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#1
Old 04-12-2014, 05:46 PM
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Why are there no shaving razors with long lasting ceramic blades?

This article asks the question why there are no men's shaving razors with ceramic blades?

Per the wiki here re the material and performance characteristics of ceramic blades it would seem to be a perfect fit for shaving.

So... why are there no ceramic shaving razors on the market? Any dopers in the know?

Quote:
Ceramic knives will not corrode in harsh environments, are non-magnetic, and do not conduct electricity at room temperature. Because of their resistance to strong acid and caustic substances, and their ability to retain a cutting edge longer than forged metal knives, ceramic knives are a much more suitable culinary tool for slicing boneless meat, vegetables, fruit and bread. Since they are brittle they may break if dropped on a hard surface, and cannot be used for chopping through bones, or frozen foods, or in other applications which require prying, which may result in chipping or catastrophic failure. Several brands now offer a black-colored blade made through an additional hot isostatic pressing (HIP) step, which improves the toughness.
Quote:
Procter & Gamble's Gillette, the market leader, estimates that about two-thirds of American guys age 15 and older shave with a razor, representing a U.S. market for razors and blades worth more than $2.4 billion a year. Worldwide, that market is more than $14 billion.

Schick says most men shave at least three times a week. Razor-Gator.com, a shaving-related website, figures that a man devotes roughly 3,300 hours of his life to shaving.

With those numbers in mind, you'd think teams of engineers would be busy improving the ways and means of a good shave. For example, water causes corrosion on blades, which contributes to making them dull. Isn't there an alloy, or a coating, to address that?
Quote:
Oh sure, Gillette and Schick keep adding more features. Gillette says its battery-operated Fusion ProGlide razor "delivers soothing micropulses." Schick says its Hydro Power Select boasts "three vibration settings, easy-to-read indicators and a one-touch control button, allowing men to interact with their razor in a new way."

Micropulses, vibration settings this they can do. But they can't come up with a blade that stays sharp more than a few days?

"Sure they can," said Jeff Grant, president of Coating Services Group, a Lakeside company that makes scalpels for medical use and thus knows a thing or two about sharp edges. "They could make a ceramic blade that maybe costs $100 and lasts for years."
#2
Old 04-12-2014, 06:08 PM
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Because more razors sold equals more profit?
#3
Old 04-12-2014, 06:15 PM
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It sort of says it in your first cite. Ceramic is brittle and prone to shatter. If you drop it and it shatters into a bunch of super sharp, small and hard to see pieces, you have a nasty mess on your hands.
#4
Old 04-12-2014, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by hajario View Post
It sort of says it in your first cite. Ceramic is brittle and prone to shatter. If you drop it and it shatters into a bunch of super sharp, small and hard to see pieces, you have a nasty mess on your hands.
Yeah, razors get gunked up and one of the easiest ways to clear the hair out is to tap it on the sink. Metal can stand that kind of shock, ceramic would have a tendency to shatter. Now you could probably try to break people of that habit but I wouldn't bet on it and customers are not gonna be happy with an expensive product that tends to break easily.
#5
Old 04-12-2014, 06:27 PM
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Amazon has everything. Perfect for undetectably removing black-ops stubble, apparently.
#6
Old 04-12-2014, 06:56 PM
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Razors also dull because of mineral and soap residues that remain on the blade when it air dries, so any blade that lasts for months or years will have to be easily cleanable. This pretty much rules out the cartridge-style blades that are currently popular.

