Posted by: SRNewb - 10-09-2014, 09:28 PM - Forum: Features - Replies (27)
Perseverance and Giving Products or Techniques a Fair Shot
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As I write this, I'm coming from the point of another revelation of sorts in this wet shaving thing we do.

A couple of months ago I purchased a 1912 styled Treet SE copy of a Gem Junior Parade. You know, the one with the fat, stubby bakelite handle. I had read with glee on the forums devoted to SE razors what a wonderfully mild, smooth and comfortable shave the 1912 head gave, and I looked forward with some anticipation to giving it a go.

I found some Dorco SE blades at a local grocery. They were clearly labeled for use with Single Edge Safety Razors, so I was good to go, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong. Shave after shave with this razor was terrible. Tuggy, and very uncomfortable. It felt like I was trying to shave with broken glass. Or a serrated steak knife. Just incredibly uncomfortable, and the razor felt highly aggressive. I was afraid I was going to literally shred my face. Even with the aggressive feeling, it took four passes and a ton of touch up just to get a mildly passable shave.

Understanding that every razor is different, I chalked it up to my unfamiliarity to this razor. "Maybe if I play with the blade angle a bit," I thought. Nothing wrong with the razor, so it's got to be me, right? But shave after shave over the course of a month, or a bit more, and no improvement. So I began to think of this razor as something I was not meant to shave with. "I'll just put it up on the shelf with my other razors. It'll look great beside them. I don't need to shave with it".

Then one day I was at CVS, and finally they had their SE blades in stock. Not made in Korea. American Safety Razor Co. It can't be that simple, can it? But it was. Those blades turned that razor into a smooth, sexy shaver! Just got done with a shave with her tonight, and it was fabulous!

Just in the last day or two, in conversation with an experienced wet shaver, I found that he was having difficulty getting a quality lather from a very popular soap that most say is a champ to lather. It reminded me of a soap early on that I had been PIF'd. It was a Rose scented tallow soap that had been PIF'd to a member of one of the communities I am a member of. I had won a PIF he posted, and he sent it along as a "mystery gift" included with the PIF. He had had it a while, and could not remember where he got it from, only that it was a handmade tallow soap. I tried and tried to lather that soap, but all I got for a couple of months was an airy, bubbly mess that disappeared 30 or 40 seconds after it hit my face. But the Rose scent was lovely, so I kept at it, pulling it out 3 or 4 times a week, and finally, over the long haul, I got a stable, thick lather from it. It lathers as easily as any other soap I have now, and I love it.

I relate these two stories to make a point.

I see posts on the forums all the time from guys who say something like "I tried this blade/razor/soap/brush, etc., etc.,and they are just not for me" Sometimes these are very expensive products, sometimes not. A lot of the more expensive stuff ends up for sale.

I really think we do ourselves a disservice many times by not hanging in there a bit. Case in point for me was the straight razor. Anyone who uses a straight knows that the learning curve is very steep. It is a skill that requires patience and perseverance to aquire. A great many give up and go back to a DE or even an SE. I had my struggles with that blade, too. Again, I'm glad I stuck to it. I cannot imagine not being able to shave with a straight. In fact, in each case above, it was a sheer determination and an attitude that said, "I'm not giving up!", that made the difference. And in each case, I am so very glad that I stuck with it.

Think about this.

We live in an age where patience, and to some degree perseverance toward a goal, is valued less and less. Look at Youtube. If you can't say what you want to in 3 to 7 minutes most people won't watch. They'll move on, even if what is being said has value, they don't have or won't take the time.

For us, as traditional wet shavers, that's one of the things that drew many of us into this hobby. Wet shaving is a chance to slow down, a chance to be a bit meditative. Often we refer to the experience as "zen-like". I really think we should apply this attitude not only to the shave itself, but to the products and techniques as well.

So the next time you have a problem with that razor/blade/soap/brush, slow down. Look at it from a different angle. Try to come at it from a different point of view. Or set it aside and think about it a while before you pick it up and try again. You just might find something wonderful. Will that always be the case? Probably not.

But look at it this way.

We call ourselves traditional wet shavers. We liken what we do to what our grandfathers and great grandfathers did. Yet, you see a lot of posts from time to time asking how the older generation got along with one type of razor, one choice of blade, or soap, or the cheap brushes available at the local drug store.

Perseverance is the answer. They did not have all the options we do, so they stuck with what they had and made it work. Again, an anecdote from my own experience.

When I was 13 or 14 and just starting to shave, I started with a Gillette DE, a can of Barbasol, and the only DE blades available in my neck of the woods, Wilkinson Sword. I shaved with them for 10 years or more, and got good, comfortable shaves from them. I didn't complain about whether the blades were sharp or smooth, and then go looking for a different one. There was nothing else in my little one horse town. So, I made it work. I adapted, stopped worrying about it, and got on with the shave.

