The Schick® Story
Shaving a Path in Razor History
Schick® traces its origins to the inventive U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Schick. He retired from the military in 1910, but then returned to service at the start of World War I.
During his respite from the army, Colonel Schick staked mining claims in Alaska and British Columbia. During one particularly severe winter, while the temperature hovered at 40ø F below zero, he noticed he had a difficult time trying to shave.
About this time, he sprained his ankle and was forced to remain in camp alone for several months. It was during this lonely period that he first conceived the idea for a dry shaver and sketched out a design that could shave without water or lather. After the war, he attempted to generate interest in his design, but had no luck and began to work on other inventions.
WHAT RIFLES & RAZORS HAVE IN COMMON
In 1921, Colonel Schick invented a new type of safety razor — the Magazine Repeating Razor. Inspired by the army repeating rifle, it had replacement blades stored in the handle ready to be fed into shaving position without the chore and danger of handling a sharp blade. Production of this innovative razor started in Jersey City in 1926. These razors were the forerunners to the famous Schick Injector Razor.
In 1927, Schick succeeded with his dry shaver, and a year later became so convinced that the "wet shave" method would be doomed by the electric razor that he started a separate corporation to manufacture and sell Schick electric razors. He sold all his interest in the Magazine Repeating Razor Company to the president of the American Chain and Cable Company.
PIONEERS IN SHAVING PROTECTION
In 1946, Eversharp, Inc. acquired the Magazine Repeating Razor Company and renamed it the Schick Safety Razor Company. American Chain and Cable produced the product for Schick until 1958, when Schick set up its own manufacturing operations in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 1961, Schick moved its manufacturing facilities into its present home in Milford, Connecticut, where the headquarters for the Shaving Products Group now resides. The following years were busy ones for Schick as it introduced many product innovations.
In 1963, Schick became the first U.S. manufacturer to sell stainless steel blades coated with Teflon. This non-stick material improved comfort by reducing friction during the shave. Five years later, Schick pioneered another innovation when scientists succeeded in depositing a thin layer of chromium to the blade edge, making it more durable. After the acquisition of Schick by Warner-Lambert in 1970, steady technical progress moved forward as it had in the past.
THE WILKINSON SWORD CONNECTION
Wilkinson Sword's beginnings date back to 1772 when Henry Nock started a business making guns and bayonets in London. He became one of England's foremost gun makers and eventually took on a partner — James Wilkinson, a son-in-law and former apprentice in his shop.
James inherited the business in 1805 and brought his son, Henry, into it as well. Henry expanded the business when he introduced sword making to the operation. The business prospered and moved to larger premises in 1877, and expanded to encompass the manufacture of straight razors.
In 1898, the Wilkinson Sword Company introduced the Pall Mall safety razor and started a new phase of its history. This highly efficient razor used re-stroppable hollow-ground blades and was dramatically safer than a straight razor. World War I placed heavy demands on the production of bayonets and razor production came to a standstill. In 1920, Wilkinson again shifted to consumer demands and the production of razors, garden tools and pruning shears. Numerous other fine products followed and before long, sheep shears and manicure items were being sold under the sign of the crossed swords. To this day, Wilkinson produces fine ceremonial swords, crafted by hand for the past two centuries.
ADDING NEW LIFE TO THE OLD RAZOR
The razor and blade segment of the business was nurtured and numerous technological breakthroughs were made. To develop the technology of stainless steel grinding, Wilkinson Sword formed a joint venture with the German company, Osberghaus KG based in Solingen in 1956. Wilkinson Sword became the first manufacturer to introduce the stainless steel double edge blade.
Up to then, razor blades had been made out of carbon steel, and the new material extended the blade's life dramatically. In 1961, Wilkinson Sword added a thin coating of Teflon to the blade edge to improve comfort.
In 1970, Wilkinson Sword introduced the first bonded blade, that is, a blade bonded in a plastic housing, and became the first manufacturer to patent a bonded blade cartridge. Further technical improvements followed and many new products have been introduced since then.
