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Need a little advice with an old French razor

Hallo everyone,

I hope that the more experienced of you can help me with a little advice on the SR pictured. I've searched the forums but not come up with a 100% solution as yet, so sorry if I'm asking repeated questions. I found this post especially interesting: A French razor from the 1700's (A PARIS CH? BREVETE) - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/a-french-razor-from-the-1700s-a-paris-ch-brevete.618819/

I was working late one night / early morning to get some stuff finished for the next day and then drank a couple of glases of red wine... I really shouldn't look on EBay in that state. Well, the result was that I took a fancy to what looked like an old SR with not very good scales from Valence, south of Thiers, and put a Euro 21 bid on it. A week later recieved a message that I'd won the auction and yesterday it arrived.

I removed the brown rust with a little brass brush (and scraped as much of it out of the pivot as possible - there is certainly more down there between the scales and the blade). Looks better than the online pictures led me to believe. Then I started removing the dirt from the horn scales and have started to change my mind completely. The scales are pretty brittle (shining light through them shows clearly that they are riddled with small cracks, i.e. completely dried out, see image) and have been a few chunks banged out of their edges. The rivets look like they are original. As you can see in the pictures, the scales are also pretty warped. The wedge looks to be made of lighter horn.

I now have more the feeling that I've aquired a little bit of history that I don't want to destroy. I'm no longer so keen on my original thoughts on just cleaning the blade and rescaling.

It would also be nice if someone knows about the brand "FREYDIER A VALENCE" or could suggest where I could look for info about the knife in general. An approximate dating would very much interest me. I've never heard of SR manufacturers from Valence before, so it could simply be a branding from a Thiers manufacturer...

Now to my questions. I'm not sure how to proceed, but do now want to keep the original scales and the rivets. As I've never touched horn scales before, I'd value your thoughts on the following possibilities:

1. Clean the inside of the scales as well as possible and soak the whole knife in neatsfoot oil for a few months to rehydrate the scales as well as possible, then finely sand and buff the outside of them. I've read many of your posts that this often helps with dried horn scales. This would probably be the easiest option, but has the downside that the oil in the pivot would probably make the blade flop around, which is doesn't do at present. The rivets have obviously been tightened a number of times over the years, so I think a further attempt may very well crack the scales.

2. As I want to keep the original rivets, I could drill a small hole into each one and use a very small diamond grinder to hollow the pin out and hopefully pull off the outside washers undamaged (as suggested here: Unpin a Razor - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/unpin-a-razor.404578/ ). I normally just file the old pins down and knock them out, so I've no experience with drilling them. Then I could heat-flatten the scales and glue a thin (horn) backing to each one to strengthen it (maybe with something like hide glue that could, theoretically, be taken off again) and re-assemble with new pins in the old washers. Has anyone done anything like this before and could advise me? Is is a good idea at all or just a silly thought? I read in another forum post that the sanded material could be mixed with glue to fill chips in the scales, so I could kill two birds with one stone. I assume that I'd have to glue everything together before applying any oil, or they would separate again.

3. Of my 50 or so SRs I think that only five or six didn't have broken scales when bought, since fewer bid on them and I really enjoy getting the blades into working order and making new scales. (Having said that, I still need a lot of practice, especially with the rivets.). This last option, also the one if I manage to break the scales, would be the easiest.

Any comments or other suggestions would be most welcome as would information about the SR.

Best regards, sorry if the post is somewhat long-winded, and thanks in advance
Les
 

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Soak the scales in neatsfoot for a few days before you do anything else. I don't think it will affect the pivot pin, if anything it will swell the scale slightly. The horn will drink it up. As far as the warp, it looks like it closes cleanly, so it's up to you if you want to address it. A heat gun will work best.

You'll be shocked at what the scales look like after a couple days in neatsfoot.
 
Ah, I'd not thought about the scales swelling up like wood with water and maybe compensate for the lubrication. Thank you.
 
Hi Les, welcome to the forum.

That's an old Frenchy all right with the classic shape and no tail. Rough date is about 1760-1780. (I don't like dating things this old but I can put you in the right half of a century. There's a few French members who might know more)

I haven't heard of Freydier before but back in the old days blacksmiths were knocking out everything from horse shoes to razors so it could be a limited run of blanks, probably finished by someone else. Freydier looks quite rural so it's unlikely that are many of them about.

I have a few more very old French razors in the to do pile. I just took them out for a look and one of them is very similar to yours. An "L. Learge", same shape, same scales, same time period.
PXL_20220425_142117340.MP.jpg

To do a proper job you really do need to take them apart which is what I'll be doing to this whenever I get around to it.
Taking it apart lets you do things you simply can't do while it's whole.

