One question I get asked repeatedly is “How did you get started making safety razors?”. So, I figured why not kick off our blog with a quick back story on myself and my family.
If you don't know me already, my name is Jake Yates, and I'm the founder and owner of Yates Precision Manufacturing. I grew up in Waynesburg, a small town in Southwestern Pennsylvania. My dad teaches Junior High Science, and my mom is a Pharmacist. I was, and still am, a big fan of soccer, and I was a wrestler as well.
After High School I attended Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York, where I would eventually get my Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering. While at RIT I played soccer on the Varsity team. It's funny, because RIT has a very nice machine shop with both CNC and manual machines, but while there I really had no idea what machining was, took no interest in it, and I definitely didn't know what a safety razor was.
Anyways, I graduated from RIT in 2011, and moved back home to Waynesburg. Shortly after moving home, I met my wife, Ashley. She had just graduated High School (cradle robber), and must have been too young and naïve to realize what she was getting herself into.
I got my first full-time job a couple months after graduation, and boy was it a long way from what I thought I'd be doing. My first job as a mechanical engineer, get this, was as a Maintenance Foreman at an underground coal mine! So, I spent two and a half years going 1000 feet underground everyday, swinging shifts, and getting dirty. While its not something I wanted to do the rest of my life, and there were days that I really hated it, I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. First off, coal mining equipment is some of the most impressive and technologically advanced machinery I've ever been around. And secondly, after you spend almost three years freezing in the winter, sweating in the summer, working weekends and holidays, doing hard manual labor, and putting your life at risk every day everything else in life after that seems pretty easy. I have a lot of respect for the guys and ladies that continue to do that day in and day out, year after year, and for them, I'm grateful.
Well, it only took me a few years to realize I didn't want to be a coal miner for the rest of my life, and that industry was in constant turmoil, so I was ready for a career change. Two of my good friends from college were working at an aerospace company just outside of Ithaca, NY, and were looking to add an engineer to their team. So, Ashley, our dog Mia, and I packed up and moved to the Finger Lakes. We lived in Ithaca for three years. While there, Ashley finished her Business Degree at Ithaca College and began working at Cornell, we got married, and I worked for the aerospace company, manufacturing turbine blades and vanes for power generation engines. Most of the work I was doing was Wire EDM and Grinding. We absolutely loved the Finger Lakes area, but we got news that we would be adding to our family so decided it would be best to move back home to be close to our families.
After a bit of searching, I found a medical company in the area and was offered a job as a Manufacturing Engineer, so we moved back to Waynesburg. It was this job that really opened my eyes to CNC machining and manufacturing.
In June of 2017 I decided to pursue my dream and start my own business. My first piece of equipment was a Grizzly lathe, and I actually made wedding bands for people for awhile. Then, in August of 2018, I purchased my first CNC mill, a '93 Mori Seiki MV40B. Shortly after buying the mill we had our second son, Lincoln. Fun fact, our sons were born on the exact same day, September 21st, two years apart! This was the inspiration behind the name of our first safety razor, the Model 921.
I spent a few months fixing some small issues with the machine and taking on some job shop work here and there. Then, late in 2018, my dad came by the shop, handed me a small metal device, and asked if I thought I could make one. After disassembling it and looking it over I said “Sure! What the hell is it?”. Well, it turns out it was a safety razor (one of the cheapo cast zinc, chrome coated ones from China). Over the next month or two I began designing my own safety razor and posting about it on Instagram. Interest started to grow, and before too long I had fifty people signed up for a preorder, the Model 921 was born, and the rest is history! Since that first preorder we’ve sold thousands of razors, partnered with Wet Shaving Club, and expanded our shop to five CNC machines. I’ll get into details on those topics in later posts, as they deserve to stand alone.
In addition to our original Stonewashed Model 921 Safety Razor, we also offer safety razors in Bead Blast and As-Machined finishes. We’ve expanded our baseplate offering to include our more aggressive H and EH Plates, and offer some different handle variations. One of the things we’re currently most excited about is our Build Your Own Razor (BYOR) program which allows you to completely customize your safety razor, including adding personalized laser engraving!
I’ll expand on a lot of the things I quickly covered here in some future blog posts, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!