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Rescaling my Filarmonica 14 EPBD with the minimum amount of tools

- Preface

Back in 2015 I was offered a NOS Filarmonica 14 EPBD by a guy who had acquired a large lot from an old distributor, and I could not resist. I was relatively new to wet-shaving, and after a year or so using DEs I was eager to try to learn to use a straight razor.

The razor was impeccable, near mint condition and the factory edge was still very very nice despite the decades sitting in a drawer. However, there was a big issue for me: the 14 blade is HUGE and the scales are incredibly light, fragile and not well pinned (I am also a guy with medium-sized hands). This, combined with my lack of proficiency with straight razor shaving, made the whole experience not very enjoyable.

I even put the Filarmonica up for sale at some point, but I couldn't let it go for the prices that were offered and decided to keep it as a collector / heritage item.

PS: the rubber band (aka rust-magnet) across the tang was removed by myself as soon as I realized it was trapping moist inside the tang (what a terrible design choice by the way)


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- Introduction
Fast forward to 2018. I was back again to straight razors at full speed. I decided that I had to learn, no matter what, to use them and maintain them and enjoy them. I bought some Coticule bouts, a nice strop and a Dovo Best Quality beater to make sure I learned everything properly.

After a few weeks, shaving with a straight razor was second nature, but the quality of my shaves were still not great. I knew that the Dovo Best Quality does not have a fantastic factory edge, and I blamed it for my poor results. Since I was very comfortable with my shaving skills, I decided to pull the trigger on a better quality, truly shave-ready razor: a 5/8" Ralf Aust. Wow, mind blowing! My first shave with it was a single pass BBS that was memorable.

- Back to Filly
I went back to the Filarmonica 14 EPBD and started to have better shaves, but it was still quite aggressive and with a "bite" that made me end up with a nick or two every time I used it (this blade is big!!). I couldn't blame anything else other than the imbalanced loose blade that was always scaring the hell out of me.

This whole process left me intrigued. I wondered if someday I could commission a new pair of scales for the Filarmonica 14 EPBD, but shipping and waiting and having a piece of history disassembled have always put me off.

- The breakthrough
About a year ago, I ordered a Koraat razor, the standard 14 2.0 model. I was very curious to see how it compared to the original Filarmonica 14, especially what Ulrik's design was to the scales.

I can confidently say that he nailed it! The Koraat is absolutely one of the best razors out there, and the balance between scales and blade is just perfect.

Ulrik's 14 2.0 has three main design differences affecting the balance of the razor: First, his scales are made of acrylic, which is denser than plastic. Second, they are wider and a little shorter. Third, Koraat's blade is smaller than the Filarmonica (around 1 cm), which makes for a lighter blade to be balanced by the scales. Not a design choice per se, but the Koraat is also tightly pinned.

Now, I was thinking about commissioning a pair of scales from Ulrik for the Filly, as I still have some fuel to burn in this world and I want to enjoy the ride as much as possible. But paying to ship the razor to Austria, wait for it to return, and pay for return shipping are all very annoying things. Therefore, I've decided to put together a DIY Acrylic Scales project.

- The Goal
Very simple: to design and build a pair of acrylic scales to fit the EPBD spending as little as possible and using the least amount of tools as possible (I live in a small apartment, and being recently married, I do not own any sort of power tool yet). No power tools would be used throughout the process, except for the vacuum cleaner to tidy up the house after each session

- The Plan
Two main steps:
1. Find a video on Youtube that most closely resembles my goals, put the steps on paper and follow them. I used Lewis Razors' video entitled "Making straight razor scales with the minimum amount of tools" as my inspiration and guide for the project.
2. Only get the required tools for a step once all the previous steps were satisfactorily completed.

So, I loaded myself with a 200 x 200 x 3 mm sheet of red translucent acrylic (total cost around $3), a bunch of W/D sandpaper from 60 to 2000 grit (total cost around $10 but I did not use all of it), a $2 coping saw and a lot of elbow grease to get started.

- Safety and Environmental measures
It is 2020 and no one wants to see plastic dust or sandpaper grit going down the drain anymore. Everything would have to be done in the safest and most environmentally friendly conditions. So a face mask was absolutely mandatory for all steps. So were gloves, where necessary. Everything was collected, vacuum cleaned and discarded properly.

- The Design
I wanted the length of the scales to match the original Filarmonica EPBD's design, while the width had to be as large as the Koraat 14 2.0. I thought this would represent the perfect combination for what I was trying to achieve.

I created a design that would fit both requirements and drew it on paper. I marked the distance between the hinge pin and the end of the blade to make sure that the blade would fit nicely in the scales

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- Cutting the Acrylic
First thing I had to do was to cut two rectangles of 40 x 200 from the acrylic sheet. Right in the beginning I realized that I should probably have invested a little more on the coping saw, as I put some pressure to cut the acrylic and broke a piece from it. I was back to the start not much longer before beginning.

After a while and with a lot of patience, I was able to finally have the two rectangles, which were then attached to each other using double-sided tape. A copy of the design was written on one side of the acrylic using a Sharpie

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- The most tiring step: sanding
As I said, I do not own any power tool and live quite far from any relative or friend that could lend me one, so everything had to be done by hand. I anticipated this step would be the longest and most difficult one, as I had to sand down A LOT of acrylic

I glued a copy of the design into the acrylic and went at it. I soon realized that 80 grit W/D was not sufficient so I went down to 60 grit.

