Best Open Comb (OC) Razor


When safety razor was first invented, it didn’t have a safety bar on it. It means that the teeth of the comb weren’t linked together like in the many modern razors. As time went by more and more companies started to add safety bars to their razors, and open comb (OC) became a remnant of the past.

Luckily the past decade has seen resurging of wet shaving, and with that also OC safety razors have become more widely sought after.

What Is a Open Comb Safety Razor

A picture is worth a thousand words they say. So I have added an illustration below. The main difference as can been seen is in the teeth of the comb. As the name implies open comb means it is open, they are not linked together. The opposite is a closed comb or a razor with a safety bar. One might argue that once the teeth of the comb are connected together, it stops being a comb. While I agree with this logically, I am certainly not the one to argue with the terminology.

Benefits Of Open Comb

  • Because OC razors don’t clog as closed comb ones do, they are easier to use when shaving a longer beard  
  • There is no safety bar wiping away the cream ahead of the blade, so the blade edge gets maximum lubrication
  • OC razors lift hairs that lie flat against the skin, unlike the safety bar which is pressing them down
  • If your angle is off, you will get teeth marks from the open comb. This helps you to improve your shaving angle

There is a wide misconception that OC razor is very aggressive. It is true that many OC razors tend to be a little bit more aggressive compared to razors with a safety bar. This though is indeed not a universal trait for all of these razors.

I guess a more appropriate way to express this issue would be – it depends. Aggressive razor is aggressive no matter if it has open or closed comb. But the safety bar does add an extra layer of safety reducing the risk of cutting yourself.

Are OC Razors For Beginners?

They certainly are. As I already mentioned open comb razors are considered very aggressive. For this reason, they are often not recommended for beginners. The reasoning behind this is that you might cut yourself with it more easily.

Well, let me first address the issue of OC being very aggressive. Open comb per se doesn’t make razor aggressive. It is more matter of blade exposure and blade gap. The reason why many will cut themselves with OC razors is that they tend to be careless. Your skin is more exposed when using open comb compared to a closed comb razor.  I have managed to nick myself even with Merkur 34c and Edwin Jagger 89, and both of these are considered to be the most beginner friendly razors.

There is also a belief that OC razors cause more razor burn. Because open comb razors as a bunch are in general little bit more aggressive they can cause more skin irritation when going for the legendary baby butt smooth (BBS) shave. This is another folly.  Let me explain why.

A man with a normal beard growth needs to shave daily or every second day no matter if he managed BBS or DFS (darn fine shave). So stop abusing your face with 3-4 passes shaves, you will only end up getting razor burn without any benefits. More important than the closeness of the shave is how comfortable it is.

This leads to the last point. OC razors are genuinely comfortable and smooth efficient shavers. Especially suited for those that have a very fast growing and a coarse beard. For these men, the unclogging, no-hair-pulling shave is much more important than getting the closest shave in your life. Face it, no matter how close you shave you will still suffer from 5 o’clock shadow if you are one of these men.

Razors:

Merkur 15c

Merkur 15c is the first razor in our list. It is a good example of an OC razor that is very mild. Many consider it to be even less aggressive than Edwin Jagger 89 for example. Excellent for men that suffer from sensitive skin while having fast-growing beards. There are two models, one with the short (15c) and the other with the longer handle (25c). Otherwise, they are identical, So if you have large hands you might prefer 25c (4.07” / 13.4 cm), otherwise, go for the 15c (3.24” / 8.2 cm).

Pros

  • Very mild, suitable for beginners and men with sensitive skin
  • Two models, short (15C) and long (25C) handled razor
  • 3-piece razor so it is easy to clean

Cons

  • Can be too mild for men with very coarse beard
  • Very light-weight (1.87 oz / 53 g)

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Muhle R41

Legendary Muhle R41 open comb razor is one the most feared razors out there. It is often ranked as the most aggressive safety razor out there. The blade feel and efficiency of this razor is almost comparable to straight razors. It may not be the best choice for men who are just starting out using safety razors though. Then again some men have very coarse and fast-growing beards. One of my good friends had to shave twice a day to look cleanly shaven until he embraced the bearded look. Unfortunately, there are plenty of occupations where a beard is not an option. So for these men, this razor can be a blessing and finally a way to get clean shave comfortably.

