Safety Razors – a Close Shave?
I was doing a search online the other day for “safety” when Google suggested I try “Safety Razor”, being one with an enquiring mind and a short attention span I clicked and opened up a whole new world…………
It seems that the old “Safety Razor” is making a comeback! I remember both of my Grandfathers and my Father using them. I used to steal his blades for my various hobbies and dissections and got some nasty cuts until I worked out I could tape up an edge to avoid that. My Father eventually switched to a disposable blade before he taught me how to shave but was always lamenting about how much better the old system was?
I guess, for our younger readers, I should explain what a Safety Razor is:
Until about the late 1800’s the most common shaving device was the “cut throat” or straight razor (photo above) which was really just very sharp, folding knife and required considerable skill and careful resharpening (honing) to do a decent, injury free job. Many relied on a visit to the Barbers for a decent shave. Soon after, the first “Safety Razor” was introduced. This relied on a steel comb or bar to guide the blade and protect the skin. However, the blade itself still had to be taken out and regularly sharpened or honed.
The double edged, disposable Safety Razor Blade was patented by Gillette in 1904 and became popular when it was issued to troops during WW1 (around 3.5million). The troops got used to this method of shaving and continued to use it when they returned after the war. Until the 1960s, they were made of carbon steel and very prone to rusting, they are now stainless steel, much thinner and some are platinum coated.
The first plastic disposable razor, as we now know it, was introduced by BIC in the early 1970’s and they rest is history, I saw one with 6 blades in it the other day – and they cost a small fortune!
So after reading all about Safety Razors I decided to give it a go. I went to the local shopping centre and searched and searched and…………all in vain. All I found, hidden in a pharmacy, was a packet of Wilkinson Sword blades, so I bought them in case I never saw them again. It seems the actual bodies of the razors are everywhere around Father’s Day but then simply unavailable in a normal store at other times. I then went to the Shaver Shop and my luck changed, I found a large array of “Safety Razor” devices and accessories. However, it seems that this method of shaving is more of a romantic art form than I thought. With a razor body made by “Edwin Jagger” (a traditional English manufacturer and you definitely notice how much better they feel than the Chinese versions), German stainless steel blades, a badger brush (yes badger hair – some at around $200!) and traditional Proraso shaving soap – it costs a fair bit to set up with decent gear and you could easily pay up to $500 for the top end stuff – The person in the shop explained that at $16 for 12 blades, it is cheaper in the long term than disposables?? The range of safety razors includes exotic brand names such as: Parker, Merkur, Feather, Timor and Goodfella. Trial time………….
The verdict: Well it certainly is an art form and takes more time to shave than just scraping a BIC all over your face! The blade is sharp – razor sharp!!!! Makes for a very enjoyable experience lathering up and taking your time. I was very apprehensive at first, the whole feel of the razor is different. It’s much heavier and you really have to focus on what you are doing and experiment with the angle of the blade and light pressure to avoid injury. I got quite a few little nicks but less when I got better at it – now I know why my Dad used to have a Styptic Pencil in the bathroom draw! It takes a few passes but it’s certainly the closest, smoothest shave I’ve had for a while and definitely the most fun I’ve had doing it! My skin stings a bit (too much pressure, not enough lather) so aftershave lotion is essential. I need to get better at it and will keep going but I still think I will reach for the plastic disposable razor when I am in a hurry.
HAS ANYBODY ELSE TRIED THIS METHOD OF SHAVING WITH A “SAFETY RAZOR”?
Here is a great little Youtube clip on “How to Shave Like Grandpa”