Two years since Kickstarter and getting genuine Gillette parts

It's been exactly two years since the Ockham Razor project launched on Kickstarter.

If you know Kickstarter you'll understand that the start of a campaign is far from the start of the process. This time two years ago I already had a fully-speced razor design (thanks to Nick and Bec!), prototypes, photos, a video, and a manufacturer lined up, but the future was far from certain.

Being my first crowdfunding campaign I really had no idea what to expect. Of course I dreamt that I would raise the money and quickly take over the world with the most beautiful cartridge razor ever made. But at the same time I was extremely nervous that the campaign would fail and the Ockham Razor would never get off the drawing board. 

First Ockham Razor Prototype

This was the very first prototype of what was to become the Ockham Razor. I made it by hacking the end of a Gillette razor and gluing it to a piece of aluminium. If the campaign had failed it would probably have remained the only one in the world and I might even still be using it today.

But the campaign succeeded, thanks to the 570 people who backed my idea and everyone who supported us and spread the word about the Ockham Razor.

What now?

I manufactured a second batch of razors recently and they are now available for anyone to buy via the Ockham Razor website. They're also available in a very cool shop in central London, Beast and will soon also be available in other places.

Genuine Gillette parts

An early design decision was to make the razor compatible with standard Gillette Mach 3 blades. These blades are very well-regarded and provide a tried-and-tested close, comfortable shave. And you can buy them anywhere in the world.

The Ockham Razor handle was, and still is, made by us in England. The only other part in the razor is the small plastic assembly that fits in the end where the razor cartridge clips into.

Initially I found a supplier in China for these parts, but dealing with China had it's issues and it made things rather difficult at times.

Genuine Gillette parts

However, the latest batch of razors is now made with genuine Gillette parts which is really exciting news!

I'd been trying to find a more dependable supplier for the parts for a while, and then late last year I met some guys from Gillette at an event. We were talking and it turned out they had already been thinking about supplying small start-ups like the Ockham Razor Company with parts. One of them even said "hey, you're the Ockham Razor guy!" which was rather nice.

Anyway, it took a while to get the deal signed off, but I'm thrilled to know that the cartridge mechanism is of the best possible quality.

The future

Thanks again to everyone who backed the Kickstarter campaign two years ago and all of you who have bought a razor since. It's so great to hear feedback from people who enjoy using the razor and it makes all the hard work worth it.

I still have plans for more products like a brush, a holder and perhaps a razor cover, so keep an eye out for future updates!

All the best,

Rob.

Classic metal and Travel razors are back!

It's been a while coming but the exciting news is that both the Classic Edition metal razor and the lightweight 3D printed Travel Edition razor are now back in stock!

The metal razor handles are still cast in solid metal here in England. The only change is that we have a new supplier for the plastic part on the end which clips into the Mach3 blades. (More news on that to follow.) 

Thanks to everyone who has been in touch to ask about availablity and for your support and patience. 

And finally, if you're in the UK, look about for the Ockham Razor in GQ over the next couple of months!

Bye for now.

Moving over to Indiegogo

As you've probably seen, we are now taking pre-orders for the Ockham Razor on Indiegogo. We've also launched our new Travel Edition on there.

Why Indiegogo now?

Earlier in the year we raised our initial funding to make the first ever batch of Ockham Razors on Kickstarter. Since then we have been working hard to start making razors for all our lovely backers.

Now that we're confident of our manufacturing process we are able to open up pre-orders to anyone who missed the Kickstarter campaign. Once a Kickstarter campaign ends, there's no way to carry on taking orders, but on Indiegogo there is, and now they've opened up that option even to campaigns that were originally funded on other platforms.

When you visit our Indiegogo page it kind of looks like we've started all over again, and I had a couple of people congratulate us on raising another £25,000 in a few days.

That would of course have been lovely, but it's not the case. The number displayed is a cumulative total combining our initial Kickstarter campaign and our recent Indiegogo pre-orders.

I just wanted to clear that up because I know it confused me at first!

So if you want to make sure you get an Ockham Razor in time for Christmas, head on over to Indiegogo, and share it with your friends! And if you haven't seen the new Travel Edition yet, definitely go and have a look. Did I mention that it's the lightest reusable razor in the world?

