July 30, 2005
One of the ironies of the online shavegeek community is that the most influential and widely-respected expert on the shaving forums happens to use a type of razor which almost nobody else has ever seen in person, much less tried shaving with.
While the double-edge safety razor is the de facto totem of shavegeek obsession, and the straight razor remains the weapon of choice for the die-hard traditionalists at the upper strata of the shavegeek elite, Gordon (like Cher and Bono, a one-namer) has long sung the praises of the Schick Injector.
In 1921, Col. Jacob Schick patterned his “Magazine Repeating Razor” after the repeating rifles the Army used. Unlike the existing Gillette safety razor which used loose DE blades, Schick’s new razor had a unique method of loading the disposable blades — an “injector” clip like a rifle’s, which automatically removed the old blade and inserted the new one, without the user having to touch the blades by hand.
Schick sold his company in 1928 to American Chain and Cable, and the new owners refined the razor’s design and introduced what we now know as the Schick Injector in 1935. Like the standard Gillette DE razor, one of the hallmarks of the Injector is that even the earliest 1935 versions work perfectly with today’s blades, and if you can hunt down some vintage Injector blades, they’ll drop right into a modern Injector razor, which was reportedly still being made, for the Japanese market only, as recently as a few years ago.
The Injector is different from the traditional DE razor in that it only has one cutting edge — in this respect, the Injector can be thought of as the forerunner to modern razors like the Mach3 et al. But the Injector’s lone blade , thicker than a DE’s and more like a mini straight razor, places it squarely in the old-school shaving camp.
Which brings me back to Gordon. There’s no one else on the shavegeek boards from whom I’ve learned more about how to shave properly and what products are most worth checking out, but the one bit of Gordoniana I never got around to was the Injector. Gordon’s been banging the drum for the Injector ever since I first started checking out the late, lamented Wetshavers board, but I never felt the urge to hunt one of these razors down, mainly because I’d just picked up a DE for the first time and was coming to terms with that whole thing.
But even as I figured out how to get good shaves out of the DE, I kept reading Gordon’s comments about his Injector, and how it was the main razor he used, despite owning several vintage Gillette and modern Merkur DEs. So I finally went on eBay and scored one last week, and today was my first shave with it.
Luckily, Injector blades are easy as pie to come by — I bought some brand new Schick Chromium Injector blades from drugstore.com for $4.89 for a pack of seven— hell, I could’ve ordered them from Amazon if I’d wanted to! Amazing that you can buy these blades so easily from such mainstream online vendors. All of my local drugstores sell Personna Injector blades under their own house brands, but Gordon doesn’t recommend them as highly as the Schicks due to their plastic case, which he says is more troublesome to deal with than the metal case of the Schick blades.
The Injector I scored looks exactly like the one pictured above, and dates to the 1940s. It’s quite a bit lighter and smaller than the heavy metal Merkur HD safety razor I favor, and looks considerably more antiquated. If Gordon hadn’t been praising the Injector all this time, I never would’ve picked this thing up. It looks like some turn-of-the-century bit of crude metalwork, like those mechanical piggy banks with the little tin dog wearing a clown’s hat that jumps through a little tin hoop accompanied by a loud grinding sound when you drop a coin in the slot.
Loading a blade couldn’t be easier with the Injector — you just insert the tab into the side of the razor, slide the tab across the clip, and the fresh blade eases right into place. If you had a used blade in the Injector, the tab automatically pushes it out of the razor as the new blade takes its place. Worked like a charm the very first time I tried it, with a newly-manufactured Schick clip and a vintage razor made around the time of WWII.
And the shave? See, here’s where it gets tricky. I’ll cut to the chase here — the Injector shaves like a freakin’ dream. I got such a wicked close, comfortable with it, on my very first try, that it’s almost 11PM and my face still looks and feels freshly shaven. It’s uncanny.
But that’s not the whole story. See, the Injector shaves so well, and so easily, that it almost takes the fun out of the wetshaving ritual. For someone who came of shaving age in the era of the disposable razor and then the multi-blade cartridge systems like Gillette’s Sensor and Mach3, the blade/handle geometry and the one-sided cutting edge are so much more familiar than the traditional DE razor and especially the cut throat. It took me weeks, months even, before I really became comfortable and adept with a DE, but it took me just five seconds to grok the Injector and get a fantastically good shave with it.
From time to time I read comments on the shavegeek boards from pinheads who complain that they can’t get a decent shave from an Injector. Listen, anyone who says he can’t get a good shave from an Injector doesn’t want to get a good shave from an Injector, because they want to stay true to the DE “cause” or whatever. The Injector is the easiest razor to get a superlative shave with I’ve ever come across.
And therein lies the problem. It’s easy. Maybe too easy. Unlike the DE, which even now requires my constant focus on what I’m doing, as well as a command of several other factors at all times, the Injector just shaves you. It mows down the whiskers like nobody’s business but it doesn’t feel like it’s doing much of anything, until you rub your face and it’s scary smooth.
If a straight razor is so cool because of its inherent difficulty and hence conferred He-Man status to those who master it (not me, not yet, maybe not ever), the Injector is its polar opposite. It’s so easy and so intuitive for anyone who’s ever used a modern disposable or cartridge razor that there really isn’t a learning curve to speak of at all. And if there’s no learning curve, there’s no mystique, which means no cult of geekly obsession. Just guys like Gordon who get great shaves, no big whoop.
So I don’t know what to do with this Injector. Frankly, I’m kind of disappointed that it worked so well the first time out of the chute. I was kind of hoping for another interesting learning curve, quite honestly, if for no other reason than to generate some usable blogfodder for you people. But that’s not going to happen. This thing works great, and I got a shave today as good as any of my super YMCA shaves (I did use some Nioxin hair conditioner on my face in the shower today, to soften my whiskers in lieu of workout sweat, and I lathered up with Taylor’s rose cream and my usual Vulfix silvertip #2235 brush) without even half trying.
I’m going to try this razor for a week, to see how I like it long-term compared to a DE. So far, it’s faster, easier, and less fun, and the shave is all that I ever wanted from a shave — exfoliatingly close, irritation-free, and no-brainer to the point that I could probably shave with my eyes closed if I wanted to.
Gordon was right. Again.