Sorry for the downtime folks! Various software packages on the server stopped playing with each other nicely. Order has been restored and a future post will detail what’s playing with what on what…
Sorry for the downtime folks! Various software packages on the server stopped playing with each other nicely. Order has been restored and a future post will detail what’s playing with what on what…
Note: The author is posting this one early. It still needs edited (and most likely proof-read) but there seem to be some first Rolls shaves coming up and the author hopes this will help!
In past articles we have hunted for a Rolls, refurbished it, sharpened the blade until it’s perfect, and now you’re ready to give it a test run. In this article, the author will detail his shaving routine as modified for the Rolls. In truth there aren’t a lot of modifications to your routine or technique required and a Rolls shave takes little more time than any other. Further, shaving with the Rolls is a rewarding experience, if you’re into that sort of thing. The author certainly is and has found that the Rolls Razor yields a marvelously close, irritation free, near baby’s butt smooth shave every time. The author’s shaves are part of his morning routine which includes the Marine Corps’ traditional three S’s. The entire routine takes about thirty minutes, maybe forty-five on a slow or especially luxurious day. As a general rule, the author finds the time well spent as it helps get on track and stay focused on the day.
The thing to remember with the Rolls is that while it’s referred to as a “straight on a stick” and the shaving angle should be chosen with that in mind, and while it looks somewhat intimidating when mounted up and ready to go, it’s actually a great shaver in its own right.
The author begins each shave with either a hot shower or hot water on a face cloth. Truth to tell, there’s not a lot of difference in shave quality between the two but, of course, your mileage may vary. Either way, hot water and soap are applied and rinsed and the author does not dry his face after either. The hot water is followed by pre-shave oil (PSO) on wet hands, applied to a wet face. The amount varies based upon viscosity, but generally the oil is completely absorbed by the time the cream or soap is applied.
While the PSO is working, the author gives the blade a good stropping, generally about a minute at the rate of about two complete passes per second. Once the blade is stropped, remove it from the case and mount it on the handle. It’s ready to go. Some sources recommend heating in your shaving water but the author has not found significant advantage from this action. Feel free though! You’re not going to hurt anything.
With the blade ready to go, mix up the lather of your choice and lather up!
Your First Rolls Pass
Once you’re lathered up begin your shave. The angle is the most crucial part. Start with the blade almost flat on your face and then increase the shave angle until you feel the razor start to cut your beard. Hold your angle there and at that point make a complete pass with the grain of your beard. No pressure should be necessary. Let the razor do the work. At the conclusion of the pass check WTG for how close the razor is shaving. If you’re close to where you want to be, continue to march with that angle. If there’s a significant amount of stubble, consider increasing the angle. If you’re feeling irritation, reduce the angle.
Make one more WTG pass to confirm your angle. The author’s ideal angle with the Rolls seems to be with the flat of the blade raised just slightly more than the width of the spine of the blade off of his face.
The author’s current shave regime generally involves four passes plus cleanup under his neck and on the jaw line. Rather than worry about “with the grain” or “against the grain,” the author makes a pass from the top down (north to south) which is mostly WTG, a mostly XTG pass from “east to west” (i.e. from the left side to the right), a mostly ATG pass from west to east, and another XTG from south to north. If necessary (or time permitting, or just because he wants to) the author will add some ATG work in the “trouble spots” that contain stubble after the requisite passes. Note that there is little or no irritation even after all of these passes. Ensure that you’re using adequate lather and water, and no more than minimal pressure on the razor.
If you find the razor jumping around on the ATG passes, it may not be quite sharp enough. Try another shave before you go back to the drawing board though.
The author concludes his shave with a hot water rinse followed by a cold water rinse and the application of alum. While the alum is sitting on his face, the razor is cleaned and dried and brush and mug are rinsed and put away.
The blade is removed from the handle and the handle set aside. The author dries the blade with a tissue or towel and then blows in the hole on the back of blade to remove any water built up. The blade is then installed in the case and stropped for about 15 seconds at the rate of about 2 complete strokes per second, to dry the edge. Once that has been accomplished the author dries the handle and stows it along with the extra blade within the case. The hone may then be replaced and the outside of the razor wiped down.
It takes longer to write or read these steps than it does to perform them. They are important. As the Rolls Razor company said: “Rust Ruins Razors.”
Once the razor and other gear are secured, the author removes the alum from his face with cold water, dries his face and applies the after-shave product of the day. All in all, start to finish, including a shower, the author expends about 30 minutes in this routine.
The Blade’s Starting to Pull
If your shave is not where you’d like it to be, and you’ve worked with the angle, or if you’ve got your technique down but the blade is starting to pull, it’s most likely time to hone the blade. You can do this inside the case on the original hone, on your straight honing gear, or on a home-made case hone.
