The History and Evolution of Razor Blades

Razor blades are made of a special corrosion-resistant steel blend called carbide steel because it's made with a tungsten-carbon compound. A razor is a tool that is primarily used to remove body hair through the act of shaving. Types of razors include straight razors, safety razors, disposable razors and cartridge razors. The blades you can find in modern razors are not the same as the blades of the early 20th century.

These blades come from the so-called “safety razors” of the early 20th century. These double-edged blades might be returning to fashion, but in the 1950s, the only method for men to shave at home was causing a big problem. Tasan and graduate student Gianluca Roscioli devised an experiment to examine the progress of razor wear after each shave. After examining several different commercial razors, the team discovered that they were all made of a similar alloy of steel and hardened carbide.

The safety razor blade comes in one piece, but has two sharp edges, and once attached to the top of the handle, a man can shave with either side before having to rinse, saving time. This double-edged safety razor designed by King C. Gillette was not the first razor to place the blade perpendicular to the handle of the razor (that was William S. Henton in 1847), but it is an essential design element to include a blade with two sharp edges.

With a double-edged razor, since the blade itself is the only interchangeable part of the razor, you can choose the blade that best suits your hair and skin type. It was a smart financial decision for Gillette to refrain from selling stainless steel blades because its customers had to dispose of carbon blades more often, which meant they bought more and royalties generated additional revenue. In 1962, a British company called Wilkinson Sword began selling the stainless steel blade, which didn't rust as quickly as the carbon blade. In addition, it is common for these cartridge heads to have several razor blades placed in them, typically between two and five blades. This created another reason, besides the dullness of the blade, why the razor blades would have to be replaced. The history and evolution of razor blades has been an interesting journey from straight razors to double-edged safety razors and now modern cartridge razors. The invention of double-edged safety razors revolutionized shaving by providing a more efficient way to shave with fewer cuts and nicks.

The introduction of stainless steel blades further improved shaving by providing a longer lasting blade that didn't rust as quickly as carbon blades. Finally, modern cartridge razors have made shaving easier than ever before with multiple blades that provide a close shave with fewer passes.

William Mlynek
William Mlynek

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