Pros

  • Aggressive, daily driver for those who have fast-growing beards
  • Light-weight (2.6 oz. / 74 grams) build works well with the overall aggressiveness reducing the pressure it asserts on the skin
  • Very nice quality as well as fit and finish
  • 3-piece razor is easy to clean and assemble

Cons

  • The aggressiveness can also be a con. For a man with sensitive skin or soft whiskers, this razor can be a little bit too aggressive
  • Handle is slippery

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Parker 24C

Parker 24C is the next razor on our list. It is placed in the middle of our aggressiveness scale. Not too mild as Merkur 15C nor too aggressive as Muhle r41. It has all the benefits of the open comb razor yet being suitable for most types of beards. It is also the biggest razor in our list both in weight (3.3 oz / 93 g) and length (4” / 10 cm). What sets this razor apart though is the weird shaving angle. When most safety razor work at best in the 30-45° range, this needs a way steeper angle for shaving. So it can take some time getting a decent shave and become proficient in using it.

Pros

  • Good grip thanks to the excellent knurling and indentations on the handle
  • Long handle ( 3.75” / 9.5 cm) makes holding the razor comfortable
  • 3-piece design makes it easy to clean
  • ild razor, comparable to Edwin Jagger 89 so it suitable for most men

Cons

  • Hard to find the right shaving angle
  • Has had quality control issues in the past and also the finish isn’t on the same bar as Merkur or Muhle

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Fatib Grande / Piccolo

Fatib Grande or Piccolo, depending which handle you prefer, is a little bit less known in comparison to the previous three in our list. This doesn’t mean it is somehow less worthy. Merkur, Muhle, and Parker have been around for decades and produce multiple different razors. Fatib produces only one with four different handles. It is aggressive yet less than Muhle r41. It is well made and very affordable. No wonder that many open comb enthusiast loves this razor.

Pros

  • It is aggressive yet not too aggressive. This makes it again suitable for most men while not being dangerous to use if you have no prior experience with OC razors
  • Very affordable
  • Has a short handled model called Piccolo (3.1” / 8 cm)  and a longer version called Grande (3.4” / 8.6 cm)
  • 3-piece razor is easy to clean and assemble

Cons

  • Blade misalignment problems have occasionally plagued this razor. This can turn one side of the razor more aggressive than the other
  • Plating is less sturdy. This is less of a problem for this razor though as it is made of brass so it won’t rust

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Schöne Italian Open Comb Razor

Schöne is probably even less known than Fatib. It is also made in Italy. It is even made in the same factory as Fatib. You are right to wonder if this isn’t just rebranded Fatib then? Not quite. Schone is modeled after Fatib Grande (both are 86mm / 3.4 inches). But Schone has 9 teeth vs. Fatib 11 on its comb. Also, the teeth are wider on Schones. The second difference is that Schone comes in gold plating as well. There is a lot of controversy over the way they shave. There are those who say they are identical, those that swear Fatib feels smoother and those who argue that Schone is less aggressive. So go figure. What can objectively be said is that they both feel very similar when shaving but they look different.

Pros

  • Comes also in gold plating besides the chrome version
  • 3-piece razor makes it easy to clean as well as assemble
  • Moderately aggressive, so it is suitable for most men. Some say that it is a tad less aggressive than Fatib Grande
  • Excellent price range

Cons

  • From time to time seems to suffer from the same blade misalignment problem like Fatib
  • Fit and finish is not as good as Merkur or Muhle. Then again it is also in a different price range

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Summary

Open comb razors are perfect for men that have very fast growing beard or who need to shave often more than a few days of growth. This is also one of the reasons why they are excellent travel razors.

So if you have very sensitive skin, soft beard or you want least amount of risk of cutting yourself then choose Merkur 15c or 25c. If your face is covered with copper wire instead of normal human hair, you might prefer Muhle r41. For all those that are somewhere in between of these two extremes – Parker, Fatib, and Schone are an excellent choice.  


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