Finished tooling and first-off samples

This morning I was the first person in the world to shave with a die-cast metal Ockham Razor!

It's a really exciting time as the tooling has been finished and we've not got real metal razors from it.

I'm particularly pleased with the Ockham logo on the end of the handle. One thing you may notice is that we have inverted the 'O' where originally we had it raised from the end of the handle. We have made this change so that the end of the handle is more robust and if you store the razor in a pot there will be less risk of wear.


These pictures are of raw castings so there's still a bit of work to tweak some of the dimensions. There is also the coating process which we need to perform so we'll share news and pictures of that as we have more.

Packaging

As the manufacturing of the Ockham Razor itself continues, we have just received the final production boxes.

As with the razor, we wanted to make the packaging in the UK, and we couldn't be more pleased with the results. Thanks must go to Saxon Packaging whose help and support has been superb.

It has always been important for the project that the packaging for the razor reflects our design philosophy.

Most razor packaging is made out of multiple bits of plastic and card. The plastic itself may well be recyclable but the packaging is almost never dissasembled to enable that. Therefore, the Ockham Razor packaging contains no plastic and is made from one piece of folded cardboard and we encourage people to reuse it or recycle it.

If you missed us on Kickstarter and want to make sure you're the first to know when we start selling the Ockham Razor on our website, sign up for updates here: www.ockhamrazorcompany.com

After Kickstarter - the next chapter

We did it! Thanks to Kickstarter and 570 backers we raised the money to start manufacturing the Ockham Razor.

It feels great. We obviously love the Ockham Razor and have always believed in it, and to know that so many other people do too is amazing. It makes it all the more exciting that we are now entering the production phase.

It was an emotional month and a lot of hard work, but there's no time to rest. The first big task we need to do is get the ball rolling with the tooling. As soon as the money comes in from Kickstarter the order for that will be placed.

I'll take a visit to the suppliers over the coming weeks and will keep you updated with progress.

Keep an eye on our Kickstarter page too:

kickstarter.com/projects/robhallifax/the-ockham-razor-a-simple-beautiful-razor

Bye for now...

Meet William

I know what you're thinking. "Wow, William has such a smooth face - how does he keep himself looking so sharp?"

Or maybe you're thinking: "LEGO really need to sort the scale of their accessories out."

Those things aside, William is the proud owner of the world's smallest razor. And not any old razor - a special edition mini Ockham Razor.

William helps out at the Ockham Razor Company. He's a valuable member of the team because he can get really up close to the razors to check the finishes for quality. He's a joy to work with because he quite literally always has a smile on his face.

William likes to take pride in his appearance, but he thought that regular razors weren't cool. Despite the irony, which didn't escape him, he hated the plastic razors he could buy in his local shop. So he was delighted when the Ockham Razor came along.

William is elated with his mini Ockham Razor and his love of shaving has been revived, not least because shaving cream lasts him ages.

We've got less than a week to go now on Kickstarter. Over 400 wonderful backers have pledged for Ockham Razors and we're so very close to hitting our target.

If you haven't visited our Kickstarter page yet then please do have a look. Click below to check it out.

If you know all about the Ockham Razor on Kickstarter already, then please take a moment to spread the word and make sure we can turn our project into reality.

You can share this blog by clicking on 'Share' below, or you can share our Kickstarter page directly with these quick links:

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Hopefully William is going to have a busy few months ahead of him...

Shaving with a brush

I've obviously been speaking to a lot of people about shaving recently. When it comes to wet shaving, the razor itself is only half the story. I've used a shaving brush and soap now for many years, but it seems that lots of people still use a can of shaving cream.

There's plenty of information out there about wet shaving and the benefits of using a brush. I won't go into it in detail here, but if you don't do it, you should at least try it.

In short, lathering up your face with a brush before shaving is great. It helps prepare your skin for your shave, it feels nice, it's cheaper, and it's what James Bond does.

