Safety Razor Handle

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About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

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.

Materials

  • M5 x .8 hex nut (price: 23 cents US)
  • 1/2 inch steel rod
  • Heat shrink tubing

Tools

  • Drill press and drills
  • Drill press vise
  • Bench vise
  • Hacksaw or grinder with cutting wheel
  • File
  • 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.)

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    7 Discussions

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    yopauly

    Tip 2 months ago

    I suggest a styptic pencil or powder inadvertent cuts for your shaving kit! It works great for stopping bleeding!

    4 replies
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    Phil Byopauly

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you. My wife bought a cylinder of alum for me and it is quite effective. From what I read, the alum is a salt that causes fine blood vessels to constrict. I very seldom get a cut, unless there is a bump or two in the skin.

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    yopaulyPhil B

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you for showing a truly inexpensive way to shave. As long as I take my time I can come away with no cuts. If I hurry, it looks like a used a hedge trimmer on my face!

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    Phil Byopauly

    Reply 2 months ago

    It is good to hear from you. I had come to think the $6 razor shown would not give a decent shave, but as I learned better technique I found it does better than I expected. The heavier handle shown in this Instructsble helps a lot, too. Someone said when you are beginning you think you need a different razor. After you become more practiced you find you can get a good shave from any razor.
    I had turned a wooden bowl for whipping up lather, but should have made the diameter a little larger. Foam tends to flow over the sides. Very recently I was in a Wal-mart and saw a plastic salsa bowl about four inches in diameter for less that two dollars. It works perfectly and is a lot less costly than some of the branded ceramic bowls available at shaving supplies sites.
    I could have mentioned using shims to make a mild razor more aggressive. The adjustable razors came about decades after guys first began to shim their razors to suit individual needs. Whiskers on an older guy need a little more aggressive cut than a younger guy needs. The first shims were old razor blades trimmed to remove the sharp edges. Now people use plastic from various food containers.
    Still, some razors are better than others. The Merkur 23C I bought is easier and nicer to use than my $6 razor.
    Did you see the Instructable I did on a razor travel case from a PVC Tee and a threaded piece of 1/2 inch PVC? That is also a way to go cheap. I use that case when I travel and it works very well.

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    yopaulyPhil B

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thanks, Phil, for all you do! Love and peace!

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    audreyobscura

    2 months ago

    Thanks for always sharing such cool metalworking tips and tutorials!

    1 reply
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    Phil Baudreyobscura

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you. It is good to share something someone with only a few tools could do, and it can be part of something that saves the user quite a bit of money.