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To all aspiring Razor Restorers... Scale Identification... (This thread is currently unpublishd

Smythe

Well-Known Member
As an apprising restorer or collector you should know with confidence the different vintage scale materials, Bakelite, Bone, Horn, Ivory, Metal, Tortoise, Wood and last but not least Celluloid. There are others but at this time these are the most recognized.

Celluloid is the wild card, by far the most common scale material, it will almost perfectly imitate any natural material (and it’s very easy to be fooled); however Celluloid has an unmistakable Camphor (moth balls) odor when rubbed, Comes in all the colors of the rainbow from black to transparent (like glass) or a mix of colors. It can be molded to any shape to imitate carving, and sometimes the molding is painted. Is often adorned with German-Silver bolsters on the ends, and/or Metal Inlayed with the manufacturer’s logo. Scales exist in One Piece, 2-Pin or 3-Pin varieties. Truly a most versatile material, however it has one disadvantage, as the material ages it slowly emit an acidic vapor, this vapor will attack the steel causing extensive pitting and rust and if left to continue will eventually render the blade a useless shard of pitted metal, some folks call this Celluloid Rot.

Bakelite, is one of the most common materials (second only to celluloid) usually black, has a formaldehyde odor when rubbed or polished, polishing cloth is stained red-brown. When old is very brittle, almost never seen as One-Piece or 3-Pin scales, never has bolsters, or inlay, polishes nicely, and almost always with white Celluloid wedge (apparently white bakelite does not exist).

Bone, Off-White (Bone-White or sometimes Creamy-White) wood grain texture, with dark “dots” scattered near the ends (once were blood vessels), no particular smell to speak of. To the untrained eye looks like Ivory. Will absorb “pigment” form substances like rust or oil which is next to impossible to remove. Polished nicely, when dry is brittle but can be made flexible again with oil or warm water.

Horn, Comes in many shades from Black to translucent and Blond, commonly seen with “worm nibbles”, Smells of burnt hair when rubbed or heated, when old and dry is extremely brittle but when properly treated with oils can be made flexible again, very few old razors have bolsters on the horn scales, some are “pressed” with the manufacturers mark. With the proper treatment will imitate Tortoise Shell.

Ivory, Creamy White with translucent grain, found on very old razors, very thin (and delicate) scales, polishes nicely, often has hairline cracks at the pins. Ivory differs from the celluloid imitation (Faux Ivory) in that: as the celluloid scales age, the “translucent” grain turns brown. Ivory is never “pressed” or molded like the Faux Ivory imitation, no particular smell.

Metal, rarely found though stainless steel scales are the most common, found on razors intended for surgical procedures because it can be disinfected by boiling which will damage other scale material, Aluminum, Stainless Steel and sometimes highly decorated Silver.

Tortoise shell, don’t know much about this but I am told it is just like translucent horn with darker (mottled) striping. Smells like burnt hair when rubbed or heated. The horn imitation, unlike genuine turtle shell (whose mottled stripes goes all the way through) is only surface coloring and can be removed when sanded or polished.

Wood, very old razor scales are made of wood, though today it is common for creative craftsmen to fashion some of the most beautiful scales to replace damaged ones on vintage razors, comes in all shades. Smell varies depending on the type of wood or no smell if sealed with certain finishes.

The odd scales
Hard Rubber, usually black and sometimes textured does not polish well. Smells like rubber when heated or rubbed.

Acrylic, fond on some newer vintage razors but not very popular, also found on some “not-recommended” Pakistani razors. However, today Acrylic will imitate almost any other natural material including those already imitated by celluloid. Has no particular smell, has a hard-to-the-touch texture, somewhat brittle.

PVC, yes this relatively modern material is also found on vintage razors, mostly cheep white scales, has a rubbery smell rubbed or heated, has a soft-to-the-touch texture, tends to “flake” or strip on the insides of the scales.
 
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