Volume 33 - Spring 2012


What Goes Around Comes Around...

A story of razor blades - by Jeanette Koch

Hanns Ferdinand used to shave every morning using in the main Gillette 'Platinum' and sometimes 'Silver' razor blades in his little safety hand razor. He used each blade only once, leaving them on the wash-basin for his exasperated wife to find and slip into the back of the little dispenser.

She later gave batches of these discarded blades to her own father. He did not particularly go for the stainless steel blades. When he gave up using a cut-throat he used an electric razor for shaving, and favoured the blue (i.e. ordinary steel) blades for use in his carpentry workshop. This was probably because they were slightly more flexible, were easy to break in two, and of course because he could resharpen them!

Later on she started giving them instead to her nephew every month or so, when visiting his mother, her sister. The nephew squirrelled them away and started using them himself during his early days at Cambridge, and, treating it as a sort of game, he tried to see how many shaves he could get out of each one. Fourteen shaves was about the average before they were too blunt. When he grew a beard, consumption dropped drastically and he then experimented with electric razors. Many years later, the nephew encountered his cousin, a bookbinder, and as he listened to her descriptions of how she pared leather, he decided to give her the rest of his old razor blade collection.

Hanns Ferdinand was my father who died in 1978, and it was a strange moment, only recently, to be in possession of his 'used once only' razor blades. A casual remark about how I buy hundreds of Turkish razor blades via Clive Farmer, produced this fascinating story that shows off little aspects of my barmy family: My father being fussy and, no doubt, laying down the law about being supplied with brand new blades. I don't suppose he was the one who bought them! My mother not wanting to throw them away (why not just bin them?) Grandpa certainly having a use for them, even if not in the available numbers, for his wood and varnishing. My cousin keen to economise (half Scottish, half Cheshire!) and see nothing go to waste, and also assure some workshop-type use. Ending up with me - with a creative alternative use and elegant outcome!

Jeanette Koch - graduated from Nottingham University in 1969 with a BA Hons Degree in French and Fine Art. After ten years in arts administration (Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, Sunderland Arts Centre, Theatre Quarterly Journal/International Theatre Institute, London) co-ran a phototypesetting and theatre programme publishing business in Covent Garden until 1992. Jeanette took up bookbinding as a second career in 1992.

- 1992-1995 Studied part-time at The City Literary Institute with Sally Lou Smith, Jenni Grey and Flora Ginn.
- 1996-98 Took private tuition with Romilly Saumarez Smith.
- Became a DB Licentiate in 2001.
- Secretary of DB (2007-2008)
- Serve on the Designer Bookbinders Executive Committee, and Editorial Board of 'The New Bookbinder' journal.
- Organiser of DB's International Bookbinding Competition 2009 and 2013
- Working for Fellowship under the mentorship of Flora Ginn and Glenn Bartley.
-Work in private collections in UK, USA and Germany, and in the Alec Taylor Collection housed at The British Library, London


Skin Deep - Volume 33 - Spring 2012

Download Skin Deep - Volume 33 in PDF Format