*Cartridge-Head Razors, an Evaluation*
I started shaving at age 14, when my beard started darkening. Nothing to brag about, my brother started at 11, my dad at 10. I've tried various electrics, with pretty rough results. (Exception: my dad had an ancient Norelco that shaved so close, it left my neck smooth for a few hours!) Tried a Sears rotary (Norelco clone), a Sears vibratory (Remington MicroScreen clone), a Braun vibratory, and a Braun pocket shaver (vibratory that runs on AA batteries — got it at the dollar store for the obvious price). Electric shavers took me out of fleece just when it was coming into style. Too much neck stubble.
Now for the blades.
Starting at the extreme, I've grown a beard 3 times. Can't stand the itch or the in-grown whiskers. First beard came off with a $5 German straight razor (from Smoky Mountain Knife Works) sharpened on a Diafold diamond hone. Second beard came off with a SOG Government model bowie knife (factory edge), and third beard came off with a Blackjack Mamba (kind of a modern khukri design, also factory edge).
I recently evaluated 3 of the major disposable-cartridge-head razors; if I'm always looking for a clean shave, I figure someone else probably is, too. And many of us have sons.
Evaluation procedure: After using each of the 3 razors for 2 or more months, I decided to write this article. So I bought cartridges and used each razor for 2 months. Shaving every day, in the early morning, before shower. Edge shaving gel, Aloe formula, was used throughout the study as a lubricant. Razor heads were rinsed 4 times during each shave, with a longer final rinse at the end. Water is unsoftened city water, and reputedly the hardest in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. (Source: best friend, who is a journeyman plumber)
Shaving style is top to bottom, always with the grain (the same way you'd pet your dog). Exceptions were during the fourth weeks of test months, when neck hair was shaved a second time against the grain.
Each sample razor included 2 cartridges in the retail package. Refills were purchased at local grocery and discount stores, depending upon availability.
Gillette Mach 3
Bought when they were first introduced (and after trying one), I've gotten consistent clean shaves over the years. After 2-3 weeks, hair will start accumulating between the 3 blades, and I can extend the useful life out to 5 or 6 weeks by blowing compressed air through the blades to clean out the hair. Results are fairly consistent from package to package.
Schick Extreme 3
The other 3-bladed cartridge, I got mine free, when I enrolled in a college class. The included cartridges shaved comparably to the Mach 3, but recently purchased refill cartridges have varied widely, with one shaving so poorly (brand new, too!) that it compared to an old-style safety razor with an old blade. It also started to clog with hair during the first week. The second cartridge yielded better results, with a decent shave for a month, and didn't start to clog until after 2 weeks.
Schick Quattro Titanium
My sister gave me this one with a pack of cartridges. The Quattro Chrome and Quattro Titanium handles are interchangeable. When I misplaced the Quattro Titanium, I ended up buying a Chrome, because it was cheaper than buying refills for my Mach 3. Again, quality control at Schick seems to be wanting. The included cartridges yield a decent shave, but refills vary, some leaving stubble and clogging after a week, others shaving my neck smooth as a baby's for a month, with clogging after 2 weeks.
Conclusions: Gillette's Mach 3 wins on consistency, quality control seems to be excellent.
Schick's refills suffer from apparently poor QC, with 1 cartridge in 4 yielding very poor results.
Since cartridges are not interchangeable across brands or model lines within a single brand, you're pretty much committed to buying the cartridges specific to the handle you own. Schick has given away their razors as “Welcome to College” freebies in the past, and may continue to do so in the future, possibly helping offset Gillette's performance edge (pun intended).
Bulk-pack purchases of cartridges may yield savings; however, $2 per head is about average in the Minneapolis area for the evaluated razors. Older razors, such as Sensor, Atra, and Trac II, were not evaluated, simply because I have long since misplaced my handles for them. The older, twin-blade cartridges sell for much less than triple- or quadruple-bladed heads, usually at around $1 per, in a 10-pack.
Legal crap: Gillette, Mach 3, Schick, Extreme 3, Quattro, Quattro Titanium, Quattro Chrome, Edge, Sensor, Atra, Trac II, Sears, Norelco, Braun, Remington MicroScreen, SOG Government, and Blackjack Mamba are registered trademarks of their respective owners. Your mileage may vary. I am one customer, and this article is a description of my own experiences with the named products.
All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright © 1996 - 2007 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.