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Schick Quattro Titanium 4 blade razor.
Collection of modern safety razors

A razor is a bladed tool primarily used in the shaving off of unwanted body hair.


Early razors

Bronze razor

Razors have been identified from many Bronze Age cultures. These were made of bronze or obsidian and were generally oval in shape, with a small tang protruding from one of the short ends.

Straight razors

Straight razors with the open steel blades, also commonly known as cut-throats, were the most commonly used razors before the 20th century. However, they are now chiefly used by barbers.

Straight razors consist of a blade sharpened on one edge. The blade can be made of either stainless steel, which is slower to hone and strop, and holds an edge longer, or high carbon steel, which hones and strops quickly, but has a less durable edge. At present, stainless-steel razors are harder to find than carbon steel, but both are still in production.

The blade rotates on a pin through its tang between two protective pieces called scales: when folded into the scales, the blade is protected from accidental damage, and the user is protected from accidental injury. Handle scales are made of various materials, including mother-of-pearl, celluloid, bone, plastic and wood. They were once made of ivory, but this has been discontinued, though fossil ivory is still used occasionally.

Disposable blade straight razors

Razors which are similar in use and appearance to straight razors but which use either a standard double edged blade or specially made blades are available.

Many razors of this type are referred to as "shavettes" although this name was originally restricted to a razor manufactured by Dovo in Germany.

Disposable bladed straights have many of the advantages of straight razors without needing the stropping and honing of ordinary straight razors. They are also popular in travel wash kits as a means of avoiding difficulties with airport security.

Safety razors

A modern double-edged safety razor

The first safety razor, a razor where the skin is protected from all but the very edge of the blade, was invented in the late 18th century by a Frenchman, Jean-Jacques Perret, who was inspired by the joiner's plane. In 1875 it was marketed by the Kampfe Brothers as "the best available shaving method on the market that won’t cut a user, like straight steel razors."

Gillette safety razor with 3 blades

In 1901, the American inventor King Camp Gillette, with the assistance of William Nickerson, invented a safety razor with disposable blades. Gillette realized that a profit could be made by selling a razor with inexpensive disposable blades. This has been called the Razor and blades business model, or a "loss leader", and has become a very common practice for a wide variety of products.

There are also safety razors that are made of inexpensive materials that are meant to be wholly disposable. One such device was patented in the late 1950's by American entertainer and inventor Paul Winchell.

There are many different brands of safety razor blades manufactured today including: Gillette, Wilkinson Sword, Merkur, Astra, Treet, Big Ben, Racer, Feather and King of Shaves. Blades are made in a wide variety of different countries including: Germany, England, Russia, India and Japan. Safety blades can be purchased cheaply when compared to the per blade cost of multiblade cartridges. Safety blades cost between $.08 and $.50 compared to approximately $3.50 for a cartridge blade.

As of late manufacturers of modern safety razors have been involved in a race to the top, or better put, who has the most blades on a razor. This is seen by many to be fueled primarily by marketing concerns, and has triggered a small resurgence in popularity of more traditional shaving methods often involving the use of double-edged safety razors.

Electric razors

Oscillating battery powered razor

The electric razor (also known as the electric dry shaver) has a rotating or oscillating blade. The electric razor does not always require the use of shaving cream, soap, or water. An exception is the Philips HS8060 coolskin, which can be filled with soap, water or skin cream. The razor is powered by a small DC motor, and usually has rechargeable batteries, though early ones were powered directly by house current. Some inexpensive modern ones are still offered that run only on house current. Some very early mechanical shavers had no electric motor and had to be powered by hand, for example by pulling a cord to drive a flywheel. Properly used, electric razors give a shave that is as close as, if not closer than a shave obtained from a disposable razor. This is possible because an electric shaver rolls forward skin ahead of the follicle , forcing it slightly above the unstretched skin line, where it is then cut off.[1]

The typical major designs include the foil variety which uses a structure of layered metal bands that partially pull out the hair before cutting off the extracted length and then allowing the remainder to retract below the skin. The other design is the rotary type with circular blade structures, usually three in a triangular arrangement which has the same shaving function.

It was patented in 1928 by the American manufacturer Col. Jacob Schick. The Remington Rand Corporation developed the electric razor further, first producing the Remington brand of razor in 1937. Another important inventor was Prof. Alexandre Horowitz, from Philips Laboratories in the Netherlands, who invented the very successful concept of the revolving electric razor. It has a shaving head consisting of cutters that cut off the hair entering the head of the razor at skin level.

Early versions of electric razors were meant to be used on dry skin only. More recent electric razors have been designed to allow for shaving cream and moisture. Some patience is necessary when starting to use a razor of this type, as the skin usually takes some time to adjust to the way that the electric razor lifts and cuts the hairs. This also requires diligence in the use of moisturizers.

Battery powered electric razors

Note the standard AA-size Ni-Cd battery (600mAh)- albeit soldered in place preventing user replacement

Early electric razors plugged directly into an AC outlet, but in recent decades most have been rechargeable, containing rechargeable batteries sealed inside the razor's case.

In theory, one can return the razor to the "dealer" for repair, but most stores that sell such devices—and even the manufacturers—lack repair facilities. In practice, a device that fails within a month can be exchanged for a new one under the store's guarantee; or a device that fails after the store guarantee expires but before the manufacturer's warranty expires can be exchanged by the manufacturer—the store guarantee and the manufacturer's warranty are mutually exclusive. If it fails after the warranty expires, one is expected to throw it away and buy a new one, from the same company. There used to be repair shops that offered warranty service for such devices, but in the 1980s, most became mail-forwarding services that sent things to manufacturers for replacement; and most disappeared in the 1990s.

Some modern styles of electric hair clippers include bulk hair clippers, which are used to remove a bulk of the hair being shaved; main hair clippers, on which guards are attached to achieve a perfect length all over the head; and mini clippers, which are used to trim the edges of the haircut.

Other razors

Manual beard clipper.

A single-edge razor blade was actually manufactured prior to the advent of the double edge razor, for various applications where the blade is required to be hand-held. Single-edge blades are often a more rigid carbon steel and much thicker, and when cared for are sharper. They are used in carpentry for detailed work, sanding, and scraping (in a specialized holder), in mechanical drawing for paper cutting, in plumbing and finish work for grouting and cleaning, for removing paint from flat surfaces such as panes of glass, and in many other applications. Razors are also sometimes used in bread production to slash the surface of an unbaked loaf; in this usage, they are referred to using the French word lamé.

See also


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