Men (or women) looking for long-lasting blades already have several choices. Straight razors pretty much last forever and stay sharp with just a few passes over a strop. For the less adventurous, old-fashioned safety razors offer the convenience and ease of use of cartridge blades, but use cheap blades that can also be sharpened and reused. In both instances, metal blades are "good enough," can be easily sharpened, and don't suffer from the brittleness of ceramic blades.
#7
Old 04-12-2014, 07:56 PM
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And how many people are ready to spend $100 for a ceramic blade?
#8
Old 04-12-2014, 08:14 PM
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I don't think I'd want a ceramic kitchen knife either. I've dropped knives, knocked them into pots, etc. I wouldn't want a knife that would shatter giver that treatment.
#9
Old 04-12-2014, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by tellyworth View Post
Amazon has everything. Perfect for undetectably removing black-ops stubble, apparently.
I'll pass on it. It's sold by Acme Approved.
#10
Old 04-12-2014, 08:28 PM
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Yes when I first saw the thread title the thing that instantly occurred to me was that ceramic would tend to shatter or chip if dropped or tapped.
#11
Old 04-13-2014, 04:27 AM
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I think it's simply because ceramic is brittle at the micro scale too. Meaning, not only will it chip easily if tapped or dropped, but it wears down quickly from abrasion just by chopping its way through hairs.

Metal blades don't actually get dull -- at the micro scale, they actually just bend over. Rubbing a knife against a whetstone in the normal way doesn't actually sharpen the knife; it just bends the bent-over edges straight again. Okay, I suppose it may sharpen them as well.

A ceramic blade wouldn't bend over at all. It just gets dull as it gets worn down. I would imagine that happens rather quickly.

Here's a story I read once upon a time: Some anthropologist wanted to prove that ancient pre-historic people might have been capable of doing surgery better that we think. When he needed an operation himself, he arranged for some scalpels to be ground out of granite, and he convinced his doctors to use them. The doctors marveled at how magnificently sharp they were. But they wore down quickly, and could not keep their sharp edge very long.

Last edited by Senegoid; 04-13-2014 at 04:28 AM.
#12
Old 04-13-2014, 11:10 AM
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I'd have to dig up the actual source, but I once read that one razor blade manufacturer experimented with very long lasting blades. They found that even when the blades were still sharp, users wanted a fresh blade. It was psychological.
#13
Old 04-13-2014, 11:57 AM
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I've been using old style double and single edge razors for about five years because I could no longer justify the expense of mutliblade cartridges (the ones with more than 2 blades anyway...a perfectly serviceable Korean Trac II/Atra cart [2 blades] is available for $1.75 for 5 at every Dollar General Store).

Anyway, double edge (DE) stainless blades hold a sharper edge right out of the pack but once it starts to lose that edge, the blade is shot. How soon that happens depends on several factors.

Vintage but mint carbon blades are typically not quite as sharp as modern stainless, but with the right know-how carbons can be honed (and rehoned) to a serviceable edge that will outlast a stainless blade...though carbons must be dried thoroughly after each shave, for obvious reasons.

Same goes for single edge (SE) blades, which are available in both stainless and carbon. Come to think of it, there's a few modern carbon DE blades, too, but 98% are stainless. SE tends to give an even closer shave than DE, but has a steeper learning curve...but nothing anyone here can't master if he wants to.

All in all, aside from the small (or large, depending on your desire) outlay of the cost of a razor, within 1 year old style safety shaving becomes so much more cost effective that it's a no-brainer, if budget is a concern, and you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. With practice, you'll get every bit as close and comfortable a shave as with the effective but horribly overpriced Fusion Pro-Glide.

Free advice to any who ask on how to start up with old style, money saving wet shaving. And no, I have nothing to sell. Freely I received, so freely I give.

As for ceramics...it's a nice idea but the negatives listed above say it all.

Last edited by Harg Fargusen; 04-13-2014 at 11:59 AM.
#14
Old 04-13-2014, 12:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dataguy View Post
I'd have to dig up the actual source, but I once read that one razor blade manufacturer experimented with very long lasting blades. They found that even when the blades were still sharp, users wanted a fresh blade. It was psychological.
I use a Mach 3, and I get at least six months out of each one - bu then, my beard isn't the heaviest one around.
#15
Old 04-13-2014, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrotherCadfael View Post
I use a Mach 3, and I get at least six months out of each one - bu then, my beard isn't the heaviest one around.
Cripes. I get about 6 days with one at which point my face feels stubbly even after shaving and I get ingrown hairs.
#16
Old 04-13-2014, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Patch View Post
Cripes. I get about 6 days with one at which point my face feels stubbly even after shaving and I get ingrown hairs.
As noted above, blades become dull in part due to buildup of minerals and soap residue. I had heard that drying the blades after each use will give it a much longer useful life.

