Hows this for a business model: Don’t send me your straight razors for restoration. Confused yet? Good. Lets explain.
The Common Scenario
Lets say…you’re new to wet shaving, and you just picked up your first rusty, stained straight razor from an antique shop or E-bay. Eager and excited, you post a picture in a popular shaving forum, with a title like “Antique shop find” or “My ebay score!” The forum members reply with things like “Nice score!” and “That should clean up great!” You feel all happy and in love with your new found treasure, and quickly move to the Restoration and Workshop forums out there, and find that this is a bit more involved than you’re willing. Your next step: Find a Restoration guy, right? Maybe thats why you’re reading this right now… You found my page….
The perfect candidate razor…. For NOT having professionally restored
Disclaimer: There are exceptions to my recommendations throughout this article — please understand that if a razor has sentimental value, is a family heirloom, or holds special meaning to you that its not always subject to the same analysis as the average e-bay find. I totally understand this, sometimes a razor is worth restoring no matter what the cost or condition, if it’s something you feel is worth it to you. On with the article….
There are a few guidelines I like to follow, when recommending to my clients whether or not a razor is worth restoring or rescaling. They are as follows:
* The blade should be 6/8 or larger
* The blade should not have major chips or cracks
* If the blade is a full hollow razor: The blade should not have significant hone wear, uneven hone wear, or a combination of the two.
* If the blade is a full hollow razor: The blade should not have significant rust on the hollow portion of the blade
* The resulting restored razor should have a value higher than the price I charge for my services ***
They may seem like odd requirements.. What does blade width have to do with anything? Well, mostly, it is because of the last item there — It is quite simple really, a 4/8 or 5/8 razor will rarely be worth more than $100, EVER — so why invest $100 for a new set of scales? It is not a wise decision. Especially, when you can find prime examples of 4/8 and 5/8 razors out there, practically new in the boxes, for less than a new set of scales will cost you.
Here is an example of a razor that should not be sent out for restore. At the time of this writing, this razor is on E-bay, and is currently selling for $15.00.
Why it doesn’t qualify:
– The razor has uneven hone wear, and heavy rust
– In order to restore, the razor would have to be unpinned, jeopardizing the pivot end bolsters.
– The razor’s rust around the stabilizer area would force you to use heavy sanding or extensive greaseless compound buffing, causing the lines to soften on the stabilizer and shoulder, lessening overall visual appeal. The tail of the razor would have to have a decent amount of metal removed as well, and from past experience the top of the spine near the point end likely has VERY deep pitting, requiring a large amount of metal to be removed. In order to remove the rust and pitting, the etch on the face of the blade would have to be removed.
– I would likely charge around $85.00 for a full restoration and honing — The resulting razor would have a value of around $55-70.00, mostly due to its size and what will almost certainly be soft lines and obvious alterations to its original geometry.
Would I buy it for $15.00? Nope. Should you? Only if you’re willing to work on the blade yourself.
Here is another razor, currently on E-bay. You might say “Well what the heck is wrong with that one?” My answer: not a lot. However, tell me this — is it worth it to invest $50-80.00 for professional restoration on a run-of the mill 5/8, black plastic scale razor? Is it? The etch might be lost too — basically removing the only thing that makes this razor stand out. Why bother? You can purchase a brand new, professionally honed Dovo razor for less than it would cost to bring this one back.
This is another razor currently on e-bay. This is very similar to something that I would get a request to restore. Here are my concerns:
– The razor’s scales are basically junk. They are warped and ugly (apparent from another picture). In order to bring this blade up to something worth looking at, it will need a new set. $$$$$
– The blade doesn’t look so bad at first glance… But.. looking closer there is some serious rust on the tang and stabilizer. This razor is never going to have that brand-new look to it, no matter how careful the restorer is — and the etch, yet again, is not something that will be guaranteed to survive.
– It doesnt matter how you slice it – this is a 5/8 razor, that even with new custom scales will be lucky to fetch $100.00, in shave ready and perfectly restored condition. What makes it so important to you that you’d be willing to invest $130+ to make that happen? Have you seen some of the razors out there available for $130.00, that will have none of the aesthetic issues this one will end up having when its completed?
Is it a neat razor? Sure. Should you buy it? Maybe! Should you have it professionally restored? Nope.
The ideal candidates for Restoration & Re-scaling
– Large full hollow blades over 6/8 that need new scales, but minimal blade work.
– Any wedge over 6/8 in size, regardless of amount of rust
– Unique or valuable razors
– Razors that have excellent quality steel, but lousy scales – example: Filarmonica, Henckels Friodur, etc.
– Any razor with sentimental value or family heirlooms
Not every razor is worth being professionally restored. I really wish people would stop recommending it to every newbie that posts a picture of their latest acquisition. Razors like the 3 examples above are all too common in the antique shops, flea markets, and E-bay. People buy them up at $15-30 each — and in my opinion they just aren’t worth it. Regardless of whether you hire someone to fix one of them up, or invest 3, 5, 10, or 15 hours of your own time sanding and polishing, in the end, you are in the red on that razor. Everyone should assign a monetary value to their time — the challenge is not to forget yours, and to realize just how much it REALLY costs you for a run-of the mill 5/8 razor.