Shaving Products Group engineers and scientists continue to envision new ways to improve the quality of shaving. Following in the footsteps of Jacob Schick and Henry Wilkinson, the Shaving Products Group strives to design and produce the finest quality shaving products possible.
THE WAR AGAINST HAIR
For thousands of years, men have been in constant conflict with their stubborn facial hair. In early times, men scraped the hair away with crude weapons such as stone, flint, clam shells and other sharpened materials. Later, they experimented with bronze, copper and iron razors.
The ancient Egyptians shaved their beards and heads, a custom later adopted by the Greeks and Romans around 330 B.C. during the reign of Alexander the Great. This practice was encouraged as a defensive measure for soldiers, preventing the enemy from grasping their hair in hand-to-hand combat. As shaving spread through most of the world, men of unshaven societies became known as "barbarians," meaning the "unbarbered."
In more recent centuries, men used the steel straight razor — called the "cut-throat" for obvious reasons. Because of this knife-like design, razors needed to be sharpened with a honing stone or leather strop. These "weapons" required considerable skill by the user to avoid cutting himself badly.
FINALLY — A SAFER RAZOR
During the late 19th century a significant change occurred with the invention of the first safety razors. The new T-shaped instruments incorporated a guarded blade to prevent severe skin cutting and used either re-stroppable or disposable blades made of carbon steel. The introduction of disposable blades meant users no longer needed stropping skills to sharpen their razor blades.
These more civilized tools made the struggle between man and beard a bit easier to win and were much more merciful to the face. They provided the stepping stone for greater developments in the technology of shaving during the 20th century.
HEMLINES & HAIR REMOVAL
Hair removal by women became popular as fashions changed in the 20th century. Underarm shaving, or "smoothing" became fashionable prior to World War I, and safety razors were ideally suited to the job. As hemlines rose above the ankles, women in many countries, particularly in the U.S. and Canada, adopted the custom of removing leg hair. During World War II there was a shortage of silk stockings causing many women to shave their legs and to use leg makeup to give the appearance of stockings. Today, the custom of shaving legs and underarms continues and is gradually gaining in popularity around the world.
MAKING OF THE MODERN BLADE
MILES OF STEEL BEHIND THE MODERN RAZOR
The first straight razors were crafted individually by expert blade makers in small workshops. In contrast, the production of modern blades is an extremely complex and highly technical process occurring at high rates of speed. In the early days of the safety razor, carbon steel was used to make blades. This type of steel tended to corrode easily and lasted only a short time in the humid environment of the bathroom. In the mid-1950s, stainless steel was first used by Wilkinson Sword to produce razor blades, thereby significantly increasing the life of the blade edge.
A soft, stainless steel strip, containing at least 12% chromium, goes through a series of steps before being made into razor blades. Large coils, weighing up to 110 pounds (50 kg) each and containing over two miles (3.2 km) of this steel, are used at the start of the process and must meet strict tolerances for metallurgical composition, width and thickness. Most of the razor blades first travel through a press to precisely perforate the blade with a series of notches and holes. These are used for locating the position of the blade in subsequent operations and for placement in the cartridge during the final assembly process. After the strip is notched and perforated, it proceeds to the next step in the process.
PERFECT TEMPERATURES CREATE THE PERFECT BLADE
The blade strip, as it arrives from the steel manufacturer, is too soft to grind into a shaving edge and must first be hardened. Furnaces with temperatures of more than 2,000°F (1,110°C) heat the blade strip in a controlled atmosphere to prevent oxidation. Both the time and temperature under which the strip is heated are critical to the final product. If the time is too short or the temperature is too low, a soft strip will be produced. If the time is too lengthy or the temperatures too high, the strip will be undesirable for grinding. The strip is then subjected to temperatures below -100°F (-70°C) in a deep-freeze chamber to complete the hardening process. It is then heated again to only a few hundred degrees in order to temper it. Tempering gives some ductility or flexibility back to the hard but brittle strip of steel. A great deal of control is required at each step of heat treatment. And, if any one of the steps is compromised, the resultant steel will not be suitable for a high-quality blade edge. Only highly skilled manufacturers are capable of producing hardened steel that meets the physical characteristics needed for grinding a superior razor blade edge.
