Retractablebrushes is nothing new. A combined multi-position shaving brush with a built in lather rubber device? That’s more unusual.
Patented by Leon Tobias in 1920, the brush was – of course – touted as a new and improved shaving brush. In the words of the patent:
This invention relates to improvements in shaving brushes, an object of the invention being to provide a shaving brush equipped with the ordinary bristles for forming and distributing lather and also provided with means for rubbing the lather into the face to soften the heard, the parts so constructed and arranged as to permit either the bristles or the rubbing device to be exposed for use at the end of suitable handle.
Whenever I see a patent with a particularly odd name, like “disposable cylindrical razor apparatus”, I wonder if Leonardo da Quirm1 was involved somehow.
So what is a disposable cylindrical razor apparatus? When all is said and done, it is a disposable razor in an odd format. Disposable razors is nothing new, and I’ve covereda few overthe years – some in weird shapes. But what makes this one stick out is that it comes with four cutting surfaces, and looks to be meant to be used as a shavette.
Remember the abandoned patent application I shared with you last week? Remember how I said one reason for the abandonment might be the existence of a lot of prior art? Well, I found one piece of prior art; Dyer T Kendrick’s 1902 patent for a push up shave stick.
I’ve discussed various self loading brushes before. But all of them, including the one from 1849 as well as the Brush Plus from the eighties, used soap that was either liquid or semi-liquid. Woodburry P Lefavour’s shaving brush patent from 1890 is the first I’ve seen that used a solid soap.
Inventions are – when all is said and done – solutions to a problem or an improvement to the state of the art. Lefavour claimed that his brush was a new and useful improvement to the humble shaving brush.
Sometimes people files patent applications with the best of intentions, but at the same time a lack of understanding as to what the prior art is. One I recently found was Kevin Monte de Ramos’ Shaving Stick. The application was in 2005, and abaondoned a couple of years later.
Most patents seems to be focused on solving a problem. And the problem Kevin sought to fix, was that you would have to use your hand to apply lather. Or in his own words:
Shaving aids available in the market today come in three primary forms: (a) soaps whipped into a lather and then applied to the face using a brush, (b) creams/gels/lotions dispensed from the container into the hand and then spread across the area to be shaved, or as a (c) liquid astringent splashed onto the body. The use of these shaving aids have a single unifying inconvenience: each requires an intermediary tool to apply the shaving aid onto the skin; namely the user’s hand. Additionally, shaving creams/gels/lotions accumulate to hide the hairs to be shaved. As such, it is often necessary to manually remove excess lubricant before passing the blade near critical hair lines; a man’s sideburn and mustache or a women’s bikini line. Another inconvenience is that shaving kits, cans of shaving cream, and bottles of shaving astringents take up limited space in our travel bags.
From US patent application US11/306,176
For starters, I wouldn’t say that having to use my hand to wield a brush is an inconvenience. But, for the sake of the argument, let’s pretend that it is.
Kevin goes on to describe how he got the idea for his invention while out shopping, wondering why shaving aids didn’t come in a deodorant container. So he went home and tried, and applied for a patent for the idea.
Can I just say that Kevin produced an oddly endearing drawing to go with his application?
According to the application, 1a is ‘applicator assembly body’ – i.e.: a deodorant tube. 1b is the lid for the tube, and 1c is the turn knob. 2 is the actual shaving soap, while 3 is the whole assembly. The whole thing is not exactly an un-intuitive step from someone used to deodorants and shaving soaps.
I can think of a couple of reasons why Kevin choose to abandon his patent application. Aside from the money needed to file a full patent, that is.. One is the fact that you would still be inconvenienced by using your hands to apply the shaving stick to your face. Unless, that is, you balances the shaving stick on your vanity and then bend down to rub your face over it.
The other reason is that a shaving stick in a convenient container isn’t a new idea by far. A hundred years ago – eighty years before Kevin filed the application for his shaving stick – you could get such things as Colgate’s Handy-Grip and Safetee in a tin. In short, there was prior art, and probably a lot of it too.
These days, advertisement posters and signs are cheap, cheerful, and on paper. Here today, gone tomorrow. Use and discard. Back in the days however, signs promoting wares could be more durable. Meant to last a long time.
The Great War – which gave us such things as the ComfyKit,1 the smooth shaven soldier, and body shaming the ladies – ended in November 1918. Interestingly enough, that almost immediately prompted a change in how razors were marketed. As an example, I have two advertisements for the GEM khaki kit for you today. One from 1918, and one from 1919.
The origin of the term ‘safety razor’ is a little unclear. As documented over at razors.click, the term did not originate with the Kampfe brothers as so often claimed. But no matter who came up with it, or when, it was in common enough use by 1887 that Gustavus Rein explicitly used it both as the title and in the body of his patent. Which is interesting enough, but what really caught my attention is that the razor that Gustavus Rein patented was a twofer. Not only was it a hoe-style wedge razor, but it could also be used as what we today would call a shavette.