Introduction: Safety Razor Handle
If you want to try double edge blade wet shaving, you can buy a basic head for a three-piece razor for less than $6 US. A handle is about three times that, or you can make your own handle for very little. This Instructable shows how to do that with a few ordinary tools.
- M5 x .8 hex nut (price: 23 cents US)
- 1/2 inch steel rod
- Heat shrink tubing
- Drill press and drills
- Drill press vise
- Bench vise
- Hacksaw or grinder with cutting wheel
- Dremel tool and cutting wheel
- Heat gun or hair dryer
Step 1: Cut the Rod
I made the handle 3 7/8 inch long (98mm). It is quite heavy. To make it lighter in weight, I can shorten the handle. I can also drill it out from the bottom end to make it hollow. Or, I could grind it to a smaller diameter.
I have a drill press, a metal lathe, and a MIG welder available. I was able to center drill the handle to lighten it and to close off the end with welding before forming it to a bullet nose.
Step 2: Center Drill the Rod to Accommodate the Nut
I measured the width of the hex nut from corner to corner, not from flat to flat. An 11/32 inch drill bit is almost an exact match. I fixed the drill in a drill press vise and brought the spinning rod against it.
See the second photo. After a dimple was formed by the drill, I stopped to check for center with a digital caliper. I used a smaller drill bit in a hand held electric drill to move the dimple closer to center. Then I drilled a hole as deep as the nut is thick.
Step 3: Prepare a Socket for the Nut
See the first photo. The nut almost slipped into the hole. I lightly filed the six corners of the nut and it fell into the hole very neatly.
See the second photo. Use the same drilling setup, but a smaller drill bit that will allow the screw stud to pass into the interior of the handle.
Step 4: Seat the Nut
I filed two opposite sides of the hex nut so they slope inward. Set the nut into the hole in the rod and mark corners opposite the sloped sides. With a Dremel tool and a cutting wheel make slits a tiny bit deeper than the thickness of the nut. See the second photo. Drop the nut into the drilled hole with the narrow side of the slopes upward, not downward. See the third photo. With a vise squeeze the slitted sections against the sloped sides of the nut. See the fourth photo. The photo shows how the slitted sections are pressed against the sloped sides of the nut to keep it from turning and keep it from coming out of the handle. I did also grind on the handle while it was spinning to round the far end and to add a texture to the surface. I also ground the area near the nut to make the exterior surface smooth and even.
Because I do have a MIG welder, I first wanted to weld the nut to one end of the handle. But, the metric nut is more dainty than a similar 10-32 nut and would likely burn up during welding. So, I adopted a method anyone without a welder can utilize.
Step 5: Protect Against Rust
Most razor handles are not mild steel, but are made from materials that do not rust. I filled the slits and the area around the nut with clear epoxy to keep out water. I also applied spray enamel. Then I bought a piece of heat shrink tubing just a little larger than the diameter of the handle and used a heat gun. There was some text in black on the heat shrink tubing. I gently reduced it with very fine sandpaper. Now the razor handle has a stylish color finish and the soft plastic feel provides a good grip.
Protecting the handle from rust is one thing. Another concern is to keep the razor head pieces from zamac rot. Zamac is an acronym for the metals used in injection molded razor heads. Machined heads of brass or stainless steel can be expensive, although there are companies (Razorock, Fatip, Fendrihan) that make some very moderately priced razors with aluminum and brass, even sintered stainless steel. Search for the German term: Zinkpest or for zamac rot to learn more about zinc alloy rot. Zamac rot is not a threat until the chrome finish cracks or is otherwise compromised and the zinc alloy is exposed to moisture. Some people try to dry the razor after use, especially internally above and below the blade. Still, if you paid $6 or less for your razor head, replacing it is not a hardship. Many people use razors made of zamac years and years with no problems. Also, tighten the screw threads on the head only as much as needed and apply Vaseline or a drop of oil when changing the blade. (A blade is good for around five shaves, give or take. When you notice it just does not cut like it should, you are past due for a new blade.)
Step 6: Preferred Things
The photo shows how well the blade aligns with the comb of my $6 razor head. The ideal is good alignment that makes the edge of the blade parallel to the edge on the top cap and the comb without manual adjustment while tightening the blade in the head.
Several vendors sell razor heads for as little as about $6 US. They all fit the M5 x 0.8 nut I used on my handle. Read reviews and look for an indication blade alignment is good and automatic without manual finessing. Most people prefer a closed comb head. Open combs are good for people with rather heavy beard growth. The Muhle R89 and the Edwin Jagger 89 closed comb heads are identical by intention and can be ordered alone. That means you can get a much favored razor head for your homemade handle for less than half of the cost of one of those very popular razors.
If you try double edge safety razor wet shaving, beware the temptation to buy another new razor until you are very certain you need one. Each person's face is different and what works wonderfully for one person does not for another. You will often see YMMV ("Your mileage may vary."). Give yourself several months to polish your technique so you are getting the most from your present razor. Experiment with the razor angle to get the most efficient cutting of your whiskers. When the razor is cutting, you can hear the whiskers being cut. It is the sound of medium sandpaper on wood. You need to learn to apply next to zero pressure to the razor or you will have razor burn. (The handle I made in this Instructable is relatively heavy and that helps the razor do the work without pressure from you.) Soften up your whiskers by shaving right after taking a shower. Find a shaving soap you like and learn to whip up a good lather. Many even prefer synthetic brushes. After using a good shaving soap you will not want to go back to shave cream in a can. Be patient. Use short strokes. Learn the growth pattern of whiskers on your face so you can go against their grain to cut them off cleanly. You will have difficult areas hard to cut cleanly without extra attention. Get a starter pack variety of blades and try them to find the one that suits you best.
I have been using Astra SP blades, a Rockwell synthetic brush, and Van der Hagen shave soap. I generally use a Merkur 23C razor, although my $6 razor does a good job when used with care (no pressure, the optimum handle angle, multiple passes with short strokes, and lots of patience). I figure my previous shaves with a 5-blade disposable cartridge cost $0.75 each. Shaving with a double edge safety razor costs $0.02 per shave. I figure that saves me $250 US per year on shaving. A lot depends on what you want to achieve. A socially acceptable shave (SAS) is fairly easy to achieve, even with my $6 razor head. A darned fine shave (DFS) is possible with my $6 razor, but it requires more time and effort. My $6 razor can give a baby's bottom smooth (BBS) shave if I do a traditional three passes (With the Grain, Across the Grain, and Against the Grain) using the open comb side for the first two and the closed comb side for the third pass. I can use either side for touch up, depending on what is needed. (I bought the $6 razor as a test tool to determine whether I wanted to try wet shaving, or not and to determine if I preferred an open comb or a closed comb razor. It also provides a backup in case anything happens to my Merkur 23C.)