An early face moistening razor

We just looked at a pair of John Heissenberger’s wedge razors. Simple, sane razors… so off course he had to do as so many others and patent a face moistening razor that stretches and lathers the skin. Because quitting while ahead don’t occur to most people, I guess.

Unlike Gillette, and EverReady, Christy, and others, John Heissenberg still didn’t opt for a flat, replaceable blade. He stuck with the wedge blade he was familiar with instead. What he did change was the way to secure the blade, as well as adding complexities. Complexities in the form of a folding roller for face moistening.

Or to quote the patent:

It has as its novel features a spring operated means secured to or formed integral with the comb or frame for retaining the blade in proper position, and in a device for moistening the face of the operator in advance of the cutting edge of the razor.

From US patent 979,296
Patent drawing for John Heissenberger's face moistening razor
Patent drawing from US patent 979,296

One of the most interesting things to me is how the back of the razor head is split into three tongues. The two outer tongues forms the hinge for the lever that holds the blade in place. The centre tongue act as a leaf spring to create tension on said lever. Or as the patent text verbosely put it:

The depressed central portion of the plate A is provided with slits b, whereby the spring members B B and B result, and so that the three will have a nearly equal amount of flexibility I perforate the center member in its thickest part as indicated Referring to Fig. 2 it will be noted that I have turned the outwardly extending ends of the outermost sections B B in such a manner as to produce a hook on each part, these hooks serving as bearings for the trunnions C C formed integral with the lever member C. The lever member or cam C is of an extended S shape and the trunnions C C are quite near the lower end. The upwardly extending longer part bears against the rear side of the razor blade and is sufficiently long to allow room above the blade for the engagement of the finger of the operator when it becomes desirable to disengage the lever. The lower end of the lever is retained continuously in intimate contact with the center section B and it will be understood that the action of the lever is controlled by the springs B B and B.

From US patent 979,296

A very neat way to make one part do several things at once.

The other interesting thing is the device that seems to have been bolted on to a perfectly serviceable razor. Called the “moistener” in the patent text, and marked with an F on the drawings, it was either constructed of perforated sheet metal or a felt covered sheet metal roller. In the former, uhm, form it were to be filled with a saponaceous mixture. In the later form it would be sufficient, according to the patent, to soak it in water before shaving.

The roller could be swung up against the guard, or down against the handle. A pair of small flat springs acted on bellcranks to bias it to either position. In the up position the roller would press against the face a fraction of an inch before the edge of the blade… for all the good that wouldn’t do.

Another variation of the face moistening razor is shown in figure 5. In this embodiment of the invention, the moistening agent is stored in a reservoir M, with a series of tubes connecting it to an perforated guard. While this could work with a low viscosity moisturiser, I find it hard to see how it would work when the edge of the razor were pointed any other way than down.

While John Heissenberger managed to get one of his earlier razors into production, this one seems to have failed hard. Which isn’t surprising by itself – what is surprising is that the idea of a self lathering or face moistening razor refuses to die. It’s bad enough that EverReady got a patent for a five bladed cart with a lubricating element that could be swung into place in 2012. It is even worse, in my opinion, that someone has several recent patents on self lubricating and skin stretching double edged safety razors.

The full text of John Heissenberger’s patent can be read on Google patent. If you enjoy this sort of things, why not check out some of the other posts I’ve made on shaving patents and other shaving oddities?

2 thoughts on “An early face moistening razor

  1. Pingback: An early face moistening razor - Razors n Blades the shave that saves

  2. Pingback: Attachment for safety razors - Wegian WetshavingWegian Wetshaving

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