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How long will a safety razor last

Might seem like a silly question. We all know pre war safety razors are still going strong. I can understand the life of a straight is limited to a certain number of honings. However large that number may be. Adjustables, and tto also would eventually wear out, or get sloppy. But what about safetys. Theoretically a 3 piece should last forever? The face/stubble could never wear out the brass of a vintage, or the stainless of a modern surely?

I see in some threads pot metal mentioned. Some will even buy several of their favourite pot metal razors to ensure a lifetime supply. Surely even pot metal would be immune to wear for this task. So what is the limitation? Is it the threads wearing, damage through accidents, or something else?
 

jar_

Contributor
Zamak or Pot Metal gets an undeserved rap. Gillette began using pot metal for the heads on Techs around the time of the Korean war and there are still brazillions of them in use today and often looking as nice as when they were new.

All razors can be broken but some of my most complex razors are getting up near 100 years old now.
 

Ad Astra

The Instigator
Ambassador
Damage and wear are of course separate, drop a zamak razor once and it can snap.

Sadly, I note a lot of New Improveds have bent-in corners/teeth from dropping... it's a heavy razor, made of soft brass. So some models are more prone to damage, which, like wear, the chances of increase with time.

When cleaning a vintage for the first time, I'm surely removing metal with the MAAS pastes. Had one this week with brass RUST which had to be removed with abrasives. So maintenance x care x accidents over time is the answer to OP's question!*


AA


* I drank whole pot of espresso while deducing this genius/nonsense ...
 
When cleaning a vintage for the first time, I'm surely removing metal with the MAAS pastes. Had one this week with brass RUST which had to be removed with abrasives. So maintenance x care x accidents over time is the answer to OP's question!*

AA

* I drank whole pot of espresso while deducing this genius/nonsense ...
Which raises another question. What about ultrasonic cleaners? Drop your razor in every now and then to clean the residue off in the nooks and crannys etc without any scrubbing etc... Added benefit of sterilisation perhaps.
Does ultrasonic cleaning work?
 

jar_

Contributor
Which raises another question. What about ultrasonic cleaners? Drop your razor in every now and then to clean the residue off in the nooks and crannys etc without any scrubbing etc... Added benefit of sterilisation perhaps.
Does ultrasonic cleaning work?
I probably won't hurt so every decade or three give it a shot.

But seriously, rinse the sucker after you shave and spend more time making sure you get all the soap out of your brush.
 
Hello,

from my own experience the most annoying defects:

Zamak - fine, until it starts to rot, but you can't even guess wether it will rot or not at all. If dropped, has a good chance of cracking/spalling. Threads can wear out.

Thin head three piece brass - threads can wear out if regularly overthigtened, bit difficult to repair. Thin headed examples tend to deform the base plate if the cap edges are deformed. Bent corner teeth are a rather easy fix.

Thick head three piece brass - if dropped corner teeth will bend invard, tough to repair. If the tooth is broken, it can be welded back, but not the cheapest option. Threads can wear out.

Adam
 
If you choose a vintage razor most are made of brass then coated. Many of these have lasted several decades and are still holding strong. These will likely last several lifetimes.

The modern stainless steel razors will also last several lifetimes as will the modern brass and titanium razors. With just a little care in using them you can hand them down to your son and he can hand them down to his son one day.

The older Zamak razors were often made of quality metals if they weren't they wouldn't still be around. This is not the case with modern Zamak made items. Zamak metal is often referred to as pot metal. Imagine a mixture of whatever metals you had on hand at the time going into the same pot and being melted down to make a razor with. The problem with modern Zamak is that the good quality metals aren't going into the pot in high quantities. The pot is filled mostly with Zinc. So the lifespan is determined by how good the quality of the coating is. Basically once the Zamak gets wet it starts to deteriorate and crumble which isn't good for an item like a razor that is constantly getting rinsed off. The coating is the only thing keeping the water out. The problem spots are often the threads. This is where the razors most often fail. It'll start off with the threads feeling like they have a bit of sand in them and it'll progress until one day they snap off in the handle. This is why you'll see people stock up on the R41 heads as they won't last forever. This scenario doesn't take a drop into consideration. Modern Zamak razors will generally last between 1 and 3 years or one good drop whichever comes first.

