How men shaved with open razors
By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002
In the early 1900s when I was a child, my father kept his shaving equipment in the sink alcove in the scullery.
The shaving equipment consisted of a shaving brush, a specially shaped china shaving mug and a razor.
The shaving mug held the hot water and the lip of the mug held the soap.
The open 'cut-throat' razor
Shaving could be a tricky business because the razor had an open blade which had to be kept very sharp. When it wasn't in use, it folder inside its handle, as shown in the photograph, but it could still needed to be treated with care.
How the razor was sharpened
The blade was sharpened on a special leather strap called a 'strop'. This had a fine powder applied to it to act as an abrasive. Both sides of the blade had to be stropped.
The process of shaving
My father would use the brush and soap to work up a thick lather around his chin and then contort his face and use his hand to stretch his skin.
Then, as he drew the blade of the razor over it, only the stubble would be cut and not his face. It was, though, quite common to see men with cuts on their faces from shaving.
From open razors to safety razors
Safety razors were definitely safer than the old, open, cut-throad type, but they had their own problems when they first came onto the market. The blades were made of carbon steel as in the Thin Gillette, Blue Gillette and 7 O'Clock brands. They needed to be rinsed and dried between uses which usually needed the razor to be opened up, the blade extracted, rinsed, dried and replaced - rather a rigmarole! My father's and grandfather's razors even needed to be unscrewed to achieve this.