If you're careful, and manage to save the collars, all you really need is some pin stock. In your case nickle-silver, in mine I'll use brass. You said you've made scales so this shouldn't be a problem.
You supplied a good range of pics so:

The Scales actually look ok to me. Take it apart and throw them in neatsfoot oil while you work on the blade. They're a little warped and the only way to really straighten them is disassembly, just take your time. Integrity-wise they look fine so let the neatsfoot oil do it's thing. (You don't need to soak for a few months, a few days is fine)
Forget about a horn backing, just see how they come out after oil and sanding.
The little chunks missing, I'd just sand them to the point where they're not catching anything. Think of them as "Free character".
The wedge could be horn but I'd say it's almost certainly bone.

The Blade to be honest and as you've identified "you've got a bit of history" in your hands, so I wouldn't go mad on a grinder or anything. Just sand any active rust off and clean it up. When you're done immerse the blade in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes.
A lot of razors from around this period seem to have a brushed metal finish so do you have a wheel to do this? It can be done with sandpaper and a cork but it's much harder to get it consistent.
The stamp of the tang is in pretty good shape. These era blades have what I call powdery steel so go easy on the stamp to preserve as much as possible.

It maybe the closeness of the lens but end profile of the blade it looks almost like a microtome. Are both sides symmetrical or is one side flatter than the other?
 
Forget about a horn backing, just see how they come out after oil and sanding.
The little chunks missing, I'd just sand them to the point where they're not catching anything. Think of them as "Free character".
The wedge could be horn but I'd say it's almost certainly bone.

A lot of razors from around this period seem to have a brushed metal finish so do you have a wheel to do this? It can be done with sandpaper and a cork but it's much harder to get it consistent.

It maybe the closeness of the lens but end profile of the blade it looks almost like a microtome. Are both sides symmetrical or is one side flatter than the other?

(Sorry for the above - I'm just getting used to the forum's software.)

Good evening.

Yes, I took your (and DrStrange and Darth Scandalous's) advice and have put the scales, well the whole knife, in neatsfoot oil. I don't have time to start the project for two to three weeks, so that should be enough for the horn. I've a press drill in the cellar, so if I file the tops a somewhat and put a little divet in with a diamond grinder, I hope that I can get the collars off undamaged (I'll put aside a day or two for that, as I think if I rush it I'll probably break everything).

I already took the surface rust off with a small brass circular brush on my dremel. I didn't use a steel one, because they can sometimes be quite hard and really dig in to a surface. I've a few tins of lapping paste (this stuff Grinding & lapping compound grit 400, extra fine | REBSHOP - https://www.rebshop.de/en/schleifpaste_koernung_400_extra_fein_450g-smd-cam0400.html from 240 to 1200 grit) that I've been playing around with. On three inch felt wheels it can put a very even brushed surface on a SR without the risk that a wire brush brings with it. I'll not try to polish it up before I've seen what it looks like.

No, the blade is symmetric, just my mobile telephone pictures that are wonky. It is an almost perfect wedge, I reckon that the centre of the blade is about a quarter of a mm concave. I also got lucky that it's not at all warped: Both the spine and the edge are flat and all contact perfectly on a DMT MagnaBase. I assume that it has been laying in a draw for a long time and that nobody has played around with it. If I'd got my hands on it ten years ago, I'd certainly have ruined it... :-(

1760-1780 - wow! I was thinking around 1850 or so. Maybe the local museums in Valence can help (yes, I'm going down that rabit-hole...) with more info.

I will post any progress over the weeks.

Just as an aside, I've a second French wedge on my restore table from a manufacturer I cannot find anything about: Bechon & Mazillier. One of the original (metal) scales was almost corroded through from the inside (was not obvious from the pictures, and I'm putting one of my last lignum vitae scale pairs onto it. Lovely wood, turns deep green over a few months with a really nice crosshatch grain (the colour isn't very obvious on the image).

Cheers to you all for the encouragement.
 

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1760-1780 - wow! I was thinking around 1850 or so. Maybe the local museums in Valence can help (yes, I'm going down that rabit-hole...) with more info.
I would actually put your estimate closer to the truth.

The French made no tail razors a lot later than the English.
 
I would actually put your estimate closer to the truth.

The French made no tail razors a lot later than the English.

Not much of an expert, but I will 2nd this. Below is a photo of my tailless French razor - from what I have found out LeCollier a Nogent was in business 1840-1920, with Exposition wins in 1855 and 1867.

