Introduction: Make a Safety Razor
People who have abandoned expensive disposable multi-blade cartridge razors for much more economical wet shaving with a double edge razor may want to try making their own razor. The razor in the photo shows a stainless steel handle borrowed from a Merkur 23C razor. I recently posted an Instructable on making your own razor handle. That handle is a little heavier. The Merkur handle is a nicer match by weight for the light weight head I made in this Instructable. Either will work.
- 1 1/2 inch PVC
- 10-32 (or M5 x 0.8) flathead screw 3/4 inch long
- 3/4 inch EMT tubing (EMT is electrical metallic tubing, or conduit)
- Black electrical tape
- Hacksaw or angle grinder with a cutting wheel
- Countersink bit
- Digital caliper
- Stone or abrasive wheel
Step 1: Mark and Cut the PVC
Press a razor blade to fit the curved shape of the PVC. Use a soft lead pencil to mark around the edges of the razor blade, but without moving the blade. Some tape may help. Remove the blade. Make parallel lines to those you just marked on the PVC 1/8 inch out from the lines that followed the blade edge. Use a fairly fine saw to cut just outside these lines. The photo shows a completed piece. Locate the center of the PVC piece and drill a 3/16 inch hole through it. Wiggle the drill in the hole a little so the screw passes easily, but without excess play.
See the second photo. Place a piece of medium grit sandpaper on a table with the grit up. Drag the top edges of the PVC over it in a motion that rounds the top edges and smooths them against your skin when shaving.
Step 2: Mark and Cut the EMT
The piece cut from the metal tubing is 3/4 inch wide. Cut as carefully as possible. Use a digital caliper to check your cutting. Use a file to make the edges parallel, or very close to parallel.
Mark the center of the piece and drill a 3/16 inch hole. Chamfer the top of the hole with a countersink bit.
Step 3: Remove Irregularities
This is not my first attempt at making a razor. I discovered some interesting things. Commercially manufactured razors are made to very close tolerances. But, Irregularities in faces and differences in shaving technique are also factors. Although I cannot in any way replicate the precision of a CNC machined razor, I can compensate a great deal with good shaving technique and paying attention to the sound of the blade cutting whiskers while I shave.
Still, rubbing the underside of the EMT on an abrasive stone to take out any warp due to inaccurate cutting will result in more even pressure on the blade against the PVC for more even blade exposure. Do check to see if the sides of the EMT are parallel. File to correct as much as is practical.
Spray the EMT with clear enamel to prevent rust. If you really want to avoid rust, use aluminum tubing from an old lawn chair and a stainless steel screw.
Step 4: Shim With Plastic Tape
I shimmed my razor with two layers of black plastic tape on the center of the PVC to increase the blade gap just a little. Otherwise, the razor was just a little too mild. The tape should extend on both sides to the edges of the EMT top cap when it is in place.
Step 5: Loading and Using
This razor does not have some things most razors have, and it is OK.
This razor does not have openings under the edge of the blade for the shave cream or soap to escape with whisker trimmings. I use a brush and a shaving soap. Although I whip it enough to make peaks, it is not terribly thick and it escapes easily enough. I can always rinse the razor under running water more often when the razor comes to be loaded with foam.
Most razors automatically align the blade with posts, center strips, or corner tabs.This razor does not. It is really quite easy to align the blade manually as it is being placed into the razor. When I tried making a razor, drilling three holes perfectly in line and properly spaced became a difficult challenge. Drilling one hole for the screw is much easier.
Put the screw through the EMT top cap. Place the new blade onto the screw from the underside of the top cap. Place the PVC baseplate onto the screw. Turn the assembly over and begin threading the screw into the handle. Before the screw is tight, grasp the ends of the blade and make the edges of the blade parallel to the edges of the PVC. Adjust the top cap if necessary. Tighten the threads. A screwdriver is not necessary. (You may notice a notch in the top cap and in the baseplate. If you own an adjustable razor, identifying marks are aligned to be certain the settings numbers will be accurate. Anything hand made like this razor will have slight inaccuracies. I checked the position of the top cap for the best fit and marked it with notches.)
Making your own razor costs next to nothing. You may find enough enjoyment in shaving with a razor you made that you will not be afflicted with razor acquirement disorder (RAD) and feel the need to buy new razors when they come on the market with their new and exciting features. And, you can make small adjustments so the way your razor shaves better suits you.
See the second photo. Use a caliper to check from the edge of the center hole (yellow circle) to the edges of the top cap (red and blue lines). I noticed the left side of the razor (as seen in the photo) was less aggressive than the right side. I ground the left edge of the top cap to make both sides closer to the same. Check the same dimensions on the PVC. You can sand the PVC to make the two sides more alike. You can also shim the blade or remove shims. If you ruin something, it is easy and inexpensive to make a replacement part.
I find the shaves I get from this razor very pleasing and mild enough, but also the razor is aggressive enough to do the job. But, to me a razor is like a toothbrush. I just need one that works. No one is in the bathroom with me when I am shaving to be impressed by a great high dollar razor.
I do need to use a wider angle than I would with the brand name razor I purchased when I began wet shaving. Sometimes it appears the blade is too close to one side, but there is just a little play and I can move it to one side or the other easily.
Step 6: Another Way
The first photo shows another PVC and EMT razor I made to copy a Gillette Tech razor. At first it shaved far too mildly. I sanded from just behind the edge of the blade out to the edge of the baseplate to increase the blade gap. Then the razor was too aggressive. I sanded again, but a strip where the top cap meets the blade with the idea of reducing the blade gap. That helped a lot. It is still a little aggressive, but my whiskers are tougher at my age, and I ride the top cap during the final pass. That reduces the aggression of the razor and gives a very smooth shave.
The second photo shows a device I made for adjusting the blade position without fiddling. (The razor on it is another razor I made from 1/8 x 1 inch aluminum bar filing by hand.) The handle is elevated by a 5/16 inch dowel to keep it close to level. A post supports the handle about midway so the baseplate can be at its proper adjustment. A piece of Masonite or Plexiglass on the end has oval holes under the screwheads. This allows me to put on a new razor blade, tighten it, and then loosen it around one-quarter turn. The handle rests securely on the dowel and the post. I add a little pressure to push the baseplate down. At the same time I push the blade tabs downward toward the Masonite or Plexiglass. I check to see that the top cap is parallel to the edge of the blade and tighten the handle. A little practice makes it easy to get a perfectly aligned blade without fiddling. I should also say I use 12 strips of 20 pound bond copy paper to set the elevation on the Masonite or Plexiglass. It may vary a little with another razor you make. I do use the orientation notches in the top cap and baseplate to get for consistent results. Notice the blue band marked on the device. Blue notches go to the same side as the blue band.
I have found preparation is as important to a smooth shave as a proper razor. I wet my face with lukewarm water and smear on a little foaming hand soap. I keep that moist for five minutes. Then I dry my face with a towel and apply a liberal amount of Williams Lectric Shave. Wait 15 or more seconds for it to evaporate. I moisten my face a little and brush on lather for my first pass.