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Thread: Prices of early 1800s razors when made

  1. #41
    Senior Member charlie48horlogerie's Avatar
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    Hello

    I have made some researches, as I want to write a book on the pre industrial razor French and English's razor (pre 1870)

    They were a cutler's economical war between this two nations, and the price of the razor was the key !

    As sheffield works kills in the egg almost all the will of european nation to manfuacture razor due to low cost and goodness of his razors, only one country remains : France (cocorico !
    it that was the scream of a rooster)...thanks to very heavy importation tax .

    French low grade razors were even cheaper than shefield's (about 1 silver franc) but in the first half of the 19th century, having a sheffield razor is just having a real tresor !



    A regluar grade razor worth one day of labor of a workman (no vacation and social security...) so it was quite expensive, but for the bourgeois the quality and the material choosen for the scales was the criterium of the razor's price : bone, horn, ivory, mother of pearl, and at the climax : tortle shell ! In the 1870 razros became affordable for evrey body due to the new way to produce quality steel (bessmer...) and solingen knock out sheffield to death !
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  3. #42
    Heat it and beat it Bruno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil Miller View Post
    Or the blister steel was used to make crucible steel (introduced in 1745 by Benjamin Huntsman in the UK and sold initially to the french market as Acier Fondu) a steel known as long ago as Medieval times in Asia, where it was called Wootz.
    Did it actually contain the trace elements needed to form the dendritic structures that would make it actual wootz, instead of generic crucible steel.
    Turning blister steel into crucible steel would make it better because of the carbon harmonization and removing some of the slag, so regardless of whether the dendritic structures form or not, it would be better steel. But I thought the techniques for making true wootz were lost until not too long ago, when the original source of ores dried up?
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  5. #43
    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruno View Post
    Did it actually contain the trace elements needed to form the dendritic structures that would make it actual wootz, instead of generic crucible steel.
    Turning blister steel into crucible steel would make it better because of the carbon harmonization and removing some of the slag, so regardless of whether the dendritic structures form or not, it would be better steel. But I thought the techniques for making true wootz were lost until not too long ago, when the original source of ores dried up?
    Bruno - I meant that the crucible process had been used in ancient times in Southern India and Ceylon, and that Huntsman did not discover the process, but rather rediscovered or resurrected it in a simpler form that made quality crucible steel that was different to wootz in minor respects.

    Wootz is a crucible steel, as we know. From what I have gathered (remember - you are the one experienced in steel, not me) there were two methods, one involving a sealed crucible and magnetite, another using wrought iron, and carbon content in various forms such as leaves, twigs etc. It was introduced to Damascus by the Arabs who made arms and other things from it, they imported it in the shape that it came out of the crucible - 'cakes' and reheated and monkeyed around with it to produce superlative steel - true (Indian) Damascus or Damscene steel, not pattern welded steel.

    It was made up to the end of the 17th century, then something happened - the quality fell off. It was still a fine steel, but not quite as good as before. It was also produced (and replicated) in the 18th century - Faraday's friend James Stodart (1760 - 1823) the notable master cutler and surgical instrument maker adopted the indian spelling of wootz as his mark:

    Name:  stodart wootz mark.jpg
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    (ignore the initials above the mark - these indicated the alloying agents when Faraday and Stodart did their experiment on allying various agents with steel).

    Wootz or 'Indian Steel' was quite freely available in Stodarts time. The origin of 'Fine India Steel' razors owe their origin to this fact and just as the first silver steel razors contained silver (thanks once again to Faraday and Stodart) the original fine india steel razors were made from india steel, in both cases the razors steel reverted back to more normal steels, and no longer contained either silver or indian steel. Stodart and Faraday incidentally, got the alloying agents for wootz wrong, assuming that the traces of silica and aluminium they had found in an indian sample were the only things necessary. In fact wootz turned out to be a high carbon (1.5 per cent carbon on average, but as high as 2 percent) steel with varying amounts of impurities and trace elements. Actual sampls from true wootz blades and ingots (cakes) were studied by Verhoevan and others to garner this information. Iron Carbide aka cementite was responsible for forming the characteristic banding paterns of true wootz/damascus steel. Other elements were also found in old samples, such as Vanadium, Molybdenum, Silica, Aluminium, Phosphorus, Nickel etc. Each sample had differing amounts of elements in it, because the cakes were made in a multitude of places by many smiths. The patterns were different and it was found that Vanadium, Molybdenum, Chromium, Manganese and Niobium were necessary to augment the cementite into band formations.

    The question remains - why did wootz deteriorate and fall out of use? A combination of two causal elements combined is the probable (no one knows the answer - that is a fact, all answers are really suppositions). The first is that the ore, which had some essential element in it, was depleted or as it was worked the element became less and less infused in the ore. The second is that the Indian steel masters kept the secret of making it to themselves, passing it on only to their apprentices. As demand grew less and less, they simply stopped making it and in a generation or two the secret, which had not been passed on, was lost.

    We do not know the heating periods, the tempering processes, the cooling times and how it was cooled and other things essential to the process, even though very many travellers witnessed the metal being made in the subcontinent in the mid 1700s and earlier.

    There may well have been other, socio-economic-polital issues that sealed its fate, too. For instance Sir Richard Burton found operating wootz furnaces in India in 1866, and alludes to the fact that the British had banned the trade following the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

    So the only thing I can say is that it was freely available in Huntsman's time, so the Art of making it was not lost at that time, or rather it was a closely kept secret of the Indian steelmasters, but still made and exported, as indeed it was exported all over the world.

    Although the British East India had been trying to trade effectively there in the 1600s, it was not until the 1700s that the British came to power in India. British armies appeared, and whole areas were given over to growing 'cash crops' like tea and cotton, and more land was seized for irrigation purposes, leaving the local people to suffer from lack of food, money and employment. Things like this could have added another reason for the decline in some trades and practices.

    Regards,
    Neil
    Last edited by Neil Miller; 04-20-2015 at 04:44 PM.

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