Photo: At my first coffee break (halfway through the top part)
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Photo: Getting there
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Photo: Finally done! A scratched pair of acrylic scales. I did not count the total amount of hours it took me sanding the acrylic, but it was definitely more than I wanted :). I used 1 full sheet of 80 grit and 2 full sheets of 60 grits to complete the task.
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- Holes
I used a small pin vise drill to make the holes. It was a lot easier than I anticipated, this little thing is great! I first drilled 1.5mm holes and realized they were too small for the pin, so I adjusted it with a 2mm drill bit. Easy job!

Photo: drilling the holes
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- Detaching the scales sides
I placed the scales in a mixture of warm water and vinegar and let them sit for a few minutes. After that, I carefully detached the sides (this is a risky situation in which you could break the scales if you are not careful)

- The Wedge
Well, my first attempt of doing a wedge was not ideal. I ended up hurting my thumb and with a wedge that was too small for the scales, so I had to do it again!


- Polishing
Before gluing the wedge I did an initial round of polishing through 220-240-320-600-1000-2000 WD sandpaper and finishing with some toothbrush buffing

Photo: starting to look nice

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- Gluing the wedge
I used the drill bits to align the scales and the wedge, and glued the wedge with super glue. This is where everything almost fell apart. The super glue glued so fast and strongly that the drill bit was glued together with the scales and the wedge.

I got incredibly frustrated as I could not remove the drill bit from the scales! What have I done????

To solve it, I placed the bottom part of the scales under a mixture of vinegar, warm water and a acetone and let it sit for a couple of minutes. With a heavy-duty pliers, I slowly and carefully pulled the drill bit out of the scales. I really did not think I would be able to take it out, but after a while I managed to do it. Lesson learned!

Then, I placed a small plastic vise on the wedge (covered with some tape to avoid scratches) and let it dry for a couple of hours.

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- Sanding the excess wedge and final polishing
I sanded the excess wedge with 60 grit sandpaper and re-polished all the scales from 220 up to 2000 grit finishing with toothpaste buffing

Photos: ready to pin
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- Pinning
I ordered the brass straight razor pinning kit from Maggard Razors, which is enough to pin 10 razors, so I could be sure I would have enough stock in case something went wrong. It took some time for the package to reach me, but after about 2 weeks they were safely in hand. As my inspiration, once again followed one of Lewis Razors' video, this time about Peening and Pinning a straight razor.

With the pins at home, it was time to pin the wedge side. I followed Lewis' video exactly, but the leftover pin above the razor was excessive and/or the brass was really hard, so it took me some time and elbow grease to tighten the pin. The acrylic scales are very robust and my 8oz hammer did a great job pinning it.

- Final assembly
The smooth peening process on the wedge side gave me confidence to complete the work. Up until this point, I was not sure that I was actually going to replace the scales of the Filarmonica 14 EPBD. I wanted to see the actual outcomes until the very end before making the final decision.

Well, once I've got there, it was a pretty simple decision: the new scales were absolutely gorgeous in my opinion, the hard work was there, and my skills were enough to do it, so I've decided to move forward.

I was able to remove the old scales by filing one side of the pin until the washer was out with just some minor scratches. The pin was sticky like it was glued, but with some patience it came out nicely. The scales are intact, so are the internal washers in case I may want to use them in the future.

Now probably one of the most challenging part due to my limited motor skills: fitting pin, internal washers and blade inside the scales. When I was about to give up and wait for my wife to help me, I was able to fit the first washer and then the rest was easier.

Last but not least, peening. I really wanted a very tight pin that is going to give me the needed confidence to strop, hone and shave with this beast of razor. At first I was worried, since after a couple of rounds of tapping the blade was still incredibly loose. I believed all the videos and comments from the experts and continued to tap the pin lightly and rotate the razor every now and then to create the tension. Once the razor was relatively tight, I opened it in several spots and tightened it as much as possible. Overall, I am impressed with the results. It is almost as tight as my Koraat, if not more.

You can see the final results in the second post. I have to say I am really happy. From loose, 13g plastic scales to very tight, shiny, 21.5g of acrylic scales there was a lot of effort and learning. The blade sits nicely and centered. The translucency of the acrylic allows me to see the blade inside the scales just like my Koraat, which is cool.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and I cannot say how much satisfied I am with the results. Is it perfect? No, but I would say close enough for a first trial. Would I do it again? Yes, probably starting with a better saw or a piece of acrylic more fit to size. Will I do it again? Not for now... Maybe someday (if I am bored) I can replace my Dovo Best Quality's celluloid scales with some nice acrylic.

For now, let me enjoy my beautiful Filly. I am looking forward to shaving with it more frequently going forward!

Photos dont' do it justice, but here they are:
 
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Nice one Sir!!! looks good and a little tip for you to store the old scales, get a steradent tablet holder that denture wearers use to clean dentures. And place the scales in with it being a plastic tube with a cap, the scales won't get damaged.....
 
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