It can be overwhelming and even intimidating shopping for a shaving brush. People will try to persuade you that only the bristles from the left-handed, vegan badgers of Inner Mongolia give a worthy shave. Whilst dropping over £100 on a shaving brush will undoubtedly give you a lovely shaving experience, it's not necessary if you just want to find out what you're missing.

As with lots of things you can buy, such as watches and stereo equipment, with a shaving brush you very quickly start to experience diminishing returns.

Here's a completely made-up graph to illustrate my point.

Basically, even a cheap brush and shaving soap will be significantly more enjoyable to use than a brightly coloured can of pressurized propolene glycol and triethanolamine.

In your local supermarket you'll probably find some options like these (not the razor yet). This brush and shaving cream will together set you back less than £6 ($10).

Plenty of nicer creams can be had for not too much more.

So my point is, that although you'll probably want to upgrade your shaving brush and soap at some point, you don't need to start with the expensive stuff.

Try it - you might like it.

Amateur Social Media Marketing. Part 2

So we're almost two weeks into a Kickstarter campaign for my Ockham Razor and, needless to say, I’ve been spending more time on social media than I usually do. If the numbers are anything to go by, my Ockham Razor persona is far more popular than the real me.

I still don’t feel much closer to understanding the dynamics of social media though. It’s a funny old world, where a lot of people seem to have too much time on their hands. Or they get a robot to tweet for them, and then it all becomes a bit surreal. Even Stephen Fry has planned for his Twitter presence to continue during his voluntary sabbatical from the service.


As I pointed out last time, there isn’t necessarily a correlation between getting fans and followers on social media and Kickstarter success. And as I also noticed, Facebook seems to drive more traffic than Twitter. Twitter is so easy though, and you can make tweets automatically show up in your Facebook feed. However, the lazy option is rarely the best, and I don’t think Twitter is an exception.

Going Viral

I think a lot of people have an over-inflated sense of the power of internet. Ridiculous ‘stories’, like the debate over the colour of a dress, 'go viral’ and it feels like everyone can have their minute of internet fame. But this is a poor reflection of reality and an example of a cognitive error caused by survivorship bias.

I recently had the opportunity to observe, in real time, the underwhelming impotence of Twitter. A lady called Kath tweeted at will.i.am during the final of TV talent show, the Voice. He re-tweeted it, which is kind of cool because he has 13.1 million followers. That’s the stuff social media dreams are made of isn’t it? After half an hour or so it had been re-tweeted 18 times and been favourited 100 times. Those numbers haven’t changed since. Kath had 63 followers at the time of tweeting. She now has 71.

In short, pretty much nothing happened. The internet in general, and social media in particular, is very ephemeral. It’s hard to make a noticeable and lasting ripple.

Strategy

So to get the word out about my Kickstarter campaign I’ve decided not to put too much energy into  trying to make my own ripples. (Except within my own immediate and existing pond of friends, who have been inundated with spammy waves of Kickstarter-related updates.) Rather, I’ve tried to get onto the radar of the captains of much larger vessels (how much further can this metaphor go?).

Instead of tweeting and updating Facebook every ten minutes to my handful of followers, I am spending time messaging bloggers and websites that cover men’s style, products, and design. This is a laborious process because it takes a while to research each individual or publication to make sure I target my pitch as best I can. I don’t think a big group email would get me very far. I also hope that there is a sort of gearing effect whereby smaller blogs can be easier to approach, but potentially punch above their weight in terms of influence in a certain sphere. Pitching to the New York Times straight off the bat seems unlikely to be successful.

After some initial features in smaller blogs, and even my local paper, my approach yielded some larger fruit and I got very lucky. Last Thursday the Ockham Razor was featured on uncrate.com. That had a significant effect as clearly seen here.

Daily backers via Kicktraq.com

Daily backers via Kicktraq.com

The day after that, we became a 'Staff Pick’ on Kickstarter and the daily backers have been quite steady since then.

Keep pushing

The first couple of weeks seem to have gone OK with my Kickstarter project, although I have no frame of reference having never done it before. We’re very far from home and dry though. This could be an uncomfortable read in a month’s time.

Social media has definitely helped to spread the word about the Ockham Razor, but I don’t think my own social media efforts have directly lead to many new backers. If a man tweets in the woods and nobody reads it, does it have any affect?

