp HiTech Steel) are made of carbon steel rather than stainless steel. Carbon steel can take a sharper edge than stainless, but carbon steel also will rust. Here’s how to handle that for razor blades. As it happens, the Treet Blue Special is very definitely a “best blade” for me.

    Experienced shavers all recommend that, as soon as a novice finds a brand that seems to work reasonably well, he should be faithful to that brand to polish his technique, and not try another brand until he’s consistently getting good, smooth, nick-free shaves — perhaps a month or two. The shorthand for this is “fidelity,” which means using the same blade brand, razor, brush, and shaving soap or cream until one’s technique is sound.

    Once his technique is sound, he can begin the exploration. In particular, it would be unwise to skip from brand to brand to brand, one shave each: you would never then learn the particularities of a brand of blade and whether it actually works for you.

    Of course, once you’re getting good shaves, you might think, “Why try another brand? This one’s doing okay. Better just to stick with it.” I have my own view of the benefits of an extended exploration, but indeed some shavers simply stick with the first brand they encounter that gives what they consider a good shave. I’ve read comments, “This brand seems to tug a lot, but when I’m finished, I have a good shave, so it’s a good blade.”

    I don’t agree: if a blade tugs a lot, it’s not a good blade for you. Shaving is about the process as well as the end result: both should be pleasurable. That’s what I recommend that shavers explore a wide variety of brands of blades after their shaving technique is established: so that they can find the best brand for them, not just an acceptable brand.

    If you try a new brand and get a terrible shave, discard that blade and try another blade of the same brand—it may have just been a bad blade. (Rare, but it does happen.) If the second blade of the brand also gives you a terrible shave, discard it and mark that brand off the list: it’s obviously not for you.

    EXCEPTION: If you have more than one razor, try the blade in another razor before you give up on it. A blade that’s terrible in the HD might be wonderful in a Gillette Super Speed and vice versa.

    Here’s one approach to exploring: Call the blade that so far works best for you your (current) “best blade.”

    1. Shave a week with the “best blade.” This sets a baseline for comparison.
    2. Shave a week with a new brand (unless it fails the test of two terrible shaves).
    3. If the new brand is better, it becomes your new “best blade”: go to 2.
    4. If the new brand is not better, go to 1.

    By using this approach you’re always comparing just two brands: your best so far and a new brand. That makes the comparison easy, and by always starting the comparison with a week shaving with the “best,” you not only get a break from testing, you get a fresh reminder of what a blade that’s good for you feels like before you try the next new brand.

    One experienced shaver discovered that sometimes two different brands are almost equal in quality, and that for those, using each brand on alternate days allows for a closer comparison.

    When you decide against a brand, jot down a note on why you’re rejecting it (too dull, nicks too frequently, irritates your skin—whatever), put the note and the remaining blades of that brand in an envelope, write the brand name on the envelope, and put it aside. After six months or a year, you might want to try the brand again to see whether things (your prep, technique, razor, etc.) have changed and the brand is now good for you. If not, pass those blades along to someone else—for him, they may well be a “best blade”.

    For me, my own current best blades are: Treet Blue Special, Astra Superior Platinum, Astra Keramik Platinum, the Wilkinson family (Economie, UK, and German), Zorrik, Polsilver Stainless, and Iridium Super. Sputnik blades are also good, especially after the first shave. Once Feather and Tiger were among my favorites, but I finally decided that they was too ready to nick for no reason. They’re like a high-powered but unstable motorcycle: great performance but unpredictable. You may have a different experience. Gillette 7 O’Clock ExtraSharp (not to be confused with the 7AM brand) were so sharp that I couldn’t comfortably use them—not erratic, just very, very sharp. Some guys like them a lot—but be careful with them.

    With a microscope you can see the actual differences in the edges of different brands. At the link are microphotographs of the edges of Dorco New Platinum ST300,Personna Platinum Chrome (”Red Box”), Crystal Super + Platinum (”Israeli Personna”), and the Treet Blue Special. The Treet clearly has a well sharpened edge—but still it works well for only a minority (for whom it works extremely well).

