One of the favorite book in our library is George Lowell Austin’s “Austin’s Indispensable Handbook and General Educator”. It was a gift from my wife’s great grandparents after we admired it early in our marriage.
Published by G. Stinson & Company in 1850, the book has 719 pages of wisdom and instruction covering topics from handling a mad dog to investing in what we’d call a ponzi scheme today.
Although the binding has almost failed, I still carefully turn its pages regularly looking for recipes and information topical to society in America in the late 1800’s to help me better understand the lives of my ancestors.
Smarting from the price of a new set of replacement razor refills after a recent foray into the isles of a local shopping club, I wondered If it was time to invest in a good straight razor, strap and shaving mug like those my father used during my youth. I don’t recall him using anything other than the multi-strap leather blade strap to sharpen his razor over the years, but then, it could have been that I simply didn’t notice him using another method when the bevel of the blade wore more down to the square than to the long slope of a properly sharpened razor.
Planning the purchase required research. I could call someone in a high end styling shop who might have ideas about the right models of equipment to buy but would they have the instructions for maintaining it for a lifetime of use like the tools enjoyed in the service of my father?
Enter “Austin’s Indispensable handbook and General Educator” A search through the “Toilet Department” section of the book resulted in almost 100 recipes for scents, oils, ointments, and maintenance options, the last of which is a paste for sharpening razors.
Paste For Sharpening Razors
First procure oxide of iron (by adding carbonate of soda to a solution of persulphate of iron), wash he precipitate and finally leave it of the consistence of cream. Spread some of the paste on soft paper very thinly with a soft brush; cut the paper in pieces two inches square, dry and use for shaving papers.
And there it is …. a recipe to give a fine edge to a razor. I’m not sure I’ll find the elements of the recipe easily today, but that may be because I don’t know what to look for or where to find them. For all I know, they may be commonly found on the shelf at any drug store.. We’ll see how the quest goes. It should be a fun excursion and will undoubted create more than one interesting conversation with store personnel.
In the end, I’ll have a few more tools that work when the power goes out and maybe I’ll even learn and experience a little from the styling life of my grandfathers.