One thing about the internet I know for sure though, is that any idiot can say whatever they want and publish it online. Q.E.D.

We have lift off!

Today we launched the Ockham Razor on Kickstarter.

It's been a whirlwind up to the launch. So many emotions: excitement, nervousness, fear, exhilaration.

There have been way more things to think about than I ever imagined. I've definitely over-thought some of them, like when exactly is the best time to launch.

I settled on today, Wednesday, 15th April, 13:05. Primarily it's mid-week, mid-month and I wanted to wait until Easter was out of the way. The timing should be good for Europe and the east coast of the US, and people should still be up in Sydney. By definition, a Kickstarter campaign finishes at the same time of day as it starts, so the logic is equally important for those people making last-minute pledges.

And if it comes down to last minutes, then I'm hoping our backers will have an extra five over other campaigns that might coincidentally be ending at the same hour. Or would they have thought of that? Should I make it ten past? Or would they have thought of that too? Over-thinking.

If you're new here, you might like to read my post over on The Manliness Kit which gives a good account of why I did all this.

Anyway, it's been a fun and challenging few weeks and months, and it's not going to let up now. I'll keep this short because I have work to do.

See you on the other side, wherever that may be...  


Social Media Marketing Part 1 (no one can accuse me of link baiting)

Less than a week away from a Kickstarter launch, social media marketing is on my mind.

It’s all anyone really talks about when you’re trying to raise awareness for a new product. Gone are the days when you would post a printed press release to the local newspaper .1

Online media is obviously a natural place to publicise an online product launch. Not least because there’s an immediate and actionable message to convey: ‘Click here to back my product. Right now.’ Conversely, how often have you seen something interesting in a magazine, made a mental note to follow it up, and then never have?

The beauty of the internet is that you can probably find a blogger, who despite having a tiny fraction of the readership of more traditional media, writes about exactly the kind of thing you’re selling, and you therefore have a massively greater chance of reaching people who give a shit about what you’re doing.

Build a following!

Get Twitter followers they said. It’s all about likes on Facebook. Easy, right?

It’s damn hard work if you ask me. Maybe I don’t have a natural affinity to social media in the way some people do. The dynamics of it all truly baffle me sometimes. Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to have normally-developed thumbs.

I got my first email address in 1998 just before I went to university when Mark Zuckerberg was 14 years old. When I got to university my department had a 'computer room’ and the only people who had computers at home were computer science students. I was in my mid twenties before Facebook, and then Twitter, came along.

I’m not trying to make excuses. Just saying…

Kickstarter

So when it comes to publicizing a Kickstarter campaign, it seems obvious that social media is a big deal.

Before diving in and aimlessly trying to build up a following for my Ockham Razor I thought I’d look at what others had done. I wanted to look into the correlation between measurable social media variables and Kickstarter success.

I decided to look at the top 20 grossing Kickstarter campaigns and their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followings. These 20 projects raised an average of $2.3 from an average of 15,000 backers. 2 

Observations

Interestingly, I couldn’t even find social media accounts for some of these multimillion-raising projects. For one of them I couldn’t find a Twitter account; for three, no Facebook page and for almost half I couldn’t find an Instagram account. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough: let me know if you can find something forBibliotheca for example, who raised $1.4 million last year. 

I also noticed that some campaigns had relatively established companies behind them, and therefore existing fans. Lomography for example has two projects in the top 20 so I thought the data might be a bit skewed for them and not so relevant to me.

I’m not going to go crazy with graphs, but here’s one showing the number of Kickstarter backers vs Twitter followers. (I removed the two Lomograph projects, and another couple of outliers to make the scale clearer.)

I haven’t done any proper statistical analysis on my data but that certainly doesn’t look like a positive correlation to me. Facebook likes had a similar scatter and Instagram looked even more like a negative correlation.

So what’s going on here then? Is this saying that social media is irrelevant if you want to do well on Kickstarter?

Firstly, 20 is not a great sample size so I should be careful not to read to much into this data. Ignoring correlations with Kickstarter, there were some other interesting insights such as the fact that the average number of Facebook likes was ten times the average number of Twitter followers.

