Vintage Gear Exploration: Gillette Fatboy

Posted: October 18, 2016 in Shaving Articles
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For a lot of people, this is “The Razor” in the safety razor collecting game. The original 195 Adjustable Gillette. The Fatboy.

Prior to this razor’s appearance in 1958, razors were what they were. They had a level of blade exposure, and you liked it, or you lumped it. I’ve mentioned the Fatboy in a few other features, as it is the granddaddy of the whole family. It set all the rules and basic assumptions. Twist to open. 1-9 dial below the handle (or, in a few cases, at the bottom, just above the opening knob).

Why is it, you may ask, that the Fatboy holds such allure, when the Slim Adjustable and the Super Adjustable after it carried on with the same basic mechanic? Well, I suppose there are a few possible reasons.

The first? Well, it WAS the first. It was the classic, earliest iteration of the idea. It also didn’t run for that many years, being produced between ’58 and ’62.

The second? The fat handle makes the razor one of the heaviest models that was produced in the vintage era. Think of a slightly longer Aristocrat without a hollow handle, and a heavier head (because of the adjustment mechanism). Add to that heft the ability to tune the level of blade exposure, and you have yourself quite a machine.

The third reason, perhaps, is that groundswell wherein everyone begins to talk about a particular model, and it develops a golden halo around it. The demand goes up. Supplies dwindle. It’s a must-have. Prices skyrocket. Having a Fatboy is like having a ’67 Corvette with an L88 427 engine in it. It doesn’t have to make logical sense. It doesn’t have to be a reasonable urge. It just is. And that’s okay.

I’d been able to find the razors I was looking for with some ease. Great ease, in fact. Just strolling down to Jitterbug Antiques on my lunch hour from time to time had netted me a whole stable of great old razors. I didn’t have a Fatboy, however. Slims abounded. Super Adjustables were present and awaiting purchase. A Fatboy, however…that was a rare and unseen beast.

Until now. I had talked with the shop owner about it, and he said he had a line on one. I checked. I checked again. At last, the blessed day arrived. I came in. The proprietor made his way into the backroom and fished one out.

It was a Fatboy. But…it was in pretty rough shape. Its adjustment knob was stuck. It had a significant amount of “brassing”, such that the nickle plating was worn, showing the brass below. The razor was generally cobby, a fixer-upper.

But the price was right, less than I’d paid for either of my other adjustables (which were, however, basically pristine after a polishing). I snapped it up.

What followed was the most laborious clean, lube, and polish I’ve had to do. I eventually got the adjustment knob unstuck and functioning, and after a significant level of effort, got it into a fair state. I mean, you can’t polish plating back onto a razor. Even Semichrome won’t do that. Still, it was working normally again, and looking as good as I could manage. It’s certainly a “user” grade razor, and even a re-plate would probably not fully remediate all the battle damage. That said, it’s kind of cool to know this razor was really used. Daily use, I’d say, over the course of probably decades.

Does it still shave? Heck, yeah. It really does. On setting 4 with a used Polsilver Super Iridium blade. it absolutely eliminated every bit of stubble. After shaving on 4, I think that 3 may be the sweet spot for me on most days. This thing seems just a tad more, shall we say, determined at any given setting. Not by a lot, but just enough. Even blades like the Derby Extra shave really well on 3, for me. At least for my particular model and my needs, turning this thing up to 8 or 9 seems like it would border on foolhardy. A three pass shave on 3 literally spoils me, giving a baby smooth result every time. One begins to understand why the cult of the Fatboy exists. It’s not that the later models of adjustable have anything to apologize for, but man, this thing is a beast.

My collection has a capstone now. It’s possible I’ll want a “pretty” razor that’s re-plated and pristine at some point, but the idea of using this old warhorse is really where it’s at for me right now.

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