Protector for safety-razor blades, patented in 1907

There are several online shops that sells protectors for your DE razor these days, mostly made from plastic. You can even download a file to 3d-print your own, if you’re so inclined and have a 3D-printer handy. But did you know that the concept is about as old as the Gillette safety razor itself?

The patent was filed by Frederick Bunnell King in 1907, assigned to Gillette Co LLC. The patent describes a protector that not only protects the edge or edges of the blade, but is held in place by the tendency of the razor head to open slightly when tension is taken off the handle. Or to quote part of the patent text:

The protector for the cutting edge or edges of the blade comprises shield sides bent over to form pockets for enclosing the cutting edges of the blade when the shield is inserted over the back plate, the blade and the guard. This shield is transversely curved as shown and is of such shape that when the arts are drawn into position for use of the shield may be readily slid into and out of its protective position.

In short, the protector would also serve to keep the head and blade assembly together when the handle was unscrewed completely, thus allowing the blade to be kept in the razor even when the razor was packed away in a travel kit or drawer.

Ralph E Thompson’s one-hole razor blade patent

Another one of Mr Thompson’s patents assigned to Gillette Co, this one dates from 1929 and highlights Gillette’s attempts to make a better blade than the original three hole design – a search that didn’t end until Gillette acquired the Probak Corp (and their parent company; AutoStrop Co) and started using the slotted Probak blade we know and love today.
This 1929 patent is trying to address one of the key issues with a safety razor with replaceable blades; the accurate and repeatable positioning of a mass produced, loose tolerance blade in the razor. To quote Mr Thompson in his patent text:

In the use of razors of this type satisfactory operation depends in a large measure upon the accurate positioning of the blade with respect to the cap and guard and the positioning of the cap and guard with respect to each other. A slight inaccuracy in relation of these parts will result in an uneven edge exposure of the blade at different points in its length, or may produce an excessive edge exposure which renders the razor dangerous.

King Gillette originally solved the problem with having three holes that had to line up with three studs. Today we have a stilted blade that can line up with a raised bar, or studs, or a combination. Both designs makes the manufacture of the razor head somewhat complex, since multiple studs or a raised portion has to be machined into the top cap or base plate. A blade with just one hole on the other hand… then you could get ways with just the threaded stud that holds the handle, as shown in the drawing.

A quick sidebar; the razor shown in the drawing looks very much like the Gillette Single Ring as manufactured in the twenties.
So how did Mr Thompson intend for this blade design to easily and accurately align with the cap and guard? By bending the ends of the blade into flanges that would naturally align with the short sides of the base and cap… one turned up, the other turned down. This would – in fact – serve to align the blade, but at the cost of not being able to easily wrap them in paper and pack them flat. Looking at the drawings, the blade was modified from the three hole blade with the rounded sides, which would simplify the production.
It’s hard for me to judge how serious this design was meant to be all the time Gillette was experimenting with a slotted blade at the same time. Possible this was a case of patenting something just to stop the competition from making blades this way, literary throwing stuff at the patent office to see what stuck.
In hindsight there is a better, simpler, and cheaper way to make a razor with just one threaded stud… but I think that in order to see it you needed to be familiar with the modern DE blade; the one developed from the Probak blade with notched corners. It’s clearly shown in the cheap and cheerful razor I bought from Flying Tiger Copenhagen close to two years ago; raised corners on the cap that engage the notched corners, as the photos below shows.

This patent shows an interesting attempt at moving away from the three hole blade before the patents expired, even if the shape would have made packaging more complicated. In the end though I do believe the modern slotted blade is a better solution though, especially as it’s backwards compatible with the older razors originally manufactured for the three hole blade.

Shaving legs

A somewhat sexists vintage cartoon, but I can testify that if you offers the lady in your life to whip up some proper lather the next time they are about to shave their legs they will thank you later. A smoother shave, less ingrown hairs, softer skin… why should your face be alone in enjoying those benefits?
Sharing is caring, and sharing a shave is caring even more.

Reflections on my olive oil shave

The sharp eyed reader no doubt spotted my alternative choice of lather yesterday… and for those who didn’t, here is a reminder:

While it was a spur of the moment thing to do it yesterday – not enough coffee and all that – shaving with oil in general and olive oil in particular is something I’ve been pondering for quite a long time. The logic is reasonable simple:

  • Shave oil is a thing, and a lot of guys swear to using it.
  • A lot of shave oils are expensive and contains things that may be less than ideal to smear over ones face – double so when one risk a cut and getting it into the blood stream.
  • Buying a bottle of shave oil just to learn that one don’t enjoy it would be a waste.
  • Natural oils – olive oil in particular – have a long history for washing, and the Romans allegedly shaved with it too.

