How double edged razor blades are made

The true genius of the double edged razor blade is how it is bent over and held in tension within the razor. This simple engineering technique allows the blade edge to be held very firmly in a precise position whilst using the minimum amount of steel in that blade. Hence double edged blades can be extremely thin and a thousand of them only weigh a few ounces. However this is still a massive amount of steel compared to multibladed system razors that only have an edge about 1mm deep made of steel which is then mounted in plastic.

Double edged blades have been in manufacture for over 100 years (though it was only in the 1930s that they became as thin as they are today) so their production is not rocket science. However putting a superb edge (for that is what is needed) on such a thin piece of steel in a mass manufacturing process is not easy.

Most of the world’s razors are made in a very small handful of factories around the world such as Gillette in Manuas, Brazil and St Petersburg, Russia, Vidyut in Bombay, India and Lord in Alexandria, Egypt. The manufacturing processes are proprietary and partly secret. The plants are capital intensive, contain a lot of technology and run at very high speed. The above video shows the processes (if you don’t blink!) and I will try and explain them.

Now for a disclaimer. This is not an academic paper and I am not a manufacturing engineer, this is just a blog article that looks at some of the processes involved. Factories will have more and different processes and will carry them out in different sequences. Also no razor factories changed hands in the writing of this article.

Stainless steel strip for making razor blades

The process starts with drawing blade strips, the width of an individual blade, from large spools of steel. This steel is always a compromise between cost, the ability to take an edge, the ability to keep that edge, corrosion resistance and behaviour under heat treatment, plus a number of other factors. Stainless blade steel is a martensitic stainless steel with a composition of chromium of between 12 and 14.5% and a carbon content of approximately 0.6%. For a lot of the developing world cheaper carbon steel is often used.

The steel strips are like a long belt and go through a high speed punching machine to create the blade blanks, this removes the complex centre shape of the blade and the four locators in the corners, a job which requires great precision yet which a machine can do a thousand times or more in a minute. So one production line makes ten years supply of blades for an individual in 60 seconds.

The belt of blanks then go through a hardening and tempering process that involves heating and cooling the steel down repeatedly as it passes through furnaces. This is a tricky process if such thin steel is not to distort as it is subject to the temperature changes.

Next the belt of blanks goes through an etching machine to put the brand on each blade and a varnishing process to protect the blade from corrosion before the belt is broken up into individual blades.

Each blade then needs to have its edges ground by progressively finer grinding wheels, then polished and finally honed. The honing, which produces the final super sharp edge is done with animal leather. The edges then go through a vapour deposition coating/metal spray/sputtering process  that adds a few molecules of titanium nitride, platinum or whatever proprietary cocktail to enhance its qualities. There are secrets here.

The finished blades then go through QA, which is why they often have the numbers 1 to 4 on them, it identifies which particular machine may be at fault if there is a problem. At this stage blades might be graded into different brands. The blades are then boiled and dried to clean and disinfect them before being packed.

It is amazing that all this work and technology results in blades that cost as little as $1 per 100, such is the sheer scale of the process.

Multibladed system razor cartridge blades are made in a similar process but are scored part way through just after the punching machine process, thus allowing the edges to be snapped off later down the production line and for the bulk of the steel to be recycled.

Be Sociable, Share!

14 comments ↓

#1 Greg / iKon Razors on 11.09.10 at 12:12 pm

Bruce , your blog is without a doubt a wealth of very interesting information and articles.
This particular post is absolutely fascinating !

#2 Graham Duffy on 11.11.10 at 5:16 pm

Hi Bruce

Great blog, some really interesting articles.

Quick question, you say that DE razors will give you a closer and better quality shave than a cartridge based system. I certainly think this is true, but what is the actual science behind this? Why is single DE razor blade better than a Mach3 cartridge (FROM a pure technology/scientific point of view) ? I’ve been searching the various wet shaving forums and blogs but can’t find an answer.

#3 Bruce on 11.11.10 at 5:57 pm

@Graham Duffy
There are two things here. A cartridge has no blade exposure, look at it side on and you see no blade. Secondly the hinge means you have no control over the shaving angle.
A DE razor edge has exposure, look at one side on. And you can adjust the exposure by using different razors of by using an adjustable razor.
And with a DE razor you have total control over angle.