I have been doing this for a few years no and am impressed with the results. I rarely use more than two blades per year. Though in fairness I only shave about 2-3 times per week.

Try dabbing the blade on a towel or try compressed air to remove the water droplets and eliminate buildup of minerals/soap residue.
#17
Old 04-13-2014, 09:32 PM
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At $0.15 per blade, who in their right mind would bother trying to resharpen a double-edged razor blade?
#18
Old 04-13-2014, 10:30 PM
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I think it's mainly planned obsolescence. They could also make them out of glassy metals, which would last as long as ceramics. Zirconia can be transformation toughened (it's quite interesting - cracks cause the zirconia to change phase and expand, closing the crack. A bit like tempered glass.), which is enough for razor blades, which are protected from shock in the cartridge anyway.
#19
Old 04-14-2014, 07:38 AM
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Quote:
Procter & Gamble's Gillette, the market leader, estimates that about two-thirds of American guys age 15 and older shave with a razor, representing a U.S. market for razors and blades worth more than $2.4 billion a year. Worldwide, that market is more than $14 billion.
Pay no attention to brittle blades. Shaving is the classic captive market - the razor makers are more than happy to give away free razors with the hopes that you'll like them and become an eternal customer buying their blades.

Why would they do anything to slow down that revenue stream?
#20
Old 04-14-2014, 06:31 PM
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As kunilou pointed out, there is also a question of cost. Metal razor blades are manufactured at ultra-high speed in a flexible continuous ribbon which makes them very cheap to produce. Can't do that with ceramic.
#21
Old 04-15-2014, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by TSBG View Post
I don't think I'd want a ceramic kitchen knife either. I've dropped knives, knocked them into pots, etc. I wouldn't want a knife that would shatter giver that treatment.
I've had a ceramic kitchen knife for 2-3 years now. It's the only one we use; it keeps an edge for a long time.

the tip is rounded rather than coming to a sharp point like most metal knives because the ceramic is brittle; a sharp point would indeed be vulnerable to damage.

This also points to a potential shortcoming for ceramic shaving razors. if you look at a disposable razor, the blades are really thin and not very tall: each one is maybe 1.5" wide, but it's only about 0.125" tall and 0.030" thick. Any kind of side load on that (like pressing it against your face) would probably snap a ceramic blade that had those dimensions.
#22
Old 04-15-2014, 07:37 PM
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Not if they're mounted on springs or flexible holders.
#23
Old 04-16-2014, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by AaronX View Post
Not if they're mounted on springs or flexible holders.
It would need to be a rigid holder supporting the entire width of the blade to prevent it from flexing; whether you mount that holder on a suspension or not won't much matter.

And no matter what you do, there will be a side load on the thinnest and most delicate part of the ceramic insert (the sharpened edge) when you press it up against your skin.

You could probably engineer a solution, but you'll end up with a razor so expensive no one will buy it.
#24
Old 04-16-2014, 09:33 AM
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Is it possible to make a razor blade from carbon fiber? I realize it would be very expensive, but is it even possible?
#25
Old 04-16-2014, 07:55 PM
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Why are there no shaving razors with long lasting ceramic blades?

Well, firstly, it's not necessary to make them so thin. The manufacturing methods for steel and ceramics are different, and just because this is the most cost-efficient for steel doesn't mean the same for ceramics. Also, there's no reason they can't be made larger and more robust - in the shape of a safety razor blade. It's also ok if the blades cost more, being they last longer and all. You don't need to cram 5 blades in there. And a stiffer, thicker ceramic doesn't need as much support - i.e. more flexibility.

