Gillette Rocket, the refined DE.

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by MTgrayling, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. MTgrayling

    MTgrayling Rocket Man

    It all started after I found a 3 gallon tin of Gillette’s in October 2007. That’s 35 lbs. of vintage razors folks. What could come of such an event you say? A passion for all things Gillette for one, especially the lesser common and more solidly built English twist to opens known as Rockets, and a major draining of my liquidity for another.

    That bucket contained over 250 razors, mostly Gillette’s, but not one of those ancient shavers was a Rocket. So in the twisted logic of a newly formed addict I theorized I needed more razors. I needed a Rocket!

    Just over 12 months later and dealing completely through eBay I think I’ve found them all.


    Rocket, what a cool name!
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    The bucket o’ razors, source of my powers
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    First of all what is a Rocket? We all know the official definition of the pointed missiles that pierce the sky on the way to space. As for razors it applies, in my opinion, to Gillette razors made in England that have a unique design where the twist to open knob shortens and recedes into the handle as the doors are opened, like a bolt and nut. American razors stay the same length whether the silo doors are open or closed. This “Rocket gap” is a distinguishing feature that is easy to recognize. The Rocket family encompasses a few other razors such as the Parat and Aristocrat Jr.. There are other differences such as a solid post and pointed side plate unit opposed to the folded post and soldered on blunt end caps common to American razors. This feature along with the internal mechanical design gives the more solid feeling most people report when talking of Rockets. The Rockets also have a better polished silo doors and higher quality plating in my opinion.


    Rocket closed, Rocket open
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    Here’s a photo of the basic American and English razors for quick ID purposes.

    American vs: English:

    40’s style SS, 40’s style Rocket; Flare tip SS, Flare Tip Rocket; TV SS, TV Rocket; Red Tip SS, Red Tip Rocket
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    When were they made? That’s a very good question since Gillette England did not date code their razors like Gillette in America so courteously did, as you can imagine this makes dating these razors fun and interesting. The first Rockets were made post war and as early as 1948, if not sooner. Production lasted at least into the 60’s. Generally dates can be narrowed down by comparing the Rockets to similar looking American made razors, it’s anybody’s guess as to how accurate this method is though.

    Onto the Rockets!


    Rockets

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    #1: 40’s style Rocket; this razor is the typical Rocket and is common in places like Canada, England where they were made and Australia. These razors came in the clear/red styrene case above and cardboard boxes like the early Super Speeds. These can say patent pending or have Brit. Pat. 694093 stamped in the blade tray, 63 grams in weight.


    #2: This version of a Rocket is commonly known as a “Parat”. The name Parat comes from a German advertisement describing the razor as an aparat or apparatus. These were made in England if so marked under head or made in Germany if there is no stamp of origin. The best way to tell if you have a Rocket or Parat is to open the doors, if the knob is the same size as the handle it is a Parat, if the knob is slightly larger it is a Rocket. These say Brit. Pat. 694093 in the blade tray and have the II mark under head, 61 grams.

    Rocket, Parat
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    Parat
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    #3: Aluminum 40’s style Rocket; this Rocket is unique and made almost entirely of aluminum, or aluminium to the Brit’s out there, except for the post and side plates. I’ve only seen one other. This has patent pending stamped in the blade tray and weighs in at a slight 27 grams as the lightest Rocket.


    #4: Gold Rocket; the Rocket came very thinly plated in gold. These are uncommon and I’ve never seen one that had more than 90% of the plating intact. They are somewhat delicate. Mine says patent pending and it weighs the same as a normal Rocket, 63 grams.


    #5: Aristocrat Jr.; this is one of the better built Gillette's in my opinion. It has a heavy 1/8”, 3mm, thick brass plate up top and is like a Rocket in every other way. I’ve heard these called #49 lately. These came in a dark vertical case that says Aristocrat Jr. on the inside. I’ve also heard they were cased in the same red/clear styrene case as the Rocket although I’m somewhat suspicious of these claims. Many people would put their old razor in the new razor case just to house it, or visa-versa. Just try to find the CD you're looking for in the correct case in some peoples collections. BRIT PAT NO 403030 is stamped under head. At 71 grams this is one of the heaviest Rockets.

    Aristocrat Jr., Rocket
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    #6: Aristocrat Jr./#48; this uncommon razor could predate both the Rocket and Aristocrat Jr.. It has a knob that doesn’t recede into the handle but functions like an American Super Speed. It also has the 1/8” thick heavy flat brass plate that the blade rests on like the Aristocrat Jr.. More features of these razors are the lack of end caps and un-notched post reminiscent of a 1947 Super Speed, this is the only un-notched Rocket type that I know of. These share the same head design as the English Aristocrat #21. A Strange hybrid that came in either a white or blue Bakelite case. I think the blue cases were for sale in England and the white ones indicate it was for the Australian market. These have BRIT PAT NO 403030 stamped under head and weigh 62 grams.

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    Aristocrat Jr./ #48
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    HD and LD Rockets

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    I realize I skipped #11, I can’t explain it. I have nothing against the number 11 that I know of, let’s call it a brain fart and not get all Freudian OK. Edit: The aluminum handled #58 could go here.