There are a couple of differences between stropping and honing your blade. When stropping, it seems to work best at about two complete passes per second. Additionally, the blade is pulled across the strop with its edge trailing. Honing is almost entirely opposite. The blade is pulled across the hone edge first. The honing passes are rather gentle and quiet compared to the mechanical “thwapping” of stropping. In fact, running the razor full-speed on the hone may cause damage to either the stone or your blade.
When you’re ready to hone, make about seven complete passes and then use the four-way stropping precedure discussed elsewhere in this series or on the Badger and Blade WIKI. Then, before your shave for the first time, follow your normal stropping regime.
Best of luck with your Rolls Razor!
Most, of not all of the reviews of the Rolls from non-Rolls users, indicate that the shave is less than optimal; this generally along with some confusion as to why the razor sold so well for so long. The problem is that the blade has been dulled by years of use and abuse as it sat around in the humidity, banged around in boxes and drawers, and generally lay forgotten. The trick is to prepare the blade outside of the case, treating it something like a straight razor. You can do this yourself, or if you hit Badger and Blade and ask around, you might find someone to do it for a reasonable fee.
It needn’t cost a lot of money to prepare your blade either. The author, a woodworker, has in the shop a three way sharpening set with a silicon carbide (course) and two Arkansas stones (medium and fine). (Similar to this, although Rockler tends to be pricey.) The only purchases required for this project were a flat honing surface, (a home depot marble tile for less than $10, and some fiber-optic lapping media (Amazon.com, less than $2 per sheet. Watch the shipping). The author uses 5µ (micron), 3µ, 1µ, and recently purchased a couple of sheets of .3µ for experimental purposes.
Preparing and Honing the Blade
Choosing a blade to hone
The author is fortunate to have a small “parts bin” with a number of blades in it, so the first step was to choose a couple of good examples to work with. The Rolls blade is not quite a simple as it looks. There are actually three pieces, the guard, a small ball bearing, and the blade proper.
Setting the Bevel
The first step is setting the bevel, that is getting an even cutting edge can be successfully refined to a razor’s edge. For this process, the author chose a course Silicon Carbide stone.
At this point your blade should be shave ready. It’s just about time to reassemble the unit and try it out. If you want to do that, skip the next section as it can be done any time.
Reconditioning Your Hone
Restoring a whole stock hone is a fairly simple task, consisting of light scraping, cleaning, and perhaps lapping. They are pretty fragile things and it’s difficult to remove them from the holder without snapping them in two. Rolls Razor did at one point provide replacements, but they seem to be few and far between these days. The author has found that it’s best to limit work on an existing hone to the cleaning that can be done without removal. This can be done pretty efficiently with soap, water, and a simple Nylon toothbrush or weapon cleaning brush.
Replacing a Broken Hone
One of the most common issues with a Rolls in the wild or on eBay is a missing or broken hone. Apparently they can be repaired, and this is on your author’s to-do list at some point (see this Straight Razor Place article on restoring a broken hone:http://straightrazorplace.com/workshop/88386-rolls-razor-hone-restore-picture-heavy.html).
As a stop gap or, if you prefer, to create MJClark’s “21st Century Rolls Razor,” try this: create you’re own lapping film holder.
Honing Your Razor
While stropping is done with the edge trailing at about two complete back and forth strokes per second, hone is different. In fact, honing at the same speed as stropping will damage your hone and blade. Hone at that speed on the lapping media will destroy it as well. The entire process takes about 15 minutes, maybe a couple of more if you’re using multiple steps of lapping media.
Reassemble the Razor
Done! Now you’re ready to give it a test run! If the blade is not right you can try stropping it some more or you back up a bit in your progression. Remember, you’re not done with a step in the progression if some of the scratches are larger and deeper than others. Uniformity is the key!
Next: Shaving with your Rolls Razor
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
For the strop
For the Blade
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.
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.
Next time: Part II, Blade preparation and Reassembly
Mary (SWMBO): “why on earth do you need a bayonet?”
This coversation, which started with: “guess what I bought?” happened this weekend. It’s a long story but the short version is that I’m excited! I took some birthday money and bought one of these:
OK, it’s a cheap imported look-alike, but I don’t really envision having to use it. At least I hope not. In any case I picked it up today and it’s pretty hefty. In fact, it’s huge! I’ll have to give it a closer look but I’m not unhappy.
So, I’ve got an Palmetto State M-4gery with a 16 inch barrel. For those of you who don’t speak black rifle, it’s a civilian version of the M-4 carbine version of the AR-15 / M-16 platform. The M-4 actually has a 14″ barrel, I believe, but to make this one legal for sale, it’s got a 16″ one. Mine also has the m-4 style telescoping stock. I’m not sure whether I like the stock or not and the barrel is OK, I guess. I would have preferred a full sized AR-15 with the20″ barrel and regular stock but this one was considerably less expensive. An issue with the civilian M-4gery is that despite the bayonet lug, you can’t actually mount a bayonet correctly on one. The m-9 bayonet has a hole on one side of the guard that’s supposed to slide over the flash supressor of an AR and stabilize the knife. On the civilian version of the rifle the guard winds up on the barrel rather than the suppressor and this leaves maybe 1/16″ of an inch for the bayonet to wobble. A couple of companies have come up with solutions including bolt-on bayonet lugs, and barrel sleeves that slide on just behind the flash supressor but I like neither of those solutions.