Secondly, the cartridge design of existing razors already has floating blades mounted in a rigid frame. That's why it's almost impossible to cut yourself with one. The same design prevents excessive stress/shock on the blades.

Last edited by AaronX; 04-16-2014 at 07:57 PM.
#26
Old 04-16-2014, 08:34 PM
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And here's a one minute video showing what ceramics can withstand: http://youtube.com/watch?v=s26oKM27O_U Meanwhile, my "Exact-0" blades' tips disappear within 5 minutes of using them.
#27
Old 04-16-2014, 11:11 PM
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For most users, I think it's pretty simple: metal blades are cheap and easy to make and they don't call it a "razor and blades" business model for nothing. The last thing Gilette wants is a razor blade that will last forever.

That said, I AM surprised I've never seen a ceramic straight razor. It would be great for folks who genuinely like straight razors (like myself) but don't want to bother with stropping and sharpening and don't like snapping DE blades in half.
#28
Old 04-16-2014, 11:18 PM
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http://youtube.com/watch?v=ESzGLSI1URE

And there's a guy shaving with a ceramic knife. It's pretty impressive.
#29
Old 04-17-2014, 02:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bump View Post
At $0.15 per blade, who in their right mind would bother trying to resharpen a double-edged razor blade?
You are off by a factor of 10. I went to buy a 12-pack of Trac-II's and they were $17!

I ended up buying the cheapo plastic throwaways and am regretting it.
#30
Old 04-17-2014, 02:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bump View Post
At $0.15 per blade, who in their right mind would bother trying to resharpen a double-edged razor blade?
It started during the Depression, for obvious reasons. Various devices, gimmicks and contraptions were marketed claiming to rehone carbon steel blades (which is all there was in those pre-stainless days). Some of them worked, most not so much. The times I do it, which is not often, I do so just because I can, not because I need to.
#31
Old 04-17-2014, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Gatopescado View Post
You are off by a factor of 10. I went to buy a 12-pack of Trac-II's and they were $17!
That's paying Gillette what they want for what, in some ways, is a superior shaver to their newer, redundantly bladed razors. The Dorco brand (made in S. Korea, I think) available at Dollar General fits both Atra and Trac II handles, shaves indistinguishably from Gillette's insanely priced name brand cartridge, but for $1.75 for a six pack. It simply cannot be beat, if the Atra/Trac II is one's razor of choice.

Last edited by Harg Fargusen; 04-17-2014 at 02:52 PM.
#32
Old 04-17-2014, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by typoink View Post
For most users, I think it's pretty simple: metal blades are cheap and easy to make and they don't call it a "razor and blades" business model for nothing. The last thing Gilette wants is a razor blade that will last forever.
I've never thought highly of the argument that "a company won't make a product more desirable than their current product because then nobody will buy their current product."

If a ceramic razor is so incredibly awesome that no one will buy ever buy a disposable razor after that, then the first company who markets a ceramic razor will steal the entire customer base of all the other non-ceramic razor companies. If ceramic razors are indeed that awesome and desirable, their continued unavailability would require a conspiracy of inaction between every razor manufacturer in existence. It's like claiming that a cure for cancer doesn't exist simply because pharmaceutical companies would rather sell endless rounds of chemo: if true, then the first company to break the stalemate will become wildly profitable.
#33
Old 04-17-2014, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Machine Elf View Post
I've never thought highly of the argument that "a company won't make a product more desirable than their current product because then nobody will buy their current product."

