Super Speed Razors: The Post World War II Shaving Culture in America to 1955

Discussion in 'Double Edged Razors' started by mgbbrown, Nov 14, 2015.

  1. packtray

    packtray Contributor

    The contract Tech I own seems pretty typical for its type. Tony is spot-on in his assessment of wartime availability. I asked family members who served in WW II, and the general consensus is that you could get a razor if you had an "in" with your logistics guy (supply SGT/clerk). What I have noticed is Techs go in quite a few directions with respect to assemblies even during the war, as Gillette just grabbed a lot of random Tech parts for the non-issue, commercial models and assembled them for sale. Bakelite seems quite predominant due to wartime metal shortages. You don't even see true consistency in contract (stock-numbered) Techs, either, as other manufacturers held Army contracts for razors. However, Gillette produced the lion's share of razors. This trend continued up until around the early 1980s.

    My contract Tech was NOS, with a sealed pack of Blue Blades. Those blades are not fun to use. Even in my NOS 1949 SS, the blades from that set are non-fun. I keep the second NOS '49 SS set in storage, but it sure isn't for those blades.
  2. @packtray - the blue blades are probably 'not fun' because they were corroded. I have a couple of safety razor blade hones, and I think they were there so that people could simply buff off the corrosion from sitting in the packet, not so much for sharpening. People didn't go for the stainless steel blades like the last donut in a fat farm just because they were shiny, after all.
  3. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    Gillette WW II 1944 Camouflage Blade Box Package and Eight Boxes.jpg Gillette WWII Camo Blades NOS.jpg Gillette Camo Blade Close View.jpg Kwiksharp Double Edge Razor Hone Hardened Glass Circa World War II.JPG Kwiksharp Double Edge Razor Hone with Gillette Blue Blade Circa World War II.JPG Gillette 1949 Super Speed with NOS 1956 B2 Gillette Blue Blade from 20 Blade Dispenser.JPG View attachment 764469 View attachment 764460 View attachment 764462 View attachment 764465 View attachment 764466 Thanks Packtray! Gem and Clix were two suppliers I have seen aside from Gillette who supplied contract razor kits to servicemen, and there were others of course. Gillette offered both Bakelite and cast Ball End Tech handles. Interestingly, German servicemen were supplied with a similar assortment of double edged razors with Bakelite cases and handles, as well as metal handles. Solingen, located in the Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, south of the highly industrialized Rhur Valley, was where most of their shaving kits and razor blades were made. Soligen was famous for the fine swords, knives, scissors and razors manufactured by firms such as Wusthof, J. A. Henckels, and Boker, as well as other makers. For the British forces, Sheffield was where most of their shaving sundries originated. View attachment 764468

    Bookworm; During the war, razor blades were rationed, so honing not only sharpened a dull blade- it also removed corrosion on the non-stainless steel edge in the process. It was also a popular practice during the Great Depression, as razor blades were an expensive commodity whose useful life needed to be prolonged for financial reasons as well as availability. Even the best razor steel could have a short use-life, and would dull relatively quickly in comparison to the stainless alloys found in modern blades. I too have shaved with vintage Blue Blades which were oiled from new to prevent corrosion. I found that the blades on the top of the dispenser were corroded as their protective oil coat was long gone. It is very similar to using Cosmoline to protect larger machined parts from corrosion. I have a crated, new old stock MGB head covered in thick waxed paper and Cosmoline waiting to be used after sixty years of inventory life. As for shaving with that B2 Blue Blade- it certainly was no fun. God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
  4. @mgbbrown - The corrosion is what I was talking about - the hone I have is a Norton Abrasives Safety Blade Hone VS 1, from Behr-Manning, in Troy NY, a division of Norton Company. (It's in the original tan cardboard box with red edging) It's a flat green stone, with a V cut from left to right (lengthwise) so that if you look at it from one end, it's flat on the bottom, and V'ed from the sides to about a third of the way down. It had no effect that I could tell on a stainless blade, which would make sense if it's just buffing the corrosion off of the edges of a carbon steel blade. As carbon steel is harder, and can keep an edge longer than most any stainless, something has to be causing the 'edge loss' other than just dulling.

