The author’s first Rolls Razor article dealt with what to look for when searching for a Rolls Razor in the wilds of your local antique store or on eBay. Well, now that you’ve successful stalked and trapped your Rolls it’s time to get it ready for your first shave. If you’ve managed to acquire a “new old stock” model you may be ready to go out of the box, but as with a brand new straight, you may still need to do some work on the blade. A dull blade will ruin your shaving experience. In fact, this is the complaint about the Rolls that I see most often. A sharp blade in a Rolls will give you a very nice, close, comfortable shave, every time. If you are at that point, you may want to skip to the next in this series as it deals with the blade.
In this article, the author shares restoration methodologies for the case, internal mechanism, and strop. The pictures are from the Rolls units that the author prepared for a “PIF” on Badger and blade. Reports from one owner indicate some good shaving experiences with the new addition to his stable. Reports from the other indicate that the blade needed more work but that’s another subject.
The restoration process is pretty simple. You’ll need some fairly common supplies in addition to your razor. Both of the sets in this example were simple nickle-plated or stainless Imperial models with the “key” pattern on the lids. If your razor has black tarnish on it, you might want to see if it’s silver. If that’s the case you’ll want to use silver-specific cleaning methods on the case. Likewise if it’s gold-plated, or has a pebble pattern on the lids.
Materials / Tool List
- Ultrasonic Cleaner (optional, but nice)
- Dish soap
- Steel wool pad
- Degreaser (I actually used Hoppes bore cleaner this time as it’s what I had. You’re going to scrub and rinse what-ever you use off with soap and hot water, so make sure it’s not too resistant to that treatment!
- Rags and / or paper towels
For the strop
- Strop Treatment (I use Fromms, but Phil Scott-Smith’s Shave-WIKI article on the Rolls suggests that lubriderm lotion will work just as well.)
- Spare strop painted with Chromium Oxide (“CrOx”)
- You can also use a piece of luan and put CrOx on one side and FeOx on the other.
- Iron oxide paste or powder (A little goes a long way. I got a lifetime supply from an eBay vendor. You could also try this, but I have no experience with it)
- 320-400 grit sandpaper
- For the Case
For the Blade
- Honing gear. http://www.rockler.com/three-stone-oil-sharpening-system
- Lapping media
- Granite or marble block or tile (for the lapping media)
Case, Stropping / Honing Gear, and Blade Retainer
The process starts with the dis-assembly of the case. Remove the blade, handle, and both lids. Set those parts aside for now and start with the case. Next is the removal of the friction clip unit, including the blade holder (post) and butterfly spring from the brass shaft. This is not difficult, but be careful as it’s possible to break the butterfly spring if you don’t pay attention.
- Do not try to unscrew the post that holds the blade (blade holder).
- DO NOT PRY on the WINGS of the BUTTERFLY SPRING!!! THEY WILL BREAK! This will cause you to curse.
- Start the friction sleeve off with a small screw-driver. Note that the butterfly spring would normally still be attached at this point. It’s removed to show the orientation of the blade holder, which rides in the groove on the brass shaft when properly assembled.
- Remove the soap scum, rust, grease, or other corrosion with the appropriate cleaner.
- The author started with soap and water, and then the ultrasonic cleaners.
- Steel wool takes care of any rust or challenging corrosion.
- Inside the friction clip is a piece of leather that regulates the friction while stropping and honing. Remove any excess grease.
- Clean the shaft with degreaser if necessary. It should not show excessive lubricant when the razor is in use as this will reduce the friction created by the friction clip.
- Once you’ve got the friction clip assembly cleaned up, reassemble it by reversing the dis-assembly procedure and set it aside. Don’t put it back on the case yet.
- Clean the outside of the case with the appropriate cleaner. Once again, a bit of steel wool will do wonders. The whole case wouldn’t fit the author’s ultrasonic unit, so it was done half at a time.
- Clean the inside of the case, with degreaser and Q-tips. Apply a slight bit of petroleum jelly to the gears with a clean Q-tip.
- Dry the case thoroughly prior to proceeding. Rolls Razor notes time and time again that “Rust Ruins Razors.”
- That’s no reason to be shy of water during this process. Just make sure it’s dry before you reassemble the razor.
- The author set the cleaned case on a heat while working on the other parts.
Reconditioning the Strop
This applies to the leather strops only. On later razors, the strop was cork (?) with an Iron Oxide stropping compound. If this is the case with the razor you’re working on, it’s probably worth picking up a parts razor just for the strop.
- Remove the strop from its lid.
- The lid can go into the ultrsonic cleaner while you’re working on the strop and then be cleaned up prior to reassembly.
- Scrape the strop with a piece of wood, butter knife (carefully!) or the like. Try to remove any solid detritus but be careful of slashes or nicks. Don’t make them any worse.
- Run a piece of 300-400 grit sandpaper lightly over the strop. Even out the top and gently open up the grain on the leather.
- Apply a coat of strop conditioner. The author uses Fromms, but reports indicate that lubriderm skin lotion works as well.
Next time: Part II, Blade preparation and Reassembly