Interchangeable Parts: Double-edge safety razors

This is the first in a se­ries of posts about cool things with in­ter­change­able parts. What?

The first time I shaved, I used a cheap dis­pos­able ra­zor that I hap­pened to find in the bath­room. I was 15.

These were dread­ful, by the way.

I didn’t know any bet­ter at the time, and I didn’t learn any bet­ter for a while. It was easy to just keep us­ing pro­gres­sive­ly bladier multi-blade car­tridge mod­els. Two blades to start, then four af­ter a cou­ple of years. I stuck with four long af­ter the world had moved ahead, but I soon caught up with the whole five blade deal.

Clearly my ra­zor wasn’t the on­ly tool in the bathroom.

I’d hear mum­blings from oth­er men about bet­ter ways to shave, but the thought of my moth­er scold­ing me be­cause I cut my throat open be­cause I was us­ing a dan­ger­ous ra­zor still loomed large in my otherwise-independent adult brain. I was in my mid-20s by that point, but I’ll nev­er out­grow that sort of thing be­cause she’ll nev­er out­grow not let­ting me hear the end of it if some­thing goes wrong.

It’s a good thing I didn’t lis­ten to hypothetical-her (sor­ry, mom) be­cause if I had, I wouldn’t have picked up my first double-edge ra­zor a cou­ple of years ago.

My what?

Double-edge ra­zors are al­so known as “safe­ty ra­zors” be­cause they were a heck of a lot safer than those big, scary straight ra­zors that were com­mon be­fore them.

It may seem iron­ic to­day, be­cause it’s def­i­nite­ly eas­i­er to cut your­self with a double-edge than with a car­tridge ra­zor, but you know what else is eas­i­er to cut with a double-edge? The hair on your face. Which is what matters.

Shaving with one of these sharp thin­gies re­quires you to take it slow, but that’s alright.

Seriously though, they’re actually good

I use a double-edge ra­zor be­cause1 I find them to be more ef­fec­tive, lead to less skin ir­ri­ta­tion and few­er in­grown hairs, and over the long run, ac­tu­al­ly be cheap­er. It’s al­so nice that shav­ing this way leads to a lot less waste to be thrown away.

It was on­ly af­ter I be­gan shav­ing with one for the rea­sons above, that I re­al­ized an­oth­er ben­e­fit: I’m shav­ing with an open sys­tem of in­ter­change­able parts.

Fuck yeah, interchangeable parts

Since safe­ty ra­zors have been around since the very ear­ly 1900s, any patents on the sys­tem have long-since ex­pired. That means that any­one can cre­ate han­dles or blades that are com­pat­i­ble with every­thing else avail­able for the sys­tem, which leads to a wealth of choice for both han­dles and blades… which of course means low prices.

What ex­cites me much more than the po­ten­tial for sav­ing mon­ey (sor­ry again, mom) is the po­ten­tial for cus­tomiza­tion that such an open sys­tem al­lows. Basically, I can pair any ra­zor de­signed for this stan­dard—fat han­dles, skin­ny han­dles, short han­dles, shiny onesdouchebag ones, ones from the fu­ture, uh, this one—with any blade that I want. This means I can sep­a­rate the style from the sub­stance; I can pair my fa­vorite han­dle with my fa­vorite blade and have what is, to me, the ul­ti­mate shav­ing machine.

Also, cheap

Ever heard some­one com­plain about how ex­pen­sive it is to shave, or more specif­i­cal­ly, to buy re­fills for a car­tridge ra­zor? I prob­a­bly don’t need to ex­plain the ra­zor and blades busi­ness mod­el that car­tridge ra­zors fol­low. (If you like pay­ing a lot of mon­ey for the rest of for­ev­er, you’ll love it.)

If you pe­rused those Amazon links above, you’re prob­a­bly won­der­ing what’s wrong with my idea of “cheap.” Well, the double-edge ra­zor turns the ra­zor and blades mod­el on its head; in this world, the han­dle is the more ex­pen­sive item, with $30 US not be­ing un­usu­al for the more com­mon brands. However, this buys a qual­i­ty met­al in­stru­ment that will like­ly out­live you… and you def­i­nite­ly make up for it with the blades — 10¢ or 20¢ blades are common!

The future

The double-edge shav­ing sys­tem isn’t go­ing anywhere.

While it’s ob­vi­ous­ly less pop­u­lar now than it was in its hey­day (but so were fe­do­ras, and cool guys still wear those), we know how the Internet changes things; re­tail­ers can use it to sell ob­scure prod­ucts to weirdos every­where, the kind of things mass-market brick-and-mortar lo­ca­tions would nev­er both­er stock­ing on their shelves. I don’t mind buy­ing on­line and wait­ing a few days, so I can have any blade I want de­liv­ered to my door.

Cheaper, bet­ter and ul­ti­mate­ly, more in­ter­change­able. That’s why I shave like this.

  1. I don’t use them for the same rea­sons these strange shav­ing gear fetishists do.

An introduction to Interchangeable Parts

I have lots of things in my life. Some of these ob­jects are for fun, some a spend most of their time just tak­ing up space, some are ac­tu­al­ly use­ful, some are a bur­den but must be kept around anyway.

Many of the bet­ter ob­jects in my life share a few com­mon traits. These ob­jects tend to be:

  • less main­stream1
  • more ef­fec­tive
  • more dif­fi­cult to use
  • def­i­nite­ly more customizable

Most im­por­tant­ly these items all:

  • fea­ture in­ter­change­able parts

I’ve re­cent­ly no­ticed that I’ve been ac­cept­ing more ob­jects like these — ones that are a part of an open sys­tem — in­to my life. Why? This wasn’t a con­cert­ed ef­fort but an un­con­scious de­sire for bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ences… I guess. On a micro-level, each time I chose one of these items, I ob­vi­ous­ly be­lieved that it would im­prove a facet of my life that I care about, and do its job bet­ter than its more main­stream, more avail­able, and (pos­si­bly) more con­ve­nient coun­ter­part. I al­so un­der­stand why not every­one us­es these ob­jects, even though I know their ben­e­fits and find them more ef­fec­tive at their jobs.

So in the com­ing days (weeks, months, what­ev­er) I’m go­ing to be high­light­ing these ob­jects and what they mean to me, how they earned their place in my life, and why I ul­ti­mate­ly put up with them.

So stay tuned, or what­ev­er you do on the Internet.

  1. Yeah, I know… but it’s true. So not a hip­ster. But isn’t that some­thing a hip­ster would say?