Posted by Matt on December 08, 2016
When we first started restoring safety razors in August of 2010, the initial aim was to bring back to life razors that needed mechanical and aesthetic revamping. The initial choices of metal finishes to offer closely reflected what Gillette had offered for their safety razors over the course of their 70+ year history.
One of the most prominent finishes that Gillette used was their electro-less nickel barrel plating. This is a quite common plating technique for hardware of all types - door handles, hinges, screws, and many metallic parts that need a protective corrosive-resistant layer that is easily applied in mass.
Gillette used this finish on all types of razors - from their Tech's to Super Speeds, Adjustables to Ball-End razors. It is a finish characterized by a duller / tumbled look to the metal with slight scratches / imperfections left in the underlying base (brass) metal. This is due to the parts tumbling inside of a large barrel while being immersed in a bath of plating solution. The electo-less nickel process is unique because the individual parts don't need to be "wired" but rather all parts get equal coverage or deposit simply by being immersed in the solution for a given amount of time.
Here are some photos of the Gillette Factory plating department from the late 1950's.
Recently we have tried to replicate a similar "Factory Finish" Nickel that Gillette used on most of their razors. Not only does it make some of these razors look closer to original spec., but it also does a great job masking pitting, corrosion, and other damage to the base metal that has occurred over the decades that can't be uniformly / safely removed with polishing, tumbling or blasting alone.
Here are some photos showing a standard Gillette $1.95 Adjustable "Fatboy" razor in a "before" and "after" state. These photos show how even major aesthetic imperfections can be lessened and overcome with proper surface preparation and application of a new plated finish.