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Antique Double-Bladed Razor

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Antique Double-Bladed Razor
- A middle 1800's razor resurrected. -


Our all-too-short, but very sweet, vacation in France having come to an end, my wife and I and motored back towards our home stomping grounds in Belgium, leaving behind the last real sunshine of summer. Choosing to overnight in a little village on the way rather than driving straight through, we parked the car, checked into a small hotel and went strolling the streets for a bit of sight-seeing prior to some fine French cuisine. The weather was starting to turn gray and a light rain was falling, but even so, the vacation gods decided to smile down upon us one last time.

There, in the middle of the village, was some sort of meeting hall that was hosting a flea market. Even better, my wife suggested we go in and browse around. And it was there, after rummaging my way through almost every stall and box in the place, just before I despaired of finding anything that pleased me, that I spied this antique double-bladed razor in a little glass display box. The man initially asked a mere 20 euro for it, but after we had been chatting about the razor for a few minutes he spontaneously reduced the asking price to only 15 euro (about $21.50). What else could I do? I pulled out my cash, paid the man, thanked him in my most polite French and strolled off a happy man with this latest find. :001_tongu

attachment.php

The Razor

This is a double-bladed razor with bone scales and steel (iron?) pins. Having two blades like this, it might have been intended as a traveler's razor, but it is equally possible that it was supposed to be a more elegant way of presenting two blades for alternate shaving sessions. I estimate its date of manufacture as sometime around the 1850's, but that is just a guess. At this time I have no idea where it was manufactured. However, having said that, I did recently come upon a French web site which was displaying a page of pictures of similar, two-bladed razors. Whether or not these razors were produced exclusively in France (which I doubt), the French seem to have a special term for these which is “rasoir papillon” which translates in English to “Butterfly Razor”.

The condition of this razor is rather remarkable considering its age. It had only some very, very light, dry rust on the blades which came away easily with careful cleaning. I could discover no marks on either of the blades that would have indicated any actual use of the razor. I could find no signs of honing or stropping - either along the front cutting edge or along the spine of the blade where it meets the hollow grinding. It is possible that this was a leftover in a shop, or perhaps just purchased by someone for show and never used. We will never know.

It would be nice to think that the scales were made of ivory, but closer inspection reveals the little black marks and traceries that make me think that they are really made of bone. The scales measure 14.7 cm in length (5-13/16"), 2 cm at the widest point (3/4") and perhaps 2.5 mm thick (5/64") although this varies somewhat. The little wedge spacer at the front end appears to be a small slice of some very tight-grained hardwood.

attachment.php


The blades are fairly simple, notched on the point, with the maker's mark stamped into the tang of each blade. Sadly, on both blades the indentation of the stamping was neither fully nor deeply struck and has been somewhat further eroded by some light surface corrosion. I have tried and tried to make out exactly what the name of the maker is, but cannot say with any certainty what it might be. I think I see something along the lines of the word "W * W I O X", but that last letter 'X' could just as easily be an 'L', 'K' or 'Z'. And as for that second letter (*), well, it could be most anything and your guess is as good as mine.

These are 6/8 blades which measure 12.5 cm in length (4-7/8") from the center of the rear pivot pin to the rounding of the blade point, being roughly 4 mm thick (1/8") at the widest part of the spine. The actual cutting edge is 7 cm in length (2-3/4"). These blades were ground on some large-diameter, circular wheel, giving just enough hollowing to elevate them out of the flat ground blade category. But, in truth, the grinding on the sides of the blade is not very deep at all so that it would be something of a stretch for me to describe them as being truly quarter hollow ground.

attachment.php


As regards surface finish, these blades never saw any polishing. The tang, back, notch and blade all show their grinding and filing marks. Looking at the back end of the blades within the scales behind the pivot pin, one can see that no attempt was made to clean up that part of the steel so that the shear marks and slight deformations left by whatever cut-off tool was employed can still be seen.

attachment.php


The interesting part about this razor obviously has to do with the arrangement of the two blades around a single pair of scales. The two blades share a common pivot pin and fold into the scales from opposite sides. At first glance this might seem to be a clever, space-saving arrangement, but it is less than ideal in reality.

The first problem has to do with the seating of the blades when they are folded away. The blade of a single-blade straight razor generally seats down snugly between and against its protective scales. The blades on this razor each share about half of the space between the scales and as such do NOT seat firmly in the same way. By virtue of their positioning and the slight bend of the scales, each blade, when folded in, presses against the scale it is closest to - something that holds it closed to a certain degree, but which also demands careful attention when closing the razor to avoid carving away bits of the inside of the scale while simultaneously compromising the cutting edge. What is more, the front wedge in this razor design serves as a stop for the blades and contacts them when they are folded in. This can dull the blade at that contact point. There is a slight indentation to be seen on both blades from this very problem.

