I recently bought an original 1918 Gillette Khaki Set – the single snap version. It is a great piece of shaving history, but moreover, it is brilliant in its design. It is simple, compact, and keeps a 3-piece razor and blades safe and sound. I wanted one for my travel bag so I made some patterns and tried my hand at sewing. I’m not very good, but I was able to make a functional reproduction. Here are the patterns and instructions in case this is a project you want to tackle at home.
- 1/2 yard Duck Canvas (the original appears to be more like bull denim, but canvas is readily available)
- 2 yards bias tape/ binding tape (the border measures .25″. Buy .5″ single fold or .25″ double fold binding tape.)
- .5″ wide elastic bands
- 12.5mm Snap fastener set (or skip the snap and use a rubber band)
- Sewing machine
- Khaki Set Pattern
Cutting the patterns
Note on the pattern – I designed this pattern from the dimensions from my original 1918 Khaki Set. But it is clear that my Khaki Set has shrunk over the past 100 years. It can no longer snap and the fabric is extremely tight. I have taken some liberties by adding slightly to the dimensions of these patterns. This way my final reproduction is able to snap shut.
There are two parts to the pattern – the long, narrow inside strip that holds the razor and the outside case that snaps shut. For each I used two pieces of canvas doubled up. Not only does the original appear to be doubled (the grain of the fabric runs in different directions) but the case would be very flimsy without the extra layer.
Start by tracing out two inside strips and two outside cases. It is helpful to cut a slit in the pattern where the elastic is sewn to the inside strip and mark these points while tracing the pattern. I traced the patterns on an angle to keep the edges of the canvas from fraying. Cut out the patterns with sharp scissors.
Sewing the layers together
After I cut the fabric I sewed the two layers of the case together, followed by the two layers of the inside strip. I don’t know if a professional would find this step necessary, but it made the pieces much easier to work with and I think it will help keep the fabric from fraying. I used a basic straight stitch.
Adding the elastic
There are three elastic strips, each sewn to the Khaki Set in two places – near the center of the inside strip and around the border of the inside strip. I cut three pieces of .5″ elastic about 3″ long and singed the ends with a lighter to keep them from fraying.
The first step is to attach the elastic near the center of the inside strip (there should be three marks already from when you traced your pattern.) You will want to overlap your marks by about .25″ with the long end of the elastic pointing in the opposite direction of where your final loop will be (this way when you fold your elastic over to make a loop you won’t see the unfinished end of the elastic strip).
I used three passes with the sewing machine to make sure these elastic straps are secured well. That might be overkill…don’t ask me.
Next use your razor to see how much elastic you need to secure your razor and blades. Attach the border side with a couple passes of stitching.
Finally, cut the elastic so it is flush with the border and singe the end with a lighter so it doesn’t fray.
Adding the border
The border, in my opinion, is the toughest part of this entire project. The goal is to create a clean border around the edge of the fabric. It’s both aesthetic and functional…I imagine this keeps the edges from fraying.
I have tried two different types of bias tape / binding tape. Each finishes with a .25″ border around the edge, but the difference is how it is folded. “Single fold” tape has the edges of the tape turned in (so you don’t have a raw edge exposed to fray). If you use this kind you will buy .5″ single-fold tape. “Double fold” tape is the same, but with a hard crease down the middle. At the store you would buy .25″ double-fold tape.
I thought both styles were a little tough to work with. I’m sure a professional would have no problem. But the challenge is keeping the border perfectly wrapped around the canvas so the needle catches both the top and bottom of the tape as well as the canvas it is wrapped around.
The original Khaki Set used a single stitch. If you can pull this off you are clearly better at sewing than I am. After a few failed attempts I switched to a zigzag stitch. I found this to be a lot more forgiving – especially because the folds in the tape are not always exact.
Binding the pieces together
Binding the pieces together was the easiest part of the whole project. Lay the inside strip on top of the case so everything is straight and make three passes with the sewing machine around the border. Easy enough.
Adding the snap
I bought a cheap snap fastener kit from Amazon for around $10. It comes with instructions so I won’t reinvent the wheel by explaining how it works. But it was relatively easy to punch a hole in the canvas and use a mallet to attach a snap. The snaps I used were 12.5mm bronze snaps.
How easy/hard is this project?
For a person who has never sewn anything before, this project was a bit of a challenge. The sewing machine has its own learning curve, and after making a few of these I am still not very good at it. From start to finish it took me about 2 hours to make my first Khaki Set but it looked like a train wreck. After making a few of them (some are dismal failures, others are passable) it maybe takes an hour.
One problem I have is that my wife’s sewing machine is pretty low-end and it struggles with some of the operations – especially when the needle is going through many layers of fabric and binding tape. In fact, I’m sure I have messed up the tension or something, because my stitches look awful all of the sudden.
But overall, this project is easy enough for a novice to tackle and have some fun with.
Good at sewing? Feeling charitable?
If you decide to tackle this project please feel free to use the Khaki Set Pattern in this post. If you try this at home please tweet a picture (@SaveYourShave) so I can see how it turns out. I’m interested to see how it looks when someone who knows how to sew does the stitching.
I would love to make one out of Cordura (so it lasts until the end of time), but I’m 99% sure my sewing machine would explode if I tried sewing 1000D material. That will have to wait until we have a better sewing machine (if that ever occurs).
If you happen to make more than one and don’t know what to do with the extra, I would GLADLY accept the gift. Just saying…
The purpose of this blog is to share how traditional wet shaving can help men get better shaves and clearer skin. Here are some additional posts you may find interesting:
Intro to Wet Shaving – A primer on how DE shaving helps give better shaves and clearer skin
Shaving Technique – A “how-to” guide for shaving with a safety razor
DE Shaving Cost Comparison – Analysis comparing the cost of DE shaving vs cartridge shaving (spoiler: DE razors are cheaper than dirt!)
Gear for Beginners – The low-cost tools that introduced me to DE shaving
Razor Aggressiveness Basics – An explanation of what makes a razor “mild” with recommendations for beginning DE shavers