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How to make a custom wood handle for a double edged safety razor

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Picture of How to make a custom wood handle for a double edged safety razor
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:

Table saw
Drill press
Lathe
Bench grinder
Spindle gouges
1/2" parting tool
Round nose scraper



 
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Step 1: Source the materials

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

Picture of 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

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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

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 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

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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

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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

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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!
rsbickmore7 months ago
Nailed it on the first try! That is, until the last turn of the head when I split the wood. I guess that's what I get for thinking I could eyeball the hole with a handheld drill. I was wondering though - do you have any issue with the handle getting slippery when it's wet? I'm going to borrow my neighbor's drill press this weekend and give it another go. Thanks for the awesome instructable!
aelkovits11 year ago
Fantastic instructable. I have always loved woodworking and this is an excellent how to. I hope one day to get into making items like this as it seems like a lot of fun.
Nice work and nice write-up!
Have you ever "wet-sanded" the CA? I found that it works much better than dry...
joelav (author)  SlickSqueegie1 year ago
Yup, I have. I was careful on this one because unlike pens or "kit" turnings on a mandrel with bushings, the ends are raw wood and I didn't want to soak them.
sublingual1 year ago
Nice instructable--good solid safety info, too.

I'm more a metal guy than a wood guy, but now you've got me inspired to cast my own handle out of brass (or scrap silver if I'm feeling punchy). I just need to figure out the tapping bit, since I generally work in jewelry.

Oh, one quick suggestion, if it's relevant: After you mark your centerpoint on the non-drilled end, could you just knock the corners down with a hand planer to start the rounding process, and get to higher initial speeds on your lathe?
joelav (author)  sublingual1 year ago
The bandsaw works great for this using a small jig with a V shaped groove. Since the diameter is so small on these, it's not a big deal to get it round on the lathe. On a small piece like this it only takes 3 or 4 sweeps with a gouge to knock down the edges.

On larger items, that is definitely recommended. Tapping should be a lot easier in metal. 1/4-20 is a very common size,
Yeah, the nice thing about cast metal is that I can just drill the hole in wax, and jewelry metals are nice and soft for tapping. I'd love to get a metal lathe at some point, but it's not on the horizon at the moment.
Rombie1 year ago
How much you selling them for? Yeah I could use one, I have black hair so my facial hair comes in fast so I shave daily.
joelav (author)  Rombie1 year ago
My profile has a link to my shop. I am out of stock on the heads now but should be getting more soon.
a.steidl1 year ago
Wow, I never thought of using cyanoacrylic as a finish before. I've used nitrocellulose, and love it, but it doesn't seem to like water too much after time.
joelav (author)  a.steidl1 year ago
It only works well on a lathe and on smaller items. I make badger brushes as well and finish them with CA. With enough coats, it's 100% waterproof. Just be careful because it is a very hard finish (like nitro) and can crack if you hit it just right.
a.steidl1 year ago
Very nice instructible, mate. Love woodworking, and need a lathe soon. :)
joelav (author)  a.steidl1 year ago
Lathes are fun. The learning curve is not very steep. Just beware that the supporting equipment like chisels, chucks, sharpening equipment, and centers can easily exceed the cost of the lathe itself.
a.steidl1 year ago
Dang that's pretty, after 12k grit! :)
abrannan1 year ago
Since you've got extra material, why not drill the hole a bit deeper, and run it with a drive center? Seems like you'd have to worry less about splitting with the dead center, and the I Italy rounding would be easier.
joelav (author)  abrannan1 year ago
I did for the first few. It's really hard to keep the top square and the hole perfectly centered with a drive spur. The dead center doesn't split the wood, when you try to drive the receiver in an off center hole is when splitting happens. Plus CA finishing is almost impossible with parts at both ends
eblackman11 year ago
well done sir, well done!
neo716651 year ago
Looks great. I use a Fatboy that was me grandpas but been thinking of making one. Next on my list right now is an acrylic badger brush. I just gotta get a lathe first lol.
8bitMisfit1 year ago
That's awesome. I've seen razors out there like that cost $50 and up. great instructable.
Rombie1 year ago
Beautiful work. You should be selling these. I drop $40 a month on blades, it's a joke.
joelav (author)  Rombie1 year ago
I do sell them. I am out of stock now and need to order more heads. Not only are cartridges so expensive, a double edge razor gives you a much better shave with less irritation. I thoroughly enjoy shaving now