Now I'm not saying that all the choices we have nowadays is a bad thing. Indeed, vive la difference, as far as I'm concerned. But all that variety out there actually just reinforces the idea in my mind that a bit of perseverance before I chuck something out of my shave den just might be a good thing. It just might lead to the discovery of something else I don't want to be without.
Another little anecdote, if I may?

When I was younger, my Dad was in the Army, so we moved alot. I'd just get done making friends, when here I was in another school, having to start all over. And guess what? Some of the guys who ended up being my greatest friends started out as enemies. I mean, we locked horns the first time we met, and it was the mutual respect discovered in a fight with each other that brought us together and formed a lasting bond between us.

So, if you run across a product or technique that doesn't work the first couple of times, don't surrender. Stay and fight a bit. You just might find a lifelong friend.

Posted by: bullgoose - 10-04-2014, 12:42 PM - Forum: Features - Replies (12)
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Calling all aspiring Writers, Scribes, Reporters, Wordsmiths and Teachers!

UPDATE: Hi there Nook - let's hear from you! Even if you've expressed interest before or are working on your article, drop me a note. Thanks again to all of our talented authors!

As a reminder, most any topic is fair game but here are a few guidelines:

> No product reviews (they have a home of their own)
> Topics should be related to our little hobby but don't necessarily have to be limited to shaving. In fact, let's broaden it to anything related to grooming!
> Think "How do they do that?", "What's the best method?" or "What does that mean?". Also, "Where is that made?", "What else is interesting about that part of the world?".
> The Mod team will coordinate scheduling and review content prior to posting.

Post your ideas or willingness to help here or, if it's more comfortable, send me a PM. We Mods will periodically update this thread and choose new topics for the page.

Thanks Nook!!
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Billy had posted this awhile ago and I figure it is time to post it again. Biggrin

Posted by: Vie-Long - 04-01-2014, 06:14 PM - Forum: Features - Replies (91)
The Horsehair Shaving Brush Movement

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Allow me to introduce myself -I am Oscar Julian, owner and the third generation of my family to operate Vie-Long. Vie-Long has been the leading Spanish manufacturer of shaving brushes since 1940. From the very beginning, our specialty has been the production of horse hair shaving brushes. While we produce badger and boar shaving brushes like all the other shave brush manufacturers, we are the worldwide leader when it comes to horse hair shaving brushes.

Several weeks ago Phil Huntsinger of BullGoose Shaving asked me to write an article about horse hair shaving brushes. I would like to thank Phil for allowing me the opportunity to write an article for the Shave Nook shaving forum to discuss the production of our Vie-Long horse hair shaving brushes

The most important thing about the Vie-Long horse hair brushes is the soft tips that we obtain thanks to our final process of production that we apply to the tips.

We produce our horse hair shaving brushes differently from other manufacturers which is why other manufacturers are unable to produce horse hair brushes with such soft tips. I regret to tell you that I cannot explain the process in detail because it is a trade secret, part of our Know How. We combine modern technology with a careful and traditional handcrafted manufacturing process which strengthens our brand and product prestige in both local and international markets.

Vie-Long horse hair brushes have really caught on with those who are concerned with the humane treatment of animals. Horses are not killed or harmed during collection of hair (unlike badger and boar). The “hair cut” is part of the horses’ care and hygiene. We have seen a surge of interest in horse hair brushes over the past few years and suspect that the “movement” will continue to gain in popularity.

Vie-Long horse brushes have a very good quality to price ratio. We can get a brush with an excellent combination of firm hair and soft tips with a very good price point. The smoothness of the tips is like the best badger brushes but the price is close to the boar brushes. In addition, Horse hair allows very good water retention, much better than the synthetic brushes. As such, we recommend the Vie-Long horse hair brushes for both creams and hard soaps because the brushes work very well.
We produce Vie-Long horse hair brushes in 3 different varieties of natural horse hair; white, black and brown.

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The quality of the 3 colors is the same, with the same backbone and softness. We mix the hair of mane and tail to get the quality that we need for the production of our Vie-Long horse hair brushes. The percentage is around 35% mane and 65% tail but it is not always used in the exact same percentage in every production - it depends on the raw material received each time. The softness is obtained thanks to the mane and the backbone thanks to the tail.

Our supplier of horse hair is located in Spain and the horse hair come mainly from Spanish horses. The horse hair also comes from South America and Arabian countries where there is a large equestrian tradition. All the hair is sterilized before it is used to make a brush.

Posted by: Codfish - 03-24-2013, 10:26 AM - Forum: Features - Replies (78)
Have Synthetic Brushes Come of Age?

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When I took up wet shaving seriously several years ago, I gave little thought to acquiring a synthetic brush. Based on the reviews I read of them at the time, they were easy to dismiss. They seemed to be at the low-end of desirability, but adequate for shavers with allergies to animal hair or shavers who objected to using animal products. They also had notable drawbacks that were well-documented in reviews at the time.

