At about the same time as the original Gillette safety razors were offered for sale, Henrie Clauss filed a patent for a spring loaded hoe razor. It was a reasonable straight forward razor, using a single edged Christy-style blade. So let us have a look at what made it stand out from the crowd.
Like so many razor patents, the patent text describes the invention as containing “new and useful improvements”. And while it might have been novel – or at least novel enough for a patent – I’m unsure of the usefulness.
The patent lists several objects the invention set out to achieve. The patented razor should obviate the liability of loosing parts. It should allow for quickly opening and closing the razor, as well as locking the razor opn. And locking it closed too. And the result?
Well, the long and the short of is is that Clauss’ spring loaded hoe razor was nothing less than a single edge twist to open. Perhaps not the earliest Twist To Open, but certainly an early example.
It has a number of interesting features.
Unlike GEM and EverReady razors, the spring (28) that pushed the blade forward had two points of contact (30), controlled by slots (31) cut on the top cap. This, along with upturned lugs (9) on either side of the base plate and stop-lugs (8) holds the blade secure when the top cap is close.
The top cap is controlled by a knob at the bottom of the handle. This is secured to the handle with a long tie-rod (19) and tensioned by a coil-spring (23). A bayonet lock locks the knob in the up-position. The spring pulls the pin on the knob against the bottom of the handle in the downward position.
All in all I think that Clauss’ spring loaded hoe razor looks pretty good. But the market for safety razors in the early 20th century was – if you all excuse the pun – cutthroat. And against competitors that were already entrenched in the marked, being pretty good was often not good enough.
According to Waits’ Compendium, Henrie and his brother John H was already manufacturing shears, and possible cutlery, when the patent was filed. Despite a few name changes, the company was still in business as of 2005.