The Eclipse Red Ring razor

When people look for vintage razors to put to daily use today they mostly think of Gillette, who manufactured very large numbers of well engineered razors which, with care, have an almost infinite life. But there were many other, smaller, razor manufacturers around the world, some of whom made very good razors and one of the very best was James Neil & Co of Composite Steel Works, Napier Street, Sheffield, England, who manufactured the superb Eclipse Red Ring razor.

At the time that the Red Ring was designed Britain was still the world’s superpower with the biggest empire ever seen and a technology base to match. The unions and socialism were yet to yield their destructive power. Robert Watson Watt was inventing radar, Frank Whittle was inventing the jet engine, Alexander Fleming was inventing antibiotics, Ernest Rutherford was splitting the nucleus and Reginald Joseph Mitchell was designing the Spitfire.

The Red Ring had several innovations and was protected by patents. British patent no 344280 by W. V. Hudson and J. L. Pickerell is from 5 March 1931 and British patent no 380958 was granted in September 1932 to J. Neill & Company Limited. Innovations include the head design, the adjustment mechanism and the magnet. It is quite a heavy razor at 62.1 grams (2.19 ounces).

The head design is like no other before or since. On the bottom plate there are teeth but these have a solid guard bar before and below them, the top plate has matching grooves. The head is a fairly mild shaver but is unusually effective at cutting through the stubble. What I think may be happening is that the curved profile of the teeth, just before the blade, moves the hairs sideways into the edge. This creates a scything action a bit like a slant bar razor. However it works, it gives a unique and excellent shave. Also it is particularly insensitive to the angle you use it at, it seems to find its own perfect stance as you shave.

The adjustment mechanism was a quarter of a century ahead of the Gillette Fat Boy, it works in a similar manner to today’s Merkur Progress, you turn a knob on the bottom (which has an arrow on it) up fully for mildness then slacken it off slightly for more aggression, there are markers on the handle so you can calibrate your setting. Unlike the Progress it clicks as you wind it back.

The magnet is a small but very nice touch, handling double edged blades takes some care and with the magnet life becomes a lot easier, especially when picking a blade up from a flat surface. You wonder why more razors don’t have this useful feature.

The wonders of the Eclipse Red Ring are not all over yet, there is the logo. This is the very height of Art Deco and depicts a stylised solar eclipse. A square moon is moving in front of a square sun which has rays shooting off it.

If you want to own an Eclipse Red Ring there is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that it is a robust razor and was in production till the 1950s, so they are still about and come up fairly regularly on eBay. It was chrome plated, which was very rare in that era and we know from our Mohs that this makes it more durable. The bad news is that just about every traditional shaving enthusiast wants one (or more), which is quite understandable. It is one of the most sought after of razors and the price is rocketing, even over the last few months they have more than doubled in value. Expect to pay £50 to £100 for an OK to use example, double that if it is in its original box and add another 50% if it is in mint, new condition. These prices can only go up as demand far exceeds supply.

James Neil & Co became a part of Spear and Jackson, which is still thriving today. If they still have the tooling for this razor they could put it back into production to satisfy the demand and we would have a rival for Merkur.

My Eclipse Red Ring
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14 Comments


  1. I notice that the reproduced advert calls for the Eclipse “wafer” blade, but the photo seems to indicate that any modern double-edged blade—like the Wilkinson Sword blade shown—will work. I just wanted to verify this. I’ve bought a couple of wonderful vintage razors that turned out to require a special make of blade, no longer available.

    In the meantime, I’m keeping my eye out for an Eclipse Red Ring. It looks like a wonderful razor.


  2. Standard DE blades. I use Iridiums in mine.


  3. Hi Bruce,

    I notice that the razor head on my Eclipse Red Ring does not have the Art Deco square sun and moon eclipse. Was it only engraved that way during certain years?

    Thanks,

    Paul


  4. This razor was in production for a long time, 20ish years. In that time there were many variations, for instance some come with a red ring painted on the handle and some don’t. Some are in bakelite cases, some tin, some leather and so on.
    So don’t worry. The logo version gives you something else to collect!


  5. Here’s some more information on the Eclipse:

    The Eclipse Red Rings were made by James Neill and Co. Sheffield, England from around 1932 to 1940.

    Earlier ones, didn’t have the Eclipse Logo on the head.

    Adverts refer to the adjustment as ‘Micrometer Adjustment Feature’

    In the 1938 range there were five models offered:

    The Model W in Leather Case – the one you have – price 3 Shillings and 6 Pence – included 1 blade
    The Model MM in Bakelite case – the one you have – price 2 shillings and 6 pence – included 1 blade
    The Model BB in Mahogany coloured bakelite flip top case – price 4 shillings and 6 pence – included 3 blades
    The Model HH in Ivory and Black bakelite flip top case – price 6 shillings and 6 pence – included 5 blades
    The Deluxe in chromium plated case – price 10 shillings and 6 pence – included 10 blades

    All razors were identical so the buyer was paying quite a lot extra for certain cases and a few more blades!


  6. There are still some cheap ones here in Australia. Picked up one in a second hand store today for $13.95 Australian Dollars in excellent condition.


  7. I have an Eclipse Red Ring Razor patent 380 958 in original bakerlite box (used) pretty good condition – anyone interested in buying? (UK)


  8. Ted’s daughter, do you still have the Red Ring?


  9. Hi Bruce,

    I got one of these razor, but when I regulate the knob for giving more or less aggression to the blade I must turn it completely or it loose the right closure between the head end the base of the razor, so I have any regulation at all…

    Which razors are older the one with stylisied square and rising rays or razor without any incision on the head ?

    Many thanks,
    M.S


  10. Hi i got one of this without case, if anyone are interested in buying just letr me know. thanks!


  11. Sergio-

    Interested if available. Where in the world are you?


  12. I would love to purchase an eclipse I anyone has one for sale?


  13. Since Edwin Jagger is based in Sheffield and I happen to know that there are guilds and associations there which makes it highly likely that there are contacts between the two companies, perhaps it is not too far a stretch if EJ were to re-manufacture the Red Ring. Probably aint gonna happen, but we can all dream.

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