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Were German Razor Grinders so good in the early 1900s

Hi Guys,

I'm sure many of you have seen Sheffield-made razors with packaging or advertising such as:

'KROPP Razor, Made in Sheffield, Genuine German Ground' (or similar) - I have a Kropp from 1905 with an advertisement from the same year.

'Finest Sheffield Steel, Honed in Hamburg' etc is seen too.

etc.

World War 1 put paid to this, but I got to wondering if a razor ground in Germany was superior to those ground in Sheffield - it seems the British man (and possibly US man too) of the time thought so.

I have many Sheffield Razors not marked as such and they give a fine shave (unless these too were ground in Germany)

Any ideas why companies advertised this way in that pre-war period?
 
I think it was more about marketing than the skill of German grinders.


But unless the skill of the German grinders was of some reknown, the marketing would be useless.


The razor I used this morning could be marketed as "made from Chinese steel, re-ground in USA". That doesn't carry much cache'....
 
But unless the skill of the German grinders was of some reknown, the marketing would be useless.


The razor I used this morning could be marketed as "made from Chinese steel, re-ground in USA". That doesn't carry much cache'....

Good marketing would call it ,,,,,, Chinesium,,, Seraphimized in the USA... ( a metal from the Far East treated with a proprietary method developed in the States ) That gives it a bit of panache'. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance baffle them with,,, something ,,,.
 
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But unless the skill of the German grinders was of some reknown, the marketing would be useless.


The razor I used this morning could be marketed as "made from Chinese steel, re-ground in USA". That doesn't carry much cache'....
That's not necessarily the case. If I said that I drove a 2 door, 4 seater car made in Germany, people would automatically think of brands like Porsche, BMW or Mercedes. One word that come to mind when you talk about German cars is quality. It's a pity that the car I had in mind was a Trabant. Marketing in most cases is built around perception as opposed to reality.
 
Don't know about grinders, but Germany was the undisputed scientific and engineering powerhouse at that time. The US was also at the top in a few areas, such as chemistry and electricity, where they rivaled or bested Germany.

But maybe the answer is simple economics.

From: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/5016008
11 DUMPING" IN ENGLAND.

SHEFFIELD AND GERMAN STEEL.

The British Trade RevieAv of October 1 (1903) remarks:

German competition in steel forgings continues to form a fruitful topic for dis- cussion in Sheffield steel circles. The more the matter is enquired into the more serious does it appear. Sheffield has had to face manv phases' of competition, and is doing so now, but it is extremely doubt- ful if steel makers'have ever experienced a rivalry in any, important product in Avhich. such a Avide/disparity, of prices ex- isted as between. 'German and Sheffield forgings at the present moment. We have stated preA-iously"tnat Germany has cap- tured the tradfe with the shipbuilding yards on the north-east coast. This is no ex- aggeration, nor is it the worst of the diffi- culty. German forgings are finding their way into Glasgow, Birkenhead, and Bel- fast, and also into. the inland engineering works of this country- Moreover, com- petition from the same source is being felt by makers of large and small steel castings such as are being used in increasing extent for electrical engineering Avork.

It is, hoAvever, in forgings that the dis- parity in prices is most striking. Here is an instance-perhaps an extreme one, but useful as illustrating local difficulties in obtaining Avork. ^A large engineering firm on the Tyne received an important contract for engines, and the management desired to obtain the forgings from a Shef- field firm, with Avhom they are on terms of friendship. Having ascertained the Ger- man rates for such material, they, offered the Sheffield House an all-round price of 12/ per CAvt., Avhich they said Avas a concession of 3d. per cwt. As the Sheffield house cou'ld not quote under 22/ they lost the order. In many' instances ¡Sheffield is being undersold to the extent of from £5 to £8 per ton, and perhaps in a larger number of cases German iorgings, ready turned and finished, are sent into our ports at the same price as are required by Shef- field makers lor material in the rough. We have heard of Sheffield houses importing forgings from Germany, dispatching them to the \ shipbuilders, and getting a fair profit on the transactions, Avhereas they could not have produced the material them ssh'es at the prices' they obtained for it.

The question of quality is, of course, dis- cussed. There can be no question about the quality of the Sheffield steel. No one here Avould think of letting it doA\m beloAv the recognised standard. It is said that the German forgings are dead-soft and de- ficient in carbon, and consequently cannot last long. On the other hand, all such material before leaving the district Avhere it is produced has to be subjected to severe tests by the inspectors of Lloyds. But, even if it be the case that the Ger- man steel is inferior, the fact does not ex- plain" a difference in price of from 30 to 40 per cent. Subsidies by the German Government, or by an association of manu- facturers in Germany for the promotion of export trade, have been suggested as an explanation, but such suggestions receive no support from persons avIio are authorities on tlie subject. There is some sort of as- sociation in Germany for the promotion of export trade, but the most it does for indi A-idual firms is to" grant them concessions on fuel and raw material produced in the country used in the manufacture of finished material or goods sold abroad.

