The "what is" and " how to" thread for the Rolls Razor

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by gregindallas, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    DSCN1383 (2).jpg DSCN1385.jpg DSCN1389.jpg I'm going to start a thread on and for anyone who is interested in the Rolls Razor. I'm going to focus on those elements necessary for someone interested in acquiring and ultimately shaving with the Rolls. The sections will cover:
    1. "what is a Rolls?" The parts that make up the machine
    2. Some basic history of the machine and it evolution.
    3. What to look for and what to avoid when shopping for one
    5. How to restore a Rolls to the excellent shaver it was 50 or more years ago.
    6. How to maintain and shave with a Rolls Razor.

    Please feel free to comment, and make suggestions as I go along. My goal is clarity for every reader. If you don’t understand something here, then I need to fix it.

    I’m going to be using my personal “go to” Rolls for most of the photographs in this first section. It’s a 1951 Imperial (my birth year) and it gets used almost every day. It came with a blue case and a fairly rare spare blade. Other than that, it was a greasy wreck and took a few days to restore. Minus the extra blade and the fancy case, this is pretty much a good standard user Rolls from E-bay.
    So, without further adieu, this is my Rolls.

    Picture are:
    1. Glamour shot
    2. Opened
    3. Basic parts dissembled. What you see here (minus the extra blade) is what a Rolls must have to be a razor.
    Leather strop (red)
    Composite hone (gray)
    Frame. The frame includes the strop/hone handle and the friction pad assembly at the end of the handle (pointy thing attached). The friction pad assembly is one of 3 key elements to the shave performance of a Rolls. I will cover how to dissemble, clean, adjust and maintain this assemble along with everything else.
    Paul76, Hodge, DrTerror and 5 others like this.
  2. SmallTank

    SmallTank New Member

    I was told by a few gents..these are very similar to a straight razor's edge..though completely different..wonderful pics and great review!

  3. Dridecker

    Dridecker Sherlock

    Oh boy, this is gonna be good! :signs107

    I'm going to try to follow along with the two Rolls Razors I have.
  4. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title


    Thanks Greg! Perhaps this will make sticky status!
  5. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    ebay.jpg DSC00084z.jpg Oh yea, I forgot......

    I've bought a Rolls. :D

    I'm going to use it as my demonstrator for restoration. After it's done, I'll offer it as a PIF with some unGodly requirements (a Rolls by me aint cheap!)requirements recomended by you guys.:D
  6. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title

    Too true! But worth it!
  7. IAmTheJody

    IAmTheJody Gillette-i Master Staff Member

    I'll go on and vote this to become a sticky somewhere.

    And Greg, you really should click that link next to your username on eBay.. get those eBay bucks. They add up and every 3 months, you can spend them on anything on eBay. It's like cash back and you get it for every eBay purchase you make. Many an expensive razor has been easier for me to swallow when I had $40, $50 worth of eBay bucks to spend...
  8. MikekiM

    MikekiM Well-Known Member

    This is going to be awesome!!
  9. thomthom49

    thomthom49 New Member

    Chompin at the bit over here in Limey Land where they were made. I already have 4 of them waiting to be cleaned and made shave ready so I can take a test drive. Looking 4ward to the ride Greg. Say, by the way, where is Dallas? :D

    Thom from Houston by way of Haverhill UK.
  10. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    Hey! I'm trying to write here… and take pictures (so bad that mike [MikekiM], a real photographer has offered to help :D ). Dallas is, as everyone knows, located in north east Heaven. :cool: Which would make Oklahoma the other place and rightfully so. :happy102
    Paul76 likes this.
  11. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    Rolls%20Popular%20Inward%20Pebble (2).jpg DSCN1301 (2).jpg DSCN1356.jpg The Rolls Models and Evolution.

    Not very complicated, there were 3. The original Rolls was the (not very) Popular model (picture 1). It had a silver plated brass frame, pebble texture on the doors and a reputation for kind of falling apart. The second model was the Imperial (Picture 2) which went through 3 iterations called Series 1,2 & 3. It’s important to remember that these series were a little odd in that most of the Rolls Imperials you will find are in fact Series 2’s. The Series 2 Imperial was produced pretty much right up to the company’s demise in the mid-50s, while the Series 3 (stainless steel) Rolls was really an early Series 2 with a stainless case (and other parts). Rolls fairly quickly discovered that working with stainless was a little more interesting than they could deal with in production so the Series 3s quickly became another rare Rolls.

    Material list for the Rolls Razor
    1. Silver plated brass (Series 1)
    2. Gold plated brass (Series 1)
    3. Nickel plated brass (Series 2)
    4. Stainless Steel (Series 3)
    5. Aluminum (Series 2) (driven by WW2 shortages but continued to the end)

    The final Rolls Model was the Viscount (Picture 3). The Viscount is a late model Series 2 Imperial with a different outer case. That it, all the internal parts are the same for both models, even the doors are interchangeable and it came in both nickeled brass and aluminum. The biggest difference (besides the shape of the case) is the fact that near the end for Rolls, on the Viscount, they started replacing the leather strop with a cork one. Unlike leather, cork does not age well at all. If you have or end up getting a Viscount with a cork strop, you’re going to have to replace it with the earlier leather one.
    brit, Misphit, Albert Hui and 2 others like this.
  12. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    rolls 2.jpg DSCN1402.jpg DSCN1400.jpg DSCN1397.jpg DSCN1396.jpg The Evolution of Rolls Mechanicals.

