How Shaving Works

Electric Razor Design

Closeup of the foil of an electric razor.

So how did Schick develop his electric razor design? ­If yo­u actually try to shave with a pair of scissors, you quickly realize that it can not work (even with the tiniest pair of manicuring scissors). You are not able to get close enough to the skin with scissors. This is Schick's second area of innovation. In an electric razor, an incredibly thin, perforated piece of metal called the foil is what actually touches the skin. The hairs poke through the perforations in the metal and then are sliced off by a blade on the other side of the foil. The blades in an electric razor can either oscillate back and forth (as in Schick's original design) or they can spin (as in the Norelco design).

Having re-conceptualized the idea of shaving, Schick faced another problem. Electric motors in the 1920s had not yet been miniaturized to the point where they could fit in a hand-held device. Schick's first design had the motor (about the size of a grapefruit) in one case. It then connected to the shaving head with a flexible drive shaft. Looking back on it today, this design seems completely ridiculous. But there really was no other way to do it given the motors available at the time.


However, motors were shrinking and all Schick had to do was wait. In 1931 he released his first handheld electric shaver, complete with a small internal motor.