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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Razor Preserving or Razor Revising?

Few topics seem to be as controversial in the razor collecting community as razor "restoration." Restoration - now that is a loaded word. It can mean anything from replacing a broken pin to completely regrinding the blade. The absolute purist collectors take a dim view of doing practically anything to a vintage or antique razor, with even a light cleaning being out of the question. On the other side are those who focus purely on aesthetics. The folks in this camp (whom I call the “Razor Revisers”) don't care of you have a 200 year old razor; they will happily put it to the grinding wheel and then buff it up to look like it was made yesterday (which, in my opinion, it was) and add a fresh set of scales - yet they still call it a Wade & Butcher, Henckels, Wolstenhom, etc. I do not believe that a razor which has been subject to this kind of work can be placed in any historical context. It is a new, and in many cases, beautiful new crafted razor that was based on an old blade.

While there is merit on both sides of the argument, I have a distinct personal leaning towards the preservation as opposed to renovation.

When I was new to razors, I have to admit that I went out, got a grinder, compounds, wheels - the whole shebang. I loved making those blades gleam. Cost me a lot of money too. But as I began to purchase more and more razors, I had an epiphany - by striving for the perfect mirror finished blade, I might be doing something more than the original maker had done and thus, risked creating new razors out of old ones. In reality, only the most expensive razors had mirror finishes. Why? They cost a lot more to make - mirror finishing required more man hours, more machine and hand-finishing time. So, if I took the time on one of these old razors to make a mirror finished blade, I could no longer claim it was what it started out to be. So now the buffer lays silent nearly all the time.

The way I look at things now (and the way I practice when I buy a razor) is that a razor was subject to daily use and should have had daily maintenance. Cleaning with soap and water, oiling to keep rust off, stropping and honing. These to me are all legitimate ways of treating vintage razors. If you have an old razor and the patina is unattractive and you would like to remove it, I would go no further than Maas or Flitz on a soft cloth. Beyond that and you are treading on dangerous ground, better know what you are doing and inform the buyer (if you sell) if you done ANYTHING that materially changes the razor. Personally, I consider rust, corrosion, dirt removal and polishing to be legitimate practices SO LONG AS YOU DO NOT GO BELOW THE ORIGINAL BLADE SURFACE. This protects the integrity of the blade as it was originally created. So, for me, things like sanding or grinding out a pit or corrosion spot are both off-limits. When attempting to remove rust, for example, be VERY cautious about how you do it. Corrosive substances like Naval Jelly are hard to control and highly destructive to metal - they tend to go too far. There are other products and methods which are better and safer.

Well, I could write a book on this but what I really wanted to do was to give you my point of view and what we do here at The Vintage Shaving Shoppe. This way, you will know what you are buying and perhaps be a bit better informed as a customer. Feel free to chime in on the discussion!

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