Entertaining Possibilities of New Razor Design

Discussion in 'Articles' started by PLANofMAN, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    Has the world really seen the best razor designs have to offer? I’ve thought for a long time about the need for true innovation, even in a market that is as codified as the traditional wet shaver’s razor.

    Drawing of King Gillette's original razor patent (source: Wikipedia)

    Year after year, I see “new” razors coming to market, but they all borrow from the tried and true 3 piece razor designs that Gillette perfected almost a century ago. The few twist-to-open designs are virtually reproductions of Gillette Super Speeds. The only company offering anything like true innovation is Merkur, with their Futar and Vision models. Merkur seems content to rest on their laurels and we haven’t seen anything new from them in a while.

    Above the Tie has probably come closest to innovation, with their interchangeable base plate designs, but they too fall short in that their razor is just another 3 piece design. There are many reasons to follow the 3 piece design. It is simply easier to manufacture. It is less prone to suffer mechanical failure. It is cheaper to produce.

    You are probably wondering where I’m going with this. Those who have followed the recent conversation in the Shake Sharp thread will have some idea. I have a vision of a new razor design, loosely based off of the Shake Sharp’s design principles, and borrowing from other razor designs, some successful, others less so.

    On the market right now are a variety of designs, all with pros and cons.

    The Slant. The slant is an interesting razor concept, one that is based off of a shaving technique called the Gillette Slide. The advantages to a slant are mostly directly related to the rigidity of the flexed blade rather than the “slant” itself. By its nature, one end of the blade’s edge is always going to be more aggressive than the other.
    The Adjustable. A proven design. The butterfly style doors, adjustment knob, and locking twist are all familiar to users of vintage DE razors. If this design was so successful, why is Merkur the only one making them now? The answer to that is complicated. It would be an expensive razor to produce, and why would anyone buy one when literally thousands of vintage ones are readily available in antique stores, garage sales and internet auction sites.
    The Three Piece. For such a simple razor design, the three piece razor has dominated the new razor market. There are a thousand variations by hundreds of manufacturers over the years.
    Open and Closed Comb. Combs add or detract from the aesthetics of a razor. I find a combed razor to be more attractive than a plain razor bar guard, but truth be told, the benefits of a comb over a bar guard are largely in the eye of the beholder. Combs have enjoyed a reputation for being more aggressive, and some are. The truth is that razors with combs can be just as mild as any other razor.

    Some of the topics discussed have been going with a mono-edge design (where only one edge of a DE blade is exposed), incorporating self-sharpening features using modern ceramic hones, having a sectional handle (to allow you to set your own handle length, without having to buy multiple handles) and most recently, a dual adjustment system, that would let you set your own blade gap and blade exposure preferences.

    Personally, I would like to see a mono-edge design on the market, simply because there hasn’t been a new Single Edge razor design (excepting injectors and the cobra) on the market in over 50 years. According to Waits Compendium, the last of the GEM SE razors was the GEM Push Button razor of the 1950's. The last ASR SE was Star Cadet of the 1940's. I think that a mono-edge razor using DE blades would extend the life of the blades because the blade wouldn’t get tossed until both edges were dull. I would like to see it come with two blade inserts, so that one could also use SE or injector blades.

    I welcome comments and thoughts on this subject, and perhaps collectively we can figure out what a perfect razor should have and maybe we can start a co-op and have it built. If that ever happens, I think it would be fitting to call it TSD’s Razor. If it was ever sold for profit, I would like to see it sold through the TSD shop, with all profits going to TSD and TSD administrators.

    This is a hypothetical situation. What if we as a forum, had the opportunity to create and build a modern DE razor that borrowed from razor designs that were not so mainstream as the generic TTO and 3 piece razors. What features would you want included? What materials used in it's manufacture?

    I know this is doable, I myself own razors with most of those features. The trick is, how many features can we realistically include in one razor to keep both cost and weight down? How do we make it sturdy enough for a lifetime's use, and how do we make it easy to clean?

    I would love to see a new razor design that would revolutionize wet shaving and razor design for years to come! I'd like to see it be affordable and accessible, too.

    Here is the basics of what has been discussed so far:

    GDCarrington - "The questions for a producer would be:

    Is there enough interest and would the producer be able to be offset in the the added cost of the hone mechanism versus standard DE razors? Especially since the hone was designed for Carbon Blades and not Stainless.

    Can cost structure be made attractive enough price wise, and have enough units sold, to meet economies of scale so they are not "stuck" with honing razors with less than necessary sales to support the line from the producer's point of view?"

    gorgo - "...Y'know, the more I think of it since posting it before...it could be a relatively simple design problem to figure out a way to make a high quality razor that takes the (virtually) only two remaining wetshaving blade styles, which together must equal over 99% of the traditional wetshaving market..."