.A probable explanation is tiiat the Ger- man steel firms are simply dumping in Eng- land their surplus material at considerably below cost, if such be the case, the com-

petition-at any rate, jn its' present acute form-may be regardeiT as merely a tem- porary affair. Even should this prove to be the case, hoAvever, one has to face the unpleasant fact that, apart from tariffs and dumping, Germany at the present time is, able to, produce steel in many different forms much cheaper than it can be pro- duced in Sheffield, quality for quality. This is undoubtedly true as regards cold rolled steel as Avell as forgings. Sheffield steel makers are beginning to recognise this fact, and it is hoped it will lead to sucli en- quiry into methods of production, manage- ment, and business system generally a-i wil'l result in a ioAver cost of production here. Some authorities aver that the management expenses in Sheffield, moie par- ticularly the remuneration of heads of de- partments, are on a far too lavish scale, and the profits expected are extravagantly in excess of what are practicable in such an age of competition as this. In the past the profits on Sheffield steel have undoubt- edly been enormous, but those were times when steel Avas a monopoly of the district, and probably the attempt to continue them for the future may do irreparable injury to the industry.

It is futile to blame engineers for patron- ising the foreigner. Competition at, home for engineering work is so keen that makers aie compelled to buy their material in the lowest market to have any chance of suc- cess in tendering for contracts. We have had brought to our notice the case of a local firm Avho have hitherto refused to use any other steel than Sheffield, Avho sent in a tender for a big contract. They lost the contract, and afterwards discovered that the successful firm Avere buying German forgings, and the difference between the two tenders represented exactly the diffe- rence between the cost of German and Shef- field. Another point is that the cheapness of foreign steel is enabling shipbuilders to keep foreign competitors out of the field, and the engineering trade is also benefiting bv it at the expense of German engineers.

As to why they were marked that way, perhaps these were meant for the export market, and perhaps they were dumped back into England, or perhaps there were laws about it, but that's all just speculation.
 
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It is said that the German forgings are dead-soft and de- ficient in carbon, and consequently cannot last long.

I guess that notion has been disproved by now...
 
It is said that the German forgings are dead-soft and de- ficient in carbon, and consequently cannot last long.

I guess that notion has been disproved by now...

Someone please post this info over at SRP!

Not only Gold Dollars are cheap junk, but also vintage Solingen!

Those guys like to stay on top of such news, bless their hearts!
 
It is said that the German forgings are dead-soft and de- ficient in carbon, and consequently cannot last long.

I guess that notion has been disproved by now...

German steel may have acquired this reputation based on steel provided earlier than 1903, perhaps much earlier. It's possible that England, with its ship building and steam engines, built better forges in the late 19th century, and got the reputation for better steel. Such a reputation would surely have lingered long after German steel caught up, if only for nationalistic reasons. There was certainly no reason Germany couldn't produce high quality steel, since they had no lack of coal or expertise. So it must be that they didn't have the need earlier on, at least compared with needs of the British empire.

While this is interesting historically, it doesn't really answer the question. It only suggests that it was cheaper to have some of the razors worked in Germany, while people still insisted the metal be forged in Sheffield. Perhaps all that dumping of raw steel left their honers without sufficient work, so they could underbid their English counterparts.
 
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On further investigation 'German Ground' may refer to a particular technique
I have some razors which are marked 'German Ground' on the case yet ' made and groung
d in Sheffield n the razor'
 
From the little I know, "The Hamburg Ring" was a particular full hollow ground.

Perhaps this extreme full hollow grinding of razors (as opposed to the many thicker Sheffield grinds) is what set German grinding apart of the "must have" of the day?
 
From the little I know, "The Hamburg Ring" was a particular full hollow ground.

Perhaps this extreme full hollow grinding of razors (as opposed to the many thicker Sheffield grinds) is what set German grinding apart of the "must have" of the day?

I believe this to be the case. The sheffield made "German ground" razors I have owned have all been very early full hollows. I believe the Gremans were the first to perfect the art of making very hollow razors, they became popular, and the English copied their techniques, being sure to let they buyer know that the razor was made in the German style to get the sales back.
 
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