I built a small collection of badgers and boars over the next year or so while I looked for a razor that would suit my needs. In 2011, I found the razor I wanted, and discovered a German company called Mühle. Their catalog described a synthetic brush with Silvertip Fibres® that were claimed to closely imitate badger. I bought one of these early versions, and was very impressed. My curiosity about modern synthetic brushes increased.

The New-Gen Synth Project

In March of last year, I heard from other shavers that they were trying new synthetic brushes that showed improvements over older synths. I invited a team of experienced shavers to join me to collect and test as many new synthetics we could get our hands on. The team included Gary Carrington, Wim Bouman, Teiste Brito, Mark Herro and myself.

In most cases, we purchased the brushes we tested and then traded them back and forth as we could. Not all of us tried every brush given time constraints, but we trusted each other's evaluation skills. In all, we tested 15 different brushes from nine manufacturers. We also looked at a few pre-production prototypes that we could not report on. We did the best we could to give each member the broadest exposure possible.

During the course of our 100-day testing period, we collectively conducted over 400 tests. All of us found significant improvements over earlier generations of synths. The team did identify differences between the brushes that were part of our tests, and drew contrasts with synths we had collectively tried in the past.

I asked that the team to consider two questions:

Have synthetics brushes come of age?

Do they have qualities that are as good, or better than their natural counterparts?


Team member Gary Carrington developed a classification system to categorize the different generations of synths. It is summarized here with his permission:

Generation 1 knots were made of base Nylon which was developed in the late 1930s and early 1940s. One examples is the Omega White Syntex Line.

Generation 2 came out in the early 2000s. Taken from the cosmetic industry, these nylon brushes were flagged more at the tips to allow a softer feeling and some were dyed to approximate a more natural look. The early MenU, Body Shop, Parker synthetics used this fiber type. They are prone to "doughnut holes" while wet and are not strong performers.

Generation 3 knots came out in the mid-2000s. Also derived from the cosmetic industry, these nylon brushes were flagged more at the tips to allow a softer feeling and some were dyed to approximate a more natural look and feel. Closer to badger but not exactly like badger. The fibers tended to be thinner so that more hairs could be packed in a bundle for a denser brush. The performance of brushes using this version improved dramatically. The Jack Black, TGN, Omega Syntex, and a variety of other makers use this fiber to create high performing brushes.

Generation 3.5 arrived when Mühle began to crimp and adjust the lengths of the fibers to create a brush that looks and behaves more like natural hair. These brushes are now commonly referred to as V1 versions of the Silvertip Fiber. This is a much higher performing brush than brushes using Generation 3 fibers. These came out during the 2010-2012 time frame.

Generation 4 knots became available this year. These are found in the Mühle V2 Silvertip Fibre brush series and are believed to be in current synthetic brushes offered by Edwin Jagger. These fibers are flagged even more at the ends to increase softness and to improve lather application. The fibers are also more flexible than what is found the third generation knots, and this allows lofts to be shorter and provide excellent backbone and face feel. Brushes by H.I.S. also have a similar, if not identical fiber with different dying, finish and lofts. Here is the full text of Gary's work.

Results

I won't attempt a detailed summary of our findings here, but readers who are interested can find the three-part series here. I will say that we all found significant improvements in the following areas: attractiveness in design, more natural appearance, softness of tips, overall performance, higher density, better backbone, faster drying time, and economical use of soaps and creams.

We determined that several manufacturers were producing synths that were significantly improved from the previous generations. Among them were Omega, H.I.S., Edwin Jagger and Mühle. There may be others, and I would like your opinions on this—we were limited to the 15 brushes that we were able to acquire during our limited testing period and personal budgets.

Best of the New Synths—Mühle V2 Series

After our findings were published and the project ended, we saw new and exciting synthetic brushes become available. In my opinion, they are the finest synths ever made. They are commonly referred to as the Mühle V2 series of brushes, and they differ in several ways from any previous synths. I believe the current generation of Edwin Jagger brushes shares the same knots.

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These new V2 fibers are thinner than in any previous synthetic brushes, as well as being more tapered. Thinner fibers allow more to be packed into a given knot size, and result in improved density, backbone and face feel. There is an experience of luxury when using these brushes, like no other synth on the market. They feel soft and silky both dry and wet.

Thinner fibers are also more flexible, and do not require the characteristic high lofts of other synths. The V2 lofts more closely resemble natural hair brushes due to Mühle's fine-tuning and engineering.

Finally, the V2 series so closely resembles natural silvertip badger hair that they are difficult to distinguish from natural-hair badger brushes visually. Their handles and overall quality make them even more appealing.

I won't attempt to review the new Mühle V2 series brushes here. Teiste Brito will be doing that here on ShaveNook in a separate thread. I will contribute my review points there.

When this project began, I asked two questions. A year later, with the introduction of Mühle's V2 series of brushes, the answer to both questions is a resounding YES!

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A special "Thank You" to Gary Carrington for allowing me to draw liberally from his writing, and for all his work on synthetic brushes and other contributions to the shaving community. I am also grateful to Teiste Brito for allowing me to use his excellent photos.