If a ceramic razor is so incredibly awesome that no one will buy ever buy a disposable razor after that, then the first company who markets a ceramic razor will steal the entire customer base of all the other non-ceramic razor companies. If ceramic razors are indeed that awesome and desirable, their continued unavailability would require a conspiracy of inaction between every razor manufacturer in existence. It's like claiming that a cure for cancer doesn't exist simply because pharmaceutical companies would rather sell endless rounds of chemo: if true, then the first company to break the stalemate will become wildly profitable.
I am a manufacturing engineer and this is exactly correct. I have grown so weary of "hurr durr planned obsolescence hurr durr vast conspiracy to buy up patents" that I don't bother to fight it any more.
#34
Old 04-17-2014, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AClockworkMelon View Post
http://youtube.com/watch?v=ESzGLSI1URE

And there's a guy shaving with a ceramic knife. It's pretty impressive.
I see your ceramic knife beard shaving and raise you a cleaver head shave: https://youtube.com/watch?v=fwTF...CjmH3k61xXj8uQ





Thread:
People who don't know better or don't care buy cartridges. People who do use blade-based safety razors.

As bump said, once you're paying a dime and a nickel per blade, bothering with space-tech razors isn't worth it.
#35
Old 04-17-2014, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Harg Fargusen View Post
The Dorco brand (made in S. Korea, I think) available at Dollar General......
Thanks for the tip! It just so happens a new Dollar General opened up just down the road, and is in fact the closest "store" to my house now.
#36
Old 04-17-2014, 09:52 PM
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Yeah, and adding a lubricating strip that lasts for 3 uses is definitely to improve your shave and not a reminder to change your blade more often. And if you come out with a good product, you can capture the entire global market before your competitors copy it, because shaving companies are like Nokia and Blackberry. And consumers are known to buy long-lasting products over cheap. And once everyone is using ceramic razors, then what? You'll be like the smartphone market now where you'll have to compete on price: http://reuters.com/article/idUSBREA3806J20140409
#37
Old 04-23-2014, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by hajario View Post
I am a manufacturing engineer and this is exactly correct. I have grown so weary of "hurr durr planned obsolescence hurr durr vast conspiracy to buy up patents" that I don't bother to fight it any more.
I don't think there's a vast conspiracy, but, if I were a Gillette employee, I'm not sure how I'd pitch, "here's a razor whose only advantage to our current product is that customers will by blades much, much less often. It will also be costly to develop, potentially risky to market, and will either fail in the market or substantially reduce our profits, which are almost entirely based on selling disposable steel cartridges."

There's very little upside to a company like Schick or Gillette. It's not a conspiracy; it's a cost:benefit failure. That doesn't mean a ceramic razor might not be better.
#38
Old 04-23-2014, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by typoink View Post
I don't think there's a vast conspiracy, but, if I were a Gillette employee, I'm not sure how I'd pitch, "here's a razor whose only advantage to our current product is that customers will by blades much, much less often. It will also be costly to develop, potentially risky to market, and will either fail in the market or substantially reduce our profits, which are almost entirely based on selling disposable steel cartridges."

There's very little upside to a company like Schick or Gillette. It's not a conspiracy; it's a cost:benefit failure. That doesn't mean a ceramic razor might not be better.
This is a totally different situation and I agree with you. If there was money to be made with a ceramic blade, one of the big boys or a smaller upstart would get in the business. In the end there really isn't a market even if they were practical. Most of us are fine with the regular ones, hipsters are going to use a straight razor and geeks don't use razors at all.
#39
Old 04-23-2014, 09:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake View Post
Is it possible to make a razor blade from carbon fiber? I realize it would be very expensive, but is it even possible?
Nah. Carbon fiber doesn't work this way. Wouldn't even be that expensive, it's just that "carbon fiber!" you hear touted as a high-strength material isn't strong in the way you are thinking.

Carbon fiber on its own is a fabric. Woven, typically. A single strand of carbon fiber behaves like a thin, stiff thread.

Keep in mind - when you hear "carbon fiber" what is typically meant is a composite material. Carbon fiber, typically woven into some kind of cloth (and it does feel and handle like a stiff cloth) is made into a composite by binding it together in laminates or otherwise with a polymer. Typically epoxy or vinyl ester.

Carbon fiber has fantastic tensile strength / weight, but not much else. In a composite this high tensile strength can be turned into excellent overall strength/toughness, but on its own it's just thread.

