Another four edge razor

Most of us are happy with a single or double edge razor. Some want more than that, and I’m not talking about carts… I’m talking quad-edge. And I’m not talking about the one that Mr J K Waterman patented in 1909, no… This one is a bit newer, and was filed by Robert E Hamilton in 1924.

So lets see that Robert tried to achieve, that the offerings with fewer edges failed at:

…its prime object to generally improve upon such devices by providing a simple and efficient construction which will afford a maximum number of shaves with a minimum amount of trouble, one which is reliable, inexpensive to manufacture, easy to manipulate, strong, durable, and well adapted to the purpose for which it is designed.

US patent 1,721,113

As can be seen from the patent drawing, Robert’s razor features a massive – and I mean massive – head. The square top cap, plate, bottom plate, and handle is secured together in a somewhat convoluted way.. Lets quite Robert again:

A guard plate 7 having a square formation is provided with a concave inner surface indicated at 8 on which is mounted a U-shaped spring clip 9 by means of a screw 10. This verging terminals 11 and is adapted to be inserted through the square opening 2 so that its diverging terminals 11 overlap the outer face of the body 1. The upper face of the body 1 is of a substantially concaved formation and a square blade 12 is adapted to rest thereon being held in place by the guard plate 7. This blade is provided with four cutting edges and the corners thereof are prevented from contacting with the skin by guards 6. A bracket 14 is mounted on the outer face of the body 1 over the opening 2 and is provided with a threaded opening for receiving the reduced threaded extension 15 of a handle 16.

US patent 1,721,113
US patent 1,721,113

Clear as mud? No? Didn’t think so… as best I can make out you insert the four descending leaf springs from the top cap through the blade and into slots in the bottom plate. The handle just screws to the bottom plate, so you could in theory use aftermarket handles.

The whole patent can be read at Google Patents.

X3X Temper – a wartime discovery

The Great War – known later as the first world war – was a time of rapid innovation and discovery. Sadly, most of what we discovered and invented was faster, better, cheaper, and more horrifying ways of killing each other… but some of the discoveries also had uses after the war. Such as new ways to temper steel, which were later used in the EverReady Radio blades.

Vintage advertisement for EverReady Radio razor blades with X3X temper.

A quick online search don’t give any details on the tempering process used, but the kit pictured is identical to one I’ve inherited from a family friend.

A recent Gillette Patent

Design patents can be… underwhelming.

Case in point; Gillette Co LLC’s patent filed in the US1 on 2013-02-14, and granted just over three years later. Let me quote the relevant part of the patent text in full:

…a razor package showing my new design having a gradient pattern from the upper portion to the lower portion and a band on a razor package disposed between the upper and lower portion…

US design patent #751386S1

Yeah. Gillette patented the concept of a gradient pattern on the back cardstock piece of their blister packs. Which means no one else can do that until march 2030, unless you want a nastygram from the Gillette lawyers.

If you’ll like to see the other drawings, the patent in full is available at Google Patents.

William J Moore’s simplified safety razor

Remember how difficult it was to disassemble and assemble your three piece safety razor the first time? Me neither, but William J Moore patented the solution in 1907; a Gillette razor – as described in US patent 775,134 – with the bottom plate removed.

Yes, you read that right. In order to make an admittedly simple safety razor simpler, Mr Moore did away with 25% of the parts. Instead of top cap, blade, baseplate and handle, William J Moore’s simplified safety razor contained top cap, blade and handle. To quote:

It will be evident that by giving the guard plate the location shown with reference to the blade, that is, on the side thereof that comes next the face, and which is opposite to the side to which the handle is applied, and from which it projects at a right-angle, make the guard plate perform the extra function of a supporting plate, and thereby materially simplify the structure, since one less part is necessary than in the case of the constructions heretofore employed in razors of this type, which simplification results in the double advantage of cheapening the cost of manufacture and simplifying the work of separation and assemblage of the parts.

US patent 856,793
Drawing from US patent 856,793

In addition, Mr Moore claimed that his improved razor was easier to use than Gillette’s razor. Reading the patent text, I can see what he was going for… but given the plethora of William J Moore’s simplified safety razor that can easily be found in antiques shops, flea markets and so on, I would say the market didn’t agree with him.

