01-28-2014, 06:35 AM
  • refles
  • Senior Member
  • New York
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Just saw this doing the normal morning check of the 'news'. Looks like Mark has done some interview questions with KALIANDEE good informative read on the state of the brush market through Mark's perspective and details on the Simpsons/Vulfix product lines

Link to interview page is HERE or you can just read the quoted interview below.

Quote:Interview with Mark Watterson of Simpson's and Vulfix
Jan 2014

1. Are there any major differences between the production process for Simpson’s brushes and the high-end Vulfix models?

Firstly, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to answer some truly excellent questions, it’s a genuine pleasure.

Both our Simpson & Vulfix shaving brushes are produced using time-served traditional methods. Every shaving brush knot is hand-tied, this process entirely unique to our company in Great Britain.

The discernible differences between the Simpson and Vulfix brands are the density of the knots, the finish of each handle & of course the names of the brushes & the history attached to them. Simpson shaving brushes are widely regarded as the finest shaving tools in the world, their incredibly dense knots produce decadent lathers for an exhilarating shaving experience.

Each Simpson shaving brush handle is laser engraved denoting the model and grade of hair used. They also house the world famous Simpson Black & Gold sticker. Lastly, each Simpson model is named based on a history which dates back to 1919. For example the Wee Scot bears the signature of Alexander Simpson, the founder of the company all those years ago. Vulfix brushes tend to be mid-high end luxury items although the primary business associated with the brand is OEM or White labelling work.

2. In a previous interview, you mentioned that a Simpsons brush takes about a week to produce. Approximately how much of that time is actual, “hands-on” work?

Yes, a single Simpson shaving brush takes approximately one week to produce. It is an incredibly labour intensive process. Out of the seven day production time, probably three of four of the days are spent actually constructing and finishing the brush. The weighing of the hair, bundling, tying & setting of each knot takes a couple of days followed by the actual glue process, finishing & packing of each individual brush. Brush handles spend approximately three days being lathe turned, vibrated in limestone chippings and polished in wood chip timber drum barrels.

3. Are there certain Vulfix or Simpsons models that take significantly more time or skill than others to produce?

It takes a craftsman or craftswoman many years to perfect the art of good bundling or knot formation. We are blessed with the best in the business. Some knots really do provide the most amazing test of their dexterity & concentration – most notably the tiny Wee Scot & the legendary monstrous Chubby 3.

4. Hair grades can be confusing for beginners; can you clarify how the Vulfix badger grades relate to Simpsons grades? And the big question: is the Simpsons Super grade technically silvertip hair?

Badger hair grading is a minefield & notoriously confusing. There is no internationally accepted or recognised hair standardisation. However, as the world’s leading & oldest shaving brush manufacturer we believe our descriptions of badger hair set the benchmark.

We classify our badger hair offerings as follows:

1) Pure Badger hair is of the highest quality, carefully graded for hand filled brushes. It is regarded as an affordable entry level material by leading shaving brush manufacturers. The hair is dark and silver in appearance, immediately identifying the brush as being of an above average standard, and confirming the purity of the hair mixture. This grade of hair is firmer to the touch, scratchy on the skin and is favoured by traditionalists looking to exfoliate the skin prior to shaving.

2) Best Badger (Simpson) is a very high quality grade of hair, used only in our hand filled brushes. This hair is chosen by the more discerning wet shaver for its softness on the skin and water retention qualities. A unique dark band capped by light, almost white tips makes this hair very recognizable in its appearance. All of Simpson’s Best Badger brushes are hand-made and the tapered head shape is achieved without the use of trimming machinery, a time saving method employed by other manufacturers. As a result the softest and smoothest of shaves from tips in their natural state is guaranteed. A Best Badger brush should give its user many years of service.

3) Super Badger (Vulfix) is premium quality hair. It originates from around the neck of the animal & is extremely soft. Visually the material can be two or three band in appearance, a slightly Silver Brown lower band giving rise to a darker colour before the tip of the brush tapers to a Silver White finish.

4) True Silvertip (Simpson Super) is extremely limited in its availability & gives the badger hair special status amongst the wet shaving fraternity. Indeed some would deem it the holy grail of shaving. The hair is untreated and comes in its natural state, shaped by the hand and left un-trimmed to give an exceptionally soft feel.

5. As far as I’m aware, all brush manufacturers using badger hair today source their hair from China. Does sourcing such an important component from overseas present any challenges in ensuring the reliability, quality and ethical credentials of your supply?

Badger hair is a natural product & can only legally be procured from China despite claims from other manufacturers. Like human hair, no two follicles will ever be the same. There will always be variety in batches. Achieving quality & consistent supply is an ever evolving challenge as more & more producers try & establish a share of the market. Progress Shaving use specialist hair brokers to ensure that our hair is the finest offered to the marketplace.

