Stupid Tuesday Questions, Deluxe Edition edition

Remember back in the day, when men shaved with a razor that had only one blade?  Well, I don’t either.  By the time my adolescent self had even the barest need to shave, the Gilette Sensor had already been on the market for a year or so.  I have never shaved regularly using a razor with less than three blades, which always struck me as a reasonable number to have.  (Clearly the marketing department at Gilette has done a good job penetrating my psyche.)

In the manner of many households, the Better Half and I have sometimes duplicated purchases for simple necessities.  As a result, we’ve had various redundant razors and refill cartridges cluttering up drawers and bathroom cupboards for years.  During this same period, the various razor manufacturers have increased the number of blades they put in their products; I believe they’re up to five, but may have lost track.  As preposterous as five blades has always seemed to me, we ended up with a five-bladed razor at some point.  (I draw the line at any straight razor that runs on batteries.)  I never liked the damn thing, and found it unwieldy for tight spots like under the schnoz.  In a recent fit of pique after buying the wrong kind of refill cartridges, I consigned the whole lot to the garbage can and bought a new, three-bladed razor.  It seems almost quaint and old-school to me, and works just right.

So, a two-parter for this week’s Stupid Tuesday Question.  1)  What is the meet and proper number of blades for a razor?  Ladies, please feel free to chime in.  This does not count razors wielded by others, such as at a full-service barber shop — one big-ass blade seems to work nicely there.  2)  What other products hit a nice sweet spot where they had been perfected by just the right amount of tinkering, only to be ruined by going too far?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I do not shave my face. I *DO*, however, shave my head.

    Lemme tell ya, in the days of the disposable “Good News” razor, you may have just as well taken a peeler to your scalp. You missed spots, you gouged spots, you did everything except end up with a smooth pate.

    When the Gilette Mach 3 came out, it was something that I joked about when I saw it but said “well, I’ll give it a shot”.

    Holy cow, my head had never been more closely shaved. I was a convert after the first stroke. If I had a problem with it, it’s that it was gummed up after about halfway through that first stroke and I had to keep a needle nearby to help clean it because the running water was not enough to do the job. The only downside to the Mach 3 was that I would rarely (about once a year) cut myself with it. Not a nick or scratch either. I’m talking something that you’d see in a Japanese ninja flick when the ninja beheaded somebody. I’d have a scab on my head for a week afterwards. It was worth it, though. The rest of the year my head was PERFECT.

    Then the Fusion came out. While others scoffed and pointed to The Onion, I purchased one and discovered that, yes, it’s even better. It cleans itself from being run under a faucet (or under the showerhead) and it has not yet cut me even once.

    I don’t know about your face but if you shave your head? Try a Fusion. It’s awesome.

    • I shave the area around my beard only (ie neck, under the chin and a bit of the sparse spots on my cheeks), so I’m a relatively limited user, but I’ve stubbornly refused to move past the Mach3.

      I am one of those people that carefully washes and dries the razor so, combined with twice-weekly shaving, I use a new cartridge only every six months or so.

  2. Like Jaybird, I have a fusion, with five blades in the head and a sixth for nipping out stubble under the nostrils. Worse, I have the battery-powered vibrating kind. This thing is so smooth that when the blades are new, I could shave my face while it’s dry. I’m cheap and will keep re-using the head until I cut myself on one of the dulled blades, but that’s my own fault and not the manufacturer’s.

    I suspect the reason why it can do this is a combination of the blades getting thinner and therefore sharper, while at the same time reducing the angle of attack in the blade mounting to slice through the stubble just a micrometer at a time.

    The optimal number of blades is whatever it takes for me to be comfortable and unbled when shaving dry. Right now, that number is five. But if six or seven thinner, and shallower blades will produce an even better result, then my neck and Jaybird’s head will be even happier and the Onion can suck it.

  3. > 1) What is the meet and proper number of blades for a razor?

    Depends really on what you’re shaving, but three seems adequate and the blades are ridiculously expensive. I still use my Sensor Excel on my face, and that’s just two blades and I don’t care.

    > 2) What other products hit a nice sweet spot where
    > they had been perfected by just the right amount of
    > tinkering, only to be ruined by going too far?

    The problem with this question is that there is only one right answer, and if you get the wrong one you’ve gone too far or you haven’t tinkered enough with your brain. I’m thinking about it. I think I need another beer first.

  4. When I use a manual shaver, I use just a single blade that I buy, usually a generic one, and it seems to work well, except for all the times I cut myself. The cuts aren’t bad, but they take quite a long time to stop bleeding.

    I’ve actually never tried a manual razor with more than one blade, so I can’t compare. But I just recently (a month ago) purchased an electric one that I’m amazed how well it works. It’s quite, it shaves closer than even a manual blade (my prior experience had been that electric razors were convenient, but didn’t shave as closely), and you can even run it under water to clean it out. It cost about $60, but appears to have been worth it, at least if it lasts a few years.

  5. I once got caught up in reading about shaving on the internet and ended up switching from disposable razors with their multiple blades to a safety razor, a shaving brush, and old-man smelling shaving soaps and creams. Kids, don’t do what I did. Stay away from shaving blogs. Yes, they exist. No, don’t google them.

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