The double edge safety razor blade was invented around 1903. The unusually named inventor, King Camp Gillette had an idea of producing a razor that used a disposable wafer blade in place of the straight (or cut throat) razor that was the standard shaving razor of the time (and used for the previous 200 years or so).
It took Mr Gillette a while to perfect the manufacturing process that would produce blades of sufficient numbers and consistently sharp. Once perfected, disposable blade shaving was born.
Blades haven’t changed much in near 120 years, the original design was efficient, so only needed slight modification to suit more modern razor designs.
Modern blades are backwards compatible too, a modern blade will fit the original three pin razor design from 1903 as it has a slot and three hole design incorporated too.
Incidentally, the reason for the slot design, taking over from the three hole design was ease of loading the blade into the razor. From around the 1940s Gillette and other blade brands came in plastic dispensers that allowed the blade to be slid into the razor without fear of touching the sharp edges.
Early blades were made from carbon steel whereas modern blades are made from stainless steel and often coated in platinum or a similar non-corroding metal to help keep the edge sharp and protect against rusting. It is possible to find stainless steel blades from the 1950s and 60s that shave today as well as the day they were made.
Interestingly, the main reason that Gillette moved to multi-blade cartridge razor designs in 1970s was because their original patents from earlier decades were expiring and NOT because more than one blade will give a better shave than a single blade.
The image below shows an original Gillette 3 hole blade (bottom right) anti-clockwise through 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s up to a 1980s Gillette Platinum blade. Note that the platinum blade (top right) no longer caters for the original 3 pin razors, yet there are still plenty around.
The razor in the image is an original Gillette Safety Razor from 1904.
The original blade wrapper (green wrapper) and the Gillette Blue Blade wrapper show inventor, King Camp Gillette’s portrait.
by Dave Glynn