2 Vintage DE's For The Beginner

Vintage

I admit it, I’m not a big fan of vintage razors.  I will grant you that for the most part they’re built very well and there are tons of them still around, easily found in internet auction sites, antique stores, and grand parent’s bathrooms.  But–speaking for myself–there are just too many unknowns about the true mechanical condition of a vintage razor for me to be confortable with recommending them to someone just getting into traditional shaving with a DE.

That said, I think there are two models of vintage DE razors that deserve at least a little love from me for the beginner: the Gillette SuperSpeed’s manufactured from the late 1940’s through the mid 1950’s, and the Shick Krona.

Late 40’s – Mid 50’s Gillette SuperSpeed

The Gillette SuperSpeed was introduced after World War II and production continued through the early 1970’s.  However it is generally (though definitely not universally!) agreed that it’s engineering probably peaked around 1955 (some extend that to about 1960).  After that I think engineers began to “over tweak” the design and the accountants began to get more involved in the production process.

Many consider these mid-1950’s razors to be not only solidly built but exceptionally smooth shavers.  I have shaved with a SuperSpeed from 1954 and another from 1960 and I could detect a definite difference, with the ’54 being noticably smoother.

How can you tell when a SuperSpeed was produced?  There’s a date code underneath the razor head.  A letter and a number: the letter corresponds to a year and the number corresponds to the calendar quarter of that year.  You can see a list of codes, along with some other notes and information, HERE.

Schick Krona

Schick Krona

Though Schick was mainly known for their Injector razor, they also produced a DE razor  from 1959 through 1965, the Krona.  Though not nearly as popular as Gillette DE’s, and manufactured with a metal razor head and a plastic handle, the Krona also has a reputation of being a smooth, forgiving razor for the beginner.  I’ve shaved with a couple different Krona razors and while they are quite a bit lighter than the all-metal SuperSpeeds (at least until Gillette started using plastic handles too) they have a good balance in the hand and give a mild shave (some say too mild and I admit it took a bit more effort from me to get a really close shave out of them).

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Comments

  1. GDCarrington says

    Mark,

    The Krona is probably the most under appreciated vintage razor on the market today. People want the Super Speed because of the Gillette name and it is all metal. However, the lowly Krona has several things in its advantage, especially for the new traditional shaver.

    1. It is more weighted towards the head which helps in terms of balance.
    2. The flattened angled head directs the user to the same angle every time for a more consistent shave. The rounded heads can allow for many variable angles to master.
    3. The longer handle allows for greater reach, which can work for head shaving for some users.

    I am also surprised that many new lady traditional shavers have not used this as a substitute for the more expensive Lady Gillette razor given that this has the longer handle for increased reach at a lower price.

    The Krona is one of the very best razors for starting out in traditional shaving based on performance, cost and availability.

  2. says

    The only vintage I use and recommend to beginners is the Rotbart No.15, a lot of Gillette butterfly door razors just aren’t mechanically sound when purchased from auctions and antique shops and beginners won’t know what to look for. The Rotbart is one of the best designs and eventually the company was purchased by Gillette.

    • GDCarrington says

      The numbers of Rotbart razors that exist is very small versus the overall population of vintage razors, especially in the United States. So that is not a good option for U.S. consumers.

      The razor forums have helped tremendously in leveling the playing field for the beginner to allow them to ask questions and find razors that are in good condition.

      Most of my daily use razors are vintage Gillette razors. Maybe 1 out of 25 that I have acquired have had some mechanical issue that required repair. Especially the vintage Super Speed and Krona models which unless they are really abused to the point of having visual issues, work just as well as when they were made.

  3. bubbamike says

    Another decent beginners razor is the Gillette Knack. While I prefer the Krona the Knack is light, has a long handle and is forgiving. For myself I think the balance of the Krona is better than the Knack and much better than any of the Gillette adjustables I have, which includes a Fatboy, Slim and Super.

  4. Attila says

    Is the Gillette Slim another good razor for a beginner? As far as I know, it is very similar to a Superspeed isn’t it?

  5. Mike says

    My first DE razor was a 1964 Super Speed that I picked up at an estate sale. About a year later, I got a Super Adjustable of the same vintage at another sale (couldn’t say no for $4!). I like both of these razors more than my Merkur Slant Bar, so reading this article makes me want to start hunting down some older razors if it will only get better!

  6. says

    I have used a number of vintage Gillette razors ranging from 1952 to 1967) and without question my Schick Krona is by far the best shaver I have used. In fact, I pretty much use it every day.

  7. SG Mason says

    While I would have to agree that the Superspeed is a great razor to start with, you have to be careful that you don’t catch RAD. For me it started with a late 50s Gillette Rocket flare tip, the Canadian/British version of the Superspeed. That quickly bloomed to include many vintage Gillettes ranging from a 1921 Single Ring through to 1962 Slim, with many others filling in the gaps.
    I have since settled on my grail razor a Gillette New Improved, and a Gillette Red tip as my got to razors and trimmed the herd down to 20 razors.
    Just a warning about using vintage razors, or am I trying to scar people away so there are more for me to buy:p You decide

  8. Just+Ice says

    I picked up a Krona for $15 without really knowing anything about them. I thought I was over-paying to be honest.
    I let my brother-in-law borrow it, with some Astra SPs and he loves it. I can’t wait to get it back.
    I own and use a Merkur but I plan to use my Krona as a travel razor. Maybe I’ll end up using it more than that.

      • Jon says

        I just recently read about the Gillette Super Speed. I found a mint condition steel handle 2nd qtr 1951 (W2) Super Speed for $24. It just arrived today so I will probably use it tomorrow or the next day.

