Rolls Razors....which is the preferred model?

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by MikekiM, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. MikekiM

    MikekiM Well-Known Member

    Been researching the coveted Rolls...

    Of the readily available models, which is the preferred model and why??

    The early Viscount with the single Greek key pattern? Or the later Whetter with the three key pattern..??

    I see there are some differences in case design, but this seems to be cosmetic only, but there are also differences in the handle design which could prove significant.. I don't know which handle belongs with which model..

    I also understand there a differences in the materials used in the various models.. Nickel versus ??? for the blade and Steel versus Aluminum for the case..

    Anything else to be aware of?
     
  2. mycarver

    mycarver New Member

    Now that you bring it up, I'm curious as well. I'm sure Gregindallas might know. I'm looking forward to hearing the answer from him, or anyone else who might know. Great question. I've seen some go for pocket change, in great condition,, others get quite pricey and I didn't know why.
     
  3. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title

    Plus there is the ultra rare gold version and the traveler version too.

    Hook us up Greg!
     
  4. MikekiM

    MikekiM Well-Known Member

    Yes.. I read about the gold version..

    That's not on my radar. It would be a great collector item, but I am looking for one to use from time to time...
     
  5. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    It’s probably easiest to understand Rolls Razor models and development if you consider that the Rolls factory must have been set up in an old hat factory in England(1).

    There were 3 basic models of Rolls Razors, The original Popular, the ubiquitous and various Imperials and the final Viscount.Case materials were nickel plated brass (most common for all models), stainless steel (Imperial and vary rare), aluminum (WW2 material and somewhat rare) and gold plated brass (Imperial and extremely rare).

    Blades were all Sheffield high carbon steel.

    There were at least 3 handle versions. The original Popular handle was an odd thing that required a wrench. Then there were the collapsible handles which came with the original Imperials. This was a nasty little handle which required you to cram the blade into the blade grip (kinda like a snap-on tool) and tended to score the blades with a permanent scratch. And the final handle which works well, doesn’t mark the blade and requires no tools to operate. Bear in mind that all 3 handles worked well enough but that last iteration really worked well.

    Here’s the thing about the various Rolls models to remember, they weren’t a serial progression. They rightfully killed the Popular because it was a dog, which is why they are now extremely rare. The early Imperials carried over a lot of the Popular’s weak mechanicals. Rolls upgraded the mechanicals over time within the Imperial model but only as their parts stocks allowed. There doesn’t seem to be any configuration control at all. By the 1940’s, you had the final Rolls configuration which is a pretty good example of what “built like a tank” really means. That’s why there are so many of these 50+ year old units still around and giving good shaves. True to their traditions, when they introduced the Viscount (an Imperial in a different case), they continued to produce the Imperial right alongside it right up to their demise in the early 1950’s.

    The Rolls Razor was, originally, a viable product thanks to King Gillette. I won’t go into Gillette’s original expensive razors and blades and his production, quality and availability issues. It’s true to say that the Rolls was a very cost effective razor up thru WW2 for rural America (especially during the shortages and rationing of WW2). After WW2 Rolls was pretty much doomed as Gillette had their stuff together. The Viscount was their last attempt at the market but it was really to late.

    If you are looking for a good shaving Rolls, I’d say ’49 – ’53 Imperial or Viscount. If you’re looking for a collector (why? What the heck’s the matter with you?!) those are usually back in the ‘20s to ‘30s and tend to get expensive.


    (1)Mercury used to be used in the making of hats. This was known to have affected the nervous systems of hatters, causing them to tremble and appear insane. Thus the phrase “Mad as a hatter”.
     
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  6. MikekiM

    MikekiM Well-Known Member

    Awesome, thanks!!

    Is the change in the case consistent with one model or another? In other words, can the case design and size be a reliable indicator as to the vintage/date of manufacture? That seems to be the most prominent visual clue.. The handle differences are a challenge for the untrained eye to identify.

    I would assume that if one intends to use the razor with any regularity, the integrity of the strop and stone is critical. I've seen more than a few with blemishes to the stone.
     
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  7. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title

    Greg has more knowledge on this than I, but I do have two Viscount and one Imperial. They all seem to be of equal quality although the stone in one is brown instead of grey. I have at least one NOS blade in a bakelite container, but the friction roller in the set has a broken clip and the hone is cracked, I bought the whole thing is just for parts like lids, handles, blades...all the parts appear to be interchangeable, but I have not tried yet.
     
