04-25-2015, 12:33 PM
#1
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Dark Holler Design Works and Paladin Shaving Brushes
Frequently Asked (and/or Anticipated) Questions

 
1.       Who makes Paladin shaving brushes?

Paladin shaving brushes are produced and sold by Dark Holler Design Works, LLC through a collaboration with Lee Sabini in England, who supplies and installs the badger-hair knots.

Dark Holler is a family-owned business operated by Ken Lynn (aka Chief Broom) and his son Cody out of a small shop in Overland Park, KS (a suburb of Kansas City).

2.       Who is Lee Sabini and why should I care?

Lee was previously the owner and managing director of R. A. Rooney & Sons Ltd, London makers of fine shaving brushes since the 18th century. He continues to produce and sell shaving brushes bearing the venerable Morris & Forndran label and also does business as The City of London Brushworks. He is widely known and respected for the quality of hand-tied, badger-hair knots found in brushes made by him personally or under to his direction. He is not, however, widely known and respected for being accessible or responsive. Dark Holler aims to solve that problem. We’re very pleased to offer shaving brushes combining our handles with Lee’s knots.

3.       Do you have a website?

Not yet, but we hope to within a couple months. In the meantime, we’ll maintain a gallery of photos on PhotoBucket. Here’s a link.

4.       What handle styles do you plan to offer?

We currently offer Chiefs, PK-47s, and Falstaffs (vintage Chubby-style). Examples of each can be viewed at PaladinGallery on PhotoBucket here. We’ve also turned prototypes of a Keyhole-style handle and one we call the Sumo, which is derived from a vintage-Simpson US3 (aka the Snowman). More styles will be introduced in time. Design is in our company name for a reason.

5.       What size knots do you offer?

First, we specify handle size according to socket diameter. So if we describe a handle or brush as being, for example, 26 mm, what that means is the socket was bored to a diameter of 26 mm. Our current arrangement with Lee Sabini doesn’t afford us any opportunity to measure knots before they’re installed. We prefer to stick with specifications we can vouch for.

Except for a few prototypes, all of the Chiefs and PK-47s we’ve turned to date were bored to 26 mm. Most of the Falstaffs were bored to 28 mm. But we plan to broaden selection to include 24 mm as well as more 28 mm handles.

6.       What badger-hair types and grades do you plan to offer?

This is another area where our arrangement with Lee Sabini gives rise to challenges based on the fact we don’t have any opportunity to inspect in hand, and therefor can’t confidently describe, the knots he will end up fitting to particular handles in advance of their being returned to us.

With regard to hair type, we plan to offer a choice between 2-band and 3-band, silvertip, badger-hair knots in the future; however, our understanding is that the brushes currently being completed by Lee will all have 2-band knots.

As to hair grade, Lee’s Morris & Forndran brushes have generally been labeled as either Blonde Badger or Finest. Many users of M&F brushes have also distinguished (although not with perfect consistency) among 1) so-called Heritage hair, 2) hair with gel-like tips, and/or 3) hair with hooked-tips. There can be significant differences in badger hair; however, many of the differences frequently discussed are subtle and/or subjective, and have largely defied efforts to resolve criteria by which to identify and uniformly classify them. As much as we want to be cooperative and helpful in guiding selection, please understand that we can’t confidently respond to questions regarding whether a particular brush has a knot made of Heritage hair, or will deliver the gel-like tips experience, or should be expected to develop hooked tips.

7.       How can I buy a Paladin shaving brush?

First, we don’t have any completed brushes available for sale at this time; however, we’re busy making more of them, and we expect to receive a batch back from Lee within a few weeks of this writing. For now, if you’re interested in buying a brush and/or have any questions that aren’t answered here, just send an email addressed to chiefbroom@darkholler.com indicating a desire to be placed on our mailing list. We’ll reply with a rather kludge Interest Recording Form intended for short-term use until we get a website up.

We clearly need to develop more sophisticated business systems and practices to facilitate communication and sales. That will happen; in the meantime please bear with us and stay-tuned for updates, which we’ll post as developments warrant.

8.       How long does it take to get a Paladin brush?

That presently depends on several factors, some of which lie entirely beyond our control. We expect to have brushes from the batch Lee is currently working on back sometime in May, hopefully around mid-month.

9.       What if I request reservation of a brush and then change my mind?

No worries. We don’t have any desire to sell anyone a brush he or she doesn’t really want.
 