…and…

  • Shaving with olive oil seems to be a minor fad among – and I feel slightly filthy just for uttering the phrase – “beuty vloggers”, citing all kinds of dodgy factoids about health benefit and clearer skin.

So having tried it, what do I think about using olive oil for shaving? Well, here is my micro-revies of olive oil as a shave oil.
After applying it, and washing my hands so I could safely grip my razor, the shave itself wasn’t bad at all despite the complete lack of cushion. I got no cuts, nicks or razor burns. Uins olive oil certainly gave a much better result than shaving using just water, and better than I recall using regular bath soap too. And unlike the canned goo and gel I ditched years ago, my skin wasn’t dry or itchy afterwards.
One might think that smearing oil over the skin would result in clogged pores, zits and all sort of problems, I must report aht at least my ugly mug don’t have any of those right now.
Downsides were the somewhat messy sink and razorhead, but nothing that hot water and a soft wash cloth didn’t fix. My goatee was also pretty greasy from the oil running along my skin, but since I shave before my morning shower that was pretty much a non-issue – I have to wash lather out of my beard after shaving regardless.
Was the experiment a success, in that I proved to my own satisfaction that olive oil is a viable alternative if there is no proper lather around? Oh yes, and a better alternative in my opinion than plain water or bath soap.
Will I repeat the olive oil shave? Probably not unless I had to; the lack of cushion and having to wash my hands before reaching for the razor makes it way less than ideal in my eyes.
Olive oil. It works, so don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it. Probably works better for legs and armpits than a well chiseled face though 😛

Are disposable razors bad for the environment?

A little while ago I stumbled over an article asking the question: “How bad are disposable razors for the environment?

Turns out they are.. not good. Difficult or impossible to recycle, due to mixed construction. Definitely not bio-degradable, at least not on this planet. They pose a possible safety risk for recycling workers, due to the sharp blades. And to add insult to injury, the packaging is often hard to recycle as well.

Actually; instead of saying “not good”, I should have said “pretty bad”. And most of the same points still hold true for cartridge razors too; even if you hang on to the handle, the cartridges themselves have all the recycling issues a disposable razor has.

There is a better alternative, and since you’re on my blog you can probably guess it already: the traditional safety razors, or even a straight edged razors. These razors lasts forever if looked after with a minimum of due diligence, and the used blades can be easily recycled – although I would suggest using a sharps container or other blade bank to minimise risk of anyone cutting themselves. Most people who put the effort in to learn how to shave properly with them find a significant reduction in razor burn and related issues. And as I showed in a blog post earlier this year; traditional wetshaving can and will save you money down the line, as long as you avoid the worst Acquisition Disorders.

The short version: traditional safety razors and straight edges are better for your face, your wallet and the environment – so they represent a win-win-win situation.

Solid Shave shows us Indonesian shaving stuff

I’ve mentioned Solid Shaves’ YouTube channel before, as one of the few shaving channels I keep an eye on… in part – I must admit – due to the channel owner being a Norwegian like myself.

He travelled to Indonesia this summer, and have shared some of the shaving related finds he spotted on his trip. It is interesting to compare and contrast what you can find in the shops in the Far East as compared to the selection in the Cold North… so enjoy!

You might want to browse his other uploaded videos too. A lot of them are “just” shaving videos, but his style and presentation is different enough from some of the so called big names on YouTube to make them worth watching, at least to me – a little less slick and a lot more genuine.

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.

…like climbing ten flights of stairs

If you are still depending upon the barber or old fashioned razor you are in the same category with the man who climbs ten flight of stairs when there is an elevator in the building.

While there is many things we can gleam from this advertisement from May 1908 – one of which is the almost curious lack of contractions (“you are” instead of “you’re” in the small excerpt I copied above) – the two that stands out to me is the fact that a safety razor with a dozen blades set you back a mere 5 USD, and you could get combination sets for tens times that price.
Adjusting for a hundred and eleven years of inflation, that equals about 140 USD for a single razor with blades, and a whooping 1400 USD for the most expensive set…