There is a saying in marketing: “give away the razors and sell the blades”. The idea behind this adage is that once consumers have a razor they will need to buy blades over and over again – which is where the real revenue lies. And that example is not just metaphorical. For over 100 years, Gillette has dominated the shaving market by taking this very approach (that’s why purchasing a Gillette Fusion Razor is cheaper than buying a pack of blades). But while this concept helps business to make a lot of green, it does so at the expense of the consumer.
But one inventor believes he has devised a solution to the razor conundrum. His patent-pending invention (which has yet to be named) keeps blades sharper longer – meaning consumers won’t have to buy replacement blades as often. Celso Martell, a Montreal inventor and construction consultant, invented his new product because he disliked the business model that had him regularly shelling out dough for high-priced razor cartridges. Martell’s solution: a silicone pad with diagonal grooves. A person slides a used razor blade down the length of the pad a few times and the cutting edge is re-sharpened to ideal shaving condition. Martell even goes so far as to claim his invention can make an old blade “better than a new blade”. For a news story on Martell, the Montreal Gazette tested Martell’s prototype with a two-blade Gillette Sensor Excel and a five-blade Gillette Fusion and found both razors became noticeably sharper. The individual testing the Fusion blade even agreed with Martell: the blade felt better than a new one.
Oddly enough, Martell found inspiration for his invention in a somewhat unexpected place: the butcher shop. While not exactly the gentlest of cutters, Martell thought about how butchers sharpened their blades – running them along a steel rod. By replicating that diagonal motion, Martell believed modern-day razor blades could be honed and, hence, reused over and over (like butcher blades). After five years and $10,000 spent on development, Martell managed to create a device he believes accomplishes just that. Users can sharpen razor blades by simply running them up and down the diagonal groves in the silicone pad a couple times. Eventually, he hopes to sell the product for between $5 and $10 – about the same price as a couple replacement cartridges.
But while Martell’s invention seems promising, everyday inventors have been developing ways to keep razors sharp since, well, the invention of the household razor. Many of these inventions are not even physical objects like Martell’s pad, but rather “home remedies”. Some suggest the key to preserving razors lies in dry shaving (though that prospect tends to make a lot of guys cringe), while others say simply drying off a blade after use can extend its life exponentially. Another blade-extending idea involves preventing oxidation. People have employed a number of different methods to accomplish this – including storing blades in oil, soaking them in vodka, or covering them in Vaseline after use. Other notable alternatives to buying replacement blades: using an electric razor (initially expensive), getting an old-fashioned straight razor (which can be sharpened with a leather strap) or, the most effective solution, not shaving at all.
Despite all the razor-preservation notions out there, replacement blade cartridges are still being bought by the millions. And, as companies continue to fit more and more blades on a single cartridge, they continue to get more and more expensive. While his invention has yet to be manufactured and marketed, Martell claims his prototype has kept his Bic disposable razor sharp for two years. That’s two years without buying a single blade.