Tips for Vintage Razor Shoppers

Posted: August 13, 2016 in Shaving Articles

If you find yourself in the market for a vintage razor, there are a variety of things you may wish to consider as you look around. Read on to see my suggestions.

First, do yourself a favor and start out with at least a little knowledge about what you’re getting into. Do a little research online, so you some vague idea about what the razors are worth before purchasing anything. What the “experts” suggest, and so forth. Also, keep in mind your needs as a shaver, if you plan to put the old fella to work. If it’s just going to sit in a case, I suppose it’s just a matter of aesthetics.

If you have some relatives or friends you think might be in possession of some vintange gear, it may be possible for you to arrange to purchase said equipment for a song. They may just give you the razors, if they are not of a mind to try and sell them. Beyond that, heirlooms from family always signify a bit more.

If purchasing a razor, check that any moving parts work as they should. To the best of your ability, make sure everything lines up and seems to cinch down properly. In terms of finish, the razor may be in need of cleaning, lubrication, and polishing. These things are easily enough remedied, if you don’t mind expending a little time and energy. Of course, if you see serious oxidization, corrosion, or spots worn clean through the plating, this is sub-optimal. Keep in mind what you’re hoping to do, though. If you’re purchasing one as a “user”, it can be a little ragged in appearance, so long as it functions. For display models, though, you want it to look good, or at least be within your capabilities to restore.

Be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect your razor before you use it. An easy way to do so is to put a cap full of dish soap in a mug, then put the razor in, head open or cap loosened, as the build of the device dictates, and pour boiling water over it. Let the whole thing stand until it’s cool enough to not burn your fingers. Take an old toothbrush and use it to clean all the surfaces, nooks, and crannies. If you find that this doesn’t totally assuage your sense of duty in regard to disinfecting, let the razor stand for several minutes in some rubbing alcohol. That, or go full-tilt and use some Barbicide. Just remember that stuff is wicked toxic, and will kill you dead if you drink any.

If you have a twist-to-open vintage razor, it will likely need some lubrication on the various hinges and articulated bits. A razor that’s manifestly clean and tidy looking can probably just have some mineral oil worked into it – that stuff is safe to ingest, biologically inert, and will suffice for the purpose of slicking up the action of moving parts. If you wish to go one better than that, use some food-grade synthetic oil, such as Superlube High Viscosity with PTFE. That’s what I use, and it’s the very thing.

If you’ve got a razor that has some corrosion deep in the mechanism that may be impeding its function, you’ll want a cleaner-lubricant that has a powerful penetrant/solvent component. WD-40 will work, but I prefer CLP, Tri-Flow, Rem Oil, or Liquid Wrench. Give the penetrating compound plenty of time to get into the mechanism, moving it to work the oil deeper in. If you use a compound like this, you’ll probably want to clean the razor thoroughly afterward, as these all contain petroleum distillates that aren’t necessarily what you want to be rubbing onto your face.

Finally, if your razor is altogether clean, but still has dull, corroded, or otherwise less than shiny surfaces, you’ll want to use a very mild polishing compound to work that out. My go-to is Nevr-Dull wadding, available at most automotive stores, or on an e-retailer like Amazon. If this proves insufficent, try Semichrome polishing cream, which is more potent, but still very gentle. Keep in mind, though, that any polishing compound has the ability to erode away an already-thready plated finish. If you’re working with a gold plated razor, you have to be very careful, or you might end up finding some of the nickle under-plating shining through.

When your vintage beauty is, well, beautiful, give it a try. As with any razor, make sure that the blade loads properly, and is being held evenly on both sides. Be careful on the first few passes, before you fully grasp all the handling dynamics. Some have said that they don’t have a great success rate finding good razors, but I’ve yet to bring one home that wasn’t shave-worthy and fully mechanically sound. Your results may vary, but there are a lot of good vintage safety razors still out there. Patience and a little head-work will net you one that may become a favorite.

Good luck, and happy (vintage) shaving!


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