An advantage, other than the simplification of the structure, which is derived by the location of the guard on the side of the blade which brings the guard next to the face, is that the degree of closeness of the shave can be determined or regulated in so simple a manner as the variation of the angle at which the razor is presented to the surface being shaved, a variation in the angle resulting in a change of distance of the razor edge from the surface being shaved. With the ordinary construction, wherein the guard is on the opposite side of the blade, the protrusion of the guard fingers beyond the edge of the razor is indispensable, and this precludes the possibility of regulating the closeness of the shave by change in the angle of presentation of the razor to the surface of the face, making it necessary when the degree of closeness of the shave is to be regulated to change or shift the position of the blade with reference to the guard, a procedure which is not only inconvenient and requires time, but which requires a certain degree of skill, which the inexperienced users of safety razors lack. By my invention, as a result of placing the guard on the side of the razor which comes next to the face, the razor edge projects beyond the edges of the guard fingers, as will be clearly seen by reference to the drawings, and it is because of this relative arrangement of the parts that it is possible with my razor to regvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvulate the closeness of the shave by the angle of presentation of the razor to the surface of the face being shaved. It will be evident that, for the attainment of this important advantage in the use of my razor, it is necessary merely to have the handle in such position that it will not interfere with the application of the razor to the face, with the guard next the surface being shaved.

US patent 856,739

William J Moore have a few other patents to his name, including a couple of single edge safety razors – one set up for a wedge blade, the other for a spined blade similar to the Gem blades. The full text of the patent for his simplified safety razor can be read at Google Patents, as well as over at Razors.click.

A 1905 Gillette advertisement

Early safety razor advertisements – like early safety razors patents – can be a source of much fun and enjoyment. And today I found a very early Gillette advertisement, printed in The Literary Digest on May 20th 1905. The Gillette safety razors were first offered for sale in 1903, so the marketing department of Gillette was just finding out how to properly sell razors when this was printed.

Ad for Gillette Safety Razors, The literary Digest 1905-05-20.

Looking at the advertisement, there is a lot more text than we’re used to seeing today. Not only do we get information that each razor comes with a dozen blades, but we’re also subjected to the claim that each blade lasts up to forty shaves. To top that off, there is an offer to send a prospective buyer one new blade for every two blades you ship back to Gillette!

The last bit sounds bizarre to us today, used as we are to the idea of disposable blades. But Gillette didn’t just plan to sell razors and new blades, but also to sell refurnished and resharpened blades for less than brand new ones. That idea died within a few years though… and now we just recycle old razor blades like we would any other bit of stainless steel; by melting it down.

Arthur McKee Rankin’s terrific electrical razor

A lot of ingenuity have gone into inventing razors that makes shaving easier, simpler, better… but not many inventers seems to have gone out of the way to create razors that are terrific.

Let me expand on that by quoting the late Sir Terry Pratchett:

Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.

Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

In the same way, Arthur McKee Rankin’s electrical razor is quite terrific, because what I would have felt if I was forced to use it would be sheer, unadulterated terror.

From front to back it consists of:

What looks like an antique lawn mover, with six razor blades spinning around. A belt – with the associated risk of dragging hair through the pulley – driving the whirling contraption. An open set of friction wheels turning the belt, and the wheels in turn being driven by what looks like a heavy and massive electrical motor. The whole shebang is tentatively manoeuvred by a handle that looks downright wobbly and unstable in the drawing.

So there it is, a patent for a terrific electrical razor filed in 1908. Suitable both for inspiring terror in the bathroom and planing wood. As usual, the full patent can be read at Google Patents.

Clyde H Seitz’s tilting head razor

A little while ago we looked at the Young Any-Angle Razor, a razor that trued to help shavers achieve more with less skill. And today we have a patent for a razor with a very similar goal of making the head tilt-able, but doing it in a radically different way.

Where the Young razor relied on a setscrew and a bit of operator dexterity, Mr Seitz’s idea used a spring and a push button to achieve what the patent describe as:

The object of this invention is the provision of a safety razor, which is provided with an adjustable blade carrying head so that the blade may be adjusted to position its cutting edge at various angles with relation to its handle, to which it is pivotally connected.

US patent 1,247,581

Pushing down on the button frees the ratcheted wheel from the spring, and the spring pushes the button back up when released.

The head of Mr Seitz’s razor is – when looking at the drawing – reminds me of the various CURBO razors, but honestly any style head1 would work with the basic idea of the ratcheted tilting head.

The full patent can as usual be read at Google Patents.

1) Either single or double head.

Mr Blodgett’s simple single edge razor

Simple is often the best, and the patent filed by Frederick E Blodgett in 1911 is the spiritual ancestor to the Blackland Sabre you can buy today.

Described – as most patents – as a new and useful improvement on the state of the art, it was described as a:

…combination of a flat, single-edged, apertured blade, a fiat holder plate, a flat guard plate, means for positioning said blade with respect to said plates, a threaded locking handle for locking the three, and a guard or comb on said guard plate; said positioning means comprising a pair of lugs engaging the blade back edge and a threaded lug engaging the blade aperture, said threaded lug adapted to be engaged by said locking handle.

US patent 1,017,199
Drawing from US patent 1,017,199

As shown by the Blackland Sabre, this method of construction works – with a couple of minor and obvious modifications – just as well today as it did almost one hundred and ten years ago.

Full patent available on Google Patents, as usual.