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Carbon Steel Blades

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PortsmouthDavid

I am quite interested in what goes into making a razor blade. There is a WHOLE LOT to it. See for example: http://www.shaving.com/history/blade.asp

Now I really have two (somewhat related) questions about razor blades:

1) Does anyone know whether carbon steel blades DE are still produced anywhere? Once upon a time, the Gillette "Blue Blade" -- a carbon steel blade -- was the most popular blade in America. Carbon steel is -- I understand -- capable of taking a wonderfully sharp edge. The disadvantage is that it corrodes faster than Stainless Steel. Anyway, if there are any modern carbon steel razor blades around, it would be interesting to try them.

2) Part of what interests me about carbon steel razor blades is that it would be a way of connecting with the shaving world of 50-75 years ago. Which leads to my next question: Do any of the -- ah hmm, excuse me -- more SENIOR users have recollections of using Blue Blades? Were they comparable in sharpness to a modern razor blade and just wore out faster? Or were they just plain not as good as modern blades?

(Along a similar line, does anyone recall the early stainless blades that came into the market in the 50s and 60s well enough to recall whether they were comparable to modern blades?)

Particularly because there is such enthusiasm for the RAZORS of the 1940s, I'm curious to know what it was actually like to use one "back in the day" with the carbon steel (and then early stainless steel) razor blades of that era. I use a beautiful late 1940s Gillette Aristocrat, and it's just interesting to speculate about the blades from its era.

So if anyone has information on contemporary carbon steel blades or memories of carbon steel of yesteryear, I'd be very interested. Thanks!

-- David
 
Hi David -

As someone who has extensively studied carbon vs. stainless in knife blades (which I have to assume also applies here); carbon steel does NOT get sharper than stainless.

That's an "old wives" tale that's been perpetuated for years. It takes an edge much EASIER than stainless, to be sure. However, that's about the only advantage it has.

Stainless steel's sharpness does indeed last longer, but it also has the capability of getting much sharper as well (as long as the technology/skill of the sharpener is able to take advantage of the hardness).

Think of it this way: the harder something is, the sharper it can get (as a mirror polished edge is always the sharpest possible - as in diamond knives used for microscopic work). Stainless is much harder than carbon, and can therefore, take a much keener edge (again, all else being equal). The challenge is really sharpness without excess brittleness. That's what new steels are always striving for...

Another "old wives" tale that's been around kife blades for years is that a sharp edge is really 'micro-serrations.' Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Another post showing magnified razor's edges shows this quite clearly. The sharpest edge is the smoothest with the finest bevel (or multiple bevels, like many edges have now).
 
P

PortsmouthDavid

HlSheppard said:
Hi David -

As someone who has extensively studied carbon vs. stainless in knife blades (which I have to assume also applies here); carbon steel does NOT get sharper than stainless.

That's an "old wives" tale that's been perpetuated for years. It takes an edge much EASIER than stainless, to be sure. However, that's about the only advantage it has.

Stainless steel's sharpness does indeed last longer, but it also has the capability of getting much sharper as well (as long as the technology/skill of the sharpener is able to take advantage of the hardness).

That's very interesting information. I wasn't suggesting that carbon was sharper - just that I had understood that it could take a good edge initially.

Anyway, based on what you are suggesting, the old carbon steel blades probably would not have been as sharp as modern stainless, even before corrosion dulled them faster thatn the stainless. Do you agree?

David
 
HlSheppard said:
Hi David -

As someone who has extensively studied carbon vs. stainless in knife blades (which I have to assume also applies here); carbon steel does NOT get sharper than stainless.

That's an "old wives" tale that's been perpetuated for years. It takes an edge much EASIER than stainless, to be sure. However, that's about the only advantage it has.

Stainless steel's sharpness does indeed last longer, but it also has the capability of getting much sharper as well (as long as the technology/skill of the sharpener is able to take advantage of the hardness).

Think of it this way: the harder something is, the sharper it can get (as a mirror polished edge is always the sharpest possible - as in diamond knives used for microscopic work). Stainless is much harder than carbon, and can therefore, take a much keener edge (again, all else being equal). The challenge is really sharpness without excess brittleness. That's what new steels are always striving for...

Another "old wives" tale that's been around kife blades for years is that a sharp edge is really 'micro-serrations.' Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Another post showing magnified razor's edges shows this quite clearly. The sharpest edge is the smoothest with the finest bevel (or multiple bevels, like many edges have now).


As a collector (& one time maker of knives) I'll only say this. Higher carbon blades are harder than stainless steels. They also will deteriorate faster if exposed to moisture (the higher carbon content will rust quicker). You can get the same degree of sharpness with either material but, under ideal conditions, the higher carbon blade will remain sharper longer. High carbon blades do not take an edge "easier" than stainless (which have a higher chromium content & are a "softer" steel). Stainless will rust too...it just does it slower, thus the name: "stain-less").
 
I guess my two cents is worth as much as anyone else'. What we call stainless in the US is more correctly called non oxidizable elsewhere. For all intents and purposes, depending upon the formulation of course, it does not oxidize, i.e. rust. There are as many formulations of carbon steel, to include coked high carbon, as there are stainless. Using todays automated processes in razor blade manufacture, including the all important annealing pass, stainless steel in razor blades is superior to carbon. Firms are not making high carbon razor baldes, just cheaper to make carbon steel blades. We are talking mass produced razor blades, not high $ custom knife blades. The real deal is the sputter deposition techniques used for platinum and carbon-like diamond on the edges of the stainless blades that give long lasting sharp edges.
 
PortsmouthDavid said:
That's very interesting information. I wasn't suggesting that carbon was sharper - just that I had understood that it could take a good edge initially.

Anyway, based on what you are suggesting, the old carbon steel blades probably would not have been as sharp as modern stainless, even before corrosion dulled them faster thatn the stainless. Do you agree?

David

Yes sir!
 
Kalypso said:
As a collector (& one time maker of knives) I'll only say this. Higher carbon blades are harder than stainless steels. They also will deteriorate faster if exposed to moisture (the higher carbon content will rust quicker). You can get the same degree of sharpness with either material but, under ideal conditions, the higher carbon blade will remain sharper longer. High carbon blades do not take an edge "easier" than stainless (which have a higher chromium content & are a "softer" steel). Stainless will rust too...it just does it slower, thus the name: "stain-less").

Well, you're not really comparing apples to apples here. HIGH-carbon differs from the "carbon steel" that this thread is referring to. Carbon steel is most definitely easier to sharpen. "High" carbon - well, I suppose that depends on the specific example. Any straight razor owner can test this for themselves (if they have both a stainless and a carbon steel razor). Same can be said for stainless vs. carbon kitchen cutlery. By 'high' carbon, are you referring to tool steel? I don't believe that's commonly used in any razor blades (at least that I know of).:confused:

With regard to carbon keeping an edge longer than stainless: Not in any testing that I've done (fairly extensive in a meat packing plant). I suppose it all boils down to what you call 'ideal' conditions. Water and whiskers are far from ideal, I would suspect...

Modern stainless "recipes" are far from soft(er) - some have Rockwell ratings above 59!
 
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