    I can take a picture and send it to you. Or maybe just send you the stone :)
  5. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    Bookworm; Please post it on the thread- I for one would love to see it. God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown
  6. Here we go.
    This is the picture of the instructions. I had to try to pull it a bit so you could read what was under the fold.
    This is the hone, set as if you were going to use it, plus the box. The lid has most of the writing. The 'sides' have written to the right - "Norton Abrasives <next line> Safety Blade Hone VS1". The 'left' side has "Trade Marks Registered <next line> MADE IN U.S.A." (yes, two words for 'trade marks') . The 'top' and 'bottom' sides have the half moon cutouts for fingers.
    Here's the hone itself. The printing, which may not be readable, is "MADE IN USA". It's a V shape, so when you put the blade into it, you pressed down on the centre of the blade, and rubbed back and forth. It has smudging on the ceramic (or whatever the hone is made from) from previous uses. Stainless steel blades made no marks when I tried.

    I know nothing else about the hone, like it's age. It was part of a huge lot that I picked up somewhere on the order of 15 years ago, which also included some blades I haven't even unpacked from the bubble wrap. Some unopened Don Juan, some unopened "The Blue Man - Blue Blades" in a purple and tan box, an unopened box of GEM '5 for 35cents' blades (heavy bastard - it's thick), and a box of some brand I can't read because I haven't cut the tape on it that says "Each Blade Bonded and Guaranteed" on one side. I guess I should open them up and put photographs in the blade forum. Maybe knowing what came with the bundle would help dating the hone.

    Attached Files:

  7. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    I am thinking that the box and instruction graphics place it in the 1920's as a ballpark, perhaps late. The Norton Logo was their first, as they grew to be one of the largest companies in the US. They were quite famous for their Crystolon sharpening stones. God Bless! Thank you for posting these photographs! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown
  8. That stone is very cool! Thanks for sharing. I'd sure like to learn its grit rating and binder, likely only Norton would know.
  9. It's almost identical to the straight razor hone that I also have, which I can't tell if it's from Norton or not. That one is about as long as my hand, about two inches wide, and has a pattern of dished indentations in the center of the stone, probably as a swarf collection point.

    I'll dig that out and do some photos as well.
  10. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    Thank you both for posting guys. Razor hones are definitely interesting- a milk glass hone by McKee would be a great piece to add as an early Super Speed accessory McKee Razor Hone Milk Glass.jpg . God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown
  11. Brother Tony Brown,

    Please tell me about the Kwik Sharp Razor Hone. How well does it work on carbon and stainless steel DE and SE blades?
  12. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    Steve: I hope this finds you well Sir! Welcome back! Kwik Sharp was a tempered glass hone distributed by La France Novelty Company or LaFrance Novco operating out of Chicago during the War years. I have tried it out only on a B2 Blue Blade with meager results. It ranked as one of the most uncomfortable shaves of my entire life... I can chalk that up to inexperience and perhaps improper technique. I can try to hone one of my blade banked Wilkinson Swords if you like to see how a more modern counterpart compares. Men back then were made of some stern stuff. God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown
  13. Tony, yes I would appreciate your trying a used Wilkinson Sword or other used modern blade on your Kwik Sharp Razor Hone. I would like to buy one of these hones, but only if they work relatively well. The reviews I've read so far have been decidedly mixed. My interest is not to resurrect 30 year old blades that are dead; rather, it is to extend the life of a modern blade in use by several quality shaves.

    Most of my blades are coated stainless steel Personna Lab Blues, carbon uncoated (?) CVS drug store blades, and coated stainless steel German Wilkinson's. In my SE razors I use CVS uncoated blades and Gem stainless steel coated blades.

    Thanx for testing! I can't think of a better person to do such a test. BTW Tony, in my very early years my first significant purchase was a new white 1957 MGA with black leather seats. You can relate, I'm sure.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2017
  14. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    I am honored Steve. Here is an 1961 MKII MGA that I helped restore, and I found a host of period accessories for it as well. This was sold for a low mileage Series I 1966 XK-E Coupe from Billings, Montana that spent most of its life between engine swaps- Chevy and Ford, the Ford being a 289 Cobra engine. The owner has just located the original Jaguar engine and transmission in Alberta, Canada. Looks like a road trip... God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown MGA 1961 Roadster Glenn Johnson.jpg Glenn's 1961 MGA Cockpit(640x465).jpg Glenn Johnson  1961 MGA Aunt Millie's Milton.JPG
  15. I always liked the horn button that was smack dab in the middle of the dashboard. I also liked the starter switch that the driver would pull to start the car. Memories from 60 years ago! The car has long since gone up to the great junkyard in the sky, but I still have the small pop-out panel from the passenger side of the dashboard that has the MG logo on it. That is where the radio is. Oh, and the charming map light and its switch on the extreme right side of the dashboard . . .

