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Thread: Were wooden leather covered boxes used as SR coffins? Help?

  1. #1
    Senior Member ajkenne's Avatar
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    Default Were wooden leather covered boxes used as SR coffins? Help?

    Picked up a nice George Johnson recently on the bay, but really wanted it for the wooden box that came with it. It fit nicely nestled between velvet and silk. The question: is it real to the period?
    Have seen very few of these. Not much discussion in SRP. BTW a similar one with a Joseph Rodgers logo (but damaged) currently is up for sale now on eBay from Argentina.
    Is anyone familiar with this topic? Any references or advertisements that document the use of wooden leather covered boxes? I have seen similar DE razor boxes and similar jewelry display boxes but what about straight razors.
    Would appreciate any thoughts or comments in regard to exterior restoration. Want to keep most of its age/patina but will need to fix its binding. Help please!
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    Senior Member blabbermouth 10Pups's Avatar
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    I would think they had to have something to carry them in while traveling. Probably not much said about them because how would anybody know ? There were no ads or magazines so you would have to find a description in a collectors book or early literature.
    Good judgment comes from experience, and experience....well that comes from poor judgment.

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    Captain ARAD. Voidmonster's Avatar
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    Yes, decorated leather-wrapped boxes were definitely sold with razors. I have three or four of them in various states of not-quite-nice.

    I get my best photography done with sunlight through my office window, and it's currently pretty dark. Otherwise, I'd take pictures. That can wait until tomorrow. Until then, I'll tell you what I know.

    First of all, everything I know about their construction I know because I've repeatedly bugged Neil Miller about it.

    They're typically wrapped in very, very thin leather. You'll find references to it as 'Morocco leather' because most of it was historically made there, now it comes from all over the place and it's expensive. I tried Tandy Leather and turned up nothing, but then I had an epiphany and went digging through book-binding sites since that's a place where it's still regularly used. BINGO! Behold, Hollander's selection of goat leather. You'll quickly notice that the price, she is well up there on the mountain looking down on all those other prices which forgot to bring oxygen cylinders and Sherpas. That's because they won't sell you less than a full skin. The next thing to note is that the leather to match these old cases is what they're referring to as split. It's the more expensive option. Of course.

    It's entirely possible you might be able to find some cutoffs that will do the trick. Unfortunately, many of the old boxes used leather for the hinge too (like yours).

    Once you've got the leather you coat the box in a layer of something like this and you wet the leather and pull it taut over the box then tie it down with string and wait for it dry. From there you cut off the hanging part and glue another fitted piece over the rough edges.

    The interior stuff varied considerably. Some had a silk inner-liner with the maker's name stamped on it. Depending on how many razors they were to hold, some had a few wood tabs, some had fitted slots for the razors, some were lined with velvet or flocking. There was a lot of variation.

    Here's some of the ones I have accessible pictures of already:

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    The single-razor box thing seems to have been more a late 1800's, early 1900's kind of thing, but I do have a single-razor wooden coffin wrapped with tooled leather that came with my 1790's Greaves which appears to be original. It's very much like the paper coffins, just made with wood and leather.
    -Zak Jarvis. Writer. Artist. Bon vivant.

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    Senior Member blabbermouth rolodave's Avatar
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    That is an amazing collection. Thanks for sharing.
    If you don't care where you are, you are not lost.

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    I'm pretty sure that your razor predates that box by quite some time.

    There were leather covered boxes made in earlier times, but most of them were not in that shape. Some were very ornate, covered in shagreen and inlaid, but these are very rare - although a chap called Renzo Jardella (who collects them) has made a book about them and other razor-related things.

    Some boxes had provision for brushes, small hones, etc:

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    Rectangular boxed also go back quite a way, often with provision for a leather panel on one side for stropping:

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    In my opinion your razor would have been sold in a card coffin box, covered with thin paper and doped with a black finish, sometimes decorated with relief patterns, sometimes gilded, like the ones below:

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    Regards,
    Neil
    Last edited by Neil Miller; 12-07-2013 at 01:09 PM.

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    Senior Member ajkenne's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the good info. What I can surmise is that my wood case is very similar in design the Joseph Haywood set case posted by Voidmaster. Leather, tooling and button opening device are the same as mine and probably circa 1890 or so, maybe earlier. Thanks for the tips on the goat leather and glue for restoration. More expensive that I would have thought. Will rethink restoration as it is similar to estimates I have received from a US bookbinder. Will still need to get a goat leather strip to hinge case.... go figure!
    Agree with Niel that the original case to my G. Johnson which would predates this box was earlier and of card stock tooled paper. Beautiful pictures of a variety of wooden boxes that I was not aware of. I will be on the lookout for some like that. Thanks Neil.

    Found the following entry in razor DB but others state as early as 1850.