    PLANofMAN - "I'm still trying to figure out how a SE blade could work in a design like this along with a DE blade. The flex of the DE is one of the reasons this razor is so effective, but SE blades are thick enough not to need the added rigidity provided by a curved silhouette. I think the best approach would be to market this kind of razor as a replacement SE razor with more blade options. It already provides a SE type shave, but with a bit more flexibility, both in the shave and in the blade choice.

    I've been giving some thought to a modern redesigned shake sharp...I agree with what others have said, that the sharpening feature is largely useless to the modern shaver. If we took that feature out and replaced it with a dual adjustment system, one that lets you adjust both blade exposure and blade gap, you would truly have a razor for the masses, especially if you were also able to adjust handle length by removing sections of the handle. I think it is doable, and would be a fairly simple build, easy to clean, with a minimum of moving parts. The trickiest part would be the cap."

    gorgo - "Shave-wise, what would be the advantage of being able to adjust gap and exposure? Wouldn't adjusting one (gap probably would be easiest) have essentially the same effect?"

    PLANofMAN - "I don't think so. Or rather I do think so, but I also think that being able to adjust exposure would also change the characteristics of the shave. With minimal gap and large exposure, you would have a razor that is mild, but produces loud feedback. Large gap and large exposure would give you a super agressive razor, while the opposite would give you an extremely quiet, very mild razor. Think about it for a bit. Every razor that you've ever used has shaved just a tad bit differently, usually because of the combination of blade gap and exposure. The curve of the blade has a bit to do with it as well, but I feel that the curvature of the 2nd generation shake sharps is already optimal."

    gorgo - "Okay, I think I see where you're going with that. I know you realize that it would make for some complicated (possibly unprecedentedly complex for a razor) design and manufacturing, though, to have both, and you know what that means...added expense. Not trying to be a wet blanket; just pointing out the kind of things I know you want to hear if you ever seriously pursue this.

    Also...just a thought...since pretty much everyone who is into wetshaving is primarily into DE, and if you're going to eliminate the hone, would your design have to be mono-edged as well? Again, I'm not trying to be a wet blanket at all so don't misread me, but the hone IS the sole reason the S.S. resembled an SE -- because they couldn't engineer a honing mechanism that would sharpen both edges of a DE at one time. So...question:

    Since adjustable DE technology and designs have been refined to the point where they are widely duplicated - butterfly doors and all - is it possibly to engineer a razor that does most of what you want BUT will hone both edges of a blade as well? Perhaps a hone on a lockable, bi-directional rocker arm inside the blade tray? I mention this possibility only because you said the bakelite one does sharpen stainless pretty well, so why not make it a selling point again?

    Short of that, how about a DE design that incorporates both gap and exposure adjustments? Yeah it's derivative but the technology already exists, it works, and it still sells. Adding an adjustable-length handle should be simple..."
  2. macaronus

    macaronus Sir Nice-a-Lot Staff Member

    That's some interesting questions you pose there, Ryan! Thanks for posting!

    But I fear the adjustable gap/exposure razor would be (extremely?) difficult not only to engineer but also to wield. With first use I would start with a setting of G1/E1 (smallest gap & smallest exposure) and from there start to play with the settings.

    And then comes the math: using blade X you would have, say, 9 gap settings and 5 exposure settings. That is 9 x 5 = 45 different settings. You would have to try them all multiple times to find your best setting with that blade: each shave is different, even with the same settings (and take into account that a blade lasts, say, 5 shaves).

    So you eventually found your best settings with blade X. But then you load blade Y. Blade Y has different characteristics. Again you would have to try all 45 settings. Again multiple times. The neverending story comes to mind. I guess it would be too difficult for me to wield such a razor. As interesting as it might be, I think I'd be more happy with a simple 3-piece razor.

    The double honing system does interest me, though. Some might say "why bother? A blade costs only $0,10 - 0,15 a piece". But it appeals to me. DE blades don't last as long as SE blades (at least in my experience ;) ), so it would be nice to find a way to use them (DE blades) some longer. I like the economic thought behind it.

    That is why I think I will get me a strop for my Valet Autostrop and why I will - eventually - get me a good str8, strop and hone. You see, I'm Dutch. More than that,I'm from Zeeland. The Dutch are known for their avarice, and in The Netherlands the people from Zeeland are known to be even more avaricious! :D So if I can save a dime, I'll easily spend a few dollars! ;) Therefore: I'd be definately interested in a double-action-shake-sharp razor! How about using a spring and then pinch the handle to activate the hones?
    PLANofMAN likes this.
  3. oldtrout

    oldtrout Well-Known Member

    oldtrout scratches his head and sadly admits he has nothing of value to offer.