  9. Steve says

    Excellent post! I’ve been shaving with a cheap DE from Sally Beauty Supply. (no shame, the wife noticed they had some and I impulse bought! lol) Well I love the DE shave experience, and as an active duty NCO I shave A LOT! My face no longer hurts after shaving, no more bumps, no more ingrown hairs, just peace! The time to upgrade crossed my mind and I was set on either a Merkur 180 or a vintage DE. Just won an auction on Ebay for $20, a 1948 Super Speed and I couldn’t be more excited to try it out! Hope I got a deal!

  10. shortymcsmalls says

    I quite like my ’58 Super Speed, it really is a great razor. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to try DE shaving, and most can be had for $10-20 in really decent condition (though they will probably need cleaning at that price).

    • David Packard says

      ^
      You are so right shortymcsmalls! I just received an Ebay purchase of a Gillette Super Speed, Flair Tip H4 (1962) that still had a blade in it (not making that up). It did clean up nicely and shaves wonderfully. Sometimes taking a chance pays off. I paid $7.00 for mine.

  11. AlphaNoob says

    GEM micromatic, even though its not a DE its nice & simplistic for someone starting out. ( providing of course they arm their selves with tutorial videos & remember that shaving is not a drag race )

  12. Jack says

    My first razor was a Superspeed, a hand me down from my Dad. I used it for years and then moved on to a injector blade, catridge razors then a Braun electric. After discovering this site I pulled out the old superspeed and started using it again. I’ll never go back.
    Mine has no date code. I believe they had no serial numbers or date codes from 1931 to 1950. But my Mother believes Dad bought it in the late 40’s.
    I plan to purchas a new DE soon. Maybe a Merkur.

  13. Craig Crosby says

    I’m brand new to traditional wet shaving. Having been fed up with the ridiculous cost of replacement cartridges for the plastic “wonders”. I had been in the market for a DE safety razor for about a month when, quite by accident, I stumbled across three vintage razors at an antique store while shopping with my girlfriend. One of which stood out quite nicely from the others. I bought it for $12 and took it home and cleaned it up. I picked up some blades from the local gentlemen’s supply store and gave her a try. I was absolutely amazed at how comfortable and close the shave was. Best in my life, hands down. After cleaning the razor, I noticed it said “Gillette”, “Y”, and “1” on the underside of the head. So, you can imagine my astonishment when I read the above article and dated my ignorant purchase to one of the two recommended vintage DE’s for newbies, around the height (1953) of their engineering best to boot! Thank you for your posts. I feel this is one of the very few places I may find reliable information about shaving, without someone trying to persuade me to purchase their product(s).

    • Ray says

      Nice! I have the same story – just started wet shaving. I saw a DE razor at an antique store and bought it for $12 also. Tried to figure out how old it was and was not successful until now. It is the 1905 “Single Ring” that was first introduced in Canada with the “Pat Mar7.05″ Pretty cool!

  14. Guy says

    Bought a slim adjustable and never went back. For less than $30 it allowed me to use the lowest setting when starting out.

    The range of settings means nearly any blade is usable for me and let me find the cheapest blade for bulk purchases. The plethora of places offering replating services means it will never be in poor condition and the one piece construction means less parts for me to fumble and lose.

  15. says

    I’ve been shaving with double-edge razors for several months, starting off with my father’s SuperSpeeds (a ’55 blue tip and a ’62 flare tip [not a “flair” tip, although the flares have flair). I now have about two dozen razors, most of them vintage Gillettes, from the late 1930s through 1975 and ranging from a simple Tech to the Aristocrat (U.S.), President, Fat Boy, Slim, and Super. They’re all excellent razors. I have an Edwin Jagger DE87, four Cadets, two Parkers, and a Weishi. I think that Gillette got it right long ago. The adjustable Gillettes are particularly nice. If you don’t get the collecting bug, a Gillette Slim Adjustable in good condition is a lifetime razor.

  16. bruce terry says

    I’ve only been DE shaving for about 7 months now and i started with an EJ DE89 but quickly moved to a 1960 Gillette Fatboy. Then the RAD took over and I’ve found myself in possession of several vintage Gillette’s and Gem’s. So far I believe I’ve received some of the best shaves from not only my EJ but my late 40’s Aristocrat/Regent (one of the end caps is missing) with just about any blade I’ve used in them.

  17. David Packard says

    ^
    I am getting great shaves from a recent purchase from Ebay. It is a Gillette Travel Tech, Ball End K2 (1965). I have substituted the travel handle with an Ikon Bulldog handle. Wow! The Gillette Tech is a real nice shave. If you have the chance to score one, in good shape, then I would suggest that you go for it.

    • Mister says

      I agree! The three-piece Tech gives a very mild and precise shave.

      When I started shaving, I was told to stay away from three-piece razors, because they were slow to set up and didn’t give a good shave. To the contrary, these have the tightest tolerance of any double-edge razor. “Keep it simple!”

    • Larry says

      Received my Dad’s SS and the build and shave are outstanding. No plated razors built today can hold a candle to the engineering, and construction of these old razors. You are linked to an better, richer, more powerful America, of that era, while shaving with these classics too.

  18. says

    The Roy Campanella, Schick Speed Razor commercial from 1956 states that the Razor comes in three types: light, regular, and heavy. Is the difference between these simply weight? How can you identify which one you’ve got?

    • says

      Hi Tom– The difference was blade gap. The ones with a blue tip at the end of the handle are more gentle, ones with a black tip were average, and ones with a red tip were more aggressive.

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