    Connaught Sampler Packs

    Popular: Derby Extra, Dorco Platinum Chrome, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”), Merkur Super Platinum, Super + Platinum (”Israeli”), and Wilkinson Sword Classic (German)
    7 brands, 35 blades total, £8.90, or US 52¢ per blade

    Standard: Astra Keramik Platinum, Astra Superior Platinum, Gillette 7 O’CLOCK Sharp Edge, Iridium Super Stainless, Nacet Stainless, Polsilver Stainless, Sputnik Teflon, Tiger Superior Stainless
    8 brands, 40 blades total, £7.90, or US 40¢ per blade

    Treet Plus: 7am Platinum, Sharp Stainless, Super-Max Platinum, Super-Max Stainless, Treet Carbon Blued ‘Black Beauty’, Treet Dura Sharp Carbon, Treet Platinum, Treet Stainless / Trig
    8 brands, 40 blades total, £5.90, or US 36¢ per blade

    UK: 7am Platinum , Astra Keramik Platinum, Astra Superior Platinum, Crystal / Super + Platinum ‘Israeli Personna’, Derby Extra , Dorco Platinum, ELIOS Inoxidable , Feather New Hi-Stainless, Gillette 7 O’CLOCK Sharp Edge , Gillette Platinum ‘Swedish Gillettes’, Iridium Super Extra Stainless, Merkur Super Platinum, Nacet Stainless, Polsilver Stainless, Sharp Stainless , Sputnik Teflon , Super-Max Platinum , Super-Max Super Stainless , Tiger Superior Stianless, Treet Carbon Blued ‘Black Beauty’, Treet Dura Sharp Carbon, Treet Platinum Super Stainless, Trig Silver Edge Stainless, Wilkinson Sword Double Edge , Zorrik Super Stainless
    25 brands, Small: 125 blades total £16.90, or US 27¢ per blade;
    Large: 250 blades total £26.90, or US 22¢ per blade

    Obviously, the UK is the best buy, and it is also better in that you get more different brands to try.

    Razor and Brush Sampler Packs

    Sampler Pack #1 (Small): American Personna Super Platinum Chrome, Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Sharp Stainless, Sputnik Platinum Chrome, Treet Blue Special (carbon steel), Treet Platinum Chrome, Wilkinson Sword Classic (German)
    7 brands, 45 blades total, $9.00, or 20¢ per blade.

    Sampler Pack #2 (Extended): 7AM Platinum Hi Stainless, Astra Superior Platinum, Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Dorco Platinum Chrome, Feather Hi-Stainless, Gillette 7 O’Clock Sharp Edge, Sharp Platinum Chrome, Sputnik Platinum Chrome, Tiger Superior Stainless, Treet DuraSharp HiTech (carbon steel), Treet DuraSharp Classic Stainless, Treet Platinum Chrome, Wilkinson Sword Classic (German)
    13 brands, 90 blades total, $18.50, or 21¢ per blade

    Sampler Pack #3 (Large): American Personna Super Platinum Chrome, Astra Superior Platinum, Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Dorco Platinum Chrome, Feather Hi-Stainless, PolSilver Stainless, Sputnik Platinum Chrome, Super-Max Platinum Chrome, Super-Max Super Stainless, Treet Blue Special (carbon steel), Treet DuraSharp HiTech (carbon steel), Treet DuraSharp Classic Stainless, Treet Platinum Chrome, Wilkinson Sword Classic (German)
    14 brands, 105 blades total, $22.00, or 21¢ per blade

    Sampler Pack #4 (Extra-Large): 7AM Platinum Hi Stainless, Astra Superior Platinum, Derby Extra Super-Stainless, Dorco Platinum Chrome, Dorco Platinum Extra, Feather Hi-Stainless, Personna Platinum Super Stainless (”Israeli”), Sharp Stainless, Sputnik Platinum Chrome, Super-Max Platinum Chrome, Super-Max Super Stainless, Tiger Superior Stainless, Treet Blue Special (carbon steel), Treet DuraSharp Classic Stainless, Treet DuraSharp HiTech (carbon steel), Treet Platinum Chrome, Trig Silver Edge Stainless, Wilkinson Sword Classic (German)
    18 brands, 125 blades total, $26.00, 21¢ per blade.