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  8. MikekiM

    MikekiM Well-Known Member

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  9. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

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  10. MikekiM

    MikekiM Well-Known Member

    Thanks.. always tough to sort through the good and bad that is the intraweb...
     
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  11. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    Very true. I tend to fall back to Twillard's stuff as he has the units and documentation. You really have to own a lot of these things going back to the 20's thru the 50's to see what was going on.

    As for getting one.

    There's like 5-6 critical parts to a Rolls that need to be in good shape if you're going to use it.

    Strop. No cuts. that's the big thing. It can look like hell and be restored to just about new. They were good english leather.

    Hone. No breaks. If it's broken, it can't be fixed, only replaced. I'd also add not oiled (stupid habit).

    Allignment tabs. not broken

    Handle Not rusted shut

    Blade. not rusted. "Devils spit" on the cutting edge is the end for the blade.

    Other than that, good hunting in shops & the bay. Wouldn't pay more than $15 and plan on getting a couple. Concentrate on Viscount as it's the youngest model. I think the nickeled brass version is best but I know guys that have been shaving for 50 yrs with an aluminum Rolls with no problems.

    Pics are a late model NOS Viscount. (Jeff has it now). The last is mine. I just think it looks cool.:D
     

    Attached Files:

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  12. IAmTheJody

    IAmTheJody Gillette-i Master

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  13. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    Ha, carefull Jody. Tom Willard's site can lead to madness.;)
     

    Attached Files:

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  14. IAmTheJody

    IAmTheJody Gillette-i Master

    What is that? DE set? SE set? Silverware for Sunday dinner?
     
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  15. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    I think:

    British/European custom made single edges similar to the Wilkinson but for the aristocracy. All sterling and ivory. You know, when your butler did your honing and stropping for you so your razor was just ready for you when decided to shave.:D
     
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  16. mycarver

    mycarver New Member

    Great explaination Greg. Somehow I knew you'd have the answer. I have to keep this info on hand for my next outings or when I come across more.
    They do seem so reasonable but the idea of what they do is fascinating. As well as the history and what was going on at the time. I love the behind the scenes info you provided putting eveything in context.
    Thank you very much for putting another wrinkle in my brain that is shaivng related. Seems to be where the most wrinkles are being created lately! One day that part will look like an old prune .

    Mark

    And that set,, wow,, just to die for...exquisite.
    OOps,, drool is shorting my keyboard...
     
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  17. MikekiM

    MikekiM Well-Known Member

    So, I've secured a wonderful Viscount specimen!!

    Greg has been helpful with some first steps, thank you Greg!

    I am a little confused with the shaving technique. No doubt this clearly has it's roots in the straight world given that the blade is essentially a slice out of a straight razors blade.

    But it also has a safety bar.

    So, what is the technique?

    Do I use the safety bar as a gauge and treat it as I would a DE? Or, do I use like I would.. Well, my only other experiences are with a Gem 1912 and a few days of a Feather AC (which nearly relieved me of my left ear and imprinted a gash across my chin)..

    Is it recommended that I alternate sides of the blade with each shave?
     
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  18. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    The bar doesn't really come in contact with the face while shaving. It does let you put the razor down blade edge down though. So I guess it's more like a bicycle kick stand.:D

    Shaving technique is Gem all the way. Steep angle, no pressure and add in skin streching for a close shave.

    Blade flipping. I don't on purpose but with all the blade processing (honing and stropping) it probably end up getting fliped quite a lot.
     
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  19. MikekiM

    MikekiM Well-Known Member

    Greg thanks again..


    The handle is spotless and the shaft is lubed and turning syrupy smooth.

    I cleaned the hone and it is perfect.. no cracks or dings.

    The strop is now clean and drying.. I'll oil it tomorrow.

    The blade is a piece of art. It's spotless and the etching is visually perfect.

    I am thinking I will wait until Sunday for the first shave, if only because it's Sunday, but it's going to be hard to wait!
     
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  20. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title

    I got the same advice from Greg and it is very sound, especially the stretching. Rub your stretching fingers on an alum block before you stretch the skin and you are golden!
     
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