10.   What is the current status of production?

During the first week in April we shipped 203 second-batch handles to Lee. That may sound like a lot of brushes, but it includes handles turned in 1) three styles (Chiefs, PK-47s, and Falstaffs), not counting Sumo and Keyhole-style prototypes; 2) two socket sizes (26 mm and 28 mm); and 3) 15 different materials (Ivory, Horn, Ebony, Jade, Amber, Tortoise, Butterscotch Marble, Strawberry Amber, Purple Haze, Disco, Cobalt, Indigo, Ebonite Denim, Ebonite Cumberland, Ebonite Wicked, and Ebonite Cappuccino). So we’re almost certain to come up short again over the near-term. But our output is improving, and we are committed to this venture. We started production of 100 handles for the Shave Nook, Third Anniversary, 2015 LE in early April and expect to have those shipped off to Lee by the first week in May. We’re already engaged in set-up for the next batch.
 
11.   Will PK-47s with Butterscotch handles be available outside the TSN LE?
 
With the exception of a very small number we made before the details of the TSN LE were finalized, the only PK-47s we’ve turned from the Butterscotch rod so far are the 100 dedicated to the TSN project (plus a few extras laid up for purposes of risk management). We’ll keep the promises we made before the TSN LE was announced, but otherwise we don’t plan to make any more 26 mm PK-47s from the Butterscotch material we currently have on hand. Most of what’s left of the 39 mm rod (which isn’t all that much) will be used to make 26 mm Chiefs (possibly along with some smaller ones). The 45 mm and 52 mm stock will used for larger diameter handles. Given the 50 kilo minimum purchase requirement for Dark Holler Butterscotch, we don’t expect to order any more of it before we’ve substantially used up the stock we have, which should carry us at least into the fourth quarter of this year and possibly beyond that.
 
12.   I already know what I want, I’m not going to change my mind, and I’ll be content to wait. Can I place an order now and pay in advance?

Please do let us know what you want via the above-mentioned form; however, it is our policy not to issue an invoice or accept payment for any brush until it’s ready and available to ship.

13.   Do/will you ship from the United States to international buyers?

To date, all Paladin shaving brushes sold to buyers outside the U.S. were either shipped 1) to U.S. addresses for forwarding per arrangements made by the buyer or 2) by Lee Sabini directly from England at the buyers’ request.

Dark Holler Design Works holds the license required to permit commercial import and export of badger hair; however, the applicable laws and regulations, as we’ve been given to understand them, are not friendly to small businesses such as ours. It’s entirely possible that some of those regulations are often observed in the breach with impunity. Just the same, we will not conduct business in conscious violation of any law.

For what it’s worth, we’re engaged in dialog with a representative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and we remain hopeful of finding a solution. We would welcome any advice, experience, and/or useful perspective anyone might be able to offer in this regard. We’re committed to doing anything we reasonably and responsibly can to make our products available to members of the international wet-shaving community.

14.   I’m on the list. What’s the process between now and whenever completed brushes come back from England?

We built a crude, Excel spreadsheet to organize and track requests that were submitted between last October and mid-February (when we were finally able to sell and ship our first-batch brushes to buyers in the U.S.). We’re very mindful of the requests recorded on it that remain unfulfilled. Since early February we’ve received many more requests. The spreadsheet had become an unwieldy mess, so we quit adding to it and resolved to find a better method.

We haven’t yet undertaken to glean and organize information from all of the post-spreadsheet emails. And considering the time that has passed and the broadened selection of handles currently in the works, as well as the recently announced Shave Nook LE brush, we’re obliged in fairness to touch-back and re-confirm open requests that have regrettably languished on the spreadsheet.

If you’re on the list, you should by now have received an email that included an attached copy of the Interest Recording Form referenced in FAQ #6 above. Let us know if you didn’t! We’re asking everyone who is already on the list to fill out the form and return it to us. We’ll still go back through the spreadsheet, as well as all the emails containing requests that weren’t recorded on it, and we will do our level best to fairly honor all requests, old and new, with due respect for priority in time. But again, it would be extremely helpful and much appreciated to receive a completed from back from each and all.  Note, by the way, that the form does not include Butterscotch PK-47s as an available selection; however, if you’re one of the two or three individuals to whom we’ve already committed one, please indicate that on the form and/or otherwise.

