June 10, 2005
I got a new plastic Wilkinson DE razor today, sent from the UK. Seems Wilkinson still makes a modern-styled safety razor to go with its excellent (and usually very inexpensive) DE blades, but they don’t sell it in the US. If you want one, you have to go online and hunt one down from the handful of UK vendors that sell them. At around fifteen and change including shipping from the UK, the Wilkinson DE is a bit more expensive than a new Mach3, but I was dying to see what a modern plastic take on a DE would shave like, since the metal Gillettes and Merkurs we all use now are actually quite old designs, over a century in some cases.
Unlike the classic Gillette adjustable DEs, the Wilkinson is a fixed razor — but that’s not to say it’s neutured. It’s just non-adjustable. Actually, it’s set for a bit more bite than the non-adjustable Gillettes, but it’s not quite as aggressive as the fixed-head Merkurs. Of course, the Wilkinson is almost entirely made of hard black plastic, so its handfeel and facefeel are very different from the metal DEs I normally use. The handle is more akin to something modern like the Mach3 and Sensor, and the Wilkinson’s stateside corporate cousin the Schick Quattro.
And the shave? It was okay, I guess. I was hoping it would be some kind of miraculous left field find — you know, the cheap plastic razor that outshaves the heavy metal rigs. Like that incredible el-cheapo Bic Metal disposable that Gordon on Wetshavers turned me on to. 28 pennies apiece and the only thing metal on it is the tiny strip of single-edge blade strung across the head, but man alive does this cheap disposable razor shave like nobody’s business! I can get as good a shave with a Bic Metal as I can with my usual array of DEs — it’s only good for two or three shaves, and truth be told it’s a bit more touchy shaving against the grain than a good DE, but with a proper lather and a light touch, it’s silly good and far and away the best plastic razor I’ve ever used.
Not so the Wilkinson DE, I’m afraid. Like I said, it shaved me okay. But it wasn’t a huzzah moment, and I don’t recommend hunting one down like I did unless you just want it for grins, especially since a few bucks more can get you a solid steel Merkur DE which is a far better razor in every way.
It’s clear why US vendors haven’t gone out of their way to bring the Wilkinson DE over here. It’s decent, but it’s more of a novelty than a contender, especially when you consider that vintage Gillette DEs are still being won on eBay for under 20 bucks, and any one of them — even the old brass ones from the turn of the century, or the long-handled “ladies” DEs which were designed for shaving gams and pubes — would shave circles around the plastic Wilkinson.
Still, I’m nothing if not a sucker and a completist. I had to have it, and I’m glad I got it. Into my drawer o’ shaving oddities it goes, to join such never-to-be-used-again razors as the 99-cent Russian aluminum DE (the eBay listing called it “chrome”!)that almost sliced my cheek off — you shave with this crude, scrapey thing at your peril. Cost me 5 bucks S/H for a .99 razor that arrived in an unpadded envelope, and the best part of it all was that when I complained to the seller that it was cheap stamped aluminum without a lick of chrome anywhere on it, he graciously sent me a refund — 99 cents. Wotta guy!