Like many others, I have ditched my cartridge razors and went back a few decades. If I have the option to make or buy something, I always chose to make it. These are enjoyable to create and I have made several. There are razor heads available, but no information on how to create or attach them to a wooden handle. Here is what works for me and how I made this lovely Koa handled double edged razor below.
Tools I used to create this:
1/2" parting tool
Round nose scraper
Step 1: Source the Materials
With some diligent internet searches, I was able to find a double edge safety razor head at an online retailer called thegoldennib.com. The head is made by Parker and is a fairly decent one. I also sourced a 6 inch long and 1 inch thick piece of Koa wood from Hawaii
Step 2: Square the Ends
On my table saw cross cut sled, I squared the ends of the Koa blank by trimming off a very small portion on each end. This is important since it will need to be perfectly centered on the lathe.
since I am working with small parts you notice I am not holding the wood by hand. This can be very dangerous so I want to exercise as much safety as possible while retaining accuracy.
Step 3: Drill the Hole for the Reciever
The reciever that comes with the kit threads into the handle with a 1/4-20 thread size. To accommodate this, I drilled a 7/32" hole about 1/16" deeper than the threaded bolt extends. This way the threads will bite into the wood and self tap.
You will notice I am using a jig and a drill press. This hole must be perfectly centered. If it isn't you run the risk of an off center alignment, or splitting the wood when you mount the head.
To find the center I simply draw and X from one corner to the other and mark the center with an awl. Do this on both ends
Step 4: Getting Ready to Turn!
Sharp tools are a necessity. Lathe tools have to be sharpened often. I sharpen mine on an 8" grinder using a home made jig to dial in the perfect angle. Not only do sharp tools cut better, a dull tool is dangerous to use.
This is also a good time to get your safety equipment ready. A face shield is best, but at a minimum you need to wear safety goggles. Since turning wood on a lathe creates a lot of dust, a respirator is also needed. Make sure you are not wearing any loose clothing, jewelery, or gloves. If you have long hair, be sure it is tied back.
Step 5: Mount the Blank on the Lathe
This was the hardest step to figure out. A chuck isn't the right tool, and a pen mandrel is too thick for the 1/4" hole needed. I decided to use a conical dead center to drive the blank. I inserted the point of the dead center into the hole I drilled. I advanced the tail stock with a live center. Lining up the point with the center I defined in the last step. Now to lock everything down and begin turning.
Step 6: Get It Round
Because Koa is fairly hard and I have limited grip from using a conical dead center to drive the piece, I had to go slow until I knocked the edges off. Once they were rounded over a bit, I could speed the lathe up a bit and get is round.
Step 7: Mark the Length
If you notice in the previous step, I didn't turn the end of the piece down. This is because the razor handle is only 3 1/2 inches. Now that it is fully round, I measured from the front and marked it off with a pencil
Step 8: Cut a Tenon
With a parting tool, cut a tenon at the end of your pencil line. Do not go too deep yet as you need the piece to remain stable through some turning and sanding. This will establish a flat bottom for your razor handle.
Step 9: Taper the Front End Down
Using a set of calipers, I measured the end of the receiver that will screw into the handle and accept the double edge razor head. I then turned the front down to the desired thickness checking frequently with the calipers. Remember to leave a little extra material for final shaping and sanding
Step 10: Shape the Handle
I decided on function over form. This profile is comfortable for me, and it really shows off the beautiful grain of the Koa.
Step 11: Sanding Time!
After the shape was turned to my satisfaction, I sanded the wood down to 4,000 grit. Yes, you read that correctly. I started at 150 grit and worked all the way up. This process is very time consuming but very important
Step 12: Get Ready to Apply the Finish
Wait, I thought we were applying a finish, why are there pictures of super glue?
This razor will see a lot of water. When applied properly CA glue (commonly called super glue) is a very protective and very beautiful finish. It forms a hard acrylic-like barrier over the wood and can be polished to a high sheen.
Step 13: Applying the CA Glue
I apply many light coats of CA glue. I start off with the Medium viscosity and move to the thick for the final coat. On this razor, 22 coats were applied. That sounds like a lot of work, but it goes quick. Here is the process:
1 - remove any sanding dust with a rag dampened slightly with mineral spirits
2 - Set your lathe to a fairly slow speed. Around 600 RPM works well
3 - Apply some CA glue to a paper towel. The blue "shop" towels work well for this.
4 - Wipe the CA glue on the spinning piece from left to right. Use moderate but even pressure and go quickly. Do not go over the piece repeatedly as you will leave ridges.
5 - Set your lathe speed to about 3200 RPM and spray the Accelerator. This will cause the CA to cure instantly.
6 - Start at step 2 again and repeat until you have a good build
The first picture is after the first coat. The second picture is the lathe spinning at high speed after the last coat
Step 14: Polish the CA Glue Finish
I use a product called micromesh. They are small abrasive pads from 600 grit to 12,000 grit. The first picture is the 600 grit step, the last picture is after the 12,000 grit step. Now we are close to the final product
Step 15: Final Polish
Even tough after the final sanding the Koa looks good, a buffing compound really brings out the shine. This product is very easy to use and yields excellent results. After only 2 applications the finished product really shines
Step 16: Trim the End
With the finish complete, take it off the lathe and trim off the excess. I prefer to do this a the band saw. I cut right to the edge of the tenon I turned earlier. Once cut off, I sand the bottom smooth and rub a few coats of CA glue on it
Step 17: Final Assembly
Now that everything is complete place a little dab of epoxy on the treads of the receiver and thread it into the hole you drilled in step 3. If you lined up everything properly, it will twist right in with a little pressure and be perfectly centered. Let the epoxy set up per the manufacturers instructions. Once cured insert a blade, screw the head on, and enjoy your shaving experience!