15.   Will you offer brushes made with badger-hair knots sourced from makers/suppliers other than Lee Sabini?

We are, first and foremost, wet-shaving-enthusiasts-turned-designer-makers. Our purpose is to design, make, and offer for sale to fellow enthusiasts the kind of wet-shaving products we want for ourselves. Shaving brushes that combine handles we’ve made with knots sourced from and vouched for by Lee are, we believe, the best products we can presently offer to the wet-shaving community. That said, the logistical issues inherent in our cross-Atlantic collaboration with Lee pose significant challenges. Dark Holler Design Works is not a lark venture; we’re committed to creating a successful, small-scale, US-based, wet-shaving focused, design and manufacturing business. If we encounter insurmountable obstacles in pursuit of our current strategy, we’ll evaluate alternatives and make adjustments consistent with our purpose and values.

16.   Do or will you offer brushes made with synthetic knots?

We don’t presently, but it’s definitely in our plan.
 
17.   Can I buy a Dark Holler or Paladin handle without a knot?

No, we’ve decided not to sell handles separately.

18.   How did it come about that some Dark Holler handles with variously sourced knots have appeared in photos on the Internet?

We have gifted a few Dark Holler handles in special circumstances and also accepted trades for vintage handles we were specifically seeking. 

19.   What makes Paladin shaving brushes better than any other shaving brush?

Whether and, if so, why a particular Paladin brush might be regarded as better than another brush is something every individual who cares to know must discover for himself. There are many fine brushes and brush-makers. We don’t hold ourselves above any of them. But we do believe we’re a little different than any other brush-making enterprise in existence today. We’re not about making elite brushes or brushes for the elite. We’re far too new at this to exploit a long tradition. We’re not hobbyist-craftsmen who discovered we can apply our skills and tools to brush-making. We’re not manufacturers who have identified an opportunity to leverage existing plant and equipment through supplying into an emerging niche market. We’re not assemblers who generate a profit by combining low-cost inputs. And we’re not marketing mavens looking for opportunities to exploit an established brand. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. Each of them presents a distinctive value proposition with potential to deliver high quality products. They’re just not us. Which begs the question: “then what are you?” That’s one we can answer.

We are passionate enthusiasts who take great satisfaction from creating and making available to the wet-shaving community products of the kind and quality we want for ourselves. That means products that reflect appreciative study, creative exploration, and purposeful integration of traditional design elements. It also means finished products that require precisely controlled design execution through mindful application of CNC technology. We work attentively with sophisticated machines (as well as some very old-school tools) to fashion objects that combine beauty and function. We are obsessively meticulous, hands-on, designer-makers. We pay careful attention to every aspect and detail of design and production carried out in our shop. We’ll never make a perfect shaving brush. But we’ll also never sell a shaving brush that we didn’t at least start out with a vision to make perfect.

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 04-25-2015, 12:34 PM
#2
  • Agravic
  • Super Moderator
  • Pennsylvania, USA
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Thanks, Ken.

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 04-26-2015, 04:31 AM
#3
  • MPH
  • Member
  • UK
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Its fascinating to see a new company evolve before your eyes. Beneficial for that company too, as I for one have 'bought in' and eagerly hope to own a Paladin one day!!!

Looking forward to the great designs that will no doubt continue to come!

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 04-26-2015, 05:13 AM
#4
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(04-26-2015, 04:31 AM)MPH Wrote: Its fascinating to see a new company evolve before your eyes. Beneficial for that company too, as I for one have 'bought in' and eagerly hope to own a Paladin one day!!!

Looking forward to the great designs that will no doubt continue to come!

Well said. I couldn't agree more.

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 04-26-2015, 07:46 PM
#5
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Very informative, Ken and best of luck! 

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 04-27-2015, 03:45 AM
#6
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Yes very interesting !
I am planning buying a brush very soon.
Thank you Ken

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 04-29-2015, 07:50 AM
#7
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Ken sent out the Paladin Shaving Brush Interest Recording Form recently, and I wasn't able to fill out the details on it due to some sort of computer software snafu. I ended up sending back a Word document with the required information, which I hope he's received. Despite his workload and all the forms he was no doubt receiving back, Ken took time to try and resolve the problem with me. It's the extra effort he shows towards members that makes me want to do business with him. That, and the great product.

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 05-05-2015, 08:27 AM
#8
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I'm finally past halfway working through the list (on an Excel spreadsheet), which includes entering information from forms, reviewing past emails (and dates), clarifying ambiguities, responding to questions, and touching base with all who didn't respond to ensure that nothing fell into a crack or disappeared in the ether. I've gone at it in alphabetical order sorted by email address. Right now, I'm up to "ni" and hope to be done by tomorrow. 

