View Full Version : In the olden days.......
01-10-2008, 01:50 PM
I have won a few razors on eBay recently and now I can't afford to eat. However, I have learned a bit more about razors and it seems to me that the people who shaved daily with straights 100 years ago didn't all have Nortons or Belgian corticules. One Crown and Sword looks like it's been honed on a kerbstone but obviously the owner found this sufficient. I also remember how my Grandfather kept his Gillette DE going with the same blade years by pushing it round the inside of a glass tumbler between shaves; and he was never scruffy. I strop my straights on my jeans. I know that with the right tools and sufficient skill I can get the blade scary sharp but in reality shaving sharp can be achieved by an ordinary bloke with a very basic razor and a rough bit of stone; as it was for centuries before machine-made SS titanium-coated disposable blades were available as an alternative. Either we're a bit too picky these days or else we've just gone soft.
01-10-2008, 01:54 PM
I am fine with "soft".
01-10-2008, 01:58 PM
I guess you could get it sharp enough to shave with, but it would probably be uncomfortable and not enjoyable, which for me, shaving with a straight is all about comfort and enjoyment.
01-11-2008, 09:19 AM
In the old days most owned a razor or 2 a strop and some type of barbers hone. Probably most were not that great at it and most razors were probably barely functional but that was the only ticket so you suffered through it? Better heeled people sent the razors out to be maintained.Why do you think when DE's came out people wanted nothing to do with straights anymore? We use straights because it's quaint and more like a hobby. Most think we are crazy. It would be like a woman throwing away her washing machine and preferring to boil water and beat clothes and hang them outside to dry.
Smell The Glove
01-11-2008, 09:53 AM
Soft works for me too. As I type this post I have weepers oozing from below my chin. Damn those pesky titanium coated blades!!:tongue:
01-11-2008, 04:26 PM
One of J.F. Coopers books, I think "The Pioneers" talks of a young man trying to break into medicine. The character complained of having a dull razor. When he became more successful the first thing he bought was a new razor.
I think the man off the street really didn't know very much about honing a razor.
01-11-2008, 05:33 PM
in case you haven't noticed sights like the is one is all about conspicuous consumption of luxury goods. Personally, I go back and forth from being frugal and a ravenous consumer. If I had it to do all over again I would have stuck with my Merkur HD I got on my nineteenth birthday some derby's and feather blades a boar brush and some desent shave creme. But I'm spoiled or maybe obsesses by the ritual of shaving, honing, and stroping and of course my buttery soft skin.
I recall one of Steve Smith's best lines as the world-famous handyman, Red Green. "Any tool can be the right tool". Red then hits the object in question with either a hammer or sledge hammer ... :lol:
01-11-2008, 11:17 PM
it seems to me that the people who shaved daily with straights 100 years ago didn't all have Nortons or Belgian corticules. One Crown and Sword looks like it's been honed on a kerbstone but obviously the owner found this sufficient.
Are you sure that this was done by someone who actually used the razor to shave with and not the seller who just tried to make the razor a bit more attractive by "honing" out some nicks on a tool hone (~240 grit)?
And are you sure the edge was ever even used to shave with in that state, and actually found to be "sufficient"? I doubt it, myself. It's not advisable to make any guesses from the state of razors you buy on eBay. If I did that with the DE razors I have bought, I'd say people used to shave with cruddy, dirty and rusty razors in the old days. :001_rolle
I also remember how my Grandfather kept his Gillette DE going with the same blade years by pushing it round the inside of a glass tumbler between shaves; and he was never scruffy.
Carbon steel DE blades were regularly honed using various devices, as I understand it. I actually have a DE honing device in my possession. Doesn't work too well on stainless steel blades, though (although apparently it can be done, but it takes much longer - I've never tried it myself).
in reality shaving sharp can be achieved by an ordinary bloke with a very basic razor and a rough bit of stone
Ummm... No. If you use a rough bit of stone you will ruin the edge, not sharpen it, and you will ruin your face trying to shave with it. It's a misconception that in "Ye Olde Dayes" people used rougher tools and methods and couldn't get smooth edges or whatever. But people are the same now as they were back then, and there will always be people who don't know what they're doing, or who are inept at doing it, or who are just morons who think "any stone will do", so I'm sure there was a wide variety of sharpnesses out in the cottages. Some were good at getting sharp edges and had smooth shaves, some were crappy at maintaining their straights and got crappy shaves. This will always be true, I think... :001_rolle
01-12-2008, 06:48 AM
...However, I have learned a bit more about razors and it seems to me that the people who shaved daily with straights 100 years ago didn't all have Nortons or Belgian corticules. One Crown and Sword looks like it's been honed on a kerbstone but obviously the owner found this sufficient.
