as you can see, this place is always full of good advice, and i think you've gotten some already.
One thing i might add is lose the Merkur blades, even though your 'symptoms' point to technique rather than equipment.
For me, Merkurs are the worst blade out there (but, as the Badger & Blade mantra goes...YMMV)....
try another blade and see if there's any improvement...
Best of luck with your new addictions!
"[FONT="Trebuchet MS"]A true gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude."[/FONT]