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What Gives? A Total Lack of Information From Blade Manufacturers!

So, I have been getting more interested in the innovations in razor blade manufacturing technology and why and how those innovations were implemented. I came across news articles when researching Meyer Shnitzler (1912 - 2007), the VP of R&D at Gillette from 1933 till 1967. He, among other things, invented the DE razor blade dispenser with used blade slot, the plastic razor case, the Toggle and Bottom Dial Adjustable razors and he also invented the Silicon coating on Blue Blades which caused them to be renamed Super Blue Blades.

Apparently, on reading the patent application (US2937976) for the silicon coating and news interviews of Mr Shnitzler, men were not adequately prepping their faces prior to shaving and this was causing pain and irritation while using Gillette's product. Mr Shnitzler, in his research lab, started experimenting with various steel blade configuration that would allow for sharper blades to be produced. But guess what? He determined blade sharpness could not readily be detected by the shaver and sharper blades did not alleviate the pain and irritation from poor prep. It turns out that, according to Mr. Shnitzler, the improperly moistened whisker is harder to cut and the hair itself will adhere to the steel, as it it being cut, causing the hair follicle to be pulled with the consequent pain/tugging feeling. A chemical engineer by training at MIT prior to coming to Gillette, Mr Shnitzler's solution to the problem was an organic silicon coating to the steel so that the protein in the hair would not adhere to the steel; yielding a better cutting action with less pulling at the follicle. The Super Blue was born (1959).

Later, Gillette patented a process for manufacturing stainless steel blades but sat on the development. Wilkinson beat Gillette to the market with the first stainless steel blade, which had the benefit that is could last longer without corroding. However, Gillette was not in a rush to bring stainless steel blades to market in that there was no improvement to the shave inherent in a less corrodable base metal. Also, Wilkinson had to pay royalties (after a law suit) to Gillette to use their patented technology to manufacture the stainless steel blades. Within a couple of years the competitor's stainless steel blades were substantially cutting into Gillette's dominant market position and their market share went from 70+% to 60+%. Gillette then introduced their stainless blades (1962). Gillette's next innovation was the Super Stainless Blade (1965). This blade dubbed "The Spoiler" had a "miracle plastic coating baked onto the edge" - this was a PTFE coating with similar properties as the silicon coated Super Blue blades from 1959. However, the heat necessary to apply the PTFE coating, necessary for better cutting action, caused the underlying metal to weaken and lose its anti-corrosive properties. It was discovered that adding a corrosive resistant noble metal such as platinum, gold or rhodium solved this problem. However, these metals are soft and needed to be alloyed with chromium, titanium or tungsten. Next came platinum-chromium alloys and PTFE coating for stainless steel (US3682795) from Gillette as the Platinum Plus (1970). Well, long story short, Gillette abandoned the Double Edge razor blade market selling off their manufacturing equipment to whoever would buy it (read India, Russia, etc) in pursuit of proprietary (read expensive/profitable) multi-blade cartridges.

It is my belief that by 1970 Gillette had mastered razor blade technology, the technology was readily available to competitors and profits would soon go away to lower cost competitors. But, as far as the technology goes, today there is nothing new or better in what gets delivered to the double edge blade customer.

Thank you for reading this history. Now for my rant! I have contacted weeks ago various current razor blade manufacturer's customer support departments and my question was simple: Please tell me the specific differences between your various branded products other than just price. That is, please explain why I should pay more for your "Super Platinum" than your "Platinum Plus"? Basically, give me more info about your products so I can do a features / benefits /costs comparison. I am still waiting. Why is there such a dearth of information about double edge razor blades? It kind of pisses me off and we as consumers tolerate this crap too. It's all just brand name and price and YMMV and experiment for yourself to find out what blindly works. I think it sux!! I want more information...

Comments sincerely appreciated!
 
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Nice work! This answers so many questions I had, and gives me the basic information I need to do further research! From what you write, I can now make some basic assumptions about the differences in blade manufacture based on name.

But you're right . . . they're still assumptions. Keep us posted if you get anywhere. Anyone else have pieces of the puzzle?
 
respectfully, why would manufactures make proprietary info available to the public ? they gain nothing from it, as in ... they make NO PROFIT from it .... not interested, nada ... buy our blades and please go away .. it's all driven buy money ... plain and simple
 
respectfully, why would manufactures make proprietary info available to the public ? they gain nothing from it, as in ... they make NO PROFIT from it .... not interested, nada ... buy our blades and please go away .. it's all driven buy money ... plain and simple

Gillette made certain info, in their ads, public as to why their blades were better than the competition. It helped them sell more blades and keep customers. If consumers demanded more information, the blade manufacturers would have to provide it. As long as we keep buying their crap, no questions asked, they will sell it.