Next, the hardened and tempered coil of steel is sent to the grinding area to have a sharp edge formed on the strip. Unlike the commonly held belief that a razor blade is simply a sharpened piece of steel, the blade edge is actually composed of three distinct facets, each working together to form a strong edge that is both sharp and durable. The blade strip is fed through a series of progressively finer grinding wheels. Coarse grinding wheels remove material to approximate the desired profile. Finer grit wheels shape the edge more precisely, and extremely fine grit wheels finish forming the blade tip profile. High-speed leather-like strops provide the shape and smoothness to the ultimate tip of the blade.
The thickness of the blade profile must be tightly controlled. If a blade is too blunt, it will give an uncomfortable shave. If it is too sharp, the edge will break down more quickly. The grinding equipment used to form the edge is developed by highly skilled, in-house designers and engineers. This is necessary to protect the proprietary nature of the equipment. High precision is required in equipment design to obtain the proper edge profile and to ensure the consistency of the millions of blades processed each day. After grinding, the strip is cut into individual blades and stacked on long pins, called bayonets, so they can be finished and assembled into shaving products
COATED BLADES FOR A SAFER SHAVE
Although a properly formed blade is quite sturdy, additional durability is generally obtained by depositing a layer of hard metal directly onto the edge in a sputtering process. After all impurities are removed from the blade edges, bayonets of blades are placed inside high-vacuum chambers in which an inert ionized gas is present. High-energy ions bombard a chromium target and eject chromium atoms, depositing them on the razor blade edges.
In spite of the finely shaped blade apex, if an uncoated stainless steel blade is used to cut the hair, the friction between the cut surfaces of the hair and the steel would cause pulling and discomfort. In order to reduce this friction, the blade edges are sprayed with a coating of Vydax, a low molecular weight polymer of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) with low-friction qualities similar to Teflon. The film is then melted on the blade edges and cured at temperatures over 500°F (276°C). After the first few strokes with a Vydax coated blade, the excess Vydax is peeled back from the apex of the blade and a thin layer is left on the surface to reduce friction and improve comfort. All Shaving Products Group razor blades meet high specifications for quality. Some systems may have slightly different coating characteristics or steel composition, but all are designed to enhance the shaving performance of the systems.
PLASTIC MOLDINGS KEEP BLADE SAFE
While blades are a critical aspect of a good shave, the plastic cartridge in which bonded blades are housed is critical in controlling the action of the blades in terms of cartridge geometry. Through a process called injection molding, plastic cartridge components are molded by melting plastic pellets at 400° to 500°F (221° to 276°C) and then injecting the molten plastic into multi-cavity precision molds. Once cooled, the parts are ejected and the automated cycle continues. The parts are made with strict tolerances so they can be assembled with razor blades in the optimum position for the best shave. Caps, seats and some spacers are molded out of various plastic materials, including polystyrene and polypropylene, to meet each shaving system's requirements. A new technology has been developed and patented by the Shaving Products Group—a process called "insert molding." This complex process molds the plastic around the blades in a single operation, eliminating th e need for assembly and reducing cartridge variation. This sophisticated technological process results in a more consistent, dimensionally stable product for the consumer.
SMART CARTRIDGE GEOMETRY CONTROLS THE SHAVE
A typical twin-bonded blade shaving cartridge is composed of five components that interact with one another. The lowest member of the cartridge "sandwich" is the SEAT or PLATFORM, comprising the foundation on which the other members rest and which contains the guard bar. The SEAT or LEADING BLADE sits on top of the SEAT underneath a SPACER. The CAP or TRAILING BLADE is placed above the SPACER and the CAP rests on top of the entire package. Although the blade edge is a critical contributor to a good shave, the cartridge geometry (i.e., the relationship of the blades to the guard bar and cap) controls the closeness of the shave and the dynamics of the cutting action itself. How a razor blade behaves during a shave is similar to that of a wood plane in which the protrusion of the blade and its angle to the surface control the cutting action. In a twin-blade shaving system the relationships are more complicated than in a single-blade system.