    But let's return to shaving and concave glass shaving hones . . .
  16. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    Indeed Steve. Those were the days. The Lillicrap's Hone.jpg glass hones of the 1930's are particularly striking. This one was invented by Richard Joseph Lillicrap in the 1930's, and manufactured in England. God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown
  17. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    I have unfortunately been rather seriously under the weather, having suffered a hypertensive crisis last Sunday. I am by no means overweight, but working long hours for the past six years has finally caught up I am afraid. Thankfully, my division at the hospital has rallied to the cause, and work demands and hours have been reduced, and not just for the four week recovery period. For that I am truly grateful. MY wife too, will be in on this remodel, as we are now headed for a gluten-free diet, coupled with more exercise during those hours of personal life I have gained back from my work schedule.

    Since today was to be a day of relaxation and keeping by blood pressure as close to normal as possible- I used this as an opportunity to see just what my Kwik Sharp hone could do on a modern, coated stainless steel blade. I have found Wilkinson Sword and Israeli-made Personnas to be well-suited to early Super Speeds, so the test blade chosen was a Wilkinson Sword. I was by no means expecting resurrection, but I also was not prepared for absolutely the worst shave of my life. I decided to postpone things a bit, allow for some beard growth, and shave in the mid-afternoon with the honed Wilkinson Sword. The only thing I have for comparison to this experience was my shaving with a B2 Blue Blade a while back. I noticed some razor blade drag then, but I was able to shave without too much irritation or harm done. This time was different though. I mean, I pretty much exfoliated my face with this blunt instrument. My jowls still burn like a house-afire, as they say in the Southland. Being someone possessing that free-will of choice, I hold no malice toward Steve. I'll just keep that hone in the Kordite container where it belongs. God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown Kwik Sharp WWII Glass Hone Wilkinson Sword Blade Test.JPG Shaving Sundries Kordite Container.JPG
  18. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    Royal 1949 Fiberglass Airline Case.JPG Royal 1949 Bakelite Handle.JPG Royal 1949 Quiet Deluxe Brush.JPG Royal 1949 Quiet Deluxe Manual.JPG Royal 1949 Quiet Deluxe Store Hang Tag.JPG Royal 1949 Quiet Deluxe Typewriter Glass Keys.JPG Royal 1949 Quiet Deluxe Original Ribbon Spools and Keys.JPG Royal 1949 Quiet Deluxe Glass Key Detail.JPG Western Electric 5302 Full View.JPG Western Electric 5302 Dial Card Sunset Exchange.JPG I have been asked about how the 1950's office is going, which is to say that it has been reduced to projects that do not involve sanding or dust. The construction work was put on hold as I recover from bronchitis. My doctor in Oxford was reluctant to give me any antibiotics, as any subsequent bouts are worse. Thankfully the coughing has subsided and I am recovering after a full month of being under the weather. Many folks have asked to see photographs of some of the other pieces that I have refurbished for the office, which includes the Henry Dreyfuss designed Western Electric 5032 transitional telephone, and another piece for the desk- a 1949 Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter. This too was also designed by Dreyfuss, so one can only imagine the impact that he had during the early Super Speed days. I am surprised that Gillette did not acquire his services in designing the Flare Tip Super Speed, as I am sure that his streamlining influenced it nonetheless.

    The typewriter that I was able to locate was little used, and lacks only the case key to be complete. The carrying case was made of fiberglass, and is one of the earliest commercial applications of this material after the war. I was able to locate new ribbon for it, and the ribbon was rewound onto the original spools. The Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter was the same model used by Ernest Hemmingway to write many of his novels in Havana, Cuba. He preferred to write standing up, with the typewriter sitting on a bookcase shelf. God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown
  19. Tony, I'm sorry to hear about your sudden health issue and I wish you health and wellness.

    It's interesting you had such a dismal experience with the Kwik Sharp hone. They advertise "50 additional shaves," but of course I consider such an ambitious claim to be rank hyperbole. For a change of experience I've been shaving with a 1914 Ever-Ready SE razor the past week. I typically get 5 shaves per SE blade with my tough whiskers. When I completed shave #5 I then lightly honed the exhausted SE blade on the bathroom mirror (!) with 3 or 4 strokes on each side with good results. The blade definitely felt sharper to my finger. And I got 2 additional quality shaves!