In response to the growing concern of the ecologically aware retailer and indeed most important of all the conservation orientated person in the street, it is necessary to clarify one or two points concerning the use of Badger Hair in Shaving Brushes. All Badger Hair is imported from China. At this point it is important to note that British, American and Canadian Badger are of no interest to brush manufacturers and cannot be connected with today's limited trade. China being the main exporter of Badger hair, do so with very strict control on the amount exported each year, clearly displaying their awareness of environmental conservation. The Badger population is carefully monitored avoiding any decreases in their numbers. (It should be remembered that the Badger is a source of meat to the Chinese people and is available in the markets). Chinese Badgers are collected from the wild and are not in contravention of the Washington Treaty of Endangered Species.

This has been an industry for the people of China for hundreds of years and it should also be remembered that an increase in the Badger population would quickly be regarded as vermin and a pest to agriculture. The high prices paid for Badger Hair, its removal being a costly operation, means that any significant growth predicted in its demand has little foundation. Such an expensive product will never be part of the fashion boom. Britain, Europe and America all operate very strict import controls ensuring that any Badger hair brought into these countries is done so with all legislative agreements being strictly adhered to.

The ecologists in both the exporting and importing communities of Badger Hair have created a system preserving the Badger, an important source of livelihood for hundreds of years in the Far East and ensuring that a small market does exist, creating valuable work in an industry which dates back to the time when wet shaving was first recorded.

6. You recently tweeted that the first run of Simpson synthetics brushes are in the works, which many of us are eagerly awaiting. Have you found that the development and manufacture of a synthetic brush has presented any particular or unexpected challenges?

Synthetic materials used in the production of shaving brushes have been around for a long time but recently technological advances have led our company to take a real interest. Imitation badger in filament form opens up an entirely new market. We have been working with a specialist manufacturer for the last eighteen months to produce what we believe will be the most revolutionary synthetic fibre available in production run shaving brushes. Vulfix & Simpson brushes will be offered using this material and we anticipate huge demand around the globe.

7. You have previously stated that part of the reason for Vulfix’s purchase of the Simpsons brand in 2008 was because the former owner had trouble finding suitable replacements for his craftspeople as they retired. As an employer, have you had any difficulties finding new employees willing to learn the more traditional crafts involved in brush making?

Staff & particularly key operational employee training are a vital & an ongoing part of any business. We try & ensure that our workforce is skilled in a variety of facets to cover every area in the manufacture of a truly hand-made traditional product. This is what makes a Simpson brush truly unique. Skilled operatives are involved throughout the entire production process. Our staff are well rewarded & some of our work force have been with the company for over thirty years. A happy workforce makes an excellent shaving brush!

8. Finally; are there any specific models you would recommend as ideal for a complete novice to shaving with a brush?

For an entry level budget Vulfix shaving brush I’d recommend the 2199 Pure Badger. It comes with a traditionally built lathe turned handle and the knot offers a nice combination of scrub & flex.

When it comes to a Simpson brush you can look no further than the legendary Duke 3 in Best Badger. This brush outsells any other model in its class & just about does everything you want a brush to do. Firm, soft, beautiful are words often used to describe this workhorse of the Simpson stable.

If you want something iconic, reach for the top – the Simpson Chubby 2 in Manchurian Badger. It’s at the top end of the end of the price structure but for good reason. This shaving brush handle is packed solid with the finest hair available on the planet. Yes, the fabled Manchurian Badger from the High Mountainous region of China.

Finally, we hope our excellent wholesale partnership with Kaliandee continues to grow as the worldwide wet shaving renaissance gathers pace.

Kind regards,

Mark Watterson

Managing Director

Progress Shaving Brush (Vulfix) Limited

36 1,338
 01-28-2014, 07:37 AM
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cool - great find!

7 1,624
 01-28-2014, 08:14 AM
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Thanks for posting.

187 26,243
 01-28-2014, 10:27 AM
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Thanks for sharing the article.

92 21,355
 01-28-2014, 06:10 PM
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An interesting interview. Thanks for posting the interview.

34 1,760
 01-28-2014, 07:04 PM
  • Elendil
  • Raggedy man, good night
  • The snow's back.
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Great interview. I particularly found the part on how hair is sourced in China to be very enlightening.

0 1,136
 01-28-2014, 07:17 PM
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Great stuff

2 44
 01-28-2014, 09:50 PM
  • Lover of the Wet Shaving way of Life
  • Westchester, NY
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Learned a few new things about my favorite Brushes & their producer! Nice find!

4 794
 01-28-2014, 10:53 PM
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This is a great read, thanks for sharing.

71 2,241
 01-29-2014, 12:51 AM
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Nice reading Smile

25 6,917
 01-29-2014, 07:12 AM
  • TheMonk
  • Super Moderator
  • Porto, Portugal
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Thanks for sharing, it was a good read.

27 5,314
 01-29-2014, 07:20 AM
  • refles
  • Senior Member
  • New York
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Thanks all, glad to be able to share!
It was a good read in hearing details on the sourcing process in China as well as you hear about it through conversations on posts/treats..etc but never directly in this much detail.. so overall a good informational read for beginner to enthusiast.

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