    #7: HD 500 Rocket/#59; this is the heavy duty Rocket sometimes referred to as the double ring, 500 or #59. This is many wet shaver’s favorite. It has a larger diameter handle and a few variants that we’ll see later. These hefty shavers came in clear/blue plastic cases that are different in the way they hold the razor horizontally by a tongue of plastic above the blade pack. They also came in a blue hard case and were then known as a #59. These can say either patent pending or Brit. Pat. 694093 in the blade tray some also have the II symbol under head. 71 grams for the full brass and copper version, 57 grams for the less common variant with aluminum handle.

    #59, aluminum Rocket
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    #8: HD Rocket variant; this variation was for sale in Europe. Notice the plain knurled knob. Brit Pat. 694093 stamped in the blade tray and a II mark under head. This Rocket also has no made in stamped under head indicating it was probably made in Germany, 72 grams.


    #9: Paperclip or LD (light duty) Rocket; this is an all aluminum HD Rocket except for the post, side plates and silo doors. It is much like the aluminum Rocket above, #1. This version is more common and has a nickname of the “Paperclip”, because it is said to be as light as…I’m sure you can guess. Stamped patent pending in the blade tray, weighs in at 34 grams.


    #10: Gold aluminum LD; this is much like the LD above except for the obvious gold color and the aluminum silo doors. These were anodized gold I believe and aren’t plated. Very light, both the LD Rocket’s are said to weigh less than an ounce. Marked the same as the LD and at 29 grams this is the second lightest Rocket.


    #12: #58; I’m not sure if this razor is a Rocket or an English Aristocrat so I’m including it here just because it’s damn gorgeous and one of my favorites. You can see it has much in common with the HD but has a richer knurling. These were cased in readily recognizable red hard cases. Below you can see two variations, one with a signature retaining ring the other without it. Some were stamped Patent Pending in the blade bed (1953 modles). Others were stamped Brit. Pat. 694093 and some carried the II marking. Weight varies between 68 and 72 grams. If there is a royal crown imprint on the top of the case lid, this is known as the No. 58 "Coronation" set and was made in 1953 to celebrate the Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

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    Flare Tip Rockets

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    #13: The Flare Tip Rocket; this is perhaps the most common Rocket and is styled like the Flare Tip Super Speed. These came in the same cases as the Parat, some clear/red some clear/white and a clear over white squarish case like the late model Super Speeds. Some were marked with a II symbol under head. These weighed 59 grams and have Brit. Pat. 694093 in the blade tray.

    Flare Tip Rocket, Red Tip Rocket
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    #14: Blue Tip Rocket; this is possibly the rarest of the Flare tip Rockets and is part of the pre-adjustable series like the colored American Super Speeds. These light shavers also have the aluminum handle like the American razor and weigh 47 grams. I’ve seen all of four of these shavers in my days searching. These had a I mark under head and the Brit. Pat. 694093.


    #15: Red Tip Rocket; this is my favorite Rocket and one of the harder to find. Even a bit more aggressive than the Red Tip Super Speed this was part of the same pre-adjustable series like the Blue Tip. Those with the heaviest beards and those who like the closest shaves seek these out. These had a III mark under head. Brit. Pat. 694093. A heavyweight at 68 grams.


    #16: TV Rocket; this is the only Rocket I know of that is Rhodium plated. I can’t explain why but they sure do shine. Perhaps these were made for a promotion like the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports and only made in 1958 like the TV Special. No one knows for sure, but these razors are very uncommon. Has the II symbol under head and patent pending or Brit. Pat. 694093 in the blade tray. Weighs the same as the standard flare tip at 59 grams.

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    #20: Flare Tip Rocket; there were some of what I assume are newer vintage Flare Tips that have either an "A" or "S" stamped under head but only on a single side of the handle. What this represents is anyone's guess, but these Rockets also have end caps like an American Super Speed. Along with the end caps these had a slightly different lower head profile. Brit. Pat. 694093 stamped in the blade tray, 58 grams.

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    Flare Tip, S code Flare Tip
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    There are some odd differences in Rockets that I haven’t been able to explain. Some Rockets have teeth stamped under head into the one piece post and side plate unit. I have no idea of their purpose or why they were put there.

    40’s style Rockets
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    Flare Tip Rockets
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    Red Tip Rockets
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    #58’s
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    English Super Speeds

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    While not true Rockets by my definition I include these to clear up confusion in identification. These for all outward appearances look to be American Super Speeds, but have the signature pointed Rocket side plates. These "English Super Speeds" are less common than comparable Rockets and all of mine have "teeth" under head that are slightly different than the Rockets pictured above.



    #17: English Blue Tip Super Speed; like the American Blue Tip with an aluminum handle and for light beards and mild shaves. Brit. Pat. 694093 and I markings, 46 grams.

    English Blue Tip Super Speed, American Blue Tip SS
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    #18: English Super Speed; this uncommon razor is modeled after the American 1954-1957 Super Speed. Brit. Pat. 694093 and II marks, 57 grams.