    I wish I did though.
  4. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    The people trying out the Bakelite shake sharp will hopefully have some input regarding the feasibility of sharpening stainless blades. The sharpening feature will/would be useless to most people otherwise, as I don't see blade manufacturers deciding to start producing carbon blades again, and the one company producing carbons (Treet) wouldn't be justification enough. It would defeat the purpose of creating a new razor design, only to lock people in to using vintage blades or the one modern blade.
  5. macaronus

    macaronus Sir Nice-a-Lot Staff Member

    I can't wait fot the Bakelite's visit, Ryan!
  6. Sara-s

    Sara-s This Pun for Hire

    I can't think of any new feature I would want, unless they can make one that will dust my furniture for me.
    178-bplatoon, PLANofMAN and macaronus like this.
  7. JRod22

    JRod22 Well-Known Member

    Sounds interesting!
  8. JRod22

    JRod22 Well-Known Member

    I got it!![​IMG]:happy102: Stumbled upon this. "While the basic stick-style razor still has the same natural limitations from its inception over a century ago, the Rolling Razor has been engineered with an innovative ring shaped handle that gives the user superior control & maneuverability." According to the ad, we should design the TSD razor with a ring handle, as stick handles are out dated. Ok, ok I'm just joking, but this is good inspiration to think outside of the box.
  9. macaronus

    macaronus Sir Nice-a-Lot Staff Member

    Do they come in chrome? :D
    Slipperyjoe and JRod22 like this.
  10. Lexicon Devil

    Lexicon Devil the Liberace of shaving

    Think of the fabulous, and possibly life threatening cuts you could give yourself with a DE version of this.
    JRod22 and Slipperyjoe like this.
  11. Slipperyjoe

    Slipperyjoe Rusty Metal Tetanus

    The either side head would make for that exciting extra risk factor..:happy088:
  12. Lexicon Devil

    Lexicon Devil the Liberace of shaving

    And if Stygian raiders broke into the bathroom while you were shaving, you could engage in epic, Conan style battle with them.
    BamaT likes this.
  13. Shaver X

    Shaver X Well-Known Member

    Quite possibly, but there is still room for another great razor. The best designs are outstanding, so improving on them even by a little would be a major accomplishment.

    Perhaps asking how few features can be included is another good question.

    I think those are very good questions. When asking how easy is it to clean, is that under running water, in a sink or bowl of water, or both? That was an important factor in the design of the Gillette Guard.

    The case of the Gillette Guard is a good model for bringing a new razor to market. The three principles Scott Anthony noted in this article are a good starting point:
    1. Go to the source
    2. Delight, don't dilute
    3. Match the model to the market
    In order to do the above, you first need to define your target market. Is it The Shave Den members? Traditional wetshaving enthusiasts who frequent forums? Some larger target market?

    Once you have identified what the market wants, then how will those needs be met? An assembly of off the shelf components? A completely custom and novel design? A combination of the two?

    Is the goal to be revolutionary or will evolutionary do? The Gillette adjustables, the Edwin Jagger razors and the Muhle razors are evolutions of preexisting designs. The Star and the original Gillette safety razor, on the other hand, were truly revolutionary when introduced. So were cartridge and electric razors. Revolution and evolution also apply to manufacturing techniques, not just mechanical design.

    All in my humble opinion.
    JRod22 likes this.
  14. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    There have been many outstanding razor designs over the years, and my goal was and is to distill as many of the best of these features into one razor as is possible and feasible.

    Not really. If we just want a three-piece design, or an adjustable design, or a TTO design, then we might as well give up now. Because all those things are being produced by current manufacturers. But I do see your point. I would say that at most, we would want to include 3, possibly 4 features on the head, and keep the adjustable length handle.

    Good question.

    The target market is the committed wet shaver who is looking for the best shaving experience they could possibly get, and is willing to pay for that quality.

    Not off the shelf components. Probably a combination of cast brass and machined or stamped parts. To keep the costs down, the razor should ideally be made of brass and rhodium plated. Stainless, either 304 for strength, or 316 surgical implant grade, probably isn't doable at this time due to their notorious difficulty to machine and work.

    Good point. In many ways, depending on the features, the razors will be revolutionary, but no, I don't want to innovate. Innovation has already given us tried and true designs that work, have proven to be dependable and have stood the test of time. The problem, as I see it, is that those innovations have taken place on different razors. I would like to see them on one razor.

