The almost sort of Comprehensive Guide to the Gillette Tech

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by PLANofMAN, Aug 9, 2018.

  1. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    *This is an ongoing research project, as is not by any means comprehensive, yet. I will continue to update and edit it, but I posted it, incomplete as it is, because of the historical signifigance of today's date.*

    80 years ago, today, Gillette filed a new patent application for a razor that would change the way Gillette razors were made forever. Filed on August 9, 1938, it was a patent for a stamped baseplate design. Prior to this, all Gillette razor baseplates we're either machined or swaged, both of which were labor intensive processes. Gillette called the Stampleman safety razor design, the "Tech," and this design would continue to be produced through the present day. The current modern incarnation of this razor is the Gillette Sterling, sold in India. U.S. Patent 2,270,388 was granted for this razor on January 20th, 1942. The Tech became Gillette's lowest priced razor for the next 7 decades. Hotels, airlines and cruise lines even stocked them for guests.

    Some form of Tech razor was made by Gillette continuously through the end of 1979, (some even claim through 2008, but those reports are probably talking about tech style razors, not actual Gillette techs) though it is likely that razors produced in 1979 continued to be packaged and sold through the early 1980's.

    They were made from brass, steel, plastic, aluminum, zinc, copper and bakelite at various times over the years.

    *There is some confusion regarding the "1932 Canadian Tech." The 1932 on the baseplate refers to the patent filed in Canada in 1932 for the Gillette NEW, and the wording in the patent is broad enough to cover the Tech. Those razors, like their American counterparts, were not made until 1938.

    We are going to focus on American Techs first, and then visit the Canadian, French and British Techs in later edits.

    From left: Hybrid Tech (England), Flat bottom (England), Triangle slot (USA), Rectangular Slot (England), Rectangular slot (Canada), Late model rectangular slot (England), Open comb (England).
    Photo and description credit to Xillion from Badger & Blade.

    American "Early-War" Tech 1938-1945

    Most people call these the "Pre-War Techs," a term I take issue with, since WWII started a year after the patent was filed, and a few months after they hit full production. What is really meant by Pre-War, is Pre-American-Participation-In-The-War...but that's a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? Much easier and more accurate to just call them "Early-War Techs."

    These are easily identified by triangular bar guard slots and a short bar configuration on the base plate, rather than the continuous bar introduced in 1945. They came in two handle styles, the Fat Handled Tech and the Ball End Tech. Despite the name, the Fat Handled Tech is the lighter of the two razors, since its handle is hollow. There is also an unusual handle varient with a black fat handle and gold plated neck. I've never seen them in anything but a standard Gillette Tech box.
    They are considered the most aggressive Tech, slightly more aggressive than the DE89.

    American Contract Tech 1938-1945

    These techs were made from a variety of materials throughout the war years due to restrictions on metals that were considered "war materials." Early ones were solid brass ('38-'41), later model ones usually had plastic, bakelite, steel or red brass baseplates. The caps were made from red brass, plastic, bakelite, or zamak. While the plastic and bakelite caps are easily identifiable, brass and zamak are a little harder to tell apart if the plating is intact. Zamak top caps are thicker and give the coating a matte finish. Copper and aluminum top caps were also made as well.

    American Contract Tech Razors came with two handle types, plastic/bakelite and the standard ball end tech handle with fullers running the length of the handle. These handles come in brass (rare), zamak, aluminum and steel. There is also the possibility of full aluminum contract techs as well.

    Most of the war razors were black coated with a matte finish black, but the coating was thin and easily damaged, so it's very rare to find one with it's coating 100% intact. Early contract techs were sometimes gold plated, but this quickly went out of use due to war demands. Post war "contract" techs, made for the civilian population from surplus and leftover parts, are always gold plated.

    The most common combination of colors on contract techs is black painted top cap, gold plated baseplate, and black painted handle. If someone wants to recoat their contract tech, the most authentic looking and durable finish is Flat Black Moly Resin, which is a gun coating, sprayed on and baked like cerakote.

