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Going Old School: Vintage Safety Razor Restoration

We live in a fast paced, ultra disposable world. Even then, the cost of multi-blade cartridges to refill your cartridge razor has inflated to the point that they are actually painful to buy, and pain isn't exactly what we want to associate with getting a quality shave... So I've decided to take things back to a simpler time, to truly enjoy the "Art of the Shave". Let's face it, they knew a thing or two back in granddad's day about excellence and class. That's enough reason for me to want to make the switch to a vintage safety razor to fulfill my daily shaving needs (let it be known that I am a female, but a true appreciation of the "Art of the Shave" is unrestrained by such gender boundaries). 

These are two finds of mine: a Gillette “Fatboy” Adjustable and a Gillette Valet. The Gillette Valet is an antique store find, and although it was quite dirty in the cracks with soap scum (and it's previous owner's beard hair), it was easy to look past this to the sexy and classy razor concealed within. I think the Valet looks very steampunk with brass and copper, and it also has movable gears along the edge. Very cool! The Fatboy was also caked with soap scum, rust and corrosion, and it needed a LOT of help...


Caked with dirt and hair

A few things around the house you can use...

What you'll need for sure is baking soda, some form of bathroom soap scum remover, a very stiff brush (example, a gun cleaning brush), toothpicks, and some form of sterilization liquid (example, Barbicide). But you can mix and match additional cleaners, tarnish removers and polishes for maximum effect. 

First, I started by soaking the razors for a good long time in hot water with baking soda, swirling them around to loosen the gunk from all of the cracks. These were both even dirtier than they looked initially, and the fizzing action of the baking soda lifted off a ton of debris. I used several toothpicks to clean debris and scum out from all of the nooks and crannies.

After multiple hot water soaks and scrubbing with soap scum remover and a soft toothbrush, I immersed the razors in jewelry cleaner and allowed them to soak for about 5 minutes.

There is still some green tarnish on this one that came off quite easily when I switched from using a soft toothbrush to a stiff bristled gun cleaning brush.

Rinsing off the jewelry cleaner in a hot bath.

You might find that scrubbing and buffing with whitening toothpaste works really great as a polishing agent. However, I was fortunate enough to have a brass polishing tumbler at my disposal, filled with fresh ground walnut media. After your razor has been cleaned and sanitized, this is the FUN STEP that really brings out all of that long forgotten luster!

Soft walnut media with brass polish.

One hour in the tumbler started to bring out the shine, but I left them in for almost three hours. Even at that, I'm convinced that a few more hours in the tumbler could eliminate the rest of the fine surface scratches that you see and make these razors look brand spanking new. Overall, I am delighted with the result!

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