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razor_blade_020Men have shaved their faces for thousands of years. Some of the earliest materials for razors were clam shells, flint, shark’s teeth and pumice stones, all of which were sharpened on rocks. Though they worked, they certainly didn’t leave men’s cheeks feeling smooth as a baby’s bottom. There was also a danger of slicing your throat or your palm while getting rid of your five o’clock shadow.

Clean-shaven men were seen more commonly in the 11th Century. At that time, not only were people focusing more of personal grooming with things like perfumes, but the Roman Catholic Church began urging its men to shave as way to distinguish themselves from men of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The two churches had separated in 1054.

When men began working with metals, bronze razor blades appeared. However, it was the age of steel that allowed razor blades to make their greatest advances. As blacksmiths created sharper knives and axes with more-durable edges, it was only logical that they also use those skills to create better razors.

What has become known as the first modern razor was created by Benjamin Huntsman in the 1740. Huntsman worked in Sheffield, England, which would eventually give its name to the Sheffield Razor. Between 1740 and 1830, these blades were often marked as “cast steel” or “warranted.”

Huntsman used a special process to create steel with superior hardness so that it could hold a thin, sharp edge. These blades were easier to sharpen and held their edge longer. When these early blades did lose their edge, they were sharpened like knives were. Razor-Blades__74514_zoom

The next improvement to razors was to hollow grind them and replace the wedge-shaped edge with a concave, bevelled edge. Hollow-ground razors began showing up around 1825, though the process wouldn’t be fully refined until the end of the century.

As razors became sharper, some inventors began turning their eyes to increasing the safety of razors. The first safety razor was developed in 1770 by Jean-Jacques Perret of France. It was a straight razor with a wood guard. The Kampfe Brothers patented their safety razor in 1880. This razor had a removable handle, a head that caught excess lather and a wire guard along the blade.

King Gillette started developing his innovations to the safety razor in 1895. His idea was to use cheap, disposable blades in a safety razor. Producing this razor was still impossible until 1903 when MIT graduate William Nickerson helped Gillette develop the disposable blade.

Shaving now became convenient and easy. Gillette provided razors to the U.S. military, which allowed him to introduce millions of men to the new technology, which they then went on to use once they left the military.

Jacob Schick followed a different direction for improving the razor. He patented an electric razor in 1923.  However, the design was unwieldy and Schick continued to refine it until he began selling them in 1931.

The Gillette company also introduced the first cartridge razor in 1971. The cartridge had two fixed blades in it and could be easily attached to a handle.

Companies still continue to look for new innovations and refinements to help men and woman find the way to get a closer shave.

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