Reciprocating single edge roller razor

Some of you may recall the King Oscillator and the Rotary King razors I wrote about a while back. But King wasn’t the first – or the last – to propose a reciprocating razor. Almost a decade before King got his patents, Robert Taylor got a patent for a safety razor. A safety razor where the act of shaving made the blade reciprocate. Or as the US patent office helpfully classify it:

B26B21/36 Safety razors with one or more blades arranged transversely to the handle of the type carrying rollers with provision for reciprocating the blade

As a side note the blade moving sideways or vibrating is an idea that just won’t die, even if it ought to be well known that a razor is not a saw. To me the idea of sawing the blade is pointless – it would be better to keep the blade sharp.

Taylor may be forgiven, considering that his reciprocating razor was made to use a wedge blade.1 Wedge blades are inherently non-disposable, and keeping them stropped and honed would be a significant task. It would make a little bit of sense to eke out another shave or two of the blade between each sharpening.

In the patent, several variations of the reciprocating mechanism is shown. One is a slot cut in the roller, which engages a finger, which slide the frame holding the blade from side to side. Another has fingers of each end of the roller doing the same thing. And the last one has a small slanted cogwheel, engaging the roller and acting on a small forked extension.

All in all, a lot of mental gymnastic to change the rotating motion of the roller into a linear motion of the blade. And a lot of small fiddly parts to manufacture in a day and age when making things were inherently more difficult than it is today.

Patent drawing showing Robert Taylor's reciprocating razor.
Patent drawing from US patent 990,682

One interesting feature is that Taylor arranged the roller to act as a guard on his reciprocating razor. This is in contrast to King, who places his rollers on the top of the razors. To quote from Taylor’s patent:

It should be stated that the surface grip roller g mentioned in connection-with the above-described device constitutes the guard a so be supplied where for the blade and is arranged in suitable close proximity to the blade a for this purpose, the actual distance between the. guard and blade being set as desired. In the forms illustrated the roller is shown as not substantially longer than the blade and of equal external diameter throughout, but these features are by way of example and not necessary to the invention.

From US patent 990,682

Taylor’s patent for his reciprocating razor is long expired. The design should be easy enough to modify to use a GEM or other single edged blade. The real question would be why bother? It is a fiddly and complicated solution to a problem we don’t have in this era of truly inexpensive razor blades.

As normal, the full patent can be read at Google Patents.


  1. Held in place with a bent spring (d on the drawing) and clips (b on the drawing)

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