There are good ideas. There are bad ideas. And there are weird ideas. And this patent – which I can only think of as a revolver razor – is definitely a weird idea. Although I’m sure the intentions were good. Imaginably titled “disposable multi-bladed safety razor”, the patent was filed by Mr William M Choate in September 1966, and granted two and a half years later.
The basic idea is sound; Why should a disposable razor be good for only one – or at best, a few – shave?
Mind you, a better question might be; Why use a disposable razor, when a safety razor can be inexpensive and do a great job? But that is not the question Mr Choate set out to solve. In part, I think, because he must have been a fumble-fingered man… at least if the introduction to his patent is anything to go by:
The present practice of loading and unloading conventional type safety razors having separate razor blades and blade holders is inefficient and dangerous. As is known, usually the razor blade must be inserted and removed from the holder manually, and there is therefore an attendant hazard of cutting the fingers. Or, the blade may be inserted incorrectly in the holder, and any such misalignment of the blade with respect to the holder may cause the shaver to cut himself. Also, it is difficult to find an entirely safe way to dispose of used razor blades, and they may continue to be a hazard, especially to children even after they have been discarded.From US patent 3,430,341
A solution in search of a problem
I’m not sure how you would measure – or even define – efficiency when it comes to changing blades in a safety razor, but I wouldn’t consider it dangerous by any stretch of the imagination. And if a double edged blade worries you, use a GEM style blade or even an injector. Incorrect insertion is only a problem if you use a razor with very loose tolerances. And safe disposal is easy – back then it was a hole in the drywall, today it is a sharps container. So let us just say I question the whole reasoning behind the patent and move on.
Mr Choate’s solution to the perceived problems took the form of a plastic disposable. Inside the rather large head was a star shaped array of eight flexible blades, which were rotatable – or revolving, if you like. Thus his invention could be called an eight shoot revolver razor.
Mechanically interesting, the razor seems to be rather fiddly and difficult to assemble properly – despite the patent claiming that it would be “so simple and economical to manufacture that it is more practicable to discard the entire safety razor mechanism, including blade holder, handle and used blades, rather than attempt to reuse any of the parts”. Given that modern cartridges are also rather complicated, this may be correct. It may also be wrong – manufacture technology have come a long way since ’66.
The razor relies on the flexibility of the blades. As can be seen from the drawings, the star shaped blade assembly were made with straight blades, which then is bent almost 90° upon assembly. To me, this sounds silly. The tempering would be tricky at best, or downright impossible. This is one part of the revolver razor which I believe would have seen significant changes before production. Said start shaped blade would be inserted in a round holder, and a knob allowed the shaver to rotate it. Upon rotation of the knob, one blade at the time would be presented through a slot in the blade holder. Or as the verbose patent puts it:
The magazine 14, shown as an integral part of the razor body 11, may be generally cylindrical and may have a closed end 17, an open end 18, a longitudinally extending blade guide slot 19, and a longitudinally extending blade guard bar 20. Inside the magazine 14 proximate its closed end a button or knob member 21 may be provided to receive multi-blade element 12, in the manner particularly shown in FIG. 3. Inside the magazine 14 proximate its open end a multiplicity of circumferential teeth 22 and an annular groove 23 may be provided, to receive blade control knob 13, in the manner particularly shown in FIGS. 3 and 5. Outside the magazine 14 proximate its open end two indexing marks 24 and 25 may be provided for a purpose to be more particularly described The multi-bladed element 12, shown in FIG. 9, may include a cylindrical bladecarrying core 26, a multiplicity of flexible razor blades 27, 27a, etc., which may extend radially outward with respect to the axis of said element, and a number of longitudinally extending circumferential slots 28, 28a, etc., to engage razor blade control knob 13 in the maner shown in FIGS. 3 and 6. As shown in FIGS. 4, 5 and 7 when multi-bladed element 12 is placed in blade magazine 14, its blades may be flexed to dispose their sharpened shaving edges tangentially with respect to the cylindrical wall of magazine 14.From US patent 3,430,341
The razor blade control knob 13 may include an outer dial portion 29 and an outwardly tapered knurled portion 30. Under its knurled portion 30, knob 13 may include an inwardly extending short cylindrical portion 31, which may be slotted as shown at 32, 32a, etc. Cylindrical portion 31 may be adapted to provide a blade lock 33, to engage with teeth 22, and may have an annular ridge 34, to fit into annular groove 23, all in a manner believed to be fully illustrated in FIGS. 3, 5, 7 and 8. Still further inward knob 13 may have an inwardly projecting button or stopper member 35, which may carry longitudinally extending raised ridges such as 36, 36a, etc., to engage the circumferential slots 28, 28a, etc., in the manner clearly shown in FIG. 6.
I see a ton of potential issues with the design. If nothing else, the slot in the blade holder would admit water and lather into the magazine. This in turn would most likely cause corrosion and rust. And that would mean that several of the cutting edges would be unusable when it was time to use them.
Given how many disposable revolver razors we see around us today, I think it’s safe to say this patent went nowhere. But it is an interesting example of how human ingenuity can be used to solve a perceived problem – even when the problem does not exists in the first place.