@Bevel razors on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to be pre-1800. Notice how the blade blends into the tang both in terms of width and thickness. That contrasts with the clear grind line separating the blade and tang on the OPs razor as well as the LeCollier.

1650937832918.png
 
I would actually put your estimate closer to the truth.

The French made no tail razors a lot later than the English.
Yeah, I'm uncomfortable dating razors this old so happy others can share their knowledge.
They look cool and all but the no tail makes them tricky to use. You need to hold them all by the tang and they're thin enough to want to snap between your fingers to a position 90 degrees to your face. Awkward but very exciting, Ooh la la!
Not much of an expert, but I will 2nd this. Below is a photo of my tailless French razor - from what I have found out LeCollier a Nogent was in business 1840-1920, with Exposition wins in 1855 and 1867.

@Bevel razors on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to be pre-1800. Notice how the blade blends into the tang both in terms of width and thickness. That contrasts with the clear grind line separating the blade and tang on the OPs razor as well as the LeCollier.
I bought 3 razors from the same seller at the time and if I recall correctly they dated them in the mid/late 1700's.
I also found a website at the time, before I bought them, with very similar razors dated 1760 -1780 which is where I got narrowed down dates. As you say where the blade meets the tang dates them a little more precisely and the swooped toe fits the time period.
 
Yup, soaking in neetsfoot for a few weeks will not affect the pivot. I soak in a Ziplock bag at times for months. The bites can be filled with CA and sanding dust, (from inside of scales).

Flatten the pin head with a fine file and make a divot with a sharp, fine center punch. You can use a small diamond burr, but they can be difficult to control, a Dremel flex extension will provide much better control, ($15). If you use a diamond burr, the center punch divot will help center the diamond burr.

You can make a mask, small piece of a soda can or thick plastic water bottle, with a hole the size of the collar drilled in it and taped to the scale, in case you slip.

Drill a starter hole in the divot with a Center Drill, not a 1/16-inch drill bit. A drill bit will flex, a starter drill will not, they are not expensive. A center drill has a single flute and will take an even shaving and make a straight hole. You can drill the hole with the Center Drill or once the hole is established switch to a drill bit, it will remain centered.

Do not punch the pin through the back side. Chances are the pin is bent, (slightly) it will bind and blow out the back scale, lift the top scale off the pin then cut the pin with side cutters flush with the back side and push the head through.

Abrasive paste or Greaseless compound are aggressive and will remove steel. They will quickly remove any detail from a razor in less practiced hands. Hand sanding is a much better option if you want to retain detail.

41m0fnV39rL.jpg
 
Thank you all. This thread has been most instructive.

I'd not thought about using a center drill - I'd have gone for flattening with a jeweler's file, divoting and then a normal drill and had probably destroyed the collars. Excellent advice. I'll order a set of center drills so that I can practice a bit after I get back home in May.

"Do not punch the pin through the back side." Yes, I cracked the handles on the first two SRs I tried to descale, because I neither thought about the pins being bent, nor them having slightly mushroomed on the scales' outside surfaces while pinning. On knocking the pins into the first scale, everything went OK, on knocking them through the other side... crack and splinter. Now I free one scale, take the blade out and then knock the pin back through the other scale to its original position in order to cut it off with a flush cutter. Then, knocking it out the other side goes with the mushroom shape and the scale doesn't split (well... mostly). I've never actually seen a straight pin. What amazes me is how much force the original pinning process must have applied and that the scales weren't damaged. Maybe just years of practice with a hammer I suppose.

On an aside, either due to rust, or simply that the hole in the blade was punched out with a larger diameter than the pin, blades often "jiggle" a little in the scales, which annoys me. I started with two component glue and re-drilled the hole to fit the pin, but found that wasn't robust enough and have now gone over to putting a little brass colar cut from modelling pipe that fits the pin to the hole with a minimum of play. Selections are plenty and cheap on EBay, Amazon, etc.

View attachment 1446678
Does anyone have other (better) solutions for this, or am I being a bit finicky with the blade movement? (Which I really hate in new SRs - you would think that modern manufacturing techniques would be able to get it right.)

Another question is: Although there are no spacing washers between blade and scale at present, I find that the whole SR construction works better with them. Although not "original", would you put some in when re-assembling?

