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.
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
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.
Just a reminder that the Kindle edition of my book will be on sale from Friday the 27th of November at 0000 PST (0800 GMT) and for a full week after that. The price of the paperback have been cut as well.
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.
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.
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
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.
Learning to shave with a safety razor is – arguably – about learning to control the angle and the pressure. And the Young Any-Angle Razor – sold by Young Safety Razor Co of Pennsylvania – aimed to take the angle out of the equation. Not – mind you – in the way we think about the angle today,1 but in the obliquity between the edge and direction of travel. In a way, Mr Elmer I Young was trying to automate the Gillette Slide before the Gillette Slide was a thing.2
Mr Young’s razor was – apart from the ability to adjust angle of the head – a fairly straight forward single edge, closed guard, hoe style razor. Patent filed in 1909 and granted in 1910, the invention aimed to:
…provide a safety razor in which the blade holding means can be quickly and positively adjusted so that the cutting edge of the blade may lie obliquely to the direction of movement of the blade to give a shearing cut.
US Patent 973,734
This was done by a setscrew, which – by means of a knurled knob – tightened the blade, guard and blade holder3 against an eye formed at the top of the handle. Around said eye, and also on the blade holder, was a number of projections and dimples, which were meant to keep the head from slipping once the set screw was tightened.
The drawing makes the whole thing a little easier to understand:
The Young “any-angle” razor was moderately successful as far as I can tell, not only being patented but also manufactured and offered for sale. At least for a couple of years; Waits’ Compendium shows a late 1911 advertisement, and I found the following one from 1912 while browsing the web:
While this was not the last attempt to make a razor with a sideways tilting head – Otto Spahr’s razor come to mind – I think we can all agree that the potential benefit of the Any-Angle can be negated by improving the shavers technique. When that comes in addition to a somewhat fiddly head that requires the shaver to keep track of several parts while changing blades, I can see why the Young Any-Angle Razor seems very rare today. Which is a shame, since it seems like a well made razor that ought to work with a GEM blade.
There is more to the shave than just a razor. You will need a brush, a shaving soap or cream, a mirror, and somewhere to store it all. And it was the last bit that Marcus B Behrman filed a patent for in 1922, on behalf of the American Safety Razor Corp.
The ORC of the patent is – quite honest – far from good, but the scanned images are good.
In short, it’s a small cabinet with two shelves. One with slots to hold the brush, razor and cream, one plain for holding blades and other bits and bobs. A pocket in the door holds the mirror, and a few holes in the bottom helps circulate the air. And that is – as they say – that.
The full patent can be read at Google Patents – I suggest downloading the PDF and read that instead of the OCRed text.
The Rockwell razor made a bit of a stir when it was released a few years ago. Ever since adjustable razors were introduced, they have been mechanically more complex than a three piece razor. The Rockwell Razor bucked that trend, and bucked it hard. The Rockwell razor is as simple as a three piece razor because it is a three piece razor. It is as simple as that.
I was a little surprised that such a simple concept was patentable. After all, it is over a century since the original three piece King Gillette razor was patented. I guess it just shows that simple ideas can be hard to come up with.
The patent is quite interesting reading too, less obtuse than many older patents. The text also goes into the background for the invention, which I think is a major improvement over some patents I’ve read. To give an example:
The most popular modern shaving implement uses cartridge based razors that include a number of single-edged razors in a disposable cartridges. The consumer cost of these disposable cartridges is quite high and has been an impetus for the return to traditional wet shaving using double-edged safety razors. Refilling a traditional safety razor can cost under 10 cents whereas modern cartridges can cost well over $2 to replace. Today’s modern razor cartridges can also irritate the skin more than needed due to the multiple blades..
Remarkable clear and concise, just like the patent drawings.