06-24-2012, 07:50 AM
#1
  • Codfish
  • Product Tester
  • Connecticut Shoreline
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[Image: GaryphotoFIN.jpg]


The New Generation of Synthetic Brushes – Part I

Background

I took up wet shaving seriously about two years ago. At the time, I was astonished at the number of razors, blades, soaps, creams, brushes and other products that were available. I spent a couple of months reading and learning about them here on B&B before making any serious purchases.

My research regarding brushes was the most confusing for me, since I had little concept of how brush knots differed, how lofts affected their use, or whether boars or badgers were better. I knew nothing about backbone and density. What I did know was that I did not want a synthetic brush. The reviews I read on them dated back to 2009 and were not encouraging.

In the summer of last year, I had the opportunity to try a new synthetic brush from Mühle—a 21mm Black Fibre. I was very impressed with it and wrote a Review of it. I then acquired examples of their Silvertip Fibre line in several sizes. I felt they were very good as well.

I began to suspect that the brush reviews I’d read earlier no longer accurately reflected new synthetics brushes that had become available. I invited a group of experienced shavers to join with me to look objectively at the “new generation” of synthetic brushes.

The New-Gen Synth Project

The project’s team members include Teiste Brito (Teiste) and Badger & Blade members Win Bouman (wimbouman), Gary Carringtom (GDCarrington), Mark Herro (mantic) and Jim SanSouci (Codfish). The team has been working on the project for the past three months. Our efforts focused on two underlying questions:

“Have synthetics come of age?”

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

During the project period, we tested a total of nineteen (19) brushes from Edwin Jagger, Franks Shaving, H.I.S., L’occitane, Mühle, New York Shaving Company, Omega, Taylor of Old Bond Street and The Body Shop.

Collectively, we conducted over 400 individual tests, and posted over a dozen threads and reviews in shaving forums. The team used a set of test criteria developed by Gary Carrington. The criteria were based on shortcomings he had noted with older synthetic brushes:

• Water retention: Does it hold water sufficiently enough?
• Loading: Does it pick up soaps and creams easily?
• Lather: Does it built and apply lather well?
• Application/Backbone: Does it allow for a soft/smooth/effective application of lather to the skin.
• Quality feel: Does the synthetic brush s have the “quality” feel against the skin? Would it pass a blindfold test against naturals?
• Appearance: Is the look of the brush attractive?

We finished our initial round of testing in late May, and summarize our individual work by providing personal responses to the following questions:

1. What synthetic brushes did you test for this project?
2. Have you used synthetic brushes prior to 2011? What did you think of them? What strengths and shortcomings did you find?
3. Do you find significant changes in the new generation of synthetic brushes? How would you describe the changes you found? What advancements did you find?
4. Are there brushes that stood out for you in your tests? Why?
5. In what areas did you find new synthetic brushes most improved? Where do they need further improvement?
6. In your opinion, are there areas where further testing is indicated? Please describe.
7. Do you have any summary comments regarding your findings? Would you recommend them to others?

Summary of Responses to Questions 1-3

1. What synthetic brushes did you test for this project?

The project tested 19 brushes from Edwin Jagger, Franks Shaving, H.I.S., L’occitane, Mühle, New York Shaving Company, Omega, Taylor of Old Bond Street and The Body Shop.
The brushes we tested also included several pre-release and prototype models. See this link for the complete list.

2. Have you used synthetic brushes prior to 2011? What did you think of them? What strengths and shortcomings did you find?


Jim: I did not use synths prior to 2011. I did read reviews of them starting in the summer of 2010, but was discouraged by what appeared to be their poor performance with water retention, loading, lather making, lather application, “quality” feel, and artificial, unattractive appearance.

Wim: I used the Mühle 39 K 256 (2009, synthetic fibre) It is a beautifully made brush, the usual Mühle build quality, but the knot to me is a bad performer. Sloppy heat and water retention. I could not get it to lather properly...Its main strength is the quick drying.

Gary: Before 2011, I purchased an Omega White Nylon Syntex Brush. I was not impressed. It would not hold water sufficiently. It had too much backbone. The lathering from that brush was marginal at best. The only strengths with that brush were…it would dry out quickly and it could stand up to higher temperature water.

Mark: [I used a] Men-U synthetic and an Omega Syntex (nylon). I found the Men-U held water well but was somewhat difficult to lather with because the bristles were so stiff. I like the Omega Syntex: although small and doesn’t hold water as well as other brushes it still lathers well, dries quickly, and is inexpensive. I use it as a travel brush.