This favouring of Facebook is in line with something else I’ve noticed anecdotally. When looking at design and style blogs as I’ve been doing my research, I often see that articles are shared on Facebook a lot more than on Twitter. This may just be the kind of websites I’ve been visiting but they are my target audience so I should probably pay attention to that.

Generally, it does feel that Facebook is a more 'deliberate’ place to be and that interest and engagement is likely to be better. There seems to be a lot more noise on Twitter and therefore less chance of being heard. It seems full of 'online marketing experts’ with 18.2k followers, who almost certainly won’t help your cause.

Another point is that people can share your content without necessarily following or liking you.

So, what now?

If I can take anything away from my armchair statistical analysis it is perhaps that I should make more effort with Facebook over Twitter. Although reaching out to key influential bloggers directly is probably more rewarding than both of those.

Getting President Obama, Justin Bieber and Stephen Fry to tweet about your product will probably help, but if the product is rubbish you’ll eventually sink. If you build something great you have a much better chance of success. Take Kraftwerk for example who raised over $1.5 million dollars and they still only have 220 Twitter followers. Maybe people are just getting mixed up with the other Kraftwerk.

The internet has profoundly opened up opportunities for innovation. However, the recipe for success must still come down to making something that people want and telling people about it. Social media can help with the second half of that, but it’s not magic.

I will end it here and, for a moment, overcome my English sensibilities about self-publicity.

Visit the Ockham Razor website!

Like us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter!

(in that order)

Or, even better, if you’re an award-winning men’s style journalist, please do get in touch.

 

 

Notes

1 Do look out for a piece on the Ockham Razor in the Islington Gazette next week though!

2 In hindsight it might have been more interesting to look at less well funded successful projects rather than those who raise millions, but I think this data is still interesting. It’s also worth noting that I only looked at present-day social media stats rather than historical data that aligns with the running of the Kickstarter campaign, but again I think these still provide some insight.

Ockham Village

A long, long time ago, a boy called William was born in the small English village of Ockham. Nearby, a butterfly flapped its wings.

A little over 700 years later I'm blogging about him and his birthplace. I wonder what he'd make of that.

Last weekend I headed to Ockham, which is in the county of Surrey a little way south of London. I was was on the trail of our eponymous hero.

Here I am

Here I am

I'd never been to Ockham before and I wanted to see what it was like. We make no claim to be a heritage brand, but I've always been an armchair fan (I'm not sure what the next step would be) of philosophy with a genuine affinity for the principle of Ockham's razor, which I've written about before.

So I was keen to visit the village.

Getting my bearings

Getting my bearings

Ockham is certainly a small place. The focal point is a small triangular village green with a stone war memorial, wooden bench and a map of the local footpaths.

In memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War

In memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War

If you've never visited a pretty English village, Ockham would be a good place to start. It was very peaceful, and reminiscent of many small communities up and down the country. In William's day I imagine it was a significant horse-ride away from the nearest market town, but today of course cars pass through at the prescribed 30 miles an hour.

There was a chill in the air as I wondered through the village, but signs of spring were appearing. I couldn't resist the chance to juxtapose the Ockham Razor in a shady glade with the year's first snowdrops.

Idyllic

Idyllic

The Ockham Razor in its natural habitat

The Ockham Razor in its natural habitat

As a traveller passing through an English village, I felt duty-bound to patronise the local pub. Past the football and cricket club, just over a mile heading east from the centre of Ockham, sits the Black Swan. if you've never visited an English village pub then you couldn't do much better than the Black Swan. Bigger inside than I'd expected and a lovely place to which I'd like to return in the summer.

A quick pint and I was ready to continue my journey. I had a train back to London to catch.

A well-earned pint

A well-earned pint

William of Ockham and I would have had a lot to talk about over a pint of local ale. I'm sure he'd be fascinated by 3D printing and crowdfunding. I'd need to brush up on my Latin perhaps.

I wonder what he'd think of our Ockham Razor? If historical depictions of him are anything to go by he was man of variable facial hirsuteness so I like to think he'd have liked it.

