This post may be a bit controversial. Although these two razors are a favorite for beginners, they could not be more different! Remember, these are my opinions, based on my experiences with these two razors. Your mileage may vary.
Presenting the Edwin Jagger DE89.
EJ WINS THE DAY!
Edwin Jagger was founded in 1988 by Neil Jagger, a silversmith from Sheffield, England. (Trivia - "Edwin" was Neil's grandfather's name...)
In the last 20 years they have grown to be a world leader in luxury shaving items for men and women. It is a small family run business. Choosing only the finest materials and combining cutting edge manufacturing processes with age old skills of the craftsman, Edwin Jagger produce an unrivaled collection of traditional razors. They are especially known for their DE89 safety razor that is one of the highest recommended shavers for beginners.
Edwin Jagger and Mekur couldn't be more different. Merkur is more of a "corporation." While Edwin Jagger is sort of a group of artisans on steroids! Edwin Jagger do what they do because they truly love to do it. They just try to perfect one tried and true product, which is available in various different models. In fact, they only make one single head design, used in all of their razor models.So hear is my take on the Edwin Jagger DE89.
DE89 Fit and Finish - (10/10):
Rumor has it that the chrome work on the DE89 is done by the same sub contractor that does the chrome work for Rolls Royce. One thing for sure, the DE89 has the best chrome of any razor I have ever seen for under $150.00. As a manufacturer myself, I can honestly say that I am jealous.Every part of the DE89 is subject to meticulous detail. In short, the fit and finish is top notch.
DE89 Construction (8/10):
The EJ DE89 is a beautiful razor and the construction quality is well above average. The barley handle on the razor I own, is comfortable and I did not find the very fine knurling of the handle to be slick or difficult to hold, even with soapy fingers. Yet the other DE89 I own is the "cheapy" model, on that razor, the handle is smooth and has no knurling. Yet, it is surprisingly easy to grip, even when wet.The entire razor is cast from zinc alloys. It will still last a lifetime but remember, since this razor is made of cast metal, be careful so you do not tighten the head too hard. It is rumored that the center screw can break. I have had my original DE89BL for quite a long while. I have dropped it on a tiled floor. All was well. In my long association with this razor, I have never found the center screw to be an issue. (BTW the Merkur is also cast in zinc alloys...)One thing to note is that Edwin Jagger is a very consumer friendly company. If there is an issue with the razor, they are usually very gracious about fixing or replacing it.
DE89 Ergonomics (10/10):Value for Money (9/10):
The DE89 is weighty at 2.6 ounces. The handle is 3.25 inches long. The balance point is one third the way down the handle from the head, which is absolutely excellent. The razor feels comfortable to hold, and because of the balance point being where it is, the user does not have a tendency to apply pressure when shaving.The DE89BL is a 3-piece razor. The blade alignment is spot on. Always. Blade balance is perfect. There is a slight blade overhang at the sides of the head, but again, it is very slight indeed. Many other razors have that as well.Changing blades is super simple. Unscrew the handle from the head. Separate the plates. Take the old blade out. Put the new blade in. Screw the handle back on.The DE89BL is, in my experience with it, a really well designed razor. It's ergonomics is almost perfect!
Shave quality (8/10):
Edwin Jagger razors are mild and efficient. It is easy to get a great shave without any nicks, cuts, or weepers. I use a Derby Extra, Voskhod, or Astra SP in mine, with the Voskhod giving me the best results.
Value for Money (9/10):
The EJ will last a lifetime. It can be had for around $35, which in my opinion is a hell of a deal for what you get. It comes with a 2-year warranty, and the company supports the product very well.
RECAP OF THE EDWIN JAGGER DE89 SERIES
The Edwin Jagger DE89 Series of razors is a superb choice. But let's see what's up with the Merkur 34C.
Total Score (Subjective) 46/50 92% favorable. Excellent!
Presenting the Merkur 34C / 34G
Let me start off by saying that I do not think that the 34C is the best beginner razor that Merkur makes. That honor goes to the Merkur 33C (Classic,) or better still the the Merkur 42C which is truly a great razor at a fantastic price. But since the DE89 and the Merkur 34C are usually compared, I am limiting this revue to these 2 razors.