GillettePlatinumPlusAd.jpg GilletteSpoilerAd.jpg
 
respectfully, why would manufactures make proprietary info available to the public ?
If a company is going to sell multiple versions of the same product, their customers have a right to know the difference between them.
It's not giving up proprietary information to say that one type has one more layer of coating than another.
 
I would fully welcome a chart breakdown of the design and makeups of different blades. Kind of odd too that the whole consumer/producer relationship is "you either like it or you don't". Granted, very few health issues come up, but consumers should have a right to know what goes into a blade up to a certain point at least.

 
Very informative reading. For the first time, I understand why manufacturers coat with platinum before applying PTFE. Thanks.ng
 
Thanks for the feed back guys! From what I wrote, if you believe the words of Mr. Shnitzler and the truth of the patent applications, we have the following takeaways:

1) Carbon steel Blue Blades are definitely worse shaving than carbon steel Super Blue blades.
2) Un-PTFE coated stainless steel blades are definitely worse shaving than carbon steel Super Blue blades.
3) PTFE coated stainless steel blades without a hardening alloy have no longevity benefit over carbon steel blades.
4) The absolute best blade for shaving performance and longevity is made with a stainless steel blank with noble metal/denser metal alloy edge that is then coated with PTFE.
5) All the talk about needing super sharp blades is bull ****e (a PTFE coating is superior to extra sharpness and sharp pointy edges wear down quicker.)
6) Prep and moisturize your darn face properly!!!!!
7) Yes, Tungsten is great to alloy with and is a great dense metal (70% denser than lead), but really, why pay so much for the Personna 74 Tungsten Plus? It is not worth $6 per blade for some extra longevity with no better shaving performance than the cheaper chromium. And, if the Personna 74 Tungsten (no Plus) has no PTFE coating, it sux! Certainly don't pay so much for the non-plus version!

As far as the best blade to get from above (#4) look for stainless steel that has platinum, osmium, iridium, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium or gold that has been alloyed with chromium, titanium, manganese, niobium, molybdenum, tantalum or tungsten on their cutting edge that has a PTFE coating.

My low cost favorite is the Lord Platinum Class blade from Egypt. It meets all the requirements of #4 and is a bargain to boot! But, there are many blades to fit the bill.
 
Interesting read, Glenn. Your comments about Gillette blade history mirror my experience using all of those blades. Some folks on B&B claim the earlier blades were superior. However, my experience with the Blue Blades and Super Blue blades were not the best. I found they did not remain sharp long and any hint of water on the blade seemed to deteriorate them in short order.

Like you, I find the Lord Platinum blade to be an excellent value. However, I happen to like all of the Lord blades.
 
As far as blade makers providing information, how? Currently I never see advertising for any DE or SE blades from any makers and much of the Gillette info was released in their ads when a new improved technology was introduced. Makers web sites could have technical information if they even exist and are posted in English but other than ASR how many blade makers are even American companies rather than in other countries, typically not English speaking and with only a small percentage of their sales made in English speaking countries?
 
As far as blade makers providing information, how? Currently I never see advertising for any DE or SE blades from any makers and much of the Gillette info was released in their ads when a new improved technology was introduced. Makers web sites could have technical information if they even exist and are posted in English but other than ASR how many blade makers are even American companies rather than in other countries, typically not English speaking and with only a small percentage of their sales made in English speaking countries?

They have English language web sites and Contact Us pages. How about this? Why not complain to whoever you buy your blades from? Start pushing back and try to get more info. Dump on the company in the review process for not being transparent. Does that work for you?
 
So, I just built a chart based on the technological innovations made by Gillette. The highest blades on the chart are the best. The lowest are the worst. Grading scale was arbitrary but accurate relative to the other blade products on the chart. Interesting that the Gillette Stainless blade was a real clunker! Not even as good as the Super Blue which preceded it, but it was quickly replaced by the Super Stainless blade. The pan-ultimate blade was the Platinum Plus.

GilletteBladeComparision.jpg
 
@GlennConti, thanks for your EXCELLENT post! I like learning something new, and you sure did that for me. Thanks. Regarding your understandable desire for blade information, I hope that the budding Comprehensive DE Razor Blade Data Table, and eventual DE razor blade dimensions table, will satisfy a lot of it. The blade dimensions are exhaustive and should be more than anything that any blade manufacturer would provide in that area. The user ratings for sharpness, smoothness, longevity, and consistency are significant. Regarding blade material, I have a column for the type of steel, which at this point is just between stainless and carbon due to lack of information, and there is a column for whether the edge is coated or not. Specifics of coating material can be found at each blade's ShaveWiki page. If you have an idea to make the database better, please let me know. I'm open to suggestions. My hope is that as the database is built up with user ratings and dimensions and other important data, we'll basically have all important information for blade comparisons and such. Proprietary information such as the exact alloy content of blades would be missing, but if the alloy is better and translates to better performance, than the user ratings should reflect that. The same goes with edge coatings, too. That's my thinking, anyway. What do you think?
 