 

Old school manufacturing

I talked last time about how we've been using 3D printing to help us move quickly on development and prototyping of our razor. Doing anything well depends on using the right tool for the job. When it comes to making our final product in large numbers we have chosen a much more traditional technique.

Precision die casting

Our production razors will be die cast in zinc. This is a process that hasn't changed significantly for many years. In principle it's a straightforward process that involves melting down zinc and forcing it into moulds to produce our razor handle. Of course in practice it's complicated because you have to design the flow paths, make sure the metal flows properly into all the parts of the mould and that the temperatures are controlled precisely enough to allow that to happen. 

Loading the furnace

Loading the furnace

In terms of the finished product, what this gives us is a strong, well-balanced metal handle to which we can fit the small mechanism which connects to replaceable razor heads. This simple construction, with a one-piece solid handle, is key to the integrity of our design.

Zinc ready to be melted down.

Zinc ready to be melted down.

So zinc gives a finished product with the attributes we require. It also has other advantages. When compared with casting aluminium, for example, it has a lower melting temperature which means the tools are stressed less and therefore last longer. A great benefit of casting in general is that the process produces no material waste. Any scrapped or leftover metal is simply put back in the furnace to be melted down and reused.

Made in England

We have been working closely with our supplier for the die cast parts. Being able to visit the factory and get to know the people working there is great. Their expertise and help has really helped our development process so far and as we move things forward it's comforting to know that we can take on any potential project challenges together.

Part of the die casting team

Part of the die casting team

It also feels good to be close to the industrious heritage of Britain. The die casters we're working with are based in a part of the English Midlands known as the Black Country. This was an area which played a significant part during the industrial revolution and has an illustrious history. Incidentally, the factory is just up the road from the first automatic traffic lights in Britain.

Scale

Die casting is a relatively high-volume production process. The tooling into which the molten metal is pushed is machined from steel and will be reused many times. This means that, compared with something like 3D printing, the upfront costs are higher, but ongoing unit costs are lower.

We strongly believe that good design needn't be prohibitively expensive. This is why we are choosing this method of manufacturing for the Ockham Razor and why we need to raise initial funding to pay for the mould tools. With support from crowdfunding we can ensure that the final cost of the product makes the Ockham Razor accessible to everyone.

At every stage of the development process we have done our best to choose the most appropriate tools for the job. 3D printing and die casting are just means towards the end. And that end, we hope, is a beautiful razor that you will cherish.

The real 3D printing revolution will not be televised

Everyone's heard of 3D printing these days. There probably hasn't been a Wired issue for about five years that doesn't mention it. A lot of publicity goes to the quirky products and art projects that use 3D printing and if I'm being cynical I would suggest that some people use 3D printing just as a way to make their projects seem more interesting.

I'm glad people have crazy ideas and do silly things with it, but for me the incredible power of 3D printing goes way deeper than that. As I've now experienced first hand, 3D printing has become an indispensable tool in the armoury of makers. Without it, the Ockham Razor Company may never have got off the back of the proverbial napkin.

The basics

3D printing has become a catch-all term for all sorts of processes that produce three-dimensional objects from various standardized raw materials such as plastic, metal or even chocolate. However, the term 3D printing was originally specific to the technique of depositing layer upon layer of solid material, in the way an inkjet printer puts down ink, to create a 3D object.

MakerBot Replicator

MakerBot Replicator

Perhaps the most familiar image we have of 3D printing is of hot plastic being squirted from a nozzle by a machine like a MakerBot which is using the technology of fused deposition modelling. For now though, I'll stick with using the term 3D printing in its broadest sense.

Compared with more traditional manufacturing techniques, 3D printing typically has lower set-up costs and faster turnarounds. Take moulded plastic for example - something we're all familiar with in the form of LEGO bricks or toy soldiers. These are made in enormous quantities and although it costs thousands of dollars to set up the machines to make each part, that works out quite well when you're making millions of the same LEGO brick. And since plastic is cheap it ends up costing almost nothing to make each LEGO brick. To make a one-off LEGO brick in the same way would cost thousands of dollars.

