Thursday, May 24, 2007

Celluloid Rot

Some of you may have heard of celluloid rot, but never quite understood it... probably never saw what it looked like either. There might even be a few of you who knew of it, never saw what it looks like, and might not really understand it until it bites you.

To put it simply, celluloid rot is when the celluloid scales on your razor go south and the gasses emited from the breakdown of the composition causes the steel to rust quickly. It will even chew through light coats of oil to do its business. It's ugly and it can ruin a razor collection because it's basically contagious. That means that a razor with celluloid rot will stimulate the same process in the celluloid scales of your other razors that may be stored in the same box or container or whatever. *Addendum ~ that is what I had been told from other razor enthusiasts for many years. However, I think what is more likely is that the infected set of scales merely attacks the exposed steel of the other razors, especially if they are in a closed container together. So saying that it is contagious isn't all that wrong to say since the whole idea is to remove the infected razor before it damages the others in your collection.

I have noticed a couple of things. Black scales don't seem to ever get celluloid rot, and the ones that get it the most are the semi-transparent amber and orange colors. If any of you have had different experiences, please share them. I have found almost a perfect illustration of celluloid rot, as sad as it is, because I could have fixed this razor up really nice and added it to my site. Because of the "disease", it will be quarantined and be relegated to a life of experiments. Vile experiments.

The pic of this razor from the auction page is no longer available because it was quite a while ago. I forgot to copy it... my bad. There wasn't exactly a whole lot of info in the description, and the pictures the seller provided sure didn't show the detail I would like to have seen. I must admit that I might have missed the pattern of damage anyway, mainly because celluloid rot isn't running rampant through the razor population.

This first pic shows the razor closed. Notice that there isn't a whole lot of rust above the edge of the scales. This is one of the things to look for when trying to discover if the scales have rot, or not.

In this second pic you can see the areas of the blade that are affected by the gasses being emitted. Looking at the "stains", it's hard to tell that those are relatively rough areas well on their way to forming their own colony of pitting.

This third pic shows a little closer look at the damage. Can any of you spot anything different or similar about the pattern?

Picture 4 shows the detail on the other side of the blade. Look at the pattern closely and see if you spot what is going on.

OK, I will remove the mystery. Look at the areas I have circled in this last picture. Can you see the correlation between the colors and the rusting patterns? The white/yellow areas of the scales do not have the disease, whereas the orange shades have it bad.

Remember, the most prominent characteristic of celluloid rot is that the rust will be within the confines of the scales as opposed to the area exposed to air. The areas exposed to air usually would rust first. There will be a pop quiz on this subject at the end of the year, so remember it....


Blogger Lynx said...

Hello I was curios about regular rusting patterns on razors. I have a brand new German Solingen steel straight razor and have been using it for about 2 months now. I know little to nothing about straight razors and have been just running it on a strop regularly and trying to keep it as dry as possible, and up to this point have had no problems. Taking it out of it's case this morning there is now a fine line of rust along the blade. I assume that I left it wet the last time I used it or something. How can I recondition or fix my blade?Or is it terminal. I tried running it on the strop and then used it and it seems decidedly less sharp.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

If your razor is a new, it is most likely not celluloid. I'm not sure where the rust is located on your razor as you described it. I can't determine whether it's along the cutting edge or on the body of the blade. In either case, a good metal polish should have you up and running. Rest the cutting edge on a flat surface and don't use too much pressure because you could crack or chip the blade... and THAT would be terminal. If the razor is going to be stored, find an old razor box instead of the plastic one. These will absorb some moisture and help keep the rust at bay. Good stropping tecniques should have it shaving for you again. If not, then it may need to be honed. For a lot of information regarding this type of information, go to these web sites:

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Ranat1 said...

Wow that is interesting Bill. I will have to keep an eye out for that since I have RAD bad. I love the posts and would love to try the scale making techniques. I will be buying your CD shortly. Any chance you will make more razor safety jigs? I'd snap one up in a heartbeat. Also I would love an advanced CD that has not just the original CD but techniques for advanced honing, reapplying blade etchings, inlays in the scale and the blade, and hopefully blade grinding too? Pretty Please! I know I would pay a premium for a complete work like that.

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Tony said...

Hi Bill, I collect Ophthalmoscopes, an opticians instrument and these too contain celluloid parts, I have experienced celluloid rot which can really badly damage the ophthalmoscope body (which tend to be brass), the rot also permeates a strong smell of camphor and ammonia, the latter being what is causing the corrosion.
You might find that the black celluloid is actually ebonite which is often mistaken for celluloid but does not suffer from decomposition in the same way, it might also be that if it is black celluloid the carbon in it that gives the colour slows or prevents the rot.
When celluloid on an ophthalmoscope starts to get dark brown or distort I tend to replace it with modern look-a-like plastic, in my case most of the parts were simply hand cut from sheet so easy to make again - the right colour ivory PVC works well

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Josh said...

Hello Bill, I actually got in a Top Flight with white celluloid that had started to turn light yellow; then I noticed that musty vinegary smell. The blade was unaffected, but the scales were removed and trashed promptly. So, any of you out there with the white scales that are yellowing; keep an eye, or nose on em'. These scales looked to be in good condition until I noticed the smell.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous merkur safety razor said...

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2:45 AM  
Blogger scottie NATVMAN riggan said...

I had a row of picture razors stored in individual trays right next to some clear double ducks. 1 duck started disintegrating and took all the clear picture scaled blades with it. It was too late by the time I caught it and threw them in the trash can. A thousand bucks worth gone.

11:47 AM  

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