Merkur was founded in 1896 by Emil Hermes who wished to become a safety razor manufacturer. His preferred company name (Hermes) was already taken, so he got clever and used the equivalent Roman messenger god, Mercury. This symbol of which can still be seen on all of Merkur's packaging 121 years later!
The 34C is a great choice because its head design is forgiving and has just the right amount of blade exposure. It's been reviewed on countless blogs and YouTube videos and for a good reason - it's certainly hard to beat. (credit: Razor Emporium) However, I don't find it better than the DB89. Let's see why.
Merkur 34C Fit and Finish - (7/10):
Merkur's fit and finish is also quite good, but nowhere near as good as many people think. Here's why: Zinc razors are plated first in nickle because nickle adheres to the zinc, and then with chrome because chrome adheres to the nickle. Merkur's application of the nickle layer is way too thin. That said, no one I personally know has ever complained about the Merkur's finish fading or be coming worn. But if you go to the various shaving forums online, there are numerous complaints about just that. So in my opinion, the fit and finish of the Merkur 34C is "okay," but not spectacular. It should be noted however that for a premium (about $20) you can get a Merkur 34G which has a superior finish. Gold is a soft metal so it usually scratches and "dings" more easily than nickle or chrome. Not here. Merkur plates this razor very well, and does not skimp on how thick and hard the coating is. It is one of the most durable gold plated razors I have ever found.
As you can see, the Merkur 34C is a 2-piece razor. It is well-made, however, being a two piece razor, there is an internal mechanism that has to be taken out and lubricated every few months. Not a big deal in practice, but still a bit more cumbersome than the Edwin Jagger. The most serious problem with the Merkur 34C is a blade alignment issue. That is unacceptable in a razor at this price point. However if you hold the razor upright and tighten the head vertically, the blade will align properly most of the time.Like the Edwin Jagger, the entire Merkur 34C razor is cast from zinc alloys. It will still last a lifetime but remember, since this razor is made of cast metal, be carefuRECAP OF THE MERKUR 34C:l not to drop it, and never over tighten the head.
The Merkur 34C has an extremely short 2.75 inch handle. It is kind of feature that people either like or dislike with no in between.However, the handle is certainly beefy. It is also pretty heavy. The EJ and the 34C actually weigh just about the same overall, but the weight distribution between the two is different so balance is completely different. Which razor is better balanced? That depends on what you find more pleasing to your style of shaving. The EJ has a balance point 1/3 of the way down the handle to the head. The Merkur 34C's balance point is smack dab in the middle of the handle. This means that the EJ is more head heavy, which I think is advantageous because you may have less of a tendency to exert pressure as you shave.
Shave Quality (7/10):
The Merkur 34C and the Edwin Jagger DE89 series are very mild razors. It would be very difficult to get cuts and nicks from either. That is why they make for great beginner razors. But in my experience the Edwin Jagger is more efficient. It is easier to find the angle on the EJ, and because of its efficiency, you do not have to work as hard to get a good shave.
Value for Money (5/10):
Both razors are fairly affordable. However with the street price of the Edwin Jagger DE89 series of under $40.00 and the street price of the Merkur 34C being between $55.00 to $65.00 there is no contest here.
A good starter razor can be a lot less expensive than either of these, but if you have narrowed down your choices to these two, The Edwin Jagger is by far the better value of the two.
RECAP OF THE MERKUR 34C:
EJ WINS THE DAY! Total Score (Subjective) 35/50 70% favorable. Very Good!
While both razors will probably last the average user a lifetime, and could make a great family heirloom, and although many Merkur fans may not like this post, I do believe that between these two razors the Edwin Jagger is a clear winner. Furthermore Merkur is a difficult company to get after sales support from. If you expect any customer service at all, stay away from Merkur.
If you are going for a Merkur as a first DE razor, look at the Merkur 33C (Classic) or the Merkur 42C which are similar to shave with as eachother, and are a bit more efficient than the Merkur 34C so they are in fact, easier to shave with.
As for the Edwin Jagger....... it is absolutely a wonderful razor for anyone, beginner or not.