Straight razors, which reached their de zenith in the early 's, have changed to the untutored eye very little since the late 's. Yet in reality they have changed a good deal - including the very steel they are made from.
Handles or, more properly, scales have undergone changes in de and composition too. The differences are subtle yet ificant and, for anyone wishing to better understand their chosen method of eliminating the stubble, can be appreciated. Below we give a brief, but by no means exhaustive, history of the Dating straight razors razor. The straight razor may be a simple tool but that doesn't Dating straight razors to say it's crude. Far from it. The modern ish onward straight razor from here called a 'razor' is a distillation of de that has been evolving since about That's a long time.
The reason the razor is a simple tool is one of refinement - modern razors may not have the collectability value of the ones made years ago but we suspect they're now made of better steel. Razors reached their de high point in about or so, in our opinion that will be no doubt hotly contested. About this time the blades were made of the best Dating straight razors around, the profiling of the blades reached a peak and - let's face it - they couldn't get any sharper.
We have no doubt that this will have absolutely no effect on the desires of collectors including us here at The Invisible Edge so what follows is as objective as we can make it. We don't have examples of all the early razors to show you yet but here's a tour through time —. Razors looked like small hatchets and didn't have maker's names or any form of branding. It was as likely that these were made by the local blacksmith as anyone.
What shaving was like with these razors is anyone's guess perhaps that's why most men grew beards! Both blade and handle were wedge-shaped, the blade being wider at the point than at the pivot. The profile of the blade was a 'wedge' - no hollow grinding - and its edge straight.
Blades had no tang as such and very often no 'monkey tail' the curved 'trigger' piece at the end of the handle. If this was present it was short and stubby. Typical handle materials were horn, wood and bone, though tortoiseshell and ivory were also used.
The handle surface was almost always flat, not curved, though handles called 'scales' from now on were sometimes bevelled. The pins at either end of the handle were sometimes of brass but generally made of iron. Razors made between - were sometimes marked with the words 'warranted' or 'cast steel' to show that this type of metal, invented in by Robert Huntsmann of Sheffield, had been used.
By the standards of today the razors from this era look a bit crude - but they were the cutting edge pun intended! Cast steel razor by Dating straight razors, C. Notice the complete lack of a shoulder and no tang to speak of.
How to date a vintage straight razor
Scales are horn. This used to belong to a Buddhist Monk - honestly. This period showed small but subtle changes. A 'shoulder' began to develop on the blade - forerunner to the stabilising piece - and the overall size became a bit smaller. Scales started to show a slight curve, moving away from the earlier totally straight handles.
Decorative handles of pressed horn began to appear.
The biggest change in this decade was the discovery, by Michael Faraday, of 'silver steel' - the addition of silver to steel in a proportion of The first s of hollow grinding came in around and it took another 60 years to bring that process to its final stage. Flutting, or 'Jimps' began to appear on the top and bottom of the tang to aid grip - 40 grooves per inch was the standard.
During this period Dating straight razors was also a fashion for very large, wedge-bladed razors marked 'for barbers' use' or sometimes words like 'improved silver steel' but this only lasted ten years or so.
How to date a vintage straight razor
During this period English makers began adding a monarch's to their razors - this comprised a crown bracketed by the initials of the monarch, e. This at least helps to date these razors to a reign, as follows —. George IV -William IV - -Victoria - - not such a help to precise year dating as the two due to her long reign!
This period saw further development of the blade and the tang the part of the metal that you hold! Etched blades were available and 'notched' blades were available. Silver steel more or less replaced cast steel during this period. Horn handles were also impressed with slogans and the scales handles became more bow-shaped.
Photo-etching of wedge blades became quite popular with some beautiful des being produced: this continued well into the 's. Some used hundreds of pins Dating straight razors the patterns were very intricate.
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Common Dating straight razors materials were bone and horn. Wedge-bladed razor C. Note totally straight scales, a leftover from earlier days. The golden age of the wedge razor. During this period some truly stunning etched blades were produced, company names began to appear on the tang and even the spine of the blade was sometimes decorated with fancy des. Handles were made out of many different materials - Ivory, horn, bone were all used and inlaid with silver and even precious stones.
A notable introduction in was the use of celluloid for scales - des really did take off from this point!
The history of straight razors
This period also saw the introduction of the 'frameback' razor, a blade with a heavy spine and the thinnest possible blade non-removable that gained immediate popularity. Horn-handled razor C. Note the curve of the scales in contrast to the tortoiseshell-handled example above. Celluloid handles became extremely popular as makers discovered the huge potential of this versatile material.
Sculpted and coloured scales began to be seen and this decade more or less saw the final demise of the wedge-shaped blade as hollow grinding reached its final stages. Machine-forged blades became common, hence the appearance of blades stamped 'hand-forged' Dating straight razors 'hand-made' as older-style makers strove to retain sales.
A new process allowed the hollow-ground blades to be etched similarly to the old wedge blades and other processes such as gold wash further enhanced the blades' appearance. Note the square-ended blade favoured by American companies over the 'French point' round-ended blades preferred in Europe at this time. Also the blade is quite narrow - another typical feature of American razors of this era. Celluloid was by now used almost exclusively for scales, though the new 'Bakelite' plastic began to make inro.
By this time the hollow-ground blade profile had reached its zenith - in the firm of J. Straight razors were still popular up to the 's, although an invention in by a certain King Camp Gillette spelt their demise - until now! Who knows if men are just fed up with paying through the nose for Dating straight razors bit of cheap steel set in plastic that gets thrown away after a few days or if the desire to be macho is rearing its head once more?
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Let's face it, if scraping off your stubble with three inches of unguarded, horribly sharp steel isn't macho, we don't know what is! Whatever the reason, there's no doubt that more and more men are now using straight razors for their everyday shave. If you wish to access the Invisible Edge Downlo please register with us here. Home Information The History of Straight Razors Straight razors, which reached their de zenith in the early 's, have changed to the untutored eye very little since the late 's.
We don't have examples of all the early razors to show you yet but here's a tour through time — 's - 's Razors looked like small hatchets and didn't have maker's names or any form of branding. Pre Both blade and handle were wedge-shaped, Dating straight razors blade being wider at the point than at the pivot. This at least helps to date these razors to a reign, as follows — George IV -William IV - -Victoria - - not such a help to precise year dating as the two due to her long reign!
TIE collection - NFS - Celluloid handles became extremely popular as makers discovered the huge potential of this versatile material. TIE collection, NFS - Celluloid was Dating straight razors now used almost exclusively for scales, though the new 'Bakelite' plastic began to make inro.