Körzinger & Nettlich’s soap brush for shaving

Yes, it is another disposable lather device,1 and like Dr Samuel Schereschewskij’s invention this one also comes courtesy of the Kaiserlich und Königlich Patentamt2 in Austria. Patented in 1901, Herr Eugen Körzinger and Herr Otto Nettlich came up with a single use, hygienic, and cheap way to lather the beard.

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Shave Library – a straight razor wiki

Shave Library is a new wiki dedicated to shaving with a straight, tied to the Sharp Razor Palace forum. There is a lot of good information available on the wiki already, but like all good wikis it has room to grow.

A wiki is – as I’m sure most people know – a hypertext publication collaboratively edited and managed by its users. In other words, it’s a fountain of shave gear knowledge everyone can add to.

The site focuses almost exclusively the classic straight, and while shavettes are mentioned there is little to nothing on Gillette style razors to be found. For those of us who prefers shaving with a safety razor, there is still good reads on the site. In particular I’ve enjoyed the DIY-section, since I like to tinker.

I learned about the Shave Library through ShaveFan, who I’ve written a post about before. And now that you learned about it through me, perhaps you should go have a look at Shave Library?

The safety razors of James J Fetzer

King Gillette did not invent his safety razor in a vacuum. Around the turn of the last century, there were a race to invent and patent the ideal safety razor. This should be inexpensive to produce, give a good shave, and preferably would be able to be sold in high numbers with good profit. Gillette wasn’t necessarily the best of the bunch, just the most successful in the long run.

One of the less successful inventors were James J Fetzer, of Columbiana Ohio. Mr Fetzer tok out two patents on behalf of the Herbrand Company.1 Both used a replaceable blade with ears, but differed in how the blade and top cap was secured.

Both patents describe simple hoe style, single edge razors, reminiscent of the Diamond Edge razor I mentioned a while back. Both describe making the comb guard – or base plate, in the terminology of today – out of sheet metal with the edge curled. And both seems to have thin handles – but that seem to have been popular on many Christy style hoe razors as well.

His earliest patent – US 819,640 – describes a razor where the nut holding the handle is attached to the top cap, and the handle presses the guard and blade against the cap. One problem I see right away is that over-tightening the handle will bend the top cap upwards. I would have put some reinforcements around the back of the assembly to strengthen it.

His slightly later patent – US 840,449 – describes a razor with a separate top cap, base plate, and jam nut – all of which is both screwed onto the handle. While this avoids the possibility of stressing the top cap, it mean that the user will have to tighten the small jam nut. This will be harder than if you can twist the entire handle, especially if you have wet hands.

In the end I suspect Herbrand – and by extension, J J Fetzer – wasn’t forgotten because their razors were inherently less good than Gillette. Rather they were put aside and forgotten because production of replacement blades2 stopped. Which is a shame when you think about it, because there is a lot of fun history lurking in old razors.

The OCR on both patents – as I found them with the Google Patent Search – is pretty bad. Luckily for me – and you – razors.click has both of them on his website, nicely readable and with clickable drawings. Direct links; US819640 and US840449.


(1) According to Waits’ Compendium, the HERBRAND trademark was renewed in 1929 for razors… and then disappeared.

(2) Blades for Christy and Ender style hoe razors were also manufactured by third part blade makers. For instance Clark’s Blade & Razor Co (Newark, NJ) offered off-brand blades for a wide range of razors. They sold via the Sears Catalogue until at least the end of the 1920’s.

A wonderful care package

As the sharp eyed reader might have spotted, the last couple of my SOTDs have featured the Williams Mug Soap, which I got as part of a care package from a friend and gentleman from my favourite shave forum.

In addition to the soap – which he offered to ship since I haven’t had the opportunity to try it previously – he put a lot of other welcome items in the box as well.

A lovely bevy of samples – allegedly taking up space in his drawers, but a windfall for me.

