Friday, 5 April 2013

Old Stuff Better Than New Stuff: Razors

Vintage DE razors and boxes of modern blades.
Razors (clockwise) from 2000s,
1960s, 1940s and 1950s.
This will be the first of a few posts where I wax lyrical about how some daily items were much better in the past.

Today's hot topic: razors!

Here's a little tidbit that confuses people. The arm that holds the blade is called the razor and the blade, is, well, a razor blade.

A few years ago I broke my right disability allowed a beard to sprout and flourish. This time allowed me to reassess my shaving regime and kick my high-five habit.
Many years ago I used an electric razor in the car on the way to work. Classy! But the cost of replacing the blades nudged me back to multi-blade disposable razors which are expensive and environmentally unfriendly.

Environmental bad boy, the
modern disposable razor
This cripple's reassessment saw me on the brink of outlaying for an expensive electric razor, when, by chance, I stumbled on the term DE in a shaving forum. DE means Double-Edge safety razor. It is a very old type of razor, that takes the scary looking razor blades. They are built like tanks and will surely outlive me just as they have already outlived their original owners, I assume.

DE safety razors popularised the loss-leader marketing technique: sell cheap razors (for a loss) and recoup the money with perpetual sales of blades. The same works for printers and modern razor blades.
Badger brush and
1955 Gillette Razor

Like all things, there are pros and cons to the old. The old razor blades can cut you if you don't handle them correctly, but you have to be pretty incompetent for that to happen. But the durability of the razor (my daily shaver is nearly 60 years old), the cheapness of the blades and the reduced landfill outweigh the slight risk by a wide margin.

Real shaving creams and
shaving soap.
On the economics, each shave costs me between four and five cents in blades. There is a slight outlay for the razor, a new razor may set you back $90 but some of the vintage razors go very cheap on eBay, a bargain under $20.

So, how does it shave? Very well. I no longer swear when I realise I need to shave. My shaving rash has disappeared and my shaves are now much closer.

The downside is that I feel like a sucker for having bought so many disposables and electric shaver parts over the years.

There is a slight learning curve to using DE wetshaving, but the small effort reaps big rewards for this mundane and repetitive chore.

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  1. nice post, I was thinking of converting myself! Do you subscribe to the theory that keeping your razor or blade dry extends the life dramatically?

  2. Yes. I haven't done any comprehensive empirical studies to quantify it though. I have hear of people storing their razor in rubbing alcohol to extend blade life. And stropping the blade on their jeans before use.

    With DE blades, they are so cheap that it probably isn't worth your effort; any cost guilt goes out the window when it costs less than 20c a blade.

    Go for it! It may take a little while to master the new way of shaving but it is well worth the (small) effort.

    Check out mantic59 on YouTube, he has some great tips (even if he is a bit dorky).

    1. I travel a lot for work and, frustrated with the short life of even expensive razor blades, now quickly dry the blade and take it off the razor after use. At home, I simply rinse the blade and flick it a few times to keep it dry. I can attest, with no scientific validation, that keeping the blade dry does seem to extend the life significantly. I bet the razor companies don't want you to know this: they're an utter ripoff.

  3. wonder how this works for legs...

    1. I was just thinking the same thing!

    2. I haven't tried it on my leg lawn, but Athena does.

      It works well. The razors have a bit more heft to them and that makes the job a lot easier because you just rest the razor on the leg and let the weight do the work. The guard on the razor, combined with the weight, gently presses the skin in front of the blade, making it flat. This makes the cutting surface nice and even. When shaving, you don't want to stretch the skin, you want to flatten it.

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