Merkur/Dovo Solingen has been developing shaving tools since 1906.  This German-based company, known for its fine metallurgy and meticulous craftsmanship, is a trusted brand when it comes to safety razors.  

In this review, I wanted to put the Merkur 38C double edge safety razor to the test and see how it performs.  

Many wet shavers refer to this unique safety razor simply as the Barber Pole given its distinct knurled handle that is etched just like the old-school barber pole that you see outside of barbershops.

Related: What is a Safety Razor

Merkur 38C Barber Pole
A mild safety razor that has a nice long handle and plenty of weight. A great all-around safety razor.

Features of the Merkur 38C Barber Pole Safety Razor

To give you an idea of how this safety razor looks and feels, here is a detailed look at all of its components: 

Composition

What makes the Merkur 38C distinct from many other safety razors is the weight – noted by the Heavy Duty (HD) often found at the end of its name.

According to the Merkur website, the 38C is made from a brass handle that has been paired with a zinc die-cast razor head.  Additionally, this metal has been treated with a chrome plated finish that gives it a distinctly bright and shiny look.

Two-Piece Razor

Safety razors can be either a one, two, or three-piece system.  As demonstrated in the image below, the Merkur 38C is a two-piece safety razor:

The mount which the blades rest upon is fixed to the handle and is paired with a removable cap.

Length

When it comes to length, the 38C is long.  At 4.00″ in length, the 38C stands quite tall:

For comparison, the Merkur 34C is only 3″ in length – a whole inch shorter.

Related: Merkur 34C vs Merkur 38C

So, what does this mean for you?

Most notably, should you have larger hands, then you can expect the 38C to provide a nice balance of both control and comfort.  

Additionally, if you are using a safety razor for the very first time, then the longer handle length found in the 38C will be closer to that of a cartridge razor (although, still considerably shorter):

But with great length comes increased weight – which makes using this safety razor a fair bit easier (covered more in the next section).

Just to give you another perspective of the handle length of this razor, here’s what it looks like in my hand:

Just for note, I am 5′ 8″ and like to think I have average-sized hands.

Weight

As far as weight goes, the Merkur lives true to its name of being a heavy-duty razor.  At an impressive 109g / 3.84oz, this razor is in a class all of its own:

To put this into comparison, here are a few other popular razor systems and their respective weights:

RazorWeight
Merkur 38C3.84oz / 109g
OneBlade Core2.33oz / 66g
Gillette Fusion ProGlide1.69oz / 48g
Schick Hydro 51.45oz / 41g

Related: OneBlade Razor Review

The added benefit to all this weight is that the razor can do a lot of the cutting itself rather than requiring you to apply any pressure.  

By simply letting it rest on your face, you can steer the razor as the weight is enough to cut through your whiskers with ease.

Comb

The comb or safety bar found on the Merkur 38C is a scalloped closed comb type:

Therefore, you should expect a milder shave when compared to an open comb safety razor.  

Additionally, the scalloped design of the safety bar allows for your facial hair to be fed easily into the razor blade as it cuts.

Grip

When shaving, it’s important that you have a confident grip to maintain control should your hands be slippery if coated with shaving cream.

Unlike other safety razors, such as the Maggard safety razor we recently reviewed which features a diamond-knurled handle, the 38C has a distinct barber pole knurled design:

As you can see from above, the etchings wrap around the handle in an upwards/downwards manner.  You see, it’s the little details like this that make a company like Merkur so highly respected due to their attention to detail.

Razor Head

For the head of the razor, here’s how it looks when a blade has been set:

The blade gap here is pretty mild and suitable for beginners.

Compatible Razor Blades

Like all safety razors, the Merkur 38C is compatible with a variety of brands. As demonstrated below, you can see that it can easily load in a Japanese Feather Hi-Stainless razor blade:

Or an Egypt-made Shark razor blade:

So you are free to test across many different brands to find out which razor blade provides the most comfortable shave experience for you.

Related: Best Safety Razor Blades

Shaving with the Merkur 38C

Now to the important part – seeing how the Merkur 38C actually performs.

So in this review, I will be testing the 38C with the Taylor of Old Bond Street (TOBS) Shaving Cream.  If you are interested in this shaving cream, I invite you to check out a detailed review that was just recently published to learn more.

For starters here, I am sitting with one day’s worth of facial hair growth:

Additionally, I took a shower prior to shaving to help soften the stubble and make for better shaving conditions.  While the Merkur 38C can work by just simply splashing some warm water on your face and beginning the shave, I found that showering ahead of time makes for better results.

Once generating a nice lather with TOBS, this is what I was working with:

A fairly nice and slick lather that was prepped for the shave.

Now when it came to taking the first pass with the 38C, things looked (and went) pretty well:

By letting the weight of the razor do the work for me, the 38C (loaded with Feather blades) felt pretty comfortable and sliced through my beard easily.

When working the neck and getting at the optimal shave angle (between 30 and 45-degrees), I was able to cut away that troublesome neck hair with very little irritation or pain:

One shining feature of the Merkur 38C is that the head isn’t large like the Merkur Futur or other safety razors.  So when working the details around the nose, there was no problem at all – especially when getting the whiskers right under my nostrils:

As for the final results, here you go:

Yes, I missed rinsing the shaving cream off behind my ear – thanks for noticing 🙂

Now a quick note for the results:

My skin is mildly sensitive.  Therefore, I only took one pass with this razor for the photo review (in the video review I took two).  Could I have made a few additional passes with this razor across the grain and against the grain?  Absolutely.

However, I am okay with a slight bit of grit feeling and personally don’t chase that silky smooth finish.

As far as the general performance of this razor, here are my notes:

  • The 38C doesn’t clog at all when shaving.  I found that the razor could easily make a few passes before the head needed to be rinsed of clipped facial hair.
  • For aggressiveness, I found that this razor is quite mild.  It didn’t feel like it was ever too terribly close with my skin or uncomfortably noticeable – making it good for men with sensitive skin.
  • This razor is heavy – and that’s a good thing.  When making passes with the 38C, I simply let the weight of the razor do its thing.  I hardly applied any additional pressure.
  • As noted earlier, the handle on this particular razor is long.  It’s not unwieldy by any means – but it is comfortable enough should you be coming from a cartridge razor.

A note about shave performance: I don’t want to touch too much on the actual quality of the cut or how well the razor glided across my skin as it is dependent on both the razor blade and shaving cream you use (both were fine).

Bottom Line:

The Merkur 38C performs well.  The long handle and increased weight will take some getting used to should you be coming from a cartridge razor system.  If you are experienced with safety razors, expect the 38C to deliver a reliable shave with mild aggressiveness.

Where Can You Buy the Merkur 38C?

One of the problems with niche tools such as safety razors is that they can be quite hard to find locally.  Unless you live in a large city, you are reserved to only buying online.  

Fortunately, the Merkur 38C is pretty popular online and you can find it regularly in stock at the following online retailers:

  • Amazon
  • West Coast Shaving
  • Maggard’s Razors
  • Walmart (I believe online only)
  • Fendrihan
  • Grooming Lounge
Merkur 38C Barber Pole
A mild safety razor that has a nice long handle and plenty of weight. A great all-around safety razor.

Final Thoughts on the Merkur 38C

Overall, I really like the Merkur 38C.  It’s a beginner-friendly safety razor that provides a simple and mild shave experience.  While it always takes some time getting used to a safety razor blade, I think you will be happy with the results once you master this tool.  Ultimately, would I recommend this?  Yes.

Shawn Burns

Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn's expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.

Published: December 19, 2020

Last Updated: July 14, 2021