  • Four samples of Saponificio Varesino after shaves; Cubebe, Dolomiti, Tundra Artica, and Manna Di Sicilia
  • A sample of Esbjerg shaving cream
  • A sample of Stirling Soap Co’s Barbershopw shampoo bar
  • four B&M aftershave samples; two Reserve Cool, one each of Reserve Classic and Reserve Spice

Add to the soap and the samples a nice selection of blades; Med Preps, Lab Blues, Israeli Personnas and Crystals. From what he tells me the Med Preps and Lab Blues might be similar, so I’ll be sure to do some compare and contrast between the two – perhaps load up my Gillette Old from the my Khaki Kit with one and my Gillette Single Ring with the other and use them on opposite sides of my face?

And in addition to all that – which was already beyond what I was expecting – my friend found it in his heart to add a GEM G-bar, also known as the Heavy Flat Top. I do enjoy GEM and other vintage Single Edge Razors, and I am beyond excited to add the G-Bar to my rotation.

So a big thank you and shout out to Charlie – both for his friendship and for the box filled with joy!

A 1963 Dopp kit for Dad (and other shavers)

While I was once told where the term “Dopp kit” came from – and promptly forgot – the important thing to keep in mind is that we all need a nice, sturdy, roomy toiletry bag from time to time when we travel… got to fit our shave gear and a few other bits and pieces too in it, after all.

So while I was browsing online today I came over this advertisement from June ’63 (just a little under sixty years ago) that features a dopp bag that seems to fit the bill perfectly:

Somehow I suspect I would have to fork over a wee bit more than $7.50 today ($63.40 today, adjusted for inflation) for a similar kit today… but if I could find one like the one in the advertisement it could be worth it.

Selecting the Shaving Outfit – 1905 vs 2019

The public domain book “Shaving made Easy” have a short chapter on selecting your shaving outfit. This is the original text and my annotations and comments:

First-class tools are necessary at the very outset. No matter how skillfully one may handle inferior tools, they will invariably produce poor results.
Probably as many failures have resulted from the use of poor razors, strops, or soap as from the lack of knowledge how to use them. In order that the best possible results may be attained, good tools and skill in using them should go hand in hand.

When I was young I was told repeatedly that good tools are half the work, and that holds true when it comes to tools for shaving as well. A poor razor or a bad lather will not give a good shave, no matter how well the tools are wielded. On the other hand, not even the best razor, the fanciest brush or the most exquisite shave soap will yield the desired result if not used with the necessary skill. Good tools and the skills to use them should still go hand in hand.

The shaving outfit should consist of one or two good razors, a first-class strop, a mirror, a cup, a brush, a cake of shaving soap, and a bottle of either bay rum, witch hazel, or some other good face lotion. These constitute what may be considered the necessary articles, and to these may be added a number of others, such as a good hone, magnesia or talcum powder, astringent or styptic pencils, antiseptic lotions, etc. which, while not absolutely requisite, will nevertheless add much to the convenience, comfort and luxury of the shave.

The shaving outfit recommended in 1905 would serve just as well today, although since the modern shaver is more likely to use a safety razor or even cartridge razor instead of a straight razor, I would recommend investing in a single good razor instead of two – at least until the desire to buy more raises its head. Using a safety razor also means that the modern razor will not have to worry about buying a strop and hone. The money saved can be invested in a second brush, or a small selection of soaps and post-shave products.

What goes in the GoBag?

When I talk about my GoBag, I talk about the bag I grab whenever I have to go somewhere for my job – for training, classes or other happenings that usually means long days and little sleep. But no sleep for several days in a row don’t mean that you have to end up as a shambling, unkempt zombie… on the contrary; with the right gear in the GoBag and a fifteen minute break you can be a neat and dapper walking dead (lets face it; shaving does not replace sleep).