    Sampler Pack #5 (Huge): 7AM Platinum Hi Stainless, Astra Superior Platinum, Derby Extra Super Stainless, DORCO 300 Platinum, DORCO 301 Platinum Extra, Feather Hi-Stainless, Gillette 7 O’Clock Sharp Edge, Gillette Platinum (a.k.a. “Swedes”), Iridium Super Extra Stainless, Merkur Super Platinum Stainless, Personna Platinum Super Stainless (Red Israeli), Sharp Stainless, Sputnik Platinum Chrome, Super-Max Platinum Chrome, Super-Max Super Stainless, Tiger Superior Stainless, Treet Blue Special, Treet Classic, Treet Dura-Sharp Carbon, Treet Platinum Chrome, Trig Silver Edge Stainless, Wilkinson Economie, Wilkinson Sword Classic, Zorrik Super Stainless
    24 brands, 165 blades total, $35.00, 21¢ per blade.

    I recommend Sampler Pack #5 because it offers more brands to try. Here’s how to order.

    Sampler Pack #6 (Gillette): All the blades in this pack are made by Gillette (Procter & Gamble): Astra Keramik, Astra Superior Platinum, Gillette 7 O’Clock Sharp Edge, Gillette Platinum (a.k.a. “Swedes”), Iridium Super Extra Stainless, Polsilver Stainless,
    Sputnik Platinum Chrome
    7 brands, 45 blades total, $15, 33¢ per blade.

    East Coast Series
    In addition to the above sampler packs, Razor and Brush offers the “East Coast” series of sampler packs, which have the same brands and number of blades as the corresponding West Coast Shaving sampler packs.

    Economy: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Dorco Platinum Chrome, Wilkinson Sword (UK)
    4 brands, 30 blades total, $5.00, or 17¢ per blade

    Choice: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Dorco Platinum, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”)
    5 brands, 40 blades total, $11.50, or 29¢ per blade.

    Standard: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”), Merkur Super Platinum
    5 brands, 40 blades total, $16.00, or 40¢ per blade.

    Extended: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Dorco Platinum Chrome, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”), Merkur Super Platinum, Red Pack Israeli, Wilkinson Sword (UK)
    8 brands, 60 blades total, $19.50, or 33¢ per blade.

    Large: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”), Merkur Super Platinum
    5 brands, 50 blades total, $20.00, or 40¢ per blade.

    West Coast Shaving

    Economy: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Dorco Platinum Chrome, Wilkinson Sword (UK)
    4 brands, 30 blades total, $5.50, or 18¢ per blade

    Choice: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Dorco Platinum, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”)
    5 brands, 40 blades total, $13.75, or 34¢ per blade.

    Standard: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”), Merkur Super Platinum
    5 brands, 40 blades total, $18.00, or 45¢ per blade.

    Extended: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Dorco Platinum Chrome, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”), Merkur Super Platinum, Red Pack Israeli, Wilkinson Sword (UK)
    8 brands, 60 blades total, $21.50, or 36¢ per blade.

    Large: Crystal Platinum Chrome (”Israeli”), Derby Extra, Feather New Hi-Stainless Platinum, Gillette Platinum (”Swedish/Euro”), Merkur Super Platinum
    5 brands, 50 blades total, $24.00, or 48¢ per blade.

    The Extended has the best price per blade and also the greatest number of brands, so that’s the one I would get.
    Shellbriar, Geo and damarico73 like this.
  2. moviemaniac

    moviemaniac Tool Time

    A very thorough guide, Michael, thank you! ::
  3. SSLSTudio...

    SSLSTudio... Forum Debugger

    thats good Advice by Kyle ,

    I did that with the Derby Extra's I learned my Skills on the Derby Extra for 3 months before moving on to the Feathers.

    after that your ready to tackle on Straight razors. if you go str8 razors first and then DE then it will be an easier road for you because you will have learned to Focus and nail blade angle versus speed cutting already because if you dont have those under controll using a str8 you either cut yourself badly or it will hurt to shave with a str8 in the sense your NOT cutting any hair off.
  4. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    Fantastic, Michael. Thank you!!