Enter “Triple-R” products and their AR15 BAYONET ADAPTER. I’ll have to see whether I like it on the rifle, but it puts the whole knife where it belongs, and might even resolve the stability issues. I’ll post a review once I try it out.
The known contaminants include:Trichloroethylene (TCE), Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene)(PCE), Dichloroethene (dichloroethylene)(DCE), Benzene, and vinyl chloride.
VA site with information regarding claims at:
Additional information on the specific eligible conditions at:
MCB Camp Lejuene “Historic Drinking Water” site
A list of Rolls Razor related links on the web.
Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolls_Razor
Badger and Blade Links:
Straight Razor Place article on restoring a broken hone: http://straightrazorplace.com/workshop/88386-rolls-razor-hone-restore-picture-heavy.html (This is high on your author’s to-try list!)
The Shave Den’s Rolls Thread: http://theshaveden.com/forums/threads/the-what-is-and-how-to-thread-for-the-rolls-razor.22371/
yohannrjm’s 2012 three part write up on The Shave Nook. I think that there was supposed to be a part 4, but I haven’t seen it. This series includes a lot of very good resources including scans of the actual instruction sheets. These were some of the first articles I read when I learned of the Rolls.
Shave World’s Rolls Information Page: http://www.shaveworld.org/home/images/RollsPage3.html
Man Emporium’s Article with a good scan of the instructions: http://www.manemporium.com/blogs/news/14113015-razor-time-rolls-razor
PDF: Do’s and Don’ts… Rust Ruins Razors!: http://rollsrazor.altervista.org/docs/RollsCare.pdf
“A magnificent thread over on TOST where Brian Kampfert dedicates himself to honing and shaving with the Rolls,” (Thanks, Marcus…): http://theoriginalsafetytoo.proboards.com/thread/1452/
One of the web forums upon which I am an active participant is Badger and Blade (badgerandblade.com). Recently we started a Rolls Razer users group there and it has occurred to me that folks might be a little curious about this little gem. It’s actually one of my favorite shaves if for no other reason that it’s just plain cool!
The Rolls is often referred to as a “straight on a stick.” In cross-section, the blade looks like a short straight razor. It is also treated as such in that it requires regular stropping, and occasional honing. What I find really neat about the unit, though, is that the hone and strop are built into the case, and that the actual honing and stropping are more or less idiot-proof. This is especially useful in my case…
Additionally, Rolls units are not hard to find today. They are regularly on eBay and can be found “in the wild” at antique shows and stores.
What to Look for in a Rolls
If you’re interested in purchasing one of these razors, there are a couple of things that you might want to know. First of all, you probably won’t find a shave-ready unit on the used market. That’s not to say you won’t be able to easily make one usable! I’ll get into that in a moment. Note that it’s possible to find “new old stock” units, especially on eBay, but they tend to be expensive.
When you see a Rolls that interests you the first thing to look at is the handle. If the razor doesn’t have a handle it’s useless except for parts. Do not let someone convince you that the honing / stropping handle is the same as the razor handle. It ain’t so, and the razor is useless without its handle!
Next, look at the blade. Don’t worry too much about discoloration but pitting, especially when it extends close to or to the edge is a problem. You want to be able to hone the blade and put a good edge to it. Pitting will make that a real challenge. Also, the blade should have a guard installed. Although some folks use their Rolls without the guard, most prefer it. It doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, er If you’re hunting in the wild rather than online, check that the guard physically clicks from one side of the edge to the other. There is a small ball-bearing that may not be readily apparent if you don’t know what to look for, but if it’s missing, the guard will not latch into position . Note that this is not a deal-breaker, as the razor will work without. It’s certainly a bargaining point though!
As a side note: blades are interchangeable across the different Rolls models. If you see one in the wild and it’s in good shape, go for it! Especially if it’s in one of the little Bakelite blade holders in which Rolls sold extra blades. The container fits nicely into the case with the blade folded down, and there is at least one theory that blades last longer if you don’t use them every day. (Just today, I saw a blade in decent shape with a handle (no case, that was it!) on eBay. The starting bid was $2… If I wasn’t on a buying sabbatical, I would have scarfed it up!)