So what goes in my GoBag to allow me to manage this transformation? Not a whole lot to be honest… have a look:
From the back and left:
  • Alum stick in a travel container
  • A travel sized thing of Krampert’s Finest Bay Rum aftershave
  • A bottle of WSP Matterhorn beard oil
  • A small styptic pencil, just in case
  • A BEA shavestick
  • An Omega #50014 travel brush
  • A “Khaki Kit” with a vintage Gillette Old and a pack of blades

I haven’t had to use the styptic pencil yet, and I’ve just switched from my vintage one hundred and one year old original khaki kit to a modern recreation I received recently.

While I could streamline it further by changing to smaller bottles for the aftershave and beard oil, I wouldn’t really save much space… and since coworkers with less forethought or packing skills sometimes ask if they could borrow a little, it’s nice to have extra.
As you can see, it don’t take a lot if items to have a good shave while on the Go… and not a lot of space either.

New arrival – a khaki kit for the modern warfighter

As some of you might recall, I own a vintage khaki kit from the Great War – specifically from 1918 if the serial number on the razor is an indication.
I not just own it, but it is in active use. It lives in my GoBag, so whenever I am on the Go i shave with it… a hundred years and more is no age for a razor, and the single button webbing kit have held up remarkable well too.
Some time ago I was contacted by Ironbeard on twitter (@ SaveYourShave), and told that he was sending me a modern reproduction of the khaki set – he had seen my Shaves Of The Day with it and got interested enough to not only get his own but to make reproductions in modern materials as well. And yesterday there was a padded envelope in my mailbox…
So here it is, both by itself and next to it’s older brother:

I had to try it both with the Gillette Old Type from my original khaki set, and a modern three piece razor from Yaqi (I don’t own many modern three piece razors… so I had to pick the one short handled one I own). The workmanship looks at least as sturdy as the original, the choice of elastic loops instead of fabric means handles and heads of varying sizes can be accommodated with easy.
As luck will have it I’ll be travelling a fair bit the next couple of weeks, so I’ll be able to give it a good test. Expect a review in the near future.

Self-sharpening safety razor

One of the reasons why the classic safety razor have seen a resurgence the later years is that you can get great blades for a fraction of the cost of a cart… but that was not always the case. As I’ve shown in previous posts*, when adjusted for inflation the blades used to be as costly as cartridges are today. With that in mind, the popularity of razor blade sharpeners** made a lot more sense… but it still required you to take the blade out of the razor. Wouldn’t it be easier if the blade could stay in the razor?

While not a new idea^, William R Ewing and Benton M Ewing filed a couple of interesting patents in 1948 and 1950 for a self-sharpening razor and improvements for it.

The two Ewings certainly aimed high with their invention, wanting to

…eliminate the need for constant replacement of blades in a device of the safety razor type by providing means whereby opposite faces of the blade edge may be sharpened at will…

The patent drawings shows a permanently attached single edge blade, and a sharpening element in the form of a roller.

Two interesting things that stands out on the sharpening roller is that the actual grinder is a arranged in a spiral shape around most of the circumference, and that the roller is shaped to act as the safety bar when in the neutral position. A lot of effort went into making sure that the blade was pushed evenly against the grinder, as evidenced by the flat spring pressing on the swingable blade holder. And it seems like it was that spring that was the major improvement in their second patent.

The vaguely kidney shaped cavity in the roller allowed the blade to swing enough to allow the roller to sharpen the upper side of the blade as well as the underside… how this works is best seen with the small illustration in the bottom left corner of the last drawing in conjunction with the illustration in the same location on the first drawing.

So after loosing the roller the shaver would push it along a flat surface, first one way and then the other, until the blade was sharp. Simple, easy, and fast… in one handy, complicated package.

Overall, the two patents shows a lot of ingenuity and effort going into perfecting a solution to a problem the shaver today simply don’t have… blades are so cheap these days we can change them daily if we want to.

*) See, for example, this post
**) Some of which is discussed in this post
^) The Shake Sharp dates from ’43