Super-Versatile Super Speed

If you had asked me yesterday, pick the razor in your collection that is most unlike the Merkur OC, I probably would have said the Super Speed. The black-handled 1971 razor belongs to the final Gillette lineup before they pulled the plug on DE in America -- not generally thought of as the glory days. Yet there are those who love it.

I value its ability to milk dull blades, and was not disappointed today. The weird thing was, I was handling it in a different way, inspired by the Merkur. Where I would normally plane away lackadaisically on WTG, I planted the top cap and maintained a low pitch angle. Where I would normally attack ATG on second pass, I gingerly assumed a moderate angle and kept to the surface XTG. That inspired some repeated strokes, almost buffing.

There normally wouldn't be a third pass, or I'd skim for pickups. Today, I went a different way XTG, skewed ATG and added a technical feather to my cap: pushing skin toward the blade for ATG pickups. It just felt like the right thing to do -- in the context of controlling traction and staying at the surface, like a barber would.

Now, there were certainly a good number of extra strokes, as I was figuring this all out, but I'm calling the alum test a pass -- a couple of prickles slowly developing to reveal spots of tenderness. Visually, it's toward the high end of cleanliness, and an unequivocal tactile BBS. Prep of dollar tree witch hazel solution (not U.S.P., the little bottle) and Williams. No oil.

The outstanding result drew my attention to some differences between the Tech and Super Speed that I might otherwise have overlooked. A higher curve atop the Super Speed returns to the blade as a flattened surface. Placed against the skin, that would distribute blade-generated traction over a greater area than the contact patch of a simple curve, with minimal tension reduction behind the blade -- at a specific angle. The travel Tech's facets are on the sides, for maneuverability; the only way to control the traction of a dull blade with contact is to plunge it deep. But with the lower curvature, that won't be happening at the moderate pitch angle that a dull blade requires.

It isn't super easy to compare geometries between these razors and the open comb, because of the different baseplate, but the slope of the Super Speed aligns well with the high curvature of the Merkur.

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