Into the Ark?

Ever wondered what you'll do with your razor after you enjoy your last shave?  Razor historian Eric Gilroy has some thoughts about the preservation of these objects.  Thanks Eric for raising this issue for discussion!


Into the Ark


Eric Gilroy


This is intended to promote a discussion on preserving old razors for the future.

Looking at Huw’s recent blog about his wonderful old restored Sheffield razor, makes me realise just how important these little pieces of our social and industrial history really are. I sometimes think that we are so engrossed in looking towards the future that we forget about the importance of the past. I am reminded that, when sailing a ship, one should not only keep a lookout ahead, but should also look back at your wake.

We, as a nation, do have old artefacts in museums, but these are only of national importance such as Henry VIII’s armour. But, just imagine how you would feel if you could hold a genuine Viking sword that had been preserved in perfect condition. You would be able to see how the metal would have been folded and forged by a master swordsmith and perhaps even his file marks – and just to touch the actual handle that a Viking warrior once held. Wouldn’t this be wonderful? Sadly, metal corrodes very quickly and none of these are now left, other than as a shapeless piece of rust. Do we want this to happen to our cherished razors?

I am now reaching a rather senior age (I can remember when there wasn’t an internet – yes, we could survive without it) and often contemplate on what will happen to my old razors once I am no longer around to look after and enjoy them. Huw has done a marvellous job breathing life back into many of my old razors and I would be horrified if they eventually fell into disrepair and ended up in a junk  shop or kept in a tool box and used for cutting floor tiles before they rusted away completely.

I firmly believe that we are simply the present guardian of these little pieces of steel that could last forever if cared for.

So, what is the solution? I don’t think that museums are interested in these ‘everyday’ objects unless they were once owned by a King or an Emperor or even a politician. The simplest option is to leave your razor(s) to someone that you know will keep them oiled and in good working order, and hopefully not immediately put them on eBay to sell to the highest bidder. Obviously, leaving them to a close relative would work if you knew for certain that they would look after the razor(s), but these are surprisingly delicate objects and need special care.

Something that I have broached with Huw is what I call an ark. That is a repository for old razors, where they are kept oiled and shave ready, and wrapped in greaseproof paper – possibly with their scales removed to avoid metal to metal corrosion at the pin or with a replacement plastic/wooden pin. In this way many razors could be stored for very long periods of time, in a small space. I am also very keen to keep a copy of the razor’s history, if possible, with the razor. In this way we could preserve these pieces of living history for future generations so that they could appreciate how people once lived and used to shave before the ‘modern’ electric or plastic instruments – or whatever they have in 500 years’ time – probably micro drones that hover over your face removing hair with lasers whilst you are asleep.

The guardian of the ark would be responsible for their upkeep and importantly also for finding the next guardian. Perhaps the guardian could also occasionally take some razors to local schools, history groups etc. where they could talk about their history and use.

“What about their value” one might ask. What I am suggesting is a donation of razors to the ark for the purpose of preserving them, and would be made on the strict understanding that they will never be resold. This should be considered as a long-term project for the benefit of future generations. I know that it would certainly give me peace of mind about the future of my razors.

Have you had similar thoughts?

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