    So the concept on honing on glass can be good, it seems to me, though my experience is very limited. I don't think it's practical to hone a DE blade on a flat mirror because a flexible DE blade is difficult to hold, and of the possibility of cutting one's fingers. But a more rigid SE blade is less of a problem as it's easier to hold. The blade I referenced was a Gem stainless steel SE blade and it was "coated," though with what, I have no idea.

    The instructions on the Kwik Sharp hone are confusing. They say to "rotate a few times on each side." I'm not sure what is intended. To me, "to rotate" would mean to hone the blade in a circular movement. But I would think the correct movement would be to move the blade back and forth sideways, with the finger lightly placed on the blade that is positioned north and south. I also would think a light pressure would be very important, as we are honing a delicate razor blade, not a butcher knife.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
  20. mgbbrown

    mgbbrown Contributor Contributor

    Thank you Steve! This weekend has been far better than the days preceding it, so I feel somewhat approaching how I would have felt before the hypertensive episode. I was less fatigued in the afternoon, so I used the opportunity for being both experimental and industrial. I did not take my blood pressure yesterday, with the confidence that it has receded to a lower value. Hypertension in males is marked by a baseline of 139 for the top number, or the systolic pressure, measured in millimeters of Mercury. Mine consistently ran in the low 130's, but for quite some time had been within the normal range of 120 mm Hg. During that time my wife and I were walking the track in Moria, which is a small cluster of houses and a large Jeffersonian, brick Baptist church building in rural Person County with its own volunteer fire department, softball field, and track. Moria is a part of the Carolina Slate belt, with nearby Mount Moria. Rhyolite outcroppings are everywhere, so the early Native Americans had a ready stone tool source. My plan is to begin that habit daily, starting today, and eventually couple that with our seasonal mowing of the three acres surrounding our house. I will eventually step up the pace by jogging lightly, and then as I am able, begin to run the track. Running in rural Granville county is quite hazardous, as unleashed country dogs abound, many of which are Pit Bulldogs. We live on a great running road, so hopefully the threat of getting bit will prove to not be such a real threat after all.

    I am sure that success with the Kwik Sharp razor blade hone was thwarted by the stainless steel alloy and blade coating. Honing of carbon steel, uncoated blades, at least for my one Blue Blade attempt, was a markedly better experience, despite some of the razor drag that was present. Remember too, that I am a tenderfoot when it comes to double edged razor blade honing, so perhaps the King Arthurs out there will offer suggestions to better technique, as well as their experiences with extending the life of modern, coated stainless steel blades to that of the legendary Excalibur sword that the great King carried.

    As far as instructions for using the Kwik Sharp stone are concerned- they become compounded by my experiences using flat corundum stones to sharpen knives and axes. These stones were usually hard and soft Arkansas stones, and were used in combination together and with a light honing oil to produce the desired sharp edge. Many in turn use small, circular strokes on the flat stone surface, followed by stroking the blade across the stone in the direction of the edge to achieve sharpness. The glass Kwik Sharp honing surface is a deep concavity which allows for a consistent sharpening angle when one attacks the edge of the blade with the hone. Movement of the blade is in successive back-and-forth strokes, similar to sawing a block of wood as an illustration. There is no mention of using a honing oil at all. My thoughts too, are that a synthetic concave stone such as the Crystolon stone by Norton Abrasives that Book Worm has in his collection, would be a better stone for the initial sharpening- again using a sawing motion and even honing oil. This would be followed by sharpening on a glass stone such as a Kwik Sharp. I am willing to bet that the results would be more in-tune with what was advertised by Kwik Sharp, or at the very least, producing an acceptable edge and a pleasant shaving experience. My face no longer burns, but I look like I am recovering from a bad sun burn- red face and peeling skin abound. I am though, glad that I had the chance to experience one of the concessions made by men on the home front during that great war. I still say they were made of some stern stuff. God Bless! Tony Brown RN mgbbrown Kwiksharp Double Edge Razor Hone with Gillette Blue Blade Circa World War II.JPG Kwiksharp Double Edge Razor Hone Hardened Glass Circa World War II.JPG

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