Rennie E Billingsley and the amazing rubber razor

Sometimes you find an old patent that is amazing. I mean, I’m amazed as to how Rennie E Billingsley could ever think his invention was a bright idea. I’m amazed his lawyer didn’t talk him out of spending time and money on a patent application. And I am utterly not amazed that it seems to have sunk without a trace.

The idea is clever enough; make the razor follow the face more closely. It’s the execution that is scary. You start by adding three blades to a thin, flexible steel plate. Then you coat both sides of the plate in rubber. Attach the device to your hand with straps. Drag the whole thing across your face. Having the ambulance on speed dial before you shave sound like a sensible precaution.

In all fairness, it was probably less horrible than I make it out to be. Let us see what Rennie E Billingsley had to say about the invention:

This invention relates to razors of the safety form, and has for one of its objects to provide a device of this character having a yieldable or flexible support for a plurality of blades, to enable the razor to adapt itself to the contour of the face while being moved thereover.

With these and other objects in view, the invention consists in certain novel features of construction as hereinafter shown and described and then specifically pointed out in the claims, and in the drawings illustrative of the preferred embodiment of the invention.

The cutting edges of the blades project slightly in advance of the facing sections to provide the requisite severing exposure.

The razor is held when in use in the palm of the hand by the straps before referred to, and is more or less elastic, and thus adapts itself to the curvature and contour of the face. The shorter blade at the elliptical end enables narrow or confined portions of the face to be more readily reached.

Rennie E Billingsley in US patent 1,383,783
Patent drawing for Rennie E Billingsley's rubber razor.
Patent drawing for US patent 1,383,783

What horrifies me about the design is the exposed blades without a guard. A worry I’m sure all the straight edge shavers in the world don’t share. But there is, I believe, a lot more controllability with a straight than with a rubber lump strapped to your hand.

The full patent can be read at both Google Patents and If you enjoy reading about old shaving related patents and other oddities, I got a whole page full of them.

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