Single Edge razors, or SE razors, are one of the many oddities of traditional wet shaving. They are a group of razors that linger in relative obscurity, even within the traditional wet shaving community. SE razors first popped up in the 1890s and were widely produced until their decline in the 70s. Poor marketing, less variety, and Gillette cornering the safety razor market via returning WWI and WWII veterans (who were given the Gillette Old Type as a part of their standard issue field gear) are all listed as reasons for the decline and eventual demise of the SE razor. Whatever the reasons, time has marched on and away from the poor single edge safety razor. In spite of this SE razors are still regarded as excellent shaving tools. SE razors can be purchased for relatively little money and while there are relatively few options the blades are still available in most on-line shaving stores and can even be found in many drug stores such as CVS, Walgreen’s Pharmacy, and Rite Aid. For someone interested in trying something a little different, the SE is an excellent choice.
Generally speaking, there are two different types of SE razors, the Gem type (which encompasses a number of different razors made mostly by Star, Gem, and Ever-Ready) and the Injector type (which is more or less entirely represented by the various Schick injector razors). These two razor types are very different and use completely different designs, blades, and mechanics and are only lumped together because they both happen to be outdated razor designs which use a ridgid single edged blade. The Cobra razor is another, currently produced SE razor that does not quite fit into either category (it is closest to an injector), but is usually kept in its own special category in spite of the fact that it too is a single edge safety razor. For my purposes when I am referring to SE razors I am talking about the Gem and injector style razors, but excluding the Cobra.
Recently I have become interested in SE razors. It has come about partly from a desire to try something different and partly because I have been seeing an increase in the number of folks posting SOTDs featuring SE razors. Thanks to an event called The Nation Wide Box Tour (hosted by one of my favorite shaving forums, The Shave Den) I have managed to pick up a few Gem SE razors, a Schick Injector and several blades for both razor types. Over the next couple of weeks I will dedicate my time to learning about the history, proper techniques, and peculiarities of each of these odd razors. I hope to come out with a better understanding of SE razors and traditional wet shaving in general.
For my first go with a single edge razor I decided to use my largest and most intimidating SE razor. Last night, after picking out some SE razors, I boiled some water and sterilized the razors that I snagged from The Nation Wide Box Tour. This morning while looking over my freshly cleaned razors I debated heavily with myself about which razor to try first. The large headed Gem 1912 won out, so I loaded a stainless steel Gem blade (making sure to slide the blade into, rather than over, the two prongs that stabilize the blade), grabbed some Musgo Real Lime Basil shave cream and my Vulfix 376S Super Badger brush and set up for my shave.
Following my usual preparation I did a three pass with the grain/against the grain/across the grain shave and finished up with a cold water rinse and some T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel.
The first thing I noticed about using a Gem type SE razor was that the large head and rigid straight blade make this razor a lot like a disposable blade Rolls Razor. Unfortunately I had a hard time figuring out how to position the thing so as to get the proper angle and found myself constantly changing my angle with out realizing it…which resulted in an overly aggressive shave. Luckily for me the 1912 is fairly forgiving and the Musgo Real shave cream is ultra slick. I managed a damn fine shave with a couple of tiny nicks (which required no styptic) and mild irritation. I’ll have to work on my technique with this giant headed razor, but I see lots of potential.
On a positive note, the Musgo Real Lime Basil is awesome! It’s an amazing lime scent with spicy, woody notes and none of the sweetness that usually accompanies a lime scent. It lathered easily and provided an extremely slick surface.
Overall I would say that this was a good first attempt at SE shaving and with some technique improvement I predict that I will be getting some great shaves from my newly acquired SE razors.
Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Gem 1912
Blade: Gem Stainless Steel
Brush: Vulfix 376S Super Badger
Soap: Musgo Real Lime Basil
Post: Cold water rinse and T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel