Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Talkin' Techs

I have now had the good fortune to use genuine Gillette Tech razors from three different eras, and one modern facsimile.

The actual Techs I've used are as follows:
  • Pre-WWII Tech head, c. 1938-1941
  • Post-WWII Tech with the ball-end handle, c.1946-1950
  • Travel Tech, 1965

The pre-war Tech head was made of brass -- both the top cap and base plate. Ditto the post-war version, and the Travel Tech had a brass base plate (or possibly steel -- I'm not sure which due to the plating)  and top cap of cast zamak (a zinc alloy, too often disparagingly, unfairly, referred to as pot metal, which it is not).

I also include a non-Gillete, non-vintage razor as a near Tech, which is the following:
  •  Rimei RM2003 - a modern Tech facsimile

The Rimei is chrome plated, and the substrates of the head and base plate are zamak and steel (I presume), respectively.

I've seen posts in various shaving forums incorrectly refer to other three-piece razors as "Techs" such as Lord or Merkur three-piece instruments. These are not Techs. They have cast baseplates, not the characteristic stamped steel. The Merkur and Lord razor heads also lack the top-cap corner tabs (which are discussed below). They also lack the characteristic Tech shaving character. Though in terms of shaving capacity, when compared to post-WWII Techs, they are similarly mild (the Merkur 33C Classic is slightly more mild and the Lord L.6 slightly less so), the Techs have a characteristic low-irritation quality that makes them a bit unique and, in my opinion, perferable to both the Merkur 33 and the Lord L.6. 

Techs are all razors of pretty mild shaving character, but that doesn't mean they're not capable of shaving baby smooth; they're just face friendly.

Tech design differences include the following:
  • The pre-war Tech base plate has two triangular lather slots per edge
  • The post-war and Travel Techs have base plates with two oval lather slots per edge
  • The Rimei has four oval lather slots per edge in its base plate
  • Both the early Techs have a center bar in the top cap, which help to align the blade, and corresponding slots in the baseplate
  • The '65 Tech has no center bar in the top cap, and relies only on the corner tabs to align the blade (and this works well)
  • The Rimei has no center bar in the top cap, and instead uses bullet posts to help align the blade
  • The Rimei base plate, though still sufficiently rigid, is stamped from thinner metal than the true Gillette Techs
  • All have handles different from each other

But they have their similarities too, as described below:

  • Corner tabs, which help align the blade, in the underside of the top cap
  • Diamond shaped indentation stamped into the base plates -- though they vary in size; the Rimei's is the smallest because of the presence of the bullet posts

If I were to rank the four in terms of relative aggressiveness (from most to least aggressive), I would put them in the following order:
  1. Pre-war Tech
  2. '65 Travel Tech
  3. Rimei
  4. '46-'50 Tech

The pre-war Tech with the triangular lather slots is clearly the more aggressive razor of this group. It was also, not surprisingly, the most likely to irritate my delicate dermis and cause minor wounds. The Travel Tech and the Rimei are very close in shave character, though I find the Rimei slightly less irritating, so by default I'm calling it a slightly milder shaver. The '48-'50 post-war Tech provides a lovely shave, with little damage done to sensitive skin, but still capable of providing a very close shave if one shaves with the best razor angle and makes sufficient passes (but it clearly isn't going to happen in a single pass or two :-).

I actually like all of these razors, but because my skin is so susceptible to injury, I would rank my order of preference this way:
  1. Rimei / '46-'50 Tech (I couldn't pick a consistent preference)
  2. '65 Travel Tech
  3. '38-'41 Tech
I have lately become so fond of the Tech shaving character, that in my bathroom cabinet, I currently only have two razor heads and one handle:

  • The c. 1946-1950 Tech razor head
  • A Rimei RM2003 razor head
  • The c. 1946-1950 Tech ball-end handle

So if you want a Tech shave for the least money (and have a factory-new instrument to boot), try the Rimei RM2003. If you want the real thing from Gillette, you'll have to go and search the used/collectible market, but be aware that the different models and eras do shave differently, though all within the same general ballpark.

Happy Tech shaving!


  1. I have two pre-war Tech tops in rotation with two heavier handles the ATT Atlas and the Weber Bulldog. I'm trying to determine which of the two handles I like the best. :)

  2. You can even choose between modern facsimiles, if you count the Baili Victory shaver. Aluminum baseplate, pot metal handle (but better finish on the handle than Rimei). Its top cap has the side facets of the later Techs, and I kinda like the toothy texture of its safety bars. I don't know if that indicates it was cast, or stamped in a molten state. Mixed bag for sure, but the top cap is nice, and interchangeable with the classic version, though slightly lower in profile.