A second difficulty of this design is that when either of the blades is in use, the second blade will still be folded away within the scales - something which drastically affects the balance and handling of the razor, making it decidedly tail-heavy in the hand when shaving.

Finally, there is the absence of any tail extension for the fingers on these blades. The steel is cut off right behind the pivot pin and this, too, makes the grip on the razor less than ideal during use.

attachment.php


By the way, the notches on these blades are not just mere decoration. They also serve as a handy grip point for the fingers to enable one to more easily open the blades out away from the scales.


Sharpening

I'm really a terrible one where antiques are concerned, since my reverence for the age of the object always has to struggle with my curious nature which desires to put said object(s) back into use. It was that way again in this case, and after some reflection I decided that in the interests of curiosity (and the B&B shaving community) I would sharpen this old razor and then put it to a shaving test - one time.

Since I did not want to spoil the antique look of the razor, I elected to protect the spine of the blades from any grinding, honing or stropping marks. For this I used a special plumber's tape that I have in house which is normally used to protect piping that must be encased within plastering or cement work. This tape is much thinner and suppler than duct tape but has a similarly aggressive adhesive which allows it to maintain its grip even in a damp environment. Two narrow strips of this were carefully cut and then wrapped around the spines of both blades and it was then time to start sharpening.

Due to the pronounced rounded form of the cutting edge (smile) I chose to use little hand stones for the entire process.

There being a few skips and tiny nicks in the blades, my first step was to bring back a clean, unbroken curve along the entire length of the cutting edges. For this rough work I started out using a few different grades of India oil slip stones (Norton). This was obviously a soft steel and my initial shaping work had the effect of almost immediately creating a rolled over wire edge opposite of the side I was grinding on. I began to fear for the worst, but gritted my teeth and continued the process.

Once the edge was reshaped, I honed, honed and honed with 4000-, 6000- and 8000-grit Japanese water slip stones. Due to the softness of the steel this work went very quickly. Unfortunately, that little bit of wire edge - becoming ever finer - remained with me. I would carefully hone it away, only to have it form again with the passage of the next honing stone.

Finally, I stepped over to pasted strops for the final edge polishing. This softer steel really likes pasted strops, and it was at this point that the fine wire edge finally disappeared (whew!). I used green soap, white soap and then .5 micron diamond paste. This last one was probably overkill for this soft steel, most especially since I finished up the whole thing by stepping back up the grit-grade ladder to using simple Dovo red paste on a leather loom strop. I figured that this last paste was comparable to what would have been the normal 'finest compound' available to the common man in the 1850's.


The Shave

Well, the moment of truth had finally come. Considering how soft the steel had appeared to be when first sharpening the blades, I had the feeling that the cutting edge would fold over upon meeting the first whisker and that this shave was going to feel like holding an angry cat up to my face: claws first.

I washed and lathered up as usual, paying particular attention to properly wetting and covering the whiskers with a slightly moister lather mix than usual. I picked up the razor… and began the shave. Did it work?

The happy news is that the razor really did work. The wire edge that had so alarmed me was gone and the blades provided a serviceable cutting action throughout, although I admit to allowing myself the occasional swipe on the strop during the course of the shave. It wouldn't really shave me so very closely without lots of attention, but on the other hand, it didn't open up my face like the claws of an avenging feline. I would rate the shave as something like a three to four on a scale of ten, but that would have been rather good for the middle 1800's, don't you agree? No, this is certainly not the equivalent of more modern razors, but for its day it would have been able to provide the user a reasonable end result and it deserves my respect if only for that… and having survived this long so that I might put it to the test.

Testing done, I dried the razor, carefully peeled off the protective tape, cleaned away the adhesive residue with an appropriate solvent, applied a light film of protective oil and packed it away in a plastic box with some desiccant gel for moisture protection so that the razor remains safe and ready for its next use. You never know. In another 157 years someone may want to use it again.

- Ignatz


A Last Note: My review has necessarily involved a certain degree of conjecture. Therefore I consider this article to be unfinished, especially since I lack any real information about the age and manufacture of this razor. I stand ready to alter and/or correct this article pending any future information, photos or evidence. Please don't be shy about posting if you feel you have something meaningful to contribute.

