If you’re using a Double Edge (DE) razor you may not realize where or when the actual concept came to shape. Traditional wet shaving has had its share of innovation, but none of it can compare to the introduction of the disposable blade razor. There’s one man you can personally thank for this particular design that has been replicated times over the past 115 years. His name is King Camp Gillette.
Gillette was a published author, inventor and traveling salesman. He filed many patents and traveled the world. A jack of all trades to say the least. He worked hard, and in many ways followed in his father’s footsteps in order to make Gillette a household name. One day while shaving on the road he found that his current razor was dull and needed to be honed (sharpened). Gillette thought of a razor that would use pre-sharpened blades that would never need to be honed thus saving him time and money. He quickly began his quest on making a new razor. Little did he know what he was getting himself into.
After spending several years developing many prototypes Gillette was able to introduce his razor to the world. In 1903 he began distributing his razor and was able to sell 50 models in the last quarter of the year. The word caught on fast and soon Gillette was selling thousands of razors. People everywhere were changing their morning routines to Gillette’s brand new idea.
The Gillette 100, aka Double Ring, was Gillette’s first model and the reason why we shave with double edge razors today. A highly collectable piece, believe it or not there are still quite a few of these around. In this article we’ll review this razor’s performance as well as go over the production numbers, and actual construction of these wet shaving gems.
**In respect to this review the story of Gillette was drastically simplified. In reality Gillette went through many struggles to make this razor and blades a reality. There will be a more detailed article on Gillette in the future that will better represent the entire story.
The Gillette Double Ring is composed of three parts : Top Cap, Handle and Barrel. All three of these parts fit together and to hold the blade in place at the optimal angle.
Just in case there are some razor techies out there (and I know there are) here is a list of the actual specs of both the 1904 and 1905 razors:
- Blade Gap: ?
- Total Weight: 50g
- Top Cap: 14g
- Handle: 23g
- Barrel: 12g
- Blade Gap: ?
- Total Weight (in grams) 52g
- Top Cap: 15g
- Overall dimensions: ?
There was a slight difference in weight of about 2 grams between the razors. I’m sure the production process was similar and variations can happen from batch to batch.
Now here is where it gets interesting. Believe it or not there were three different Double ring models offered. Here they are in a nutshell:
- Triple-Silver Plated model that came with 12 blades. (This razor is the most common out there.) Price: $5.00 usd (equivalent to $ 129.50 in 2018)
- Heavy Gold-Plated model that came with 12 blades. Price $10.00 USD (equivalent to $259.00 in 2018)
- Heavy Gold-Plated model that came with 12 blades, offered the customer’s name printed on the case, and initials or monogram on the handle. Price $12.00 USD (equivalent to $310.80 in 2018).
Unfortunately I couldn’t come up with any pictures of gold plated Double Ring razors. After an extensive search I could not find a collector that owned one.
There were the were three case styles that were offered with the Double Ring.
(Image Courtesy of The Gillette Blade Publication)
Litho Tin Case: Extremely rare with only a handful remaining. It is rumored to have been the case for the first razors off the line in 1903. This case also came with litho blade holders.
Leather Covered Wood Case: Most Common. Although there were different variations in size they all composed of a leather wrapped, velvet lined case. This case came with two blade banks for Dull & Sharp blades and an instruction booklet.
Cardboard Box that housed razor and blades: Extremely rare as the toll of time would have been tough on these cases.
How to Date a Double Ring:
If you’re in the market for a Gillette Double ring you’ll need to know how to determine when the razor was made. While the design between years is exactly the same there is a way to date them.
You’ll want to check two places, the bottom of the handle and the inside of the barrel. The handle will show the patent (or lack of) date and the barrel will reflect the serial number.
- App For: ( No Serial Number) Rumored to be one of the first 50 sets in 1903. Although there are several of these razors left, it’s unknown if these are actually the first models.
- Pat Apl’d For: (No Serial Number) Produced from late 1903 and began distribution in January of 1904 until mid-1904.
- Pat Apl’d For: (Serial number 1-25424) Mid 1904-Nov 1904
- Nov. 5 1904 (Serial numbers 25425+) end of 1904-1906
I’ve heard so many different versions of this story I was forced to go straight to the top. I contacted Greg McCoy, the Senior Archivist for Procter & Gamble last year and here are the numbers he told me. You may recall my previous interaction with Mr. McCoy in The Amazing Gillette Toggle Article that was published last year.