    JOSEPH HAYWOOD & CO
    Glamorgan Works, Pond Street, Sheffield
    In business in 1892

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    Captain ARAD. Voidmonster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajkenne View Post
    Thanks for all the good info. What I can surmise is that my wood case is very similar in design the Joseph Haywood set case posted by Voidmaster. Leather, tooling and button opening device are the same as mine and probably circa 1890 or so, maybe earlier. Thanks for the tips on the goat leather and glue for restoration. More expensive that I would have thought. Will rethink restoration as it is similar to estimates I have received from a US bookbinder. Will still need to get a goat leather strip to hinge case.... go figure!
    Agree with Niel that the original case to my G. Johnson which would predates this box was earlier and of card stock tooled paper. Beautiful pictures of a variety of wooden boxes that I was not aware of. I will be on the lookout for some like that. Thanks Neil.

    Found the following entry in razor DB but others state as early as 1850.

    JOSEPH HAYWOOD & CO
    Glamorgan Works, Pond Street, Sheffield
    In business in 1892
    Poke around your local directories and see if there are any bookbinders near you. There are a lot near me, and I really wouldn't have expected that. Get in touch with them, tell'em what you've got and what you want to do, they might have some small cut-offs that'll work for what you need with the hinge.

    And yes, Haywood goes back a ways. The earliest directory listing for him as a toolmaker is from 1845. The Glamorgan works dates to the early 1880's. My set is likely from around the same time, and was owned by a ship captain name of Cox whose home port was Plymouth, England (I haven't been able to track down more than that with any certainty).

    Here are the other boxes I've got.





    These two are very early English strop-boxes. In the first picture you can see the smaller one in its original leather sheath. The construction is very simple. The lid pivots on a nail, there's an angled piece of wood and a notch so that it will only pivot one direction. Both originally had a loop of cord or a ribbon to pull them out of the sheath, and both also originally had stropping leather on the top of the box. They're both from about 1810, give or take 5 years.

    The long, flat box below them in the first picture is the other type of strop box from roughly the same period, though that type (which Neil has a much better example of) was still made for a long time after. The main difference between the two types is that the flat box stores the razors laying flat and the narrow box keeps them spine-up.



    This is a later travel strop/razor case for a single razor. The little velvet drawer holds the razor and a small pot of strop paste and is stored under the wooden handle. This one most likely dates to 1840-1870.



    I got this old I.P. Cutts double razor case with a completely unrelated razor. The case is in bad shape, but was interesting enough that I didn't throw it out.



    The 'I' in this case is for John (it was an affectation some folks used at the time). Directory listings for him vary a bit and aren't wholly straight forward, but the box probably dates to the mid 1840's. The bottom had two tabs to keep the razor separated. The silk has been pretty chewed up, sadly. But the leather hinge on the box is still sound! Sounder than the box itself.





    Another old box that's seen better days. This was a much later piece, probably 1870-1880. Much more in the style of the earlier French 'necessaire' or travel kit. It had everything a gentleman needed to groom himself. The cutouts held two razors (of which I have only one), a button hook, tweezers, nail files, a scissors, and probably some other items of arcane toiletry practice. A book I was reading from 1810 insisted that a syringe was an everyday item for a gentleman's toilet -- this was before hypodermics, but the practice at the time was to squirt water into every conceivable opening of the body in an effort to get clean.
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    Senior Member ajkenne's Avatar
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    Sorry about the delayed response. You really have a nice collection of boxes. Having seen your photos, I do not intend to do anything radical with my boxes. Will add some black goat leather to fix its hinge and make it functional. Will try to clean it lightly, as well. But no major overhaul.

    This beauty came in the mail today. Only cleaned it up a bit and will leave it as is. These boxes are beautiful in their own right. Not sure if the razor came with it originally? The razor has a name "Asbach" scratched in script on the scale and the initials on the box appear to be "CCA" so maybe the razor and case did go together. The razor maker is Wetzel & Stephens , Cleveland Ohio. On the reverse tang is "The little old man". Can't find any information on that maker. Interesting that the razor is from Ohio and the box is similar in design to your The Clauss Shear Co. from Fremont Ohio. Maybe a competitor? Maybe these boxes were all made in Europe and imported to the US market, who knows?
    Have one more still in the mail and will post that when it arrives.
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    Last edited by ajkenne; 12-12-2013 at 02:14 AM. Reason: typo & dupe photos were confusing

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Nice box.

    I would imagine that boxes like that were made en-masse by others in much the same way as early daguerreotype, tintype, ambrotype, etc photo cases were made by factories for photographers, not by the photographers themselves.

    The same is true of the jewellery trade and many others.

    I would guess that if the box did belong to the razor then it could have had at least three four other owners. When originally bought there was probably a monogram or engraved escutchion surrounded by the decorative motif on the lid. The next owner could have signed the scales. By the time the third owner got it the box was becoming a little tatty, so he thought nothing of cutting the monogram out or pulling off the escutchion, then signing the bare wood. The next owner (or owners) either passed it down or sold it to you.

    FWIW a man referred to as Mr Wetzel owned a drug store on the north of Main Street, Freemont, Ohio in August 1876. That might be nothing to do with Wetzel & Stephens, but there could have been a partnersnip at some time. Probably just resellers rather than makers.

    Regards,
    Neil
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