Some will tell you there's nothing wrong with Zamak but personally I consider them to be more of a longer term disposable razor. The low cost is appealing but figure the lifespan of the razor and compare it to your expected lifespan. A stainless steel razor might be a bigger investment upfront but it may actually save you money in the long run.

Just do a search for Zamak and you'll find lots of pics showing you failed Zamak razors. Edwin Jagger is aware of this and will often replace a broken razor in the first few years of ownership. Merker razors have a better coating but when they fail they will tell you it's your fault for getting it wet, like there's any way to use the product without getting it wet.
 
Zamak or Pot Metal gets an undeserved rap. Gillette began using pot metal for the heads on Techs around the time of the Korean war and there are still brazillions of them in use today and often looking as nice as when they were new.

All razors can be broken but some of my most complex razors are getting up near 100 years old now.
It's not entirely fair to compare Gillette zamac to generic zamac. Not all zamac is created equal, just like not all steel is created equal. There are over 3500 globally recognized steel formulations, many patented, all of which have different performance characteristics. Would you expect the same corrosion resistance from 316 stainless steel that you would from a bar of mild steel? Probably not. Would you expect the same corrosion resistance from 1950's Gillette zamac that you would from 2017 chinese zamac destined for a $5.00 razor? I hope not.

Zamac is a family of alloys that use varying quantities zinc, aluminum, magnesium, and copper (ZAMC) and varying levels of trace impurities. Some zamacs, like those used by Gillette were produced under strict quality control standards to avoid "zinc pest" or "zinc rot" as it is more commonly known here. The cause of zinc rot is the inclusion of trace lead impurities in the zinc. It is accelerated by humid conditions. The solution to "zinc rot", as discovered by the New Jersey Zinc Company in 1929, is to use 99.99% pure zinc. The less trace lead, the more stable the zamac, but the higher the raw material cost.

If you're confident that your razor was produced with 99.99% pure zinc, you can rest easy that your razor should last a lifetime, if you are not, you can rest easy that with reasonable care your razor should last over 2 years. Even zamac with a high level of lead impurities can survive for decades provided that it is kept dry, and stored in a non-humid environment. In other words, don't shave with it or store it in your bathroom.

I happily buy chinese zamac razors, with the full confidence that the threads will start disintegrating by the 500th shave. That's a short life for a daily driver, but a long one for a drawer dweller.

That's my 2 cents anyway.
 
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Clean the razor regularly with mild soap and a toothbrush and lube the threads. Especially if it is made of coated zamac. I did not bother too much about that during the first few years of DE shaving - this is how my Mühle R89 looks after 8 years of occasional use. 70s Tech top cap from the 'bay on the left.
 
Not a silly question at all! As you can see, the answer can vary wildly depending on the razor in question.

I have vintage Gillettes ranging from the 1920's up to the 1980's. A lot of them are in better shape than me :laugh:. I actually just took delivery on my only modern razor in my collection, a Razorock old type clone. The head is zamac, so I only expect a couple years of service out of it, but the handle is a nice heavy stainless job, so I'll be expecting that to last significantly longer. The handle has standard threading, so even if the head dies a quick death, I can simply replace it with any flavor of Gillette 3 piece that I feel like using.

As for straights, you'd be amazed at the amount of honings you can put on a razor.
 
Clean the razor regularly with mild soap and a toothbrush and lube the threads. Especially if it is made of coated zamac. I did not bother too much about that during the first few years of DE shaving - this is how my Mühle R89 looks after 8 years of occasional use. 70s Tech top cap from the 'bay on the left.
@sw_ , the picture didn't come through, but I'd love to see it!

Edit: I just saw that the word "this" is embedded with a hyperlink that goes to the photo. That's a pretty good specimen of thread rot alright...
 