That's a pretty big jump - who knows what's happened to that razor between its last shave and your acquisition - it could have been used to whittle toothpicks by the guy's grandkids for all you know.
The old timers had plenty of tools for getting a nice shaving edge. Coticules and eschers were easily available if you were a barber, as well as some very nice barber hones. For the everyday man, translucent arkansas stones were much more common back then (and will produce a very nice edge if you know what you're doing and have some time to spare), and they had a variety of abrasive pastes available to them, including rouge, chrome oxide (this was an early pigment in green paint, so you could slap a coat of paint on a 2x4 and strop away), fireplace ash, and lampblack. If the razor is dull you'll need some kind of hone, but once it's sharp you need surprisingly little to keep going. Even the bare linen will produce a very sharp edge if you use it skillfully - one of my great grandfathers apparently kept his razor going his entire life with just his strop.
I've been experimenting with minimalism lately, and if you want to keep a razor sharp using as few resources as possible then a strop made from a bit of blue jeans wrapped tightly around a board will do quite nicely. And if you're really into sharpness then a sheet of newspaper wrapped tightly around a board will give you an edge similar to 0.25 or 0.1 micron diamond paste, though the paper will have to be replaced every few hundred laps.
Couple of observations.
First: Pliny mentions the Romans quarried for hones in the same area where coticules are found nowadays.
Using a coticule + plenty of time is all you need to get a razor sharp. Maybe a piece of slate or sandstone for setting a crude bevel.
Just read this: http://www.oldtools.org/archive/archive_get.phtml?message_id=130854&submit_thread=1
It tells you Arkansas hones and later man made hones were considered a great improvement over the traditional locally quarried Charnley Forest hones.
So: yes, they used to have different hones in the past but the newer ones were much better. I am quite sure the same applies to the steel used. Some time ago I read a shave report an a civil war era razor. The author reckoned the shave was reasonable but wouldn't use it every day.
You have to decide how far you want to go back for a really traditional shave.
And how about hollow grinding: this is a post industrial revolution invention as well for easy honing and stropping.
Bear in mind most men used to shave only once or twice a week: plenty time for the skin to recover from a poor shave!
05-13-2009, 12:29 PM
Interesting. Just got hold of some Charnley Forrest hone. Looking forward to compare it with Mullers' Thuringer and some Czech slate.
05-14-2009, 05:34 PM
I had a similar experience, funnily enough also with a crown & sword.
I bought it from ebay for about £3 as a junker to practice on, and the hone wear was horrendous.
The blade was steeply tapered towards the point, and had lost about half of it's width at the point end.
The interesting thing was that I think it was used in a barbers shop. The coffin it came in had labels wrapped around it with various dates written on them. From the looks of the dates, they were to indicate when the razor had been honed.
I peeled the top one off, as it was a self adhesive label, and there was another underneath. I gradually peeled the labels off until I came to gummed paper ones, which presumably dated from before the advent of the self adhesive label. I gently soaked them off and the dates went further back, the writing was in fountain pen. They went as far back as the 1920's, but the razor is even older than that.
The funny thing was that the scratch marks on the razor were rough, as if they had been left by quite a coarse hone, but the blade was certainly sharp enough to shave with, in fact it bit me when I performed the thumb pad test (although it was the first time I had done it so I was probably a bit heavy with the pressure)
It also appeared that the scratch marks had been made by honing in a circular manner, which was very odd.
Seemed to have done the trick though.
05-14-2009, 06:16 PM
Server was playing up and that post got posted twice for some reason....
Powered by vBulletin® Version 4.2.0 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.