In the razor blade industry you would think that all the management would know their business model. They are making a blade that lasts for a few shaves and is then thrown away. The longer it lasts the less they sell. So it is in the razor manufacturer’s interests to make a blade with the shortest life that they can get away with. But the technology is out there to make a blade that lasts for a lot longer.
Personna has been making all sorts of blades for 130 years, currently they are part of American Safety Razor. In the 1960s and 1970s it was owned by Philip Morris, the tobacco company. The management decided that they wanted to take on Gillette and in doing so they decided to throw the industry business model out of the window. They decided to make a long lasting blade.
The Personna 74 was introduced in 1970. Everything about it is special. The steel is a a tungsten (atomic number 74) alloy, which makes it extremely hard and wear resistant. This is the sort of steel that they make rocket engine nozzles out of. It is also used for making the cutting tools that are used when machining other steels. This alone would make a blade that lasted a long time. But Personna went further, they coated it with a microscopic layer of titanium, which protected the steel underneath.
Unsurprisingly they ended up with what is definitely the longest lasting safety razor blade ever made and also probably the sharpest. There are reports of customers using the same blade for months. Which obviously was very bad for Personna’s business. So after only a few years in production they dropped it.
They didn’t make that many of these blades and obviously they are a consumable item and as this happened 40 years ago finding unused Personna 74s is very rare. And of course when they are found they get used, making them even rarer, and even more valuable. Currently they sell for about a pound for each blade. As traditional shaving increases in popularity these blades are going to become yet more expensive, a lot of people are going to want to try the best. But once they have been used they are gone forever.