    #19: English Red Tip Super Speed; this is the English version of the American Red Tip Super Speed. Marked Brit. Pat. 694093 and III. A substantial 66 grams.

    Red Tip Rocket, English Red Tip Super Speed
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    Just to confuse you I have an American made razor that functions just like a Rocket. I call this oddity the “American Rocket”. So far it’s the only one I’ve come across. Edit: I've since seen two others. Weighs in at 58 grams.

    American Rocket
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    Well there it is. Hopefully a few questions were answered, some razors identified and a passion for all things Rocket instilled.

    Of course if anyone finds any errors please let me know so I can update the mistaken information and if anyone has information that can be helpful to add to this also please let me know.
    chrisbd, Tralfaz, preidy and 24 others like this.
  2. mastermute

    mastermute FatBoy

    You should write a book! Interesting read as always!
  3. chimes13

    chimes13 New Member

    Very nice, thanks!
  4. scottydoint

    scottydoint Member

    Awesome post. I just got a #58 the other day an it is aluminum. do you know of the aluminum version? It is the only 58 I have and was surprised that it is aluminum. It feels no heavier than an aluminum tech.

    What are the teeth you are referring to? Not sure I see them.
  5. rodd

    rodd Knotty Boy

    Wow Chris. Awesome post! You have one heck of a collection.

    Now maybe people will understand why I thought your title should be "Rocket Man" :happy102
  6. Infotech

    Infotech Active Member

    Nice Rocket collection!

    I remember when you posted your find of that bucket on B&B. That was and still is probably the most razors I've seen at one time. You've come a long way.

    Thanks for posting!
  7. Gillette_Man

    Gillette_Man New Member

    Huzzah for the "Rocket Man"! Great write up Chris! I'm impressed by your sly sense of humor! ;)

    I also feel that the CT would be well deserved!
  8. MTgrayling

    MTgrayling Rocket Man

    Check out the razors on the right in those photos. See the little notched tooth. Weird I really wish I knew what the heck they were there on some razors for?

    As for the aluminum #58, congratulations! That is the only one I'm missing, well except for a LD Rocket with a brass knob like Rodd's. I'm hope there's more, I need something to continue looking for. :D
  9. scottydoint

    scottydoint Member

    I have a Flare tip rocket with the letter S underneath the head and it has a couple differences compared to the regular II. The II is on the left and the S is on the right. The S has a slightly smaller gap between the handle and tip, the endcaps on the S are different, and the S is slightly shorter due to a lower profile head and the naturally the center post isn't as tall on the S. They both have the same patent #s on the inside of the head.
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    I'll get some better pics up when I can use the sunlight.
    Oh, I think I have seen one with an A underneath the head, but don't know the differences.
  10. mastermute

    mastermute FatBoy

    Maybe as easy as just different dies?
  11. MTgrayling

    MTgrayling Rocket Man

    If only it were that simple. What does it mean?

    Somebody at some point put that lettered die in a press for a purpose. I wish I knew for what reason that A or S or I, II or II are there and those darn teeth annoy me so I sold most of my toothed Rocket's. :D
  12. mastermute

    mastermute FatBoy

    When I worked with pressing brass we had several dies with the same design so we could run in several presses or outsource a batch, sending away one of our dies to a subcontractor. All were individually marked so we could identify what die a certain piece came from...
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  13. chimes13

    chimes13 New Member

    I'm still trying to figure out what you mean by the teeth thing. I sort of see it in the pic (I think) but I don't see anything like that on any of my razors. Who knows, I may be looking in the wrong spot...

    I think the I is on the blue tips, II on the flair rockets, have to do with the aggresiveness. I still can't find any red tips so I'm not sure what may be on those.
  14. MTgrayling

    MTgrayling Rocket Man

    Here is the tooth on the Red Tip Rocket on the right circled in red. I like the cleaner look of the toothless ones myself, but I can't stop wondering why? These teeth are on both ends.

    I've had three Red Tip Rocket's, Rodd has one now, and all have had the III symbol as does the English Red Tip Super Speed I have so I think you must be correct about the aggressiveness rating. Both the Blue Tips have a I. I edited the post to include these marks.

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  15. chimes13

    chimes13 New Member

    Thanks for the further explanation. I was looking at the correct thing, I guess none of my rockets have that...

    Here's another one for you to hunt.... gold flair tip :D
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  16. MTgrayling

    MTgrayling Rocket Man

    Oh wow! :eek: If you ever wish to sell... ;)
  17. rodd

    rodd Knotty Boy

    I just re-read this. Seriously awesome.
  18. MTgrayling

    MTgrayling Rocket Man

    If you ever wish to sell either of your gold Flare Tips, please let me know. Seriously.
  19. scottydoint

    scottydoint Member

    Do you have the ultra rare Rocket with doors that uneven gold tone and a ground down center bar?:D
  20. chimes13

    chimes13 New Member

    I already have you in mind sir. The 2nd one the case looked a little cleaner that's why I went for it. I will let you know.

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