The price you have to pay for superior DE shaving is a short learning curve to control the edge, but it is worth it.

#4 chill on 12.22.10 at 12:49 pm

I’ve been curious how much a double edge razor blade weighs. You say a thousand weighs only a few ounces. I wonder if you can be more precise, for the average or range of weights?

Given the cost of blades in the U.S. and Europe, it seems that an ounce of razor blades would cost hundreds of dollars. And if you figured out the metal weight of those four or five blade razors, the cost would be thousands of dollars per ounce.

But how much does the metal, itself, cost when it arrives in those spools?

Also, you say the label is applied before the quality control check. I would have thought the label would be after, if they are grading the quality.

#5 chill on 12.22.10 at 5:21 pm

Specifically, regarding quality control grading, some say here in India say the Vidyut, Zorick and Super Max blades are all the same.

One online poster said he talked with Vidyut representatives and was told the difference is the quality control checks applied to Super Max, which assures you can get 6 to 8 good shaves.

I dunno. If the only difference is quality control, rather than superior metal or sharpening, then the substantial extra cost of Super Max domestically is not worth it.

I can get a 20 tuck pack of 100 blades of Vidyut platinum for 90 rs. That’s about $2 US. For that price, who cares how long they last?

I have not been able to find any Super Max platinum, but the super stainless are 20 rs for a five blade tuck. The Zorick super stainless are 6.50 rs for a five blade tuck. So the Super Max would have to last three times longer simply to break even. I doubt “quality control” alone can accomplish this, but I could be wrong. Magic, maybe.

I think consumers here have been conditioned to believe over the years that if it’s more expensive, it’s better, and vice versa, probably from long experience with cheap, inferior products. That, plus targeting Super Max for the export market, may be the real reason for the higher price. (Gillette charges a lot more here, probably for the same reason, but I don’t think they are better than the Indian labels.)

Personally, I think the Zorick/Vidyut platinum blades are better than the Super Max stainless, though I’m still testing. But I can’t find any loose Zorick platinum blades (only packed with razors), so I’m mainly Vidyut platinum for 4.50 rs for a five blade tuck — about 2 cents US per blade.

#6 james on 05.16.11 at 5:57 am

how long have they been makin double edge razors i still and use my dads doubl edge hes had it since the 1950s

#7 james on 05.16.11 at 6:00 am

i been using for manys years they work

#8 ajay on 08.27.11 at 8:42 am

what is significance of the numbers (1, 2…) mentioned on sides of these double edged razor blades?

#9 Bruce on 08.27.11 at 9:24 am

None for us.
It is just so that in manufacturing they can adjust the machinery. The numbers tell them which machines worked on which cutting face.

#10 basit hanafi gad on 02.22.12 at 9:45 am

dear mr. Bruce
I was sent you comment through your web site i do n’t get it or no
any way we new production for :
double edged razor blades
we want start for this industry that we need full study
for price for machine (small complet line) and capicit of
line and price for materil
and how many pices from one ton of raw materialthanks and regards
a/basit hanafi

#11 David Mitchell on 08.16.12 at 4:13 am

I worked at Gillette UK for some years and they carry out grinding, honing and stropping processes on the strip before chopping into individual blades and blowing onto a holder each of which takes 1400 individual blades. They also carry out a very clever induction hardening procedure on the joining area which makes it selectively brittle to aid in chopping.

#12 George White on 09.02.12 at 7:09 pm

Really enjoyed all the information here. I am one of those who started with the double edge blades when I was young, but switched to the newer multi-blades the past 20 to 30 years. However, as you mentioned the cost has skyrocketed and I have just this last week started using my old Gillette Fat Boy again, although I only have the Gillette Blue Blades, I’m still enjoying the best shaves I’ve had in years. I’m going to purchase some good blades and try out some of the different shaving creams and practice some of the shaving techniques I’ve learned here and elsewhere. Thanks for all of the great information.

#13 vivek on 03.01.13 at 10:53 am

I dnt have much knowledge in this field.. But I eager to know why laser welding is done in Razor blade?

#14 Panos on 11.02.13 at 2:12 am

Bruce
Your article is interesting.

How I can get access to your video?

Thank you

Leave a comment

online poker
SuperSignupBonus