*Disclaimer: Gillette did not have actual production numbers prior to 1909. Gillette has estimated production by actual sales figures.
Image *1904 Double Ring straight from the vault at Gillette
- 1903: 424
- 1904: The first 55,000 were not numbered. #1-25424 were marked “Pat Apl’d For, #25425-45424 were marked “Pat Nov 5.1904”
- 1905: #45425-370424
- 1906: #370425-770424 (Single Ring was introduced mid-year)
The model was changed over in mid-1906 to the new “single ring” design and I unfortunately could not find any information on to what serial number the models actually switched.
One hundred fourteen years can take its toll on a razor. While time travel is not possible (yet) there is a way to reverse the aging effects on a silver plated Double Ring (if you want to).
Most Double rings will have a really nice patina that is typical for silver plated items over time. While many people find this patina desirable (me) some would like to see it shine as the day it made it off the production floor. So I went to a chemist that I know (my wife) and she was able to give me a very simple remedy to remove the patina. This method works great on anything silver such as cutlery, jewelry and coins. It will not hurt or remove the finish. In addition, there are some great websites and youtube videos regarding this process. Here is how you do it:
You’ll need the following:
- ½ Gallon Boiling Water
- ½ Cup Baking Soda
- Aluminium Foil
- Plastic Tupperware
Boil the water and line the Tupperware with aluminum foil. Add the baking soda to the boiling water and stir. Add the boiling water/baking soda mixture to the Tupperware and wait a few minutes. Repeat as desired. The patina will magically disappear!
Now if your razor is in need of repair, that’s a different story. Unfortunately, repairing a Double ring can be tricky so it’s best to have a professional give you a hand.
The most common problem with Double rings are bent guard teeth. After 115 years these things are bound to get dropped here and there. If you notice your razor has a bent tooth, please DO NOT try to straighten it. These teeth are brittle and may actually break off rather than straighten up.
Now, if your razor does in fact have a bent tooth not to worry, most of the time it will not affect the performance. The razor will shave just fine and chances are you won’t even notice it.
First and foremost there is truly a sense of nostalgia when handling this razor. On my wish list for quite some time I finally found one in November of 2016 and will admit I did not use this razor for the first six months. I’m not even sure why I waited that long. I’m not the type to keep things on the shelf just to look at. Razors are meant to be shaved with! My guess is that it took me so long to actually get my hands on one that I guess I just wanted to have something to look forward to for just a bit longer.
Loading the blade is what you would expect. Pretty standard. Removing the barrel was easy and the blade seems to curve more than modern day razors.
I’ve included a video of myself actually shaving with it.
The razor itself is well balanced and solid. At around 50 grams it’s light compared to what most of us use on a daily basis. The knurling on the handle provides a great grip that is very comfortable. It doesn’t dig into your fingers and has a soft touch.
I used a bit of caution on my first pass as I had no idea how aggressive this razor was going to be. I used a very thick lather and the razor plowed through it easily. Shaving with the the grain (WTG) was extremely efficient and clean. I used a very light touch and stretched the skin accordingly (as I do with all of my razors). 90% of my stubble was removed in the first pass which is expected when using proper technique. The Open Comb design tends to be more aggressive than solid guard razors but I really didn’t notice a difference until I shaved against the grain (ATG).
Shaving against the grain required more caution. I find open comb razors to be a tad aggressive when shaving this way and the Double Ring was no exception. Using the lightest pressure possible and a greater angle did wonders.
After the shave, my face felt clean and smooth. Very impressive for the first of its kind. I feel this razor still stands with even the best double edge razors of today.
The Gillette Double Ring will always be a valued part of my collection. It’s historical significance to wet shaving is second only to the straight razor which was king for over 250 years. It’s the razor that started the “disposable” culture which transpired into much more than just shaving. Would the world be the same if it wasn’t for Mr. Gillette’s idea? I guess we’ll never know.
If you happen to own a Gillette double ring check out this registry on a wet shaving forum.
About the Author:
Joe Borrelli is a long-time wet shaving enthusiast and collector. He hosts the Wet Shaving News/Talk Podcast , runs his own self-funded website http://shavestraightandsafe.com/ and operates a YouTube channel to help inform the community of new information involving the wet shaving world. Joe holds a BBA from Florida Atlantic University, and currently works for the nation’s largest wine/spirits/beer retailer. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Linda, reading, writing, outdoor activities and collecting wet shaving apparel. Find out more about Joe here.