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Here is my specimen of zamac rot. The cap on the left is 14 months old and has approximately 350 shaves on it's odometer, the cap on the right is it's exact twin purchased 1 week ago as a replacement for when it finally dies in a few months. Keeping zamac clean will not prolong it's life, but keeping it dry will. If it can't be kept dry, oil is the next best thing to prevent moisture in the form of liquid water, but also humidity from causing the corrosion of impurities in the zinc.

To prevent my replacement cap's threads from rotting as quickly as it's predecessor, I'll be using an oil resistant o-ring gasket ($0.10) and food grade mineral oil ($1.00). The process when changing blades will be to put 2 drops of mineral oil in the female threaded handle before screwing the cap back on. The o-ring will keep the water out, the oil in, prevent over-tightening, and in the process significantly increase the life of the threads.

 

emwolf

Contributor
I've got a 1906 Single Ring with a bent tooth that still shaves well 111 years later. I've got some I fear will be victims of Zamak rot, but most of my razors will probably outlive me.
 
It's not entirely fair to compare Gillette zamac to generic zamac. Not all zamac is created equal, just like not all steel is created equal. There are over 3500 globally recognized steel formulations, many patented, all of which have different performance characteristics. Would you expect the same corrosion resistance from 316 stainless steel that you would from a bar of mild steel? Probably not. Would you expect the same corrosion resistance from 1950's Gillette zamac that you would from 2017 chinese zamac destined for a $5.00 razor? I hope not.

Zamac is a family of alloys that use varying quantities zinc, aluminum, magnesium, and copper (ZAMC) and varying levels of trace impurities. Some zamacs, like those used by Gillette were produced under strict quality control standards to avoid "zinc pest" or "zinc rot" as it is more commonly known here. The cause of zinc rot is the inclusion of trace lead impurities in the zinc. It is accelerated by humid conditions. The solution to "zinc rot", as discovered by the New Jersey Zinc Company in 1929, is to use 99.99% pure zinc. The less trace lead, the more stable the zamac, but the higher the raw material cost.

If you're confident that your razor was produced with 99.99% pure zinc, you can rest easy that your razor should last a lifetime, if you are not, you can rest easy that with reasonable care your razor should last over 2 years. Even zamac with a high level of lead impurities can survive for decades provided that it is kept dry, and stored in a non-humid environment. In other words, don't shave with it or store it in your bathroom.

I happily buy chinese zamac razors, with the full confidence that the threads will start disintegrating by the 500th shave. That's a short life for a daily driver, but a long one for a drawer dweller.

That's my 2 cents anyway.
Interesting. I've read that zinc pest is a thing of the past, but I guess I'll find out soon enough. Meanwhile, it's not a big deal to take a razor apart and dry it off after each use.
 
I purchased a China made Tech clone fully knowing about the Zamac potential issues. The price was too good to pass up.

Just to see how long I could keep the rot at bay, I add a tiny nugget (maybe 1/4 of a Q-tip head in size) of salad-bowl/cutting-board finish I already had on hand (it's just a mix of beeswax and mineral oil). I put a new blade in, and the top stays on until blade needs to be changed, usually four shaves later. I store it with the top angled down.

So far so good.




Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish - Lee Valley Tools


PS...the small pot "A" is about 2.25" in diameter and 2" high, I doubt I'll ever see the bottom of it with this usage
 
Any vintage razor should last several lifetimes if cared for properly. A lot of them are 50+ years old and are still going strong.
Stainless should last forever too. Really the only ones to worry about are the zamac because they are typically cheaply made and of poor construction. Drop them once and the you run the risk of the head snapping off. The difference is that the vintage razors were stamped, whereas a lot of the newer zamac ones are cast, which makes them very brittle.
 
Some great info here. Thanks guys.

I very much prefer the idea of lasting quality. But I see the value of the cast razors also. So I may bear this in mind for future purchases. Try to stick to brass, or stainless where possible. I figure on shaving for another 30-50 years God willing. I'd like to be using the same razors I acquire now, then if possible.
 
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