    For example, I would love to see the self-sharpening feature of the shake sharp, the adjustability of Gillette's line of adjustables, the one piece solidity of the Cooper Monobilt, and a telescoping or segmented handle. Oh yeah, and the ability to use DE, SE, and Injector blades...all in one razor. A razor that is easy to clean and will last for 100 years.

    Is it going to happen that way, will I get all of those features? Not bloody likely, but it is a starting point, and something to aim at. As for what I posted above, is it doable? Sure it is. If you throw enough money at a problem, it's surmountable. Landing a man on the moon was once an impossible dream too.

    The trick is deciding which features are the most important to the target audience, you gentlemen (and ladies), are the source of that input. We have the most experienced wet shavers on the planet here in this forum. When Henry Ford created the Model A, he could not have envisioned the Aston Martin DB9 nor King Camp Gillette the Futar.
    Shaver X likes this.
  15. Shaver X

    Shaver X Well-Known Member

    I was thinking along the lines of the simplest solution is usually the best. Economy of features means using the fewest features to achieve the desired razor qualities, not sacrificing shaving performance. Three or four features on the head and an adjustable length handle are certainly feasible and realistic.

    You're trying to keep costs down by using rhodium plated brass? Both those materials are quite expensive. If you are concerned about strength, that would eliminate brass as an option. It is soft and rather easily deformed. Truth be told, a razor is normally not subjected to a great deal of stress and brass should do the job. If you want to use stainless steel, 303 stainless is particularly easy to machine. It and brass are so easy to work with. Anodized or alodined aluminum would be a less expensive option, assuming it meets the razor's aesthetic requirements.

    It is good to see that you are being methodical and doing market research. While we likely have the most enthusiastic wetshavers in the world here, I don't think we have the most experienced. There are many folks out there who have been shaving with a safety razor 50, 60, 70 years or more. Only a tiny fraction of them will be found here. Perhaps the most skilled wetshavers of all are to be found in old-school barbershops.

    Best of luck with your razor project!
  16. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    The most skilled, certainly, but I doubt they care much about the finer points of razor design. :)
  17. ajhracing

    ajhracing New Member

    This article starts by asking if we have seen the best razor designs have to offer. Maybe we have. We've been using the same design for close to 100 years, it is a hard design to beat. It works and I don't plan on using anything that has plastic multi-blade cartridges. If it is not broke don't fix it. One of the things I like about wet shaving, if it is with a straight razor or a DE, I am doing it the "old fashion" way. A way that has worked since the beginning of time. Selling me on a new design would be hard.
  18. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    That's a good point, but the razor companies were continually improving their products, right up to the end. In my opinion, the only reason the civilized world shaves with cartridge razors is because Gillette's patents expired.

    I don't want to reinvent the wheel, but I would like to take the best of the razor designs from the past and combine those features into one razor. I don't see anything wrong with wanting to improve the shaving experience. There's a lot more DE designs out there than just the 3 piece razors and adjustables.
  19. Scott-H

    Scott-H New Member

    THe idea of improving on the existing design of the razor is intriguing. I am not an expert, so doubt I would have much to offer on this topic. HOwever, I would vote for stainless steel which is more expensive, but very durable and is very unlikely to rust. I'm not sure a light razor would be the best option. I'm sure though many would not agree. Great conversation.
  20. Shave7

    Shave7 Active Member

    I believe a new safety razor design would be difficult to design, build, and to market at an American price that would be fair to the consumer and to the manufacturer. We must never forget we non-cartridge shavers are an extremely small slice of the wet shaving market. I believe the best safety razors possible have already made their appearance during the past 100 years, and anything "new" is just re-inventing the wheel or spinning the existing wheel.

    With new razors like the Merkur HD and the Muhle R89 and certain vintage Gillette's, Schick Injectors, or Gem's readily available at reasonable prices, the safety razor market design-wise has qualitatively and quantitatively reached the top of the mountain. Once the top is reached, if we insist on more movement, the next direction is down.

    And with 55 attractive DE and SE razors in my shave den, and with 8o% of them giving my course beard outstanding shaves, I have to ask myself a reality question: do I really desire a razor of a new design? The answer is obvious. At least to me.

    If we want to invent something needed and valuable for the American shaver, I would like to see an American manufacturer develop and market superior DE, SE, and injector razor blades. How about you? We shavers sometimes forget that the blade (not the razor) is "where the rubber meets the road." So maybe our focus should be on technologically superior American blades that excel in sharpness, comfort, and durability.

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