Next, look at the case. Remove both the strop and the hone. If you intend to hone your blade “outside the case,” a missing or cracked hone need not be a deal-breaker either. This is probably the most common issue with used Rolls Razors. Event if you want to hone in the case, you can replace a broken hone Again, consider it as a bargaining point. The strop should be in decent shape. If it’s a bit dry or discolored, don’t worry too much about it. Pay attention to where the blade lands when stropping. You may see what appears to be excessive wear there, but it’s probably from the impact of the blade. It’s the area between those strike points that actually strops the blade. That should be smooth, or cleanable. The majority of strops that I’ve acquired have been easy to restore, so don’t sweat it too much.
Check the action. If it’s stiff, look to see if there’s excessive grease or old soap built up. It’s easy to clean out and as long as the gearing isn’t wonky or stripped out (unlikely) it’s probably usable. Make sure that the butterfly spring is intact. DO NOT attempt to adjust the spring by bending the leaves. It will snap and this will make you sad! It’s also hard to find a replacement unless you have a parts-razor.
There’s actually not a whole lot that can go wrong with a Rolls. Even when they’re well used, there’s generally life left in them. If you’ve found a Rolls that looks like it’s usable the next step is to get is cleaned up and ready to use. That will be the subject of another post.
Until next time,
A couple of years ago I purchased a little Raspberry Pi computer with the intention of setting up some simple network based storage for our household network. I got it running, added Samba, and then kind of forgot about it. It wound up unplugged in a drawer when I needed to reclaim my external drive for another project. As some of you know, I managed to hurt myself in early November and spent some time recently sitting on my recliner as the back healed.
Enter the Pi. I had acquired another external drive and wanted to put our music up on the network again along with the eBooks. It went downhill from there. Right now the Pi is running my domain (and this blog), VSFTPD, Apache, Samba, Calibre (eBook) Server, and heaven knows what else. That’s not bad for a $40 computer that’s not much bigger than an Altoids case.
I also found out that it will run CUPs and act as a server for our HP CP-1215 which for those of you who don’t know, is a cheap HP Color Laserjet. The problem with this model was that, while it worked nicely on the attached computer, you couldn’t effectively share it on a windows network. It just wouldn’t work. Well now it does.
That’s my next project. I’m going to get another Pi, set it up for wireless access and as a dedicated print-server. No more leash for the LaserJet!
I’ll share details and costs when I get the project off the ground.
It’s been a bit over a year since I shaved my beard off in its entirety for the first time in about twenty years. Tonight, I want to share some numbers related to razor use from the year. They’re not complete as I didn’t really start keeping track until early May, when I came across the Shaving Buddy app for my Android based tablet. Now, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing anyway, but I didn’t realize just how much I would use it. I wound up buying the full version within a week, and recording over 260 shaves in 238 days!
The down side of the app is that the reporting is very limited. I poked around a bit last week and found that the app works as a front-end for a SQLite3 database. (I warned you: I’m a computer geek and I know just enough to be dangerous…)
Once I figured that out, it was a fairly simple operation to dump the data for the year to an Excel workbook. From that spreadsheet I came up with the following numbers.
Total Shaves Recorded: 266
The DE Razors included, in no particular order: Gillette New Standard, Gillette Gold Tech (Heavy), Gilette Old Style, Gilette Thin Adjustable, Gillette Bar-Handled New, FaTip Piccolo, FaTip Piccolo, Gilette Fat Boy, Gillette Tech (Gold), Gillette Travel Tech, (The) Unknown Slant, Gillette Tech (Triangle), Gillette Milord, Merkur 37c Slant (1 shave only.)
Weck Shavettes included a shaper, a standard Sextoblade, and a “Nurses” razor (i.e. a stainless steel Sextoblade without the caduceus.) The vast majority of these shaves saw me using the standard Sexto. It is pretty much my daily driver for right now, although I think I’m going to start changing things up again. (So many razors, so few shaves!) In a future post I’ll detail my experiences with different blades.
My Rolls is a single set with two blades, both of which I honed myself. It took a few tries, but this is actually my favorite razor. I get consistent results with it now that it’s sharp enough and I’ve got the maintenance figured out. (Thanks MJClark!) This set is going to see regular use this year!
The Single Edge Razors, again in no particular order included a Gem Junior (1912), AutoStrop Valet VC1, Gem MicroMatic Open Comb, Gem G-Bar, Gem Flying Wing, and a Gem Micromatic. I like them all, but the Valet is my favorite in this catagory. I have a bunch of OEM blades and a couple of different models to try this year. These will be the subject of a future post as well.
The “Other Shavettes” include a Parker SR-1, Vanta RA-111 and an RA-112. I purchased the Parker off of the BST and passed it on. I like the Vantas better, especially the 111, which uses a full DE blade.
The “Other SE” is seven day Wilkinson Sword Empire set that I used with a cut down shaper blade in lieu of cleaning up the wedge blades—a project for this year. The injector is a Schick-Eversharp.