    The original Rolls Popular (picture 1) was a pretty good bench prototype. Why they decided to build it is beyond me. Its case was weak and tended to flex when in hone and strop mode (flexing and honing do not go together). The flexing also kind of did a number on the spot welds that held the Popular together. They did however continuously improve the design to the end and the final 50’s Imperials and Viscounts were built to last generations (picture 2).

    The biggest mechanicals evolution in the Rolls razor is the changes in the gear track. These tracks rotate the spindle inside the friction assembly at the base of the frame handle and control the amount of pressure applied by the blade when honing and stropping. They also contribute a lot to the rigidity of the Rolls frame.

    The original, series 1, Imperials carried over several parts from the Popular ( they had ‘em so they used ‘em). Picture 3 is an example of a Popular/Imperial (Series 1) gear track and yes, it’s gold plated (my Gold Series 1 Model B). When you compare picture 3 to pictures 4 & 5, you can see how much this part was improved and beefed up over the years. Picture 4 (the interim) did stiffen the Rolls frame but had a tendency to break. I’ve seen a couple of these early series 2 gear tracks flat broken, rendering the frames as salvage.

    I’ve gone through all this because if you’re looking for a Rolls to use, you want a late series 2 or a Viscount with the last iteration of the gear track. It’s usually almost impossible to detect which track a Rolls has based on photos published on E-bay, but there’s another and easily discernable way to pin-point a late model Imperial and I cover that in the next section. This is the why, next is the how.
    Albert Hui and Smoothy like this.
  13. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    DSCN1391.jpg DSCN1388.jpg DSCN1404 (2).jpg DSCN1394.jpg DSC00084z.jpg The Evolution of Rolls Mechanicals Part 2: Friction Pad Assembly and Handles

    Ah, the friction pad assembly (FPA)! You can recover a strop that looks like a moldy piece of beef jerky. You can clean up the hone so that it looks like new. But when you put it back together and hone and strop the blade for your first shave, you get the worst shave of your life. It’s the friction pad assembly that killed your shave. The friction assembly controls the amount of pressure applied by the blade when honing and stropping. It’s also the key to identifying a late model Rolls.

    The FPAs on the first Imperials were copied from the Popular’s design. Dimensionally a little different but the parts were basically the same (picture 1). It wasn’t until the last model Imperial and therefore the Viscount that the FPA changed (picture 2). Can you see the difference? It’s what I call the saddle spring. The 2 wings of that spring hold the blade alignment during honing/stropping (if you have a Rolls, don’t touch the spring, it breaks easy!).

    The FPA is (in it’s last configuration) made up of 5 parts (picture 3).

    1. The blade holder
    2. The saddle spring
    3. The friction pad sleeve
    4. The friction pad
    5. The spindle (not pictured)

    The early FPAs had 1 less part as the spring and sleeve were one (picture 1).
    If you’re looking for a late model Imperial/Viscount on E-bay, if you can identify a saddle spring in the picture, you’re looking at a late model Rolls. Eazy-pezy (unless somebody’s been screwing with it).

    Handles are easy with one or two provisos. There are 2 types of Rolls handles (picture 4). With the early series 1 & 2’s there was the collapsible handle (right side of picture 4). This thing does work but is a dog to get the blade mounted. There is a “cool” factor to the collapsible handle but it doesn’t out weight the PITA of getting the blade mounted. The second type (and later) handle is a 2 piece and works well but also has a proviso. It tends to rust and it tends to rust shut making it useless. If you’re looking at a Rolls with a 2 piece handle definitely take it apart to see if it’s rusted and if you’re shopping on E-bay, look for one that is dissembled in the pictures (picture 5) like the one I just bought or shoot the seller a question.
    Hodge, Albert Hui and Smoothy like this.
  14. Billr

    Billr Mix Master Mighty White!

    This is great - as a Rolls is high on my want list! Low on the budget list so whenever I do get one I want to be able to know what is a good one and what is not. Very excited for this thread!
  15. Mario

    Mario New Member


    This is very interesting thread, I'm big Rolls Razor fan and I have few razors and spare blades.

    Thank you gregindallas!
  16. PanChango

    PanChango Not Cute

    What I have read is that using a rolls is like a straight razor on a stick. Do you get a similar shave to using the straight where you need to stretch your skin or is it more akin to using a SE like the Micromatic?

    I've obviously never used one.
    Cap7597 likes this.
  17. gregindallas

    gregindallas Rolls Razor Revivalist

    DSCN1224 (2) r1.jpg
    Definitly a hollow ground stright on a stick (see picture) and shave technique is the same. I stretch and highly reccomend it. The guard bar is not for your face but a stand to protect the edge when it's put down.:D
    Cap7597 and alpla444 like this.
  18. PanChango

    PanChango Not Cute


    Thank you. I didn't realize it was a kickstand. I was also under the incorrect assumption that it was a wedge blade instead of a hollow ground. I never really looked to closely at them. My father did use one when he was a youngster. It was his special occasion getting duded up for a date razor.

    Those assumptions, you know what they do...
    Cap7597 and alpla444 like this.
  19. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title

    Greg - I am sure you will cover this more later, but if the blade is not getting enough friction on one side to snap the blade tight to the strop or hone, is that fixable? I have one that snaps tight on one side but not the other. The ears on the spring are intact.
    Cap7597 likes this.
  20. rodd

    rodd Knotty Boy

    Great information! Thanks for doing this!

    Added to the Safety Razors master sticky.
    Cap7597 likes this.

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