By contrast, if for whatever reason you wanted to make a unique piece of LEGO then to 3D print it would cost, say, a dollar. If you wanted to make a million of your newly-designed LEGO bricks like that, it would cost you a million dollars. You get the point.

Almost ten years ago, when I first came across 3D printing in a professional sense, we created parts to test the design of small components and in some cases we would make custom parts for users which special requirements. The material used was ABS plastic (which is what LEGO bricks are made from) so it's pretty tough stuff.

So although these techniques were initially associated with industrial rapid prototyping they are increasingly being used to make finished products. In high-end manufacturing 3D printing is becoming a viable way of making complex, critical components. The world of medicine too has seen plenty of inspirational applications of 3D printing because every patient is different and it's a great way of making parts to fit exactly for a particular individual, be it a hearing aid or a prosthetic limb.

3D printed razor

For our project we have used fused deposition modelling to make plastic prototype razors. The material we've been using is PLA, a bioplastic made from renewable resources which is a great way to try and reduce the environmental impact of prototyping.

Prototype razor

Prototype razor

We would have really struggled without the ability to make prototypes in this way. It's very hard to appreciate what something is going to be like by looking at a computer screen and, although our razor is a relatively simple product, getting the shape exactly right is critical to the success of the design. To iterate our design in this way costs us a day and a few dollars for a new version; to iterate once we get to full production in metal will cost us weeks and hundreds of dollars.

As the technology evolves, so do the innovative services around it. For our project we're taking advantage of 3D Hubs, a great service which connects you with local 3D printers. It means we can find a place down the road to get exactly the right kind of 3D printing done for exactly what we need at the time. Via 3D Hubs we have access to the latest and greatest 3D printing technology and sound advice from passionate people operating their 3D printing hub, at a relatively low unit cost. All without having to buy our own expensive equipment, which would sit idle most of the time anyway.

The future?

In my view the consumer revolution in 3D printing has been somewhat over-hyped. I find it hard to imagine everyone having a 3D printer in their home anytime soon, a vision often presented to us, mostly by 3D printer manufacturers I suppose.

People aren't going to be sitting at home dreaming up new kitchen utensils or toys for their children and printing them out. The main reason for that is that designing three dimensional objects is difficult. How many people do you know whom you'd want to design your wallpaper? Designing in two dimensions is not trivial. Designing in three is way harder. The lack of a quick way to produce solid objects at home isn't the limiting factor here.

Teleportation

I think there are two things that will increase the usefulness of 3D printing for consumer applications in the fairly near future.

The first is to improve access to 3D-printable designs via services such as Thingiverse. These online markets are starting to become places where you can find genuinely useful things but there's still a large quantity of gimmickry and tat. Looking forward, perhaps manufacturers will start to supply 3D-printable files for spare parts along with a warranty subscription or something.

The second really interesting area is 3D scanning. Imagine being able to photocopy three dimensional objects. Combine a 3D printer and a 3D scanner and that's pretty much what you've got. Separate the scanner and the printer and you're not far off teleportation!

While I'm sure we'll keep hearing about 3D printed hot dogs and other frivolous 3D printed projects, I believe that 3D printing is a great enabler and a powerful force for good, which is already quietly making a difference.

Ideas are cheap but execution is hard. If 3D printing makes execution just that little bit easier that means more ideas will become reality. And that is a good thing.

What's in a name

I've always found that choosing a name for a product or business is really, really hard. A few people have asked me what on earth the Ockham name is all about. Well, I'm glad they asked...

Ockham's razor

You may have heard of 'Ockham's razor' (often spelled Occam's razor) and if you have you'll know it's got nothing to do with shaving. What it actually is is a philosophical principle devised by medieval English philosopher William of Ockham. Put simply, it suggests that when it comes to formulating hypotheses one should reduce assumptions and keep things simple.

I believe that any design problem can benefit from a similar approach. Assumptions can be the killer of optimum solutions and from an aesthetic point of view simple wins every time for me. I often find that products are ruined by superfluous details and frippery. Form follows function, and successful designs like Dieter Rams and Jonathan Ive exemplify that attitude.

