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Learning from a box...

As some of you may know I've been rummaging through storage boxes lately. While looking for the pipes (smoking kind) I know I own but that were not exactly where I know I put them I did find a box full of old razors and other stuff. I've been restoring the old razors and trying to work them into the rotation though it will take some time, but the content and condition of the stuff in the box really says a lot about the thinking of my parents and grandparents that put this stuff away.

There was a small box filled with black and brown shoelaces but only one lace of any given size. It's likely a shoe lace broke and so they bought new ones but only changed the broken one, putting the other away for future use.

There were razors, some obviously well used but others seemingly unused. One was a Version 2 Valet Autostrop still with the cardboard fake blade in place that had instructions on it and a still supple leather strop designed for the razor to sharpen blades and extend the life and an unopened box of blades for the razor. There was also a really well used Version 1 Valet Autostrop but without the strop. There were three Rolls Razors, one well used (with a blood stain on the blade even) but two looking near new.

There were tins, almost empty but not quite; shoe polish, lanolin and neatsfoot oil. They were stored away it seems rather then thrown away simply because they were just not empty.

There were three pre-WWII Gillette Tech razors, all looking well used and showing only the merest hint that at one time they had been gold plated.

There was a very early version of the Gem Damaskeene in it's original box with the stamped metal blade box as well.

The box was a sharp reminder that my parents and grandparents were definitely from a non-disposable society. If a shoelace was not broken you did not replace it. If you had not used all the shoe polish or lanolin or neatsfoot oil you did not throw the tin away. If you stopped using something you did not get rid of it, you stored it away. Several of the razors are now pushing a century old yet all cleaned up well. Even the newest of them is over a half century old and still work as well as when they were new.

Actually, there was less "restoration" needed than with fountain pens of the same era. Yes, the stamped metal blade box was pitted and oxidized. Yes, some of the boxes themselves show wear and fabric decay. Yes, the directions and ads in with the razors had turned brown and the paper beginning to get brittle, but for the most part, everything still worked.

Restoration has amounted to mostly cleaning and sanitizing, putting the metal pieces through an ultrasound bath and some scrubbing bubbles. Brasso on the brass parts (and there was lots of brass). Toothbrush to get into tight spaces. But all are coming along. There are still a few more to go but it's been a wonderful journey.

On the multiple exotic razors the reasoning might have been quite different. My family ran an Insurance Agency that went back to before the US Civil War. Among the clients were several barbershops, jewelers, industrial supply companies and such. Often dad or Gpop came home with a sample product they had been given by a client. Some got used, particularly if they had been asked to give it a try, some simply got put away.

My Great Aunt though had polio as a child and one lag was shorter than the other and crooked. She had to wear special custom made shoes and still needed to use a cane. Yet she rose to head a an Actuary Department in one of the major national Insurance Companies with both men and women working under her, something almost unheard of at the time.

Aunt Jean did have one brand new pair of those shoes she never wore; they sat on a shelf in the closet to be worn only at the funeral when she died.

But again, the box was a glimpse into an entirely different mentality and era.

Stay tuned. Pictures to follow.
Wow, that's cool. My grandparents lived that way. They were farmers and so were my parents, so some of that frugality was present in my home growing up too, but not to that degree. These days, someone not into shaving might have pitched that whole box.
Reminds me of the time I moved into a house that had been in my family for over a century. The attic was filled with the most wonderful things. From Victorian match safes used to ignite the gas fixtures for lighting (save it, you don't know if you can trust this newfangled electricity fad) to large hatboxes still containing their outlandishly plumed examples of the milliner's art. Parasols and such abounded.
Tried the GEM Damaskeene from the box tonight and was amazed by how intuitive, efficient and mild a shave I got. Had a few issues but mostly that was first effort problems and with experience I'll learn how to handle those areas. Still the end result was a BBS.




Not bad from a newly 100 year old razor.
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