My mind frequently wonders, my butt gets sore, and the lathes constantly call. So every couple hours I take a break and escape to Dark Holler ... face a few work-pieces, drill some sockets, etc. In between I think about all the other stuff that needs to get done. Like settle on a tagline.

Current candidates are:

1) Extraordinary tools for discriminating wet-shavers

2) Mindfully made by hand and machine

3) Tradition on the cutting edge

4) They aren't cheeseburgers

Any thoughts? 

Seriously, thanks to all for the patience. We've been keeping our heads down here and elsewhere for good reason. 

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 05-05-2015, 08:42 AM
#9
  • N8Julo43
  • Red Whisker Wrangler
  • Mizzou-RAH, USA
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3) Tradition on the cutting edge

I like it.

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 05-05-2015, 08:57 AM
#10
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(05-05-2015, 08:42 AM)N8Julo43 Wrote: 3) Tradition on the cutting edge

I like it.

Probably better than Rock Chalk Jayhalk, eh?

Thanks. I do to. It's the first one that came to mind, as far back as last August, maybe even July.

"They aren't cheeseburgers" is very recent.

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 05-05-2015, 09:03 AM
#11
  • N8Julo43
  • Red Whisker Wrangler
  • Mizzou-RAH, USA
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Ha! I can definitely appreciate the Jayhawk support, but it would be tough to promote as a Mizzou man, myself. Smile

The cheeseburger tagline was actually my second choice because it got a nice and loud chuckle here at my desk. Haha!

Either way, your true craftsmanship shows through your work, even more than any tagline could capture.

Great work, Ken! Here's to success!!

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 05-05-2015, 09:16 AM
#12
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I like #3, but when I read "Cutting Edge", it sounds more like a razor makers tagline....fitting either way though.

So I vote #2

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 05-05-2015, 09:26 AM
#13
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2) Mindfully made by hand and machine

Shows some DEPTH .... AND CLASS!

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 05-05-2015, 09:26 AM
#14
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(05-05-2015, 09:16 AM)Bruce Wrote: I like #3, but when I read "Cutting Edge", it sounds more like a razor makers tagline.
So I vote #2

We plan to make those too. We have the machine for it. And I have a British LC NEW I want to blueprint and try to copy. I bought 60 vintage Gillettes, mostly Brits, over six months when I first fell into wet-shaving. I stopped looking after I found the one I now use about 95% of the time. Paid something like $12.73 (converted from GBP) for it on UK eBay. It's plain as can be with an un-plated, brass, ball-end handle. I've never really liked the way it looks. But it turned out to be the Holy Grail for me. All things in their time, though.

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 05-05-2015, 09:28 AM
#15
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@Chiefbroom Ken

OK, that's what I was hoping to hear. I figured you may have that in the works at some point.

You guys are going to be a very busy family.

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 05-05-2015, 10:21 AM
#16
  • Mr_Smartepants
  • Senior Member
  • Cambridgeshire, UK (CONUS post address)
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1) Exceptional tools for discriminating wet-shavers.


This gets my vote.

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 05-05-2015, 10:26 AM
#17
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(05-05-2015, 10:21 AM)Mr_Smartepants Wrote: 1) Exceptional tools for discriminating wet-shavers.


This gets my vote.

Thought about that too. Extraordinary comes closer to the meaning I have in mind, i.e., not ordinary. (I spent my professional Wonder Years in a company that referred to itself as an Uncommon Company  with Uncommon Associates). But exceptional has a better ring. And I'm not sure the connotation is appreciably different.

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 05-05-2015, 10:37 AM
#18
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2) Mindfully made by hand and machine


I love the honesty of stating a machine has a role in the production of the brushes. But a mindful machine may take you into sci-fi territory............. 

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 05-05-2015, 08:21 PM
#19
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I vote #3 as I like the tradition tie-in.  It took me a second to read it correctly but it's clever and fitting.  

If I may offer an idea to make it sound more 'brushy' than 'razory' maybe incorporate 'Turning' somehow.

"Turning modern tradition"; "Turning new traditions"; "Turning out new tradition" 

Something like that maybe?  

Or you could call your shot like Babe Ruth "Turning into tradition" haha.  The PK-47 is easily my favorite brush so I think it would be really fitting.



Secondary vote for the cheeseburger one!  Had me rolling.

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 05-06-2015, 03:39 AM
#20
  • MPH
  • Member
  • UK
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How about something really simple like "Tradition progressed", or "Tradition 'turned' and progressed" i.e. taking everything thats good about traditional shaving (brushes or otherwise) and moving things forward.

Matt

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