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Lecoultre Frameback Razor

Item Description

It was another one of those late Saturday afternoons on which I was sauntering through a flea market with an attractive friend, chatting away with her while nosing through old boxes and tables filled with the flotsam and jetsam of emptied-out attics. Some benevolent force must have chosen that moment to smile down upon my search endeavors, for there on the table in front of me was this most curious of razors. As I remember, I sort of looked at it in a confused way (never having seen anything quite like it before), shook my head in disbelief and walked on. In fact, it was only after another forty minutes wandering around the rest of the market that I finally returned for a second look. In the end I decided to buy it the thing, mostly because it just struck me as so very quaint and odd looking. We haggled a bit over the price and I remember giving something like $10 for it.

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What I had ended up purchasing was a “Jaques Lecoultre” frameback razor with a set of six replaceable blades. From the French lettering on the box I had originally thought this razor to be of French manufacture, but now I know better. These were produced in Sentier, Switzerland (French is one of the four national languages of Switzerland). Evidently, the factory ceased production in 1919, so this razor must be at least 88 years old and might well be much older, but any actual dating of this razor would be mere speculation on my part. This razor mimics a 7/8 model, measuring 7/8” ( 22 mm ) from the cutting edge at the deepest point of the exposed blade to the back of the frame. There is no engraving, stamping or brand marking on the frame, but each blade bears its respective number and the phrase, “Jaques Lecoultre au Sentier”.

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This razor was originally furnished with six blades and they are all still with it. Sad to say, blade #1 had encountered some serious abuse in the past, has had many divots taken out of it and I have retained it only as a memorial piece in order to keep the set “complete”. The other five blades are all in serviceable condition, although I have actually only ever put two of these to use. One can see that the blades have a point at the rear and a triangular notch at the front top. The blade is fitted into the frame, first by pushing the pointed end up into a matching, shaped slot, then levering the blade up into place, finally setting it snug by tightening down the screw at the nose of the frame with the little screwdriver. This system works brilliantly. Once tightened into place the blade has absolutely no play whatsoever. It is rock solid. The blades are wedge-ground and measure .0265 inch ( equivalent to 1/38 of an inch or about .67 mm ) in thickness along the back edge of the blade and taper down to nothing at the cutting edge. The surface finish on the blades is clean but not mirror perfect, showing extremely fine scratches from the original factory grinding operation. Perhaps one day I shall take out my Dremel rotary tool with a felt wheel and buff them all up a bit (just for the show).

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The construction of this razor shows very good attention to detail, although the all-over effect is rather more functional than artistic. The machining of the frame is excellent, the slot for the blades having been very carefully milled out and finished. The screw which secures the blades fits in snug and cleanly even after all this time. The finger ‘jimps’ are all of the same depth and well-defined. The scales appear to be of thin-sliced horn, secured with brass rivets. Further evidence of the attention to detail can be seen in the construction of the little wooden-handled screwdriver for securing the blade screw, the arrangement of the compartmented cardboard storage box and even the little extra cardboard sleeve for keeping the spare blades in place which is, itself, tapered slightly to more snugly fit the wedge-ground blades (see pictures).

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The steel from which the blades were forged (stamped?) is of very good quality. It sharpens easily and holds the edge for a long, long time. Of course, the blades have a rather extreme curve (or belly) which makes the task of honing them somewhat out of the ordinary. Rather than taking the razor to the stone(s) as with most other razors, I take little, tiny honing stones to the razor (see picture). I use extremely light pressure and move the stones in small, tight circular motions all along the blade from both sides. Using such a small piece of stone like this allows it to adjust to the changing angle along the length of the blade curve. The honing complete, I proceed to paste and strops as usual. This technique produces good results and the sharpened blades cut very well, indeed.

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All in all, this razor works beautifully, although some aspects of it take some getting used to, one of these being the very squared-off form of a frameback razor. One’s fingers are always somewhat conscious of the sharp break where the blade meets the back, and it just doesn’t fit so elegantly in the hand as more traditionally ground razors. Offsetting that is the deep belly of the blade. Far from being a liability, that deeply-rounded form is a definite advantage when working along the hollow of the neck under the chin.

With all blades fully sharpened and ready for use, this would make a very handy travel razor. One could swap out the blades as required while on the road, taking along nothing more for maintenance than a leather strop. And even if I don’t get out on the road all that often, this is one razor that does not languish in the drawer. It is treated to hot water, lather and whiskers on a regular basis. If any of you come across one of these, it just might be worth your while to give it a second look.

Latest reviews

I have one of these but only one blade, Do you know where I could get others?
I just got one of these, complete with box screwdriver and six blade set. Thus far I've cleaned and honed two of the blades and all I can say is , wow!
The blades honed up effortlessly and delivered a great shave.
If you ever see one for sale - BUY IT.

Best Regards

Graham
Price
5.00 star(s)
Lasting Edge
5.00 star(s)
Craftsmanship
5.00 star(s)
Easy to Sharpen
5.00 star(s)
Easy to Maintain
5.00 star(s)
Shaving Smoothness
5.00 star(s)
I also have one of these but mine is a 'four-blade' boxed set rather than six - presumably a bit cheaper when new. Fully agree with all you have said, though - very well made and workmanlike tool.

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ignatz
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