- Double Edge Razors - Everything you Need to Know
What is a double edge safety razor?
A double edge razor is called ‘safety’ razor because it has a guard - a protective device between the skin and the blade – designed to prevent cuts and to make it safer to handle. The razor utilizes a double-edged single blade with two edges to shave, which means the blades last longer. Coupled with the fact that the blades are cheaper than common multi-blade systems, double edge razors can be very economical. The handles are traditionally made from nickel, steel and brass and will last a lifetime.
In terms of pros, these razors are better for sensitive skin because there is less steel than a multi-blade scraping along the skin, they give a closer shave because the design sets the blade closer to the skin at a more aggressive angle, and as mentioned above they cost less to use. However, they can also nick a little more and require learning a technique to use them correctly; they do not have pivoting heads so more work needs to be done by the wrist. They are not as fast to use as the multi-blades either, and require a shorter gentler stroke.
The double edge (DE) razor's history
The double edge razors evolved as a replacement of single edge razors, which were difficult to use and required regular sharpening. In 1847 W.S. Henson created the ‘T’ handled safety razor with a similar shape to a common hoe, characterised by a pulling action we know so well today.
In 1880 the Kampfe brothers created the first safety razor, the ‘Star Razor Blade’. However, the nature of the design required constant removal of the single edge head from the handle to sharpen it on a whetstone, which made the act of shaving complicated.
In 1901, King C. Gillette created the first popular double edge razor with disposable blades which were both cheaper and easier to replace - ‘No Honing, No Stropping’. With the beginning of World War I, Gillette signed a contract with the US Army to supply each soldier with a Double Edge razor kit. From then on, that generation and the ones after moved from the traditional straight razor to the safety double edge razor.
How they work
Double edge razors styles vary, as do their mechanisms. They typically come apart to replace the blade. The most popular mechanism is comprised of 3 pieces: a head (to bend the blade for a closer shave), a guard (to minimise cuts) and a handle. The handle screws into the head with the guard in between, the tightening of the handle into the head squeezes the blade into a bend.
There are other variants of the mechanism, and they are easily identified by the number of pieces each one has - once-piece, two-piece and three-piece.
The one-piece safety razor (also called butterfly or silo razors) have an interior mechanism driven by a knob at the bottom of the handle. A twist of the knob causes two hinges to part so the blade can be placed inside. This type of razor is very attractive to the eye and often impresses people. It’s easy to replace the blade, but the downfall is that the mechanism is more difficult to clean.
In the two-piece safety razor, the handle and the guard are one piece, and the head simply screws on. Compared to the one-piece razor it’s easier to replace the blade, yet it is still difficult to clean the inside thoroughly.
The three-piece safety razors are by far the most popular mechanism. They’re not so aggressive, easy to clean and because they have no moving parts they can last a lifetime.