Merkur 38C

Unsure if the Merkur 38C is right for you? Check out our razor database and compare it to other popular safety razors.

The Merkur 38C, also simply known as the “Barber Pole,” is an excellent choice for people new to wet shaving, those with sensitive skin, and individuals who prefer a longer handle for better weight distribution while shaving.

Today, we’ll dive deep into the features, performance, and alternatives of the Merkur 38C, a chrome-finished safety razor made in Solingen, Germany, to help you make an informed decision on whether this safety razor is the right choice for you.

Key Features of the Merkur 38C

When considering the Merkur 38C, you’ll want to take a closer look at the following:

Balance and Weight

The Merkur 38C is a heavyweight safety razor, weighing 111 grams (3.92 ounces); making it one of the heavier options available on the market. The extra weight provides better control and balance, allowing the razor to do more of the work in cutting through facial hair. As a result, users can achieve a close shave with minimal pressure, reducing the risk of irritation and razor burn.

“The weight of the Merkur 38C gives a great balance and helps me control the pressure while shaving.” – Richard P.

However, the downside of the heavier weight is that it may take some time for users to get accustomed to it, especially if they’re transitioning from a lighter safety razor or another shaving tool like the cartridge razor. It’s important that you give yourself time to adapt to the change in weight and find the right pressure and angle for your individual shaving preferences.

Here’s how this razor compares to other safety razors:


This safety razor features a long handle with a barber pole style design, inspired by the spiraled etching found on American barber poles – hence the name “Barber Pole.” This design provides a fairly good grip while shaving, even for users with large hands. The handle also has grooves for added grip. However, some customers find the spiral design to be slippery, so it’s essential to try to keep your hands dry during the shaving process to maintain optimal control.

Here’s what one user had to say about the grip:

“I appreciate the barber pole handle design, but it can be a bit slippery at times.” – Samantha L.

Now if you are looking to shave in the shower, then the Merkur 38C might not be the best option due to the potential slipperiness. Instead, you may want to consider a safety razor with a textured or rubberized grip for added security in wet environments.

Perhaps the Merkur 23C, 34C, or another brand altogether has a diamond knurling pattern on the handle, which allows for better grip in wet conditions.

Did You Know: The color of the barber pole is derived from an old tradition of bloodletting and represents the red and white bandages used during the procedure. The blue stripe, which can also be found in some barber poles, represents the veins.


With a total length of 102.1 mm (4.02 inches), the Merkur 38C includes a handle length of 96.2 mm (3.79 inches). This longer handle improves weight distribution and control, particularly for users with larger hands or those who prefer longer shaving strokes.

Folks with smaller hands may initially find the longer handle to be somewhat unwieldy, but it’s important to note that the optimal grip and handling will vary from person to person. Just like with the weight, it’s essential to give yourself time to adapt to the longer handle and find the right balance and control for your shaving style.

Here’s how the 38C compares to other razors in terms of length:

Number of Pieces

The Merkur 38C is a 2-piece razor that features a closed comb, scalloped safety bar head. The closed comb design provides a close shave without exposing too much blade, reducing the risk of accidental nicks and skin irritation.

How Easy is it to Load Your Blade?

The 2-piece design allows for easier blade replacement than a 3-piece design, though it may not be as convenient as butterfly-opening razors. Nevertheless, users will have no trouble loading and unloading blades, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free shaving experience.

The plate and handle are connected by a screw mechanism, so to replace the blade, you simply need to unscrew the bottom of the handle, separate the plate from the top cap, and insert a new blade.

How Does The Merkur 38C Barber Pole Perform And Shave?

Shaving with the 38C does take considerable time to get used to, especially for those who are new to safety razors or transitioning from cartridge razors. However, once you have familiarized yourself with the weight, balance, and overall handling of the razor, it delivers an efficient and comfortable shave.

The comb, identical to many other Merkur closed comb safety razors, provides mild to medium aggressiveness, which is ideal for beginners. We also found this level of aggressiveness to be suitable for those with sensitive skin, as it provides a close shave without causing irritation.

As one newcomer to safety razors noted:

“I was hesitant to try a safety razor at first, fearing that it would be too aggressive and result in nicks and cuts. However, after using the Merkur 38C for several weeks, I found that it gave me a close, comfortable shave with no irritation. It took a few days to get the hang of it, but once I did, I realized that the weight and balance of the razor actually helped me apply the right amount of pressure without pressing too hard.” – Marco P.

Folks with thicker facial hair or those who are carrying heavier stubble may find that they need to make multiple passes with the Merkur 38C to achieve a BBS (baby-butt smooth) shave. The closed comb design helps to minimize the risk of ingrown hairs while still allowing for a close enough shave for most users.

Which blades are best suited?

The Merkur 38C is compatible with a wide range of double-edge safety razor blades. However, the right blade choice may vary based on personal preference and skin type.

