In my continuing quest to seek out the best in shaving, I recently purchased a Merkur "Classic" Safety Razor from Classic Shaving. These razors are basically the same design that King Gillette developed around 100 years ago, the type of razor that my Dad started shaving with. I got interested after reading some articles about old-school shaving (1, 2), and thought it would be worth a try.
I'm still in the experimenting stage, but I'll share my comments thus far.
It takes a bit to get used to shaving with this kind of razor. My first shave, I nicked myself in several places and had lots of irritation, despite using shaving oil. My next two shaves (each with a different high-quality shaving lubricant) got a bit better, but still much more irritation than I was used to, and nicks each time. I gradually learned to use less pressure and to go slower, and subsequent shaves have been much, much better in this area.
You can't rush shaving with a safety razor. I find shaving takes me twice as long as it did with a cartridge razor (like my trusty Mach 3).
"Corners" are pretty tricky, and I haven't mastered them yet. I always end up with rough spots in certain areas, even after spending some significant time on them. I'll keep working on it to see if I can improve.
Closeness of the shave is pretty good, except in the tricky areas. Is it as close as my Mach 3? I'm not entirely sure. At some point, I think I'll do some side-by-side trials and see how it feels.
At this point, though, I will say that cartridge razors are faster and easier to use than the old-fashioned safety razor. Alternately, the safety razors can be significantly cheaper to use, though. The razor itself was $25 (US), plus shipping and duty. I can get double-edged blades at 10 for $2 (Cdn) at a local store, though, which is less than a tenth of what most good cartridge razor blades cost.