Teiste: I did actually, with a The Body Shop with no good results at all. It was good for bowl lathering but not for face lathering. Actually, I didn’t like it a bit. I thought it was a poor imitation of badger, pretty far away [from] the good qualities that badger and boar brushes offer. It was easy to make lather with it, harsh on the skin, impossible to use with circular strokes on the face.

3. Do you find significant changes in the new generation of synthetic brushes? How would you describe the changes you found? What advancements did you find, if any?

Mark: They’re definitely softer than the previous generation, with the newest from Mühle and Edwin Jagger as standouts. However, I have noticed that unless you’re careful not to push down the bristles too hard, the brush’s breech opens much too quickly, spilling water.

Wim: The changes are substantial indeed. The Mühle silvertip fibers are a step up from the old synthetic hair, and so is the new artificial badger from Omega compared to the Syntex versions. In addition, the black fibers from Mühle are a big improvement in softness and backbone.

Gary: The tips tend to be much softer than the old white nylon synthetics. Some are still harder than Silvertip badger but some are very close to being as soft as, or even softer than Silvertip badger. They do hold water better due to the new fiber tips that are soften. They tend to be more efficient with product (soap/cream) usage because the fibers are uniformly solid versus hollow with small micro-cavities for natural hairs. The newer synthetic brushes create lather far better than natural brushes. The newer synthetic brushes do not absorb product as natural hairs do. Because of this, they are more efficient especially with bowl lathering than equivalent natural brushes. They will apply lather to the face smoothly. They retain, based on the solid fiber, quick drying and higher water temperature tolerances.

Teiste: The new synthetic fibers are truly an advance in this regard. When we talk about synthetic fibre, we should distinguish between the one made by Mühle and the other ones. The ones made by Mühle (both the Silvertip and the Black) are truly the closest synthetic thing to natural badger hair and outperforms badger hair in many task. The synthetic fibers used by other makers are also behind in quality when compared with the Mühle ones.

Jim: Positive changes include attractive design, soft tips, excellent performance, good density and backbone, quick drying time and economical use of soaps and creams

Continuation:
The New Generation of Synthetic Brushes – Part I
The New Generation of Synthetic Brushes – Part II
:The New Generation of Synthetic Brushes – Part III

[Image: Brushknots.jpg]

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 06-24-2012, 08:38 AM
#2
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A great set of posts on these synths Jim. Thanks to all for the time and effort put into this endeavor.

Just a comment on the faux horn Muhle in the OP picture... the handle seems way to small for that knot. I hope as they look into larger knots that they also consider increasing the handle size along with it.

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 06-24-2012, 05:07 PM
#3
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Excellent article part 1.

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 06-25-2012, 07:05 PM
#4
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So glad to see this post not deleted. Great work on this project by all parties involved.

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 06-25-2012, 08:44 PM
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(06-25-2012, 07:05 PM)Azarius Wrote: So glad to see this post not deleted. Great work on this project by all parties involved.

Why on earth would something like this be deleted?

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 06-26-2012, 01:33 PM
#6
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(06-24-2012, 08:38 AM)SharpSpine Wrote: Just a comment on the faux horn Muhle in the OP picture... the handle seems way to small for that knot. I hope as they look into larger knots that they also consider increasing the handle size along with it.

+1

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 06-26-2012, 04:26 PM
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(06-24-2012, 08:38 AM)SharpSpine Wrote: A great set of posts on these synths Jim. Thanks to all for the time and effort put into this endeavor.

Just a comment on the faux horn Muhle in the OP picture... the handle seems way to small for that knot. I hope as they look into larger knots that they also consider increasing the handle size along with it.

It works well for me.

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 06-27-2012, 04:35 AM
#8
  • Howler
  • A calamophile and vintage razor lover
  • Fort Smith AR
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Great article with great opinions stated too.

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 06-27-2012, 08:29 AM
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(06-26-2012, 04:26 PM)GDCarrington Wrote:
(06-24-2012, 08:38 AM)SharpSpine Wrote: A great set of posts on these synths Jim. Thanks to all for the time and effort put into this endeavor.

Just a comment on the faux horn Muhle in the OP picture... the handle seems way to small for that knot. I hope as they look into larger knots that they also consider increasing the handle size along with it.

It works well for me.

I'm sure it does Gary. My comment was strictly about the aesthetics of it. It just looks off. That's the only way I can describe it.

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