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Advice on ivory scales please

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I recently bought this set of razors, purely because of it's connection to Aberdeen in Scotland. The photos of the advert was not clear enough for me to be able to tell it is ivory, but when they arrived, it was clear they are. Usually when you see ivory scales, especially sets, there are cracks, or broken off ends on the scales. These are in perfect condition, with a rich patina that I have no inclination of changing. I think one of the reasons they are not cracked is because they are very loosely pinned, with the blade falling out freely when turned upside down. Not safe, they are an accident waiting to happen.



The razors are in fair condition, considering they are about 130 years old, but unfortunately the rust around the pins is severe enough that it leaves me no option other than to remove the scales to be able to give it a proper clean.

Nr.1 Razor is clearly a replacement from the same maker as the spine detail is different from the others.

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I am, to say the least, apprehensive about the prospect. I have enough experience to be fairly sure I can do it without damage, if I take my time and are VERY careful. There is no way I will trust someone else to do it.

Here are the questions to my knowledgeable B&B friends:

1) Why do ivory scales get pinned without collars? Doesn't make sense to me, surely a collar will prevent the pin from mushrooming inside the ivory reducing the risk of wedging it apart and cracking.

2) Is it normal for ivory scales to be pinned so loosely?

3) I intend using the razors regularly, I don't own showpieces, I use all my razors. Seeing that the scales are in perfect condition, will it not be sensible to remove the ivory and replace them with something less fragile? Of course they will be stored carefully for in case I want to sell them at some point, and I can offer them as an option to a future buyer.

Any advice will be appreciated.
 
I am not an expert on pinning scales, but I would be hesitant to replace the pins if these are real ivory scales. Trade in ivory is prohibited so real ivory scales are irreplaceable if you damage them, which is certainly possible.
You might be able to tighten the pins, but again there is a risk if you have never peened pins before.

There are some scales of bone and horn that look a lot like ivory. Considering the age of your razors, they might be real ivory, but I cannot be sure from photos.
 
I have two ivory scaled razors with broken ears at the hinge
and they both have washers on the hinge pin.

I also have ivory scales with washers that are fine,
but my only two razors which are broken in this way,
have washers.

I think that ivory is fragile enough so that a missed hammer strike
past the edge of the washer, may be a problem.
That might also account for the looseness.

The razors in question are a Bengall and an A&N CSL.

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Ivory is always a little nerve wracking to work with, at least for me. I think the general advice is to *carefully* drill out the pin. Using a ball burr to dimple the pin first may work. I haven't done that myself. I've only had to drill out one set of ivory scales so far, and I practiced on a different razor first.

1) Collars--I'm guessing they didn't have collars because they don't need them. Bone, ivory, and shell are hard enough that the pin is not going to cut into it as it mushrooms, where horn or celluloid aren't. I've also seen dark scales from Eskilstuna that are probably some kind of hard rubber that are pinned without collars.

2) Of the six ivory scaled razors I have, only one was pinned tightly. The rest were very floppy. I've tightened them up as much as I dare.

3) As long as you don't over tighten the pins or drop the razor, ivory should outlast you. And it feels great in hand. If it were me, I wouldn't consider replacing it with something else.
 
I think the general advice is to *carefully* drill out the pin. Using a ball burr to dimple the pin first may work.
I was thinking to cover the pins with tape to prevent scratching, then file them flat with a needle file, so that the drill can find some bite. I do have some burs I can try as well.

I never use snips to try and cut pins, recipe for disaster
 
Depending on how loose they are, you might be able to get a superfine jewelers saw in between the tang and the scale. Those scales are nice and thick, too. Not wafer thin like Heljestrand scales. Do they have internal washers?
 
Depending on how loose they are, you might be able to get a superfine jewelers saw in between the tang and the scale. Those scales are nice and thick, too. Not wafer thin like Heljestrand scales. Do they have internal washers?
Yeah I have a jewellers saw as well, may work if the gap is big enough. They don't have internal washers.
 
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There isn't anything you can do with them now
that you couldn't do later instead.

Why don't you use them a bit
and think about how they are to shave with now.
I am in no rush to get them done, which is an indication of how much I value them. It's not about the monetary value. Usually within minutes of a new arrival, I am honing them or working on them. With these I will take my time, plan it right, and do it right. I have cleaned them, oiled them and carefully put them away, out of easy reach.

They will shave fine with a good edge. It is the type of razor I prefer 6/8ths with a very thin grind.
 

steveclarkus

Goose Poop Connoisseur
I was thinking to cover the pins with tape to prevent scratching, then file them flat with a needle file, so that the drill can find some bite. I do have some burs I can try as well.

I never use snips to try and cut pins, recipe for disaster
I bought a dead flat flush cutter which I believe in jewelry tools. It works beautifully and quickly. It doesn’t put any downward pressure on the scale.
 
Ivory scales are usually pinned less tightly.

I’m not certain why they don’t have washers, but I always assumed it was a quality thing. When you see how collard razors are pinned in the factory it is like WACK WACK, two or three hits and it is done. With ivory you certainly don’t want to do that. So they are carefully and slowly peened, which when done right, negates the need for washers, and they can have a cleaner look.
 