    There is some speculation that the plastic (except for the screw and threaded brass insert) razors were mostly issued to soldiers headed to the humid and wet Pacific Front, and the metal razors were issued to those headed to the East. Sailors, of course, were issued non-rust prone razors, which usually meant plastic. I personally have not seen any evidence that this speculation has merit, even if it does make perfect sense. All contract Techs had the same supply number, so the military obviously cared not a whit where a specific razor ended up, or what configuration said razor had.

    Contract Techs are slightly less aggressive than the Pre War Techs, and slightly more aggressive than the Post War Techs. Their perceived aggressiveness depends on their weight, which is all over the place, depending on what it was made from.

    From 1941-1945, Gillette only made razors for the Military.

    American Post War Tech. 1945-1979

    The Post War Tech is best identified in one of two ways: By the addition of depressions in the baseplate that match the nubs on the corners of the baseplate; and second, shortly after the war ended, this tech's baseplate design was modified, making it stiffer, and allowing for a continuous slot design on the bar guard. No significant changes in the baseplate design was made after this.

    Cap design, however, did change.
    In 1964, all Techs switched to Zamak top caps. Any Tech with a date code of "I" or before should be brass, with the exception of the featherweight tech razor, which is 100% aluminum. Techs from the early 1950's through 1963 have an etched Gillette diamond logo on the cap. Earlier techs have no logo on the cap.

    The Security Tech, aka "Psycho" Tech. 1949/50-??

    History: "The Gillette Security Razor Used in Institutions,"

    The Gillette Blade -- March 1955

    "In 1949 Gillette was approached by officials in the Army Headquarters in Washington D.C. relative to designing and manufacturing a razor that would hold a locked-in blade. Their research department developed several different models and finally came up with the current security razor, which more than met all the government specifications.

    The security razor has a hollow handle with a locking nut high inside and is opened and closed by a brass key which fits inside the handle. It is generally similar to the Tech $0.49 razor in appearance. The razor received immediate acceptance from the government and as the information spread, the distribution of the security razor was widened to include specialized institutions and more recently, prisons. Security razors are given to inmates under a careful check system and returned after use. An attendant keeps the key and changes blades as required. In following this procedure the chances of patients injuring either themselves, or others, is practically an impossibility. But more than this, it is an extremely important part, and one of the first steps towards the patient's rehabilitation, whereby he starts doing things for himself.

    Many thousands of man hours are saved yearly and used for other important hospital duties, due to hospital nurses and attendant being freed from the chore of shaving the psychiatric patients."

    Psycho Techs were sold 10 per package, with one "key." As a result, the razors are rare, and the original keys are even rarer. The best and most accurate reproduction key sold now is made by Razor Emporium.
    Other people and companies have made keys in various qualities, most of those have been one offs or limited runs. The most collectible of these are probably the few made by the late "Cooncat Bob."

    British Tech Razors

    The British took a slightly different approach to the Tech. Instead of immediately switching to the new baseplate, they continued to use the NEW short comb baseplate, but instead of cutting the teeth, they stamped out the Tech bar guard.

    The curious case of the "Open Comb Techs." I mean, really, by definition, a tech is a closed comb razor; but there is proof that Gillette made open comb techs...not right after they were introduced, but as late as 1960. Not just one time, either. They sold them under the Nacet name as well. I've seen at least four different variations, all made by the UK branch of Gillette. The below examples were made for the French market.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018
  2. Rusty blade

    Rusty blade The Good Humor Man

    Well done!! Nice review of a true classic! I have several different Tech razors and I enjoy every one of them. A Fat Handle Tech was my first vintage razor and I still enjoy using it!
  3. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    Not exactly a review, since I actually only own one Tech, which I've used maybe six times in the ten years I've owned it. I wrote (am writing) this as a favor for @brit and because the tech is often overlooked as a "beginner's razor." There isn't any one place to find a lot of information on Tech razors. It tends to be scattered pretty widely. Even the Badger & Blade Tech wiki is rather sparse.
  4. poppi

    poppi Well-Known Member

    Nice job. Looking forward to more installments.
    brit and Edison Carter like this.
  5. BigMark83

    BigMark83 [...........] this space intentionally left blank

    You think pre-war techs are more aggressive than the DE89? I've not used the latter In a few years, but I don't recall that. Slap a feather in it and your good to go, that's all I remember.
  6. Enrico