Some popular options include Merkur’s own MK-911 blades, Astra, and Feather blades. It’s advisable to try out different blades to determine the best fit for your skin and shaving requirements. You can find variety packs of double-edge blades from online stores like Amazon or specialized shaving websites, which allow you to sample multiple brands and find your ideal match.

What Are Some Other Safety Razors To Consider?

While the Merkur 38C is an excellent choice for many, you might also consider these alternatives:

  • Merkur 34C: A popular option with a shorter handle for those who prefer a more compact design but similar aggressiveness. The weight is also slightly lighter making it perhaps a bit more maneuverable for some users.
  • Parker 99R: This safety razor features a similar handle design but offers a more aggressive shave and a butterfly opening for convenient blade changing. It is also quite affordable and has gained a reputation for its durability and quality.
  • Edwin Jagger DE89: This England-made safety razor has a sleek, chrome-plated design and is known for its mild to moderate aggressiveness. Some folks on Reddit prefer the DE89 over the 38C due to its better value and potentially better shave.

Why the Weight of a Safety Razor is a Big Factor in Performance

If it’s your first time using a safety razor, you may not realize how vital the weight of the razor is in achieving a comfortable and efficient shave. A heavier razor, such as the Merkur 38C, provides better control and allows the weight of the razor to do the work in cutting through facial hair rather than relying on added pressure from the user.

When using the 38C, you simply want to guide the razor gently across your skin, allowing the weight to do the work for you. Applying additional pressure with this razor will likely lead to razor burn, irritation, or even nicks and cuts.

Transitioning From a Cartridge Razor is Easy With The Merkur 38C

The Merkur 38C is an excellent choice for users transitioning from cartridge razors to double-edge safety razors. Its closed comb design, mild to medium aggressiveness, and easy blade replacement make it a suitable option for beginners in wet shaving.

Additionally, the longer length is similar to that of most cartridge razors, which can provide a sense of familiarity for those making the switch.

With practice and persistence, users will enjoy the cost savings of using safety razor blades compared to expensive cartridge replacements, as well as the classic wet shaving experience.

If you are looking for further guidance, here is a great Reddit thread for beginners in wet shaving.

Pro Tip: If you are new to using a safety razor, it’s essential to start with a more forgiving blade like the Astra Superior Platinum or Derby Extra. These blades are known for their smoothness and gentle shaving capabilities, which can help minimize irritation and nicks as you hone your technique.

What We Like

  • Comfortable handle length and weight for a close shave
  • High-quality build and design
  • Suitable for beginners and those with sensitive skin
  • Cost-effective compared to cartridge razors
  • Smooth shave without irritation

What We Don’t Like

  • Grip can be slippery due to spiral design and weight
  • Not a butterfly-opening razor, which some users may prefer

Bottom Line

The Merkur 38C offers an attractive design, efficient shaving, and a close, comfortable shave. Though some may find the grip to be slippery, this safety razor is well-suited for beginners in wet shaving, those with sensitive skin, and individuals who prefer a longer handle. The Merkur 38C is a reliable and cost-effective option for anyone looking to transition from cartridge razors to classic wet shaving.

Overall Rating:

Compare the Merkur 38C to other safety razors:

Features Add Product
NameMerkur 38CMerkur 34CMerkur 37CMühle R41Merkur 25CKing C. Gillette Safety Razor
Overall Rating
CompositionBrass and die-cast zinc alloyBrass and die-cast zinc alloyBrass and die-cast zinc alloyChrome-plated metalChrome-plated brass and zinc die-castingChrome-plated metal
GripSwirling GroovesKnurledSwirling GroovesFine chasingKnurledSwirling Grooves
CombClosed combClosed combSlantOpen combOpen combClosed comb
Country of OriginGermanyGermanyGermanyGermanyGermanyChina
Blade CompatibilityDouble-edge safety razor bladesDouble-edge safety razor bladesDouble-edge safety razor bladesDouble-edge safety razor bladesDouble-edge safety razor bladesDouble-edge safety razor blades
Number of Blades111111
Number of Pieces222333
Weight in Ounces3.922.822.
Weight in Grams11180776468104.3
Length in Inches43.
Length in Centimeters10.168.338.39.410.39.5
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Buy the Merkur 38C from these retailers:

West Coast Shaving
Shave Nation

About the author:

John Miller is a passionate wet shaving enthusiast, a pastime he has been devoted to for the past 7 years. A veteran of the trade, he has earned the reputation of being an meticulous advocate of traditional wet shaving. When John first got into the hobby, he read and researched the techniques extensively, often trying new blades and techniques, and now has an unparalleled knowledge of the best products, techniques, and tools available.

John is widely respected in the wet shaving community and is a trusted source of advice and reviews. He also contributes to several wet shaving forums, often discussing the finer points of traditional shaving.

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