Nr.1 Razor is clearly a replacement from the same maker as the spine detail is different from the others.
Not necessarily, they're obviously part of a set (7-day?) and often, in sets, 1 razor is different. On a 7 day set I have "Monday" is scaled in white while all the others are black. In some TI sets all the razors can have different spines.
1) Why do ivory scales get pinned without collars? Doesn't make sense to me, surely a collar will prevent the pin from mushrooming inside the ivory reducing the risk of wedging it apart and cracking.
While delicate Ivory, along with bone, are structurally sound enough not to require them.
Horn will also handle the stress no problem as with this W&B I pinned with collars on the wedge end and no collars on the pivot.
Note: the pins are 2mm, so larger than normal and I've since reunited the razor with it's original collars.
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2) Is it normal for ivory scales to be pinned so loosely?
Not so loose that they flop around
Any advice will be appreciated.
1. When pinning wrap both sides of the pin area with tape to deaden the hammer blows and protect the scales in case you occasionally miss. Use a dampening block if you have one.
2. Check the pin wiggle in the hole before pinning it. If it's anyway tight at all either drill the holes bigger of use a smaller rod. I did some old French blades recently and they were all 1.5mm so I had to re-drill for 1.6mm rod stock.
On ivory you can't have any internal stress when the penning action compacts the rod. you're talking 0.01mm differences here but that can be the difference between a sigh of relief when done and the despair of hearing something crack and fly across the room.
3. Constantly check the tightness while peening and leave them a little looser than normal.
4. Conciously take 3 times longer to peen that you normally would so much lighter taps.
Ivory is always a little nerve wracking to work with, at least for me. I think the general advice is to *carefully* drill out the pin. Using a ball burr to dimple the pin first may work. I haven't done that myself.
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It turns out they had internal washers, just so covered in gunk I couldn’t see them.
Good thing, it allowed me to get a jeweler saw into the gap and saw off the pins. Thanks @Darth Scandalous for putting the idea in my head, its the first time I tried it and it worked easily with no risk involved.

Nothing broken or cracked!

I am glad I decided to unpin them, I would never have been happy knowing all the rust and gunk is under the scales.

Scales cleaned up beautifully with a light scrubbing. I used a “magic eraser” the type you use in the kitchen. I know it has no chemicals and is a very light abrasive. Just water. Very light staining left on the inside from the rust, but it will not bother me. After cleaning them I covered them with a liberal coating of neatsfoot oil. They can soak it up if they need it while I work on the blades.

Oh I did remember to number them so they can go back where they were.

Don’t know why my phone camera can’t show their real color. They look much paler on the photos. In real life they have a beautiful buttery patina 😍
 
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Check the pin wiggle in the hole before pinning it
Checked it with my pin stock, the standard pins I always use is the correct fit. They swing easily when suspended from the pin with no resistance.

I will replace the internal brass washers as I found them.

I will feel better if I use collars when pinning. Any reason why not?
 
Been watching this thread. Well done on the unpinning! I'm quite inexperienced so please take this with a grain of salt but, I've seen washers like this used for similar applications to achieve the very end you seek. For all I know, the washers in straight razors are already of this variety. If they're not, these would work a charm--I'd think. They are not abrasive and will somewhat restrict the "floppyness" of a loosely-pinned straight razor without imparting any damage to the beautiful scales you possess.

You would want the ones that are paper-thin, so they don't impart too much force on the tang. They come in various thicknesses. Google "C-washers" if you're so inclined. Good luck.

You're well on your way. Good work so far.

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Been watching this thread. Well done on the unpinning! I'm quite inexperienced so please take this with a grain of salt but, I've seen washers like this used for similar applications to achieve the very end you seek. For all I know, the washers in straight razors are already of this variety. If they're not, these would work a charm--I'd think. They are not abrasive and will somewhat restrict the "floppyness" of a loosely-pinned straight razor without imparting any damage to the beautiful scales you possess.

You would want the ones that are paper-thin, so they don't impart too much force on the tang. They come in various thicknesses. Google "C-washers" if you're so inclined. Good luck.

You're well on your way. Good work so far.

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Thanks for the encouragement.

As with most things in Straight Razor shaving, the skills are not common. You have to practise and teach yourself how to get things done. Thankfully we have this forum to share some experience and gather advice.

I would not have taken on this task if I didn't have some experience gained with less important razors. I like fiddling with sharp shiny things so I have done previous work on Gold Dollars and other vintage razors. Tried various things, made mistakes and learned. I am no expert and I don't yet know how far I will go with this. For now it's important to stop further damage and preserve a rare set of razors. My prime goal is to not do something stupid that will spoil them.

I will be careful, take my time and plan each move to be sure.

I will consider the friction washers you suggest, but I will probably stick to the original brass ones. Thanks for the suggestion.

Currently waiting for some abrasive wheels on order to start cleaning up the corrosion, I am in no hurry.
 
You certainly sound like you’re coming from a place of knowledge. Best of luck. I have a Government Colt 1911 with ivory scales purchased the year before sale was halted. I know what kid gloves are. I appreciate your, “discretion is the better part of valor,” position. I’m sure whatever you do, your patience will serve you well.
 
I will be careful, take my time and plan each move to be sure.

Currently waiting for some abrasive wheels on order to start cleaning up the corrosion, I am in no hurry.
I made some badger brushes and taking my time and thinking how to do something and what might go wrong is what saved me having to bin anything. It obviously took longer this way but I know if I messed one up I would annoy me forever and I wanted to avoid that.

If I was working on ivory I don't think I'd be using any abrasive wheels or anything where things go wrong fast. I do all my restorations by hand. The only exceptions I can think of are sometimes I might give scales a quick buff and sometimes I'll use a wheel if I'm putting a brushed metal look on a blade.

On the internal friction washers, I try to keep things as original as possible so if the originals are ok I'd use them. If you have a pencil with an eraser on it put about 400 grit Wet/Dry on a flat surface and use the pencil, straight up vertical, to polish up the washer. Just use pressure light enough to maintain contact with the eraser. If you can't manage it move up to 600 WD.
 
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