If you wish, you may follow this link to the discussion thread for this article: http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php?p=331379#post331379

Latest reviews

Antique Double-Bladed Razor
- A middle 1800's razor resurrected. -


Our all-too-short, but very sweet, vacation in France having come to an end, my wife and I and motored back towards our home stomping grounds in Belgium, leaving behind the last real sunshine of summer. Choosing to overnight in a little village on the way rather than driving straight through, we parked the car, checked into a small hotel and went strolling the streets for a bit of sight-seeing prior to some fine French cuisine. The weather was starting to turn gray and a light rain was falling, but even so, the vacation gods decided to smile down upon us one last time.

There, in the middle of the village, was some sort of meeting hall that was hosting a flea market. Even better, my wife suggested we go in and browse around. And it was there, after rummaging my way through almost every stall and box in the place, just before I despaired of finding anything that pleased me, that I spied this antique double-bladed razor in a little glass display box. The man initially asked a mere 20 euro for it, but after we had been chatting about the razor for a few minutes he spontaneously reduced the asking price to only 15 euro (about $21.50). What else could I do? I pulled out my cash, paid the man, thanked him in my most polite French and strolled off a happy man with this latest find. :001_tongu

attachment.php

The Razor

This is a double-bladed razor with bone scales and steel (iron?) pins. Having two blades like this, it might have been intended as a traveler's razor, but it is equally possible that it was supposed to be a more elegant way of presenting two blades for alternate shaving sessions. I estimate its date of manufacture as sometime around the 1850's, but that is just a guess. At this time I have no idea where it was manufactured. However, having said that, I did recently come upon a French web site which was displaying a page of pictures of similar, two-bladed razors. Whether or not these razors were produced exclusively in France (which I doubt), the French seem to have a special term for these which is “rasoir papillon” which translates in English to “Butterfly Razor”.

The condition of this razor is rather remarkable considering its age. It had only some very, very light, dry rust on the blades which came away easily with careful cleaning. I could discover no marks on either of the blades that would have indicated any actual use of the razor. I could find no signs of honing or stropping - either along the front cutting edge or along the spine of the blade where it meets the hollow grinding. It is possible that this was a leftover in a shop, or perhaps just purchased by someone for show and never used. We will never know.

It would be nice to think that the scales were made of ivory, but closer inspection reveals the little black marks and traceries that make me think that they are really made of bone. The scales measure 14.7 cm in length (5-13/16"), 2 cm at the widest point (3/4") and perhaps 2.5 mm thick (5/64") although this varies somewhat. The little wedge spacer at the front end appears to be a small slice of some very tight-grained hardwood.

attachment.php


The blades are fairly simple, notched on the point, with the maker's mark stamped into the tang of each blade. Sadly, on both blades the indentation of the stamping was neither fully nor deeply struck and has been somewhat further eroded by some light surface corrosion. I have tried and tried to make out exactly what the name of the maker is, but cannot say with any certainty what it might be. I think I see something along the lines of the word "W * W I O X", but that last letter 'X' could just as easily be an 'L', 'K' or 'Z'. And as for that second letter (*), well, it could be most anything and your guess is as good as mine.

These are 6/8 blades which measure 12.5 cm in length (4-7/8") from the center of the rear pivot pin to the rounding of the blade point, being roughly 4 mm thick (1/8") at the widest part of the spine. The actual cutting edge is 7 cm in length (2-3/4"). These blades were ground on some large-diameter, circular wheel, giving just enough hollowing to elevate them out of the flat ground blade category. But, in truth, the grinding on the sides of the blade is not very deep at all so that it would be something of a stretch for me to describe them as being truly quarter hollow ground.

attachment.php


As regards surface finish, these blades never saw any polishing. The tang, back, notch and blade all show their grinding and filing marks. Looking at the back end of the blades within the scales behind the pivot pin, one can see that no attempt was made to clean up that part of the steel so that the shear marks and slight deformations left by whatever cut-off tool was employed can still be seen.

attachment.php


The interesting part about this razor obviously has to do with the arrangement of the two blades around a single pair of scales. The two blades share a common pivot pin and fold into the scales from opposite sides. At first glance this might seem to be a clever, space-saving arrangement, but it is less than ideal in reality.

The first problem has to do with the seating of the blades when they are folded away. The blade of a single-blade straight razor generally seats down snugly between and against its protective scales. The blades on this razor each share about half of the space between the scales and as such do NOT seat firmly in the same way. By virtue of their positioning and the slight bend of the scales, each blade, when folded in, presses against the scale it is closest to - something that holds it closed to a certain degree, but which also demands careful attention when closing the razor to avoid carving away bits of the inside of the scale while simultaneously compromising the cutting edge. What is more, the front wedge in this razor design serves as a stop for the blades and contacts them when they are folded in. This can dull the blade at that contact point. There is a slight indentation to be seen on both blades from this very problem.