Manipulating the variables affecting geometry can greatly alter the characteristics of a shave. The Shaving Products Group spends considerable effort determining and controlling the factors affecting cartridge geometry to produce an optimum blend, resulting in shaves that are both safe and close. A great deal of process control is required to ensure a safe razor. The blade must be the correct width, the blade perforations that locate the blade in a cartridge must be precisely located, the dimensions of the plastic components (i.e., seat and cap) must be exact, and the assembly of the parts must be carried out in a reliable manner. The sharpness of the blade, the relationships among all the geometric variables, and the needs of the consumer are taken into account when designing the best geometry for a given razor system.
Many razor systems produced by the Shaving Products Group have a comfort or lubricating strip located on the cap above the blades. Warner-Lambert was the first company in the world to patent this novel improvement to the daily shave. These strips, some of which contain aloe, are made from a water-soluble polymer called polyethylene oxide (Polyox). When activated by water they provide lubrication that makes the shave more comfortable.
Another approach to the same end is used on many products, in which an Aquaglide strip (polyvinyl pyrolidone or PVP) is positioned on the cartridge cap. When wet, the strip becomes extremely slippery and reduces friction between skin and blade. These innovative materials are both safe to the consumer and effective in improving shaving comfort. Many of the Shaving Products Group shaving systems use this technology to enhance their performance
In an effort to develop an extremely safe shaving system, the twin blades in some products are wrapped with very thin wire. Patented Microfine Wire Wraps help guide the blades evenly over the skin, protecting it from nicks, cuts and irritation while providing the closeness the shaver needs. This significant step forward in safety has proven to be a successful advancement in the science of shaving.
Another major development in the shaving arena is the flexible cartridge. A convoluted design and special materials allow the blades to flex to the contours of the area being shaved. After many years in development, this unique system has been demonstrated to provide a close shave with significant improvement to comfort and safety. The innovative flexing action of the twin-blade cartridge shaves like no other system, and conforms to the unique shape of every face.
QUALITY CONTROL ENSURES A SAFE SHAVE
The manufacture of modern razor blades is a highly complex process involving large production volumes while maintaining high consistency in the final product. To obtain the very best in shaving products, it is essential that each process be carried out within closely specified limits. In all the Shaving Products Group's manufacturing sites this is ensured by strict quality checks carried out at each stage of the production process. The inspection procedures include visual and microscopic examinations, chemical and metallurgical testing, physical testing of blade strength and durability, and electronic video inspection systems. However, the final assessment of shave quality rests with the shaver. All shave testing is conducted using humans as test subjects. To this end, thousands of men and women participate in shave testing of all product lines every day. Local shave panels evaluate the quality of the manufactured products before they leave the building on their way to the consumers' hands. Other panels evaluate production from all manufacturing facilities to ensure consistent quality from one plant to another.
ASSEMBLY AND PACKAGING — MOVING RAZORS TO MARKET
Once the blades and other components have been made, they must be assembled into a shaving product and packaged for the marketplace. The assembly of the components into a finished product is a critical step in the manufacturing process. It is important that certain processes that take place during assembly are done correctly in order to ensure a functional and safe shaving product.
The Shaving Products Group uses various technologies to assemble its shaving products. In the most common method, each component is placed in a fixture in such a way as to accurately locate it and allow for the placement of the next component upon it.
The various parts are joined together using a staking or a snap-fit process. Machine operators routinely monitor the quality of the work in process, and every cartridge is automatically inspected to ensure that all parts are present and in the correct position. Finished product from the assembly equipment then moves to the packaging operation. Packaging is both informative and functional. The printed package encases the product, keeps it clean, provides easy identification, and supplies the consumer with product information. The secondary packaging provides and strong protective container for shipment to the distributor or retailer.