    Having just purchased my first DE (for travel use as I'm a straight razor user at home), this guide will be a great help in me finding the right blade for me.
  5. qhsdoitall

    qhsdoitall Wilbur

    Very nice guide Michael. Thank You very much. Needs to be put in a reference section.
  6. Leisureguy

    Leisureguy Read My Blog

    Thanks, guys, and I'm hoping it will prove useful. I just wanted to collect it all in one place and make comparisons easier.
  7. peacefrog

    peacefrog Jet Setter

    Michael, what brush are you currently recommending as the budget choice for beginners? I couldn't find that on your blog anymore.
  8. Leisureguy

    Leisureguy Read My Blog

    I generally recommend an Edwin Jagger Best Badger. Currently (the dollar keeps plunging) one of these is $38 shipped. You can buy one at Crabtree & Evelyn, but they have only one model (if it's in stock), and it's $35 plus tax (and shipping if you have it shipped.) Note that if you buy from the UK, you don't pay the VAT.

    If you're willing to go to $76, I recommend either Rooney Style 2 Super Silvertip or Rooney Style 3 Size 1 (small) Super Silvertip.
  9. Hawkeye5

    Hawkeye5 New Member

    Michael, when you look up 'shave geek' in the encyclopedia (Jimminy Cricket tought me to spell that word by the way, and 'geek', in this context, is meant as a compliment) your picture must surely be there. (I know, don't call me Shirley)
    I would add but one humble suggestion to this breast (woops, bad spell checker, back, back evil one!)
    When you set that base line with the blade, keep the razor constant.
    If that was there, I missed it. I personally use the Merkur HD as my test razor for any new blade. I know what a good blade will do in that razor, plus it is a very good razor. I keep two razors always loaded and ready to go. Both are Merkurs. An HD and a Slant. I test every blade in both.
    I really wish I could rid myself of this 'latherbater' caption. Who was half-in-the-bag and thought that one up? (I'm going to regret this, sure as the world).
  10. Queen of Blades

    Queen of Blades Mistress of Mischief Staff Member

    Moderator Supporting Vendor
    That would be Will (aka Mottern Man).
  11. Hawkeye5

    Hawkeye5 New Member

    Joanna, don't you ever go to sleep??
    Now I have to get enough posts to get out of this outrageous caption.
    (I knew I would regret that comment, I'm it the doghouse now, Latherbater, shit!!!!, come on Will, that one was a low blow)
  12. Queen of Blades

    Queen of Blades Mistress of Mischief Staff Member

    Moderator Supporting Vendor
    Sleep? What's that? :confused:

    Don't worry the "caption" isn't permanent. Just keep posting. It will change.
  13. Leisureguy

    Leisureguy Read My Blog

    I updated the Disquisition to reflect current package contents and prices.
  14. Bronco

    Bronco Mac Daddy

    Thanks Michael for the update. Very handy for the noobs....and us oldies as well!
  15. qhsdoitall

    qhsdoitall Wilbur

    Thank you very much for the update Michael. Now we just have to incorporate this with bulk purchase sources once people narrow down their top 3 best blade choices.
  16. Labarum

    Labarum New Member

  17. pizzaguy

    pizzaguy Member

    That was great

    That was a great read I was just looking for places to order blades from I lost the info I just got passed on to me

    Thanks
  18. Leisureguy

    Leisureguy Read My Blog

    Updated with new info.
  19. Will

    Will Nevermind

    Looks a lot longer. Gonna need some coffee to read this one.

    Thanks! :D
  20. curiousity

    curiousity New Member

    Thank you very much. As a future wet shaver, I've been rabidly absorbing information.

    This post was excellent and I ordering Sampler Pack #5 (Huge) from Razor and Brush. This will give me a great selections of blades to try (of course, at least a week at a time.)

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