A second difficulty of this design is that when either of the blades is in use, the second blade will still be folded away within the scales - something which drastically affects the balance and handling of the razor, making it decidedly tail-heavy in the hand when shaving.

Finally, there is the absence of any tail extension for the fingers on these blades. The steel is cut off right behind the pivot pin and this, too, makes the grip on the razor less than ideal during use.

attachment.php


By the way, the notches on these blades are not just mere decoration. They also serve as a handy grip point for the fingers to enable one to more easily open the blades out away from the scales.


Sharpening

I'm really a terrible one where antiques are concerned, since my reverence for the age of the object always has to struggle with my curious nature which desires to put said object(s) back into use. It was that way again in this case, and after some reflection I decided that in the interests of curiosity (and the B&B shaving community) I would sharpen this old razor and then put it to a shaving test - one time.

Since I did not want to spoil the antique look of the razor, I elected to protect the spine of the blades from any grinding, honing or stropping marks. For this I used a special plumber's tape that I have in house which is normally used to protect piping that must be encased within plastering or cement work. This tape is much thinner and suppler than duct tape but has a similarly aggressive adhesive which allows it to maintain its grip even in a damp environment. Two narrow strips of this were carefully cut and then wrapped around the spines of both blades and it was then time to start sharpening.

Due to the pronounced rounded form of the cutting edge (smile) I chose to use little hand stones for the entire process.

There being a few skips and tiny nicks in the blades, my first step was to bring back a clean, unbroken curve along the entire length of the cutting edges. For this rough work I started out using a few different grades of India oil slip stones (Norton). This was obviously a soft steel and my initial shaping work had the effect of almost immediately creating a rolled over wire edge opposite of the side I was grinding on. I began to fear for the worst, but gritted my teeth and continued the process.

Once the edge was reshaped, I honed, honed and honed with 4000-, 6000- and 8000-grit Japanese water slip stones. Due to the softness of the steel this work went very quickly. Unfortunately, that little bit of wire edge - becoming ever finer - remained with me. I would carefully hone it away, only to have it form again with the passage of the next honing stone.

Finally, I stepped over to pasted strops for the final edge polishing. This softer steel really likes pasted strops, and it was at this point that the fine wire edge finally disappeared (whew!). I used green soap, white soap and then .5 micron diamond paste. This last one was probably overkill for this soft steel, most especially since I finished up the whole thing by stepping back up the grit-grade ladder to using simple Dovo red paste on a leather loom strop. I figured that this last paste was comparable to what would have been the normal 'finest compound' available to the common man in the 1850's.


The Shave

Well, the moment of truth had finally come. Considering how soft the steel had appeared to be when first sharpening the blades, I had the feeling that the cutting edge would fold over upon meeting the first whisker and that this shave was going to feel like holding an angry cat up to my face: claws first.

I washed and lathered up as usual, paying particular attention to properly wetting and covering the whiskers with a slightly moister lather mix than usual. I picked up the razor… and began the shave. Did it work?

The happy news is that the razor really did work. The wire edge that had so alarmed me was gone and the blades provided a serviceable cutting action throughout, although I admit to allowing myself the occasional swipe on the strop during the course of the shave. It wouldn't really shave me so very closely without lots of attention, but on the other hand, it didn't open up my face like the claws of an avenging feline. I would rate the shave as something like a three to four on a scale of ten, but that would have been rather good for the middle 1800's, don't you agree? No, this is certainly not the equivalent of more modern razors, but for its day it would have been able to provide the user a reasonable end result and it deserves my respect if only for that… and having survived this long so that I might put it to the test.

Testing done, I dried the razor, carefully peeled off the protective tape, cleaned away the adhesive residue with an appropriate solvent, applied a light film of protective oil and packed it away in a plastic box with some desiccant gel for moisture protection so that the razor remains safe and ready for its next use. You never know. In another 157 years someone may want to use it again.

- Ignatz


A Last Note: My review has necessarily involved a certain degree of conjecture. Therefore I consider this article to be unfinished, especially since I lack any real information about the age and manufacture of this razor. I stand ready to alter and/or correct this article pending any future information, photos or evidence. Please don't be shy about posting if you feel you have something meaningful to contribute.

If you wish, you may follow this link to the discussion thread for this article: http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php?p=331379#post331379
Price
5.00 star(s)
Lasting Edge
1.00 star(s)
Craftsmanship
1.00 star(s)
Easy to Sharpen
4.00 star(s)
Easy to Maintain
1.00 star(s)
Shaving Smoothness
1.00 star(s)

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