@GlennConti, thanks for your EXCELLENT post! I like learning something new, and you sure did that for me. Thanks. Regarding your understandable desire for blade information, I hope that the budding Comprehensive DE Razor Blade Data Table, and eventual DE razor blade dimensions table, will satisfy a lot of it. The blade dimensions are exhaustive and should be more than anything that any blade manufacturer would provide in that area. The user ratings for sharpness, smoothness, longevity, and consistency are significant. Regarding blade material, I have a column for the type of steel, which at this point is just between stainless and carbon due to lack of information, and there is a column for whether the edge is coated or not. Specifics of coating material can be found at each blade's ShaveWiki page. If you have an idea to make the database better, please let me know. I'm open to suggestions. My hope is that as the database is built up with user ratings and dimensions and other important data, we'll basically have all important information for blade comparisons and such. Proprietary information such as the exact alloy content of blades would be missing, but if the alloy is better and translates to better performance, than the user ratings should reflect that. The same goes with edge coatings, too. That's my thinking, anyway. What do you think?

Thank you Sir for pointing me at your Comprehensive DE Razor Blade Data Table. I was unaware of it or any of the information at each blade's ShaveWiki page. This situation reminds me of something my Father consciously undertook to do in his art. My Father was, among other things, an Engineer, Musician and Painter. He believed that not experiencing other people's art enhanced his own because it did not "color" his creativity and allow his own abstract style of painting to be influenced by others work; he wanted to be an original. So, I have entered into a domain that I have only my personal experience with, have not seen other's work and I have painted a picture based on my experiences and capabilities. I am coming at this through the lense of historical innovation at Gillette via the information available through the patent applications and through interviews of the mastermind of innovation at Gillette - Meyer Shnitzler. Your wonderful data table is painting a picture (trying to solve the problem of lack of information) through the lense of precise measurement and collection of data about captured samples from the field and user experiences. I am humbled by your considerable efforts.

My only comment on your and other's work here is it is at odds with what I have found in the following way. From the perspective of historical innovation at Gillette, the whole idea of sharpness versus smoothness was discarded by Mr Shnitzler. I think on my reading of his work, he felt that there was an acceptable range of honing a blade that would balance cutting performance and edge durability, but that these characteristics were not detectable, for the most part, by his research subjects in his lab. Other factors, such as face preparation and blade coatings had much more visible or detectable consequences on shaving closeness and comfort. Mr Shnitzler came up with his "Drag Theory" based on his research and developed the "Organ Osiloxane Gel Coated Razor Blade" rather than tinkering around with blade sharpness when he found that that did not work. Common sense will imply a sharper blade is better if you have a coarse beard and duller is better when you have sensitive skin, but this is not what he found to be the case when looking for ways to manufacture a blade that would provide the greatest customer satisfaction and therefore market share and resultant profits for his company. As far as his take on carbon steel (CS) versus stainless steel (SS), he did not believe SS had an advantage over CS as far as sharpness (CS from my reading is better), the advantage of SS is corrosion resistance. And, SS may even be worse than CS when it comes to "drag" or adhesion to the whisker hair which causes pulling and discomfort. Gillette's research on blade coatings to improve shave comfort (especially needed for SS blades), I believe lead them to adoption of a more superior coating than silicon which was PTFE or variant thereof. Fluorocarbon coating yielded a "remarkable increase in shaving effectiveness... and decreased pull." But, again, the heat necessary for application of PTFE ruins the SS metal softening it. Hence the need for LESS sharpness to strengthen the edge and the application of a noble metal to improve corrosion resistance. The noble metals however flake off carrying away the PTFE coating and therefore need to be alloyed with denser metals. The winner, as far as Gillette was concerned when all factors were considered was Platinum-chromium alloys applied to stainless steel - not Iridium, Tungsten or Titanium which can be or was seen marketed by other companies - and not carbon steel either.

So, I will look over what has been done here at B&B to see if I can add to your wonderful work. But, I have disclosed all of my sources above. I feel that if you reviewed them, they could add a new perspective for you to your work. Also, we must all push back on the razor blade dealers to provide us with more transparency into the basics of material composition and coating of the blades we buy. That is the best way we can get more information in light of the measurements we can take, the shaves we experience and the historical perspective of innovation as disclosed by Gillette in the patent applications and such.

Final point, Gillette was well aware that different customers may have needed different products. This resulted in the development of the Adjustable Razor - pinacle of their thoughts on the variable needs of the shaving consumer population. However, once they developed the Platinum-Plus stainless steel blade they ran with it and it exclusively for years and years. If they truly believed YMMV, why the heck didn't they offer 5 or 6 or 9 different types of double edge razor blades all at the same time. This would have greatly improved customer satisfaction if it was needed. But no, they did not go this route at all. So, what does this say about the reality of all the different razor blades being offered today. Is it really YMMV or is it all really poor prep techniques? That is, do we really need more than just one blade type?
 
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