The point "Abrasive paste or Greaseless compound are aggressive and will remove steel. They will quickly remove any detail from a razor in less practiced hands. Hand sanding is a much better option if you want to retain detail." is well taken. With a 240 grit grinding paste on a 6 inch sisal wheel it's possible to take the whole bottom off of a full hollow blade before you realised what happened. The 1000 grit on a felt wheel can (with practice and concentration) be used to great effect. I wouldn't use it on anything but the blade, as it's difficult to control the rounding off of shoulder/shank/tang features that belong to the original design, which is a shame. It is a little like going into hospital for a gentle face lift and leaving with no lips...

When I get going I'll report how it went.
 
PS: It is very enjoyable to be a member of a forum that is both helpful and friendly. I'm a data analyst (I intensely detest the hipster variant "data scientist") and many of the forums I use professionally are full of quite arrogant, rude <<expletives>>. This is a really nice change to that kind of behaviour. Thank you all!
 
On an aside, either due to rust, or simply that the hole in the blade was punched out with a larger diameter than the pin, blades often "jiggle" a little in the scales, which annoys me. I started with two component glue and re-drilled the hole to fit the pin, but found that wasn't robust enough and have now gone over to putting a little brass colar cut from modelling pipe that fits the pin to the hole with a minimum of play. Selections are plenty and cheap on EBay, Amazon, etc.
I think people have attacked that problem both ways you have described, by creating a bushing or by using 2-part epoxy to fill the hole and redrill it. Somewhere (in this subforum, I think) there is a post from @Doc226 detailing how he did it with epoxy. I'll see if I can find it.

Edit: Leon Revival - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/leon-revival.602567/
 
Yup, jagged large pin holes are common in many old razors, some Sheffield’s are massive, they were punched, not drilled.
I have done it all three ways, Epoxy and redrill, epoxy brass tubing and just pin tight with domed collars. It has been years since I have epoxied a pin hole and just pin them tight using domed collars, once tight they stay tight.

If you are going to epoxy, make sure that the blade will fit in the scales where you plan to drill your hole. Taking a few measurements can save you a headache. Also ensure the pivot hole is clean and free of rust so the epoxy will hold. Use a rust remover and paint gun or gun cleaning brush to scrub the hole, I soak in vinegar for a few minutes and scrub.

I have a progression on Greaseless compounds and wheels, and only use the 600 grit occasionally. 3m deburring wheels offer better control.

Look into 3m 1" Radial Bristle Disc for the Dremel. They are time savers and come in a variety of grits. You can buy an assortment for about $15. I use the 220 grit, (maroon colored) the most. Wheels last surprisingly long, gang them up or use signally. I restore antique tools, they are great for cleaning the slots in screwheads and hard to reach corners.

An inexpensive flex shaft for the Dremel give you a lot more control with the Dremel. If you are buying a new Dremel, go cordless and variable speed.

3m_polishing_wheels_10.3501photo2__71824.1492722154.jpg
 
If you are going to epoxy, make sure that the blade will fit in the scales where you plan to drill your hole. Taking a few measurements can save you a headache.
Yes, on my second or third DIY scales I put the hole in "just wrong" so that the SR didn't close. I think that I read the measurement off of the caliper incorrectly. Since then I've been much more careful. I think directly after that was when I bought my first digital caliper so that it didn't happen again.
I have a progression on Greaseless compounds and wheels, and only use the 600 grit occasionally. 3m deburring wheels offer better control.

Look into 3m 1" Radial Bristle Disc for the Dremel. They are time savers and come in a variety of grits. You can buy an assortment for about $15. I use the 220 grit, (maroon colored) the most. Wheels last surprisingly long, gang them up or use signally. I restore antique tools, they are great for cleaning the slots in screwheads and hard to reach corners.

An inexpensive flex shaft for the Dremel give you a lot more control with the Dremel. If you are buying a new Dremel, go cordless and variable speed.

View attachment 1447663

I've seen those little spidery wheels advertised but up until now they didn't really look that useful, i.e. they just seemed to be thin flap-sander lookalikes. Well, I'll order a set and play around with them a little. I've a Proxon (just another make of Dremel) with variable speed, so at least it'll only be the attachments. 👍

My wife will, once again, surely call me out for "buying some new toys"...

 
Hallo @Dominic - sorry, was away for longer than expected. The razor is still sitting in a jar of neatsfoot oil. The center drills I ordered (great suggestion!) were in my mail box, so I hope to fish it out of the oil and drill the pins out this week. I'm really looking forward to seeing how much difference a month or so in oil has made to the scales. Thinds that have piled up at work normally swallow the first week after returning, so maybe I'll have time on the weekend.
 
And I've just seen Bevel's post about repairing dings in horn scales: Excellent! Maybe I'll try it on the holes in mine.
 
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