Now - if you wanted to try a composite razor blade - the cutting edge would still be essentially plastic. Not something you want for keeping an edge, not something you can really sharpen, just not suited.

You can google "carbon fiber razor" and get shopping hits, but everything I saw had a regular metal blade and a carbon-fiber handle or case. Fairly silly, IMO. Who needs an indestructible straight-razor handle? Are they hurling it at the mirror after every use? Dropping it off buildings?
#40
Old 04-23-2014, 11:14 PM
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Well said. Carbon fiber isn't particularly strong, except in 2 cases:
1. Strength-weight ratio. For its weight, in certain loading directions, it's strong.
2. Microscopically. But this doesn't translate to products since you can't build anything purely out of carbon fiber.

In SOME applications it's great, but it's not adamantium.
#41
Old 04-23-2014, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by typoink View Post
if I were a Gillette employee, I'm not sure how I'd pitch, "here's a razor whose only advantage to our current product is that customers will by blades much, much less often.
That's easy: "If we don't launch it, a competitor will."
#42
Old 04-25-2014, 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Patch View Post
Cripes. I get about 6 days with one at which point my face feels stubbly even after shaving and I get ingrown hairs.
I get ingrown hair below the jaw line when I shave against the grain of the beard. I fixed this by shaving twice at the same time WITH the grain of the beard. I use a powered mach 3 so there is no irritation at all.

As to the op, all I want it is a reduction in cost. I get the perfect shave but I feel like I'm getting ripped off because the blade can't be any more expensive to make than a disposable yet it costs substantially more. They invented a better mouse trap and they know it.
#43
Old 04-25-2014, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Gatopescado View Post
You are off by a factor of 10. I went to buy a 12-pack of Trac-II's and they were $17!

I ended up buying the cheapo plastic throwaways and am regretting it.
Trac-II's aren't double edged razors. this is a double edged razor, many of which cost on the order of 10-20 cents a piece.
#44
Old 10-20-2014, 08:46 AM
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Bumping this old thread to add that a ceramic razor has in fact been brought to market. The entry level model goes for a mere $2,000 (sorry, it's sold out) and more expensive models in premium metals are also available, topping out at a cool 100k.
#45
Old 10-20-2014, 08:51 AM
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As a WAG, I'd say that a steel blade can be brought (very cheaply) to a finer edge, suitable for shaving, than a ceramic blade, and the steel blade is no longer useful for shaving when its edge is reduced to the best that a ceramic can offer.

Last edited by jtur88; 10-20-2014 at 08:52 AM.
#46
Old 10-21-2014, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
I'll pass on it. It's sold by Acme Approved.
If it's good enough for Wile E. Coyote, it's good enough for me!
#47
Old 10-21-2014, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by tellyworth View Post
Amazon has everything. Perfect for undetectably removing black-ops stubble, apparently.
The link has 'frequently bought together' this non-metalic razor along with a universal plastic concealable handcuff key, perhaps they should also suggest a inflight travel power adapter or inflatable travel pillow.
#48
Old 08-29-2017, 12:39 AM
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Ceramic Razors

HHMMMMmmmm let me see...If you go to alibaba.com you can get them from china in bulk. Also amazon sells a ladies ceramic multi-blade for $25. There is a warning on the back of the package that says if dropped in any fashion DO NOT reuse. get another blade!! I don't care that it is pink. I now dry shave quite easily with no problems! To clear the blade simply use a soft hobby paint brush and GENTLY clear the gapps. HAPPY SHAVING!! Amazon also has a mens ceramic COATED set, but have not tried them yet.
#49
Old 08-29-2017, 11:37 AM
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Zombie thread.

This thread is a bit old.
#50
Old 08-29-2017, 02:24 PM
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It's not that old; and it's only mostly dead.
I do think a ceramic straight razor (or one from obsidian for that matter) might be interesting to try out.
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