    Enrico Popcorn

    I have a Minora OC ... one of my all time favorites.
    MacDaDad likes this.
  7. John Ruschmeyer

    John Ruschmeyer Well-Known Member

    A couple of random comments, mostly on the Contract Tech razors:

    - A somewhat overlooked US Tech variant is what could be considered a "transitional" baseplate. This baseplate has the overall geometry of an Early-War Tech, but the oval slots of a post-War one. (Or is this version where you make the Contract Tech distinction?)
    - Did you really mean to say that the most common wartime Contract Tech had a Gold-plated baseplate? If anything, I'd say Nickel-plated was the most common followed by the flat black ones.
    - I've never seen a Tech with a plastic/bakelite top cap... something else to look for. :)
    - The wartime Tech razors seem to have come packed one of three ways: in a blue-lined snap case with shipper, a plastic/bakelite case with shipper, or bare in just the shipper. I have no idea what drove the distinctions.
    - I beg to differ a bit on lumping the post-1964 post-War Tech in with its predecessor as the change was to more than just the top cap. There was also a change to the baseplate as well. This change was significant in that it pretty much defined low end three-piece razors to this day.

    I'm looking forward to the English discussion as there are lots of interesting variants there.
    wristwatchb, Screwtape, brit and 2 others like this.
  8. BigMark83

    BigMark83 [...........] this space intentionally left blank

    I'd say the wartime techs with just a black top cap had an aluminum base plate.
    cristiss likes this.
  9. John Ruschmeyer

    John Ruschmeyer Well-Known Member

    One more item on the Wartime Techs- One of the big mysteries is the 'S' designation that appears on some baseplates, both EarlyWar and Contract.
    Weasel640 likes this.
  10. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    And just when you thought you had all the techs. Now I am going to have to track down an open comb tech.

    I don't know if I should link directly to it. But there is a thread over at B&B on open comb techs that goes into the differences between the 3 pc open comb Nacets, Techs, and Minoras. Just search open comb techs to find it.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  11. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    You also had wartime techs with Simplex and Clix style base plates and heads along with variations made in Europe.
    brit likes this.
  12. Linuxguile

    Linuxguile dating an unusual aristocrat

    I am not able to see the first 2 photos in your post.
    Weasel640 likes this.
  13. brit

    brit in a box

    awesome post, thank you .
    Screwtape and Edison Carter like this.
  14. mr-razor

    mr-razor Well-Known Member

    here the same
  15. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    That's odd. They are all attachments, and not imported from outside links.
    I've uploaded them as thumbnails in this post. Click on them to see the full size image.
    DrStrange and brit like this.
  16. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    I'm still in the process of researching this stuff. Absolutely nothing I've posted is set in stone, and I'll continue updating as I continue my research. I mean, I haven't even gotten into handle variations yet. :)
    brit and Screwtape like this.
  17. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    Most everything I've read is that "Pre-War" techs are marginally more aggressive than the DE89, and "Post-War" Techs are less aggressive than the DE89, with war era techs falling somewhere in the middle. I realize how subjective "aggressiveness" is when applied to razors, so that statement above is based on multiple reports rather than my own experiences.

    For instance, I and many others find the Cooper MonoBilt to be a mild razor, but others find it to be really quite aggressive. Technique plays a lot into these things as well.
    brit and Screwtape like this.
  18. jmudrick

    jmudrick Type A Man

    It would be a mistake to view the solid bar Clix in its EZ Flow config as a Tech clone as the patent by Conrad was filed in 1933, predating the Tech. There were at least two Clix versions though, the later wartime one indeed looking more Tech-like.
  19. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    I agree, the Gillette nicked these designs from the Clix razor not the other way around. I would assume it was done specifically to keep the company who made the Clix from being to able to win a government contract for bakelite or whatever plastic was used razors.
    brit likes this.
  20. BigMark83

    BigMark83 [...........] this space intentionally left blank

    All I know is s pre-war tech with a Feather is perfect.
    Stefano73, MacDaDad, brit and 3 others like this.

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