Logo

When it came to a logo we kept things simple too. We used a sans-serif font with a line cut through the middle to hint at the razor functionality. Specifically, we wanted a perfectly round letter O so that we could subtly brand the razor on the circular section of the end of the handle. In fact, as if the origin of our name isn't steeped in history enough, the monogram on the end of our razor could actually be used to brand in the original sense. Or for those without cattle, to use when you seal your letters with wax.

Monogram on the end of the razor handle

So names can be hard to come up with but in this case it actually came quite easily.

We did look at other names. The London Razor Company for example, but thought that sounded a bit like a hipster name masquerading as a heritage brand. We also thought about names reflecting the simple styling and almost archetypal shape - names like RazorOne or Razero. But in the end Ockham won through with its story and that wonderfully round O.

I'm ashamed to say that I've never been to Ockham in Surrey, the birthplace of our eponymous philosopher, but I intend to do so. I feel a team outing coming up.

The story so far...

Progression of an idea

Progression of an idea

Discontentment and moaning are sometimes seen as British past-times. I often find myself in these states when it comes to disappointing products, but there comes a point where I feel the need to do something about it. (Constructive discontent is a subject close to my heart and no one talks about it more eloquently than Don Norman in the Design of Everyday Things.)

This is how the seed was sown that was to became the Ockham Razor. I didn't particularly care about shaving any more than the next man (I do now), but when I struggled to find a beautiful, simple razor that didn't cost the earth, it frustrated me. It's a funny product category. At one end of the scale you can buy a pack of five disposable razors for 30p that pretty much do the job, but don't look particularly stylish. At the other end you can spend up to £100 on a chrome-handled razor that feels like a solid, well-made tool, but they usually look like mock-Victorian bath-ware. (This isn't really comparable, but you can burn $100,000 on a razor if you have more money than sense.)

Typically, people spend a few pounds on cartridge-based razors which work well and for which it's easy to replace the blades. But as far as I'm concerned these razors are universally over-engineered, ugly things. You can't get Wi-Fi enabled razors yet, but I don't think you'll have to wait long.

Good design needn't be expensive. In fact, in the case of the razor, bad design can cost more. Most regular razors are made up of all sorts of different parts of metal, plastic and rubber, not to mention the packaging. Leaving aesthetics to one side, this not only adds unnecessary complexity and therefore cost to the manufacturing, it also makes them virtually un-recyclable.

I searched high and low, expecting that I'd find that someone had beaten me to it and made a simple, beautiful, affordable razor. I didn't.

So I began to think about it more seriously and to consider what the most basic form of a razor could be. At these times, I find a great test is to ask the question 'how would a five-year-old draw this thing'. More often than not that provides a good starting point from which you can move forward, only adding features and complexity where absolutely necessary.

I've since shaved with more types of razor than I can count. I've cut razors up and glued them back together with bits of metal and plastic to try and create suitable prototypes. Once the basic form took shape, I was fortunate enough to persuade some friends to get involved and the skills of Mat, Nick and Bec have taken the idea beyond scribbled thoughts inside my head to a proper specified design, which we have 3D printed and iterated to a point where we can actually get this thing made.

Early prototype

Early prototype

Even though we're making a product cast out of molten metal, we would really struggle to do it without the help of the internet. Even when members of the team are miles away from each other, technology has allowed us to create and share ideas, drawings and CAD models, and then to very quickly turn them into physical prototypes via 3DHubs and the magic of 3D printing. Then there's this website, which you're reading thanks to Squarespace and despite my complete lack of web coding skills. And last but not least there is the internet crowd and our plan to launch the Ockham Razor on Kickstarter, an incredible opportunity.

There have been no tears - yet. But I have literally given my blood and sweat to the project so far and, with your support and help, I'd like to see if we can turn my discontentment into something great.

Razor rant

[This was my original blog post from earlier this year that kicked off this project.]

After my public statement of disappointment with the razor industry I decided to put my hands where my mouth is (or some other appropriate mixed metaphor).

So I made my own razor handle. This is a hacky first prototype but I’m going to start using it and see how it goes.

I’d love to hear what you think about it so please get in touch with me if you have anything to say. I may even be looking for beta test users sometime soon…