07-20-2012, 02:04 AM
  • Dave
  • Moderator Emeritus
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This is the fifth interview in a series with the artists,craftsmen, and vendors who make wet shaving great. Todays interview is with Mark Watterson of Simpsons Vulfix

[Image: ScreenShot2012-06-29at44437PM.png]

What do the names “Colonel”, “Duke”, “Chubby”, and “Rover” mean to you?
If you’re a traditional wet shaver, these names all mean one thing to you
Simpsons Shave Brushes- a name which is synonymous with both quality and workmanship. A quality that has been handed down through generations and makes it’s way from the Isle of Man into your shave dens. To me, one of the finest and most historic companies in the wet shaving and male grooming business is Simpsons. Today’s interview is with Mark Watterson of Simpsons/Vulfix. Mark is very active on the Nook forums answering questions and teasing our wallets with the latest upcoming Simpsons offerings. I’d like to thank Mark for taking the time to answer a few questions for Nook Readers and I’d also like to thank Ben74 for helping me come up with a few questions for Mark as well since he is a true badger aficionado.

First of all Mark, give us a bit of your backstory

Firstly, what a pleasure it is to be here – Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions.

Well, a little bit about me. I’m a forty two year old father of three young boys, namely Lucas, Zak & Oscar. I’ve been married to my wife Sarah for twelve years and we live on the idyllic Isle of Man. I’m a Quantity Surveyor by profession (a bricks & mortar bean counter by another name), degree & professionally qualified .

I’m a keen sportsman and an even keener sports fan! My passion is the round shaped ball – soccer to you guys in the US, football to us Brits. I have followed Everton FC home & abroad for nearly 35 years and now my boys are Evertonians too- the poor souls!!! I play golf indifferently off a 12 handicap and I’m a club squash player and amateur footballer.

My Dad, Philip, has been my inspiration throughout my life – A real gentleman of the trade, whose knowledge of the wetshaving industry is unsurpassed. He was with Vulfix for fifty years, essentially man & boy. He would take me to the factory as a child, which was a huge operation in those days employing 50 staff as we were a big manufacturer of baby bottle brushes. I learned about shaving brushes as I grew up mainly by touch & feel, spending chunks of my summer holidays there as Mum was a nurse at the local hospital doing long hours & shift work. I started work in managerial capacity back in 2003 prior to moving to Australia in 2006 with the family. We returned in the early part of 2010 when I became the Managing Director. My mother & father still retain an active role within the company as Directors but are not involved in the day to day operation of the business.

Mark, what is your ideal shaving setup?

Great question – I couldn’t nail it down to one brush. I do use an Italian made DE razor which was a gift from a friend based in Florence. I naturally use the new Simpson luxury shaving cream which I’m sure the forum members will all get around to using at some point!!! The main brushes in my rotation include a real beat up old Vulfix 2234, a Simpson Case for traveling, the ‘new’ M7 in Manchurian & the full ensemble of Duke’s and Chubby’s – Madness really. I’m a bowl latherer and wouldn’t be without my late Grandad’s old pottery shaving mug, which incidentally I modeled the new Simpson shaving cup on.

What is the brush you use most often? (with grade of hair and knot size of course!!)

Honestly … the Duke 3 in Best badger. It doesn’t really get much better than that little bundle of joy.

Perhaps one of the most interesting items about Simpsons is the history of the company and how the traditions and brush names have been preserved down through the ages. Please give us a bit of brief history on the company and please let us know if there’s a chance of seeing that rich history published in some way for the wetshaving community to view.

I can’t think of a shaving brush manufacturer out there that has so much heritage and tradition on its side. It’s actually quite mind blowing. During its past the company has supplied English royalty, Arab princes and Hollywood movie stars. The shaving brushes to this day are still manufactured using the same hand-made techniques as they were almost one hundred years ago.

It is well documented that Vulfix purchased the Simpson brand back in 2008 from a gentleman named David Carter. Perhaps why Vulfix acquired the business is a little more uncertain? Mr. Carter was a fine brushmaker in his own right and his company made some great Simpson brushes in the early years under his stewardship. However, as his workforce aged he was unable to replace them with suitably qualified master craftsmen – the result being a drop in productivity and sadly, standards.

He knew that he wanted the Simpson name to continue, not be consigned to ancient history like so many artisan companies have gone before. But, he had a problem. He knew that there were very few people in the world at that time making shaving brushes in the traditional way – certainly only one company in Great Britain. Mr. Carter wanted first & foremost, for the brand to live on and he had already had several dealings with my father over various other brush offerings. Many meetings took place between the two and David was convinced that the only company capable of taking the Simpson name forward was Vulfix – and that was that, the deal was done.

We are very fortunate that a member of this forum, Mr. Gary Young (an original Simpson family member), is assisting us with a chronological history of the company. We hope to document this information on to a new website along with old photographs, stories behind the names of the brushes and much more. As you can imagine it’s quite a time consuming process but we will get there in the end.

Tell us a bit about the mystical Manchurian Badger Hair. What makes Simpsons Manchurian Badger Hair outperform the knots of other manufacturers?

I’ll hold my hands up – I was a sceptic. High Mountain White or Manchurian badger seemed to me like marketing buzzwords. We knew Simpson had produced Manchurian brushes before and we had a few to handle – they were different. The problem I encountered was sourcing the material – It took me three years to find it. I’m glad I persevered as those that have used the brushes will testify.
The fundamental characteristics of the hair make it feel like a finest Silvertip on the face but with a two band appearance and stiffness in the shaft. It produces wonderful flow through and is equally adapt with both soaps & creams. It’s not cheap – that’s the downside. We will be producing more if I can get a hold of some more material.

Simpsons has recently moved into providing more than just brushes. The last few months we've seen Simpsons release shaving mugs, shaving cream, and other skin care products. What sort of other products will we see being released under the Simpsons banner in the future?

The launch of the unscented ‘Naturally Vitalising’ range is very exciting for us. The Simpson luxury shaving cream is special, it really is. It’s up against some damn fine competition but I think we’ve pulled it off. We intend on producing 5 or 6 other fragrance Simpson creams which include

Indian Sandalwood
Peppermint & Rosemary
Café Latte
Citrus Burst
Lavender & Vetiver
Vanilla & Rose

The 50ml Pre-Shave Oil, 75ml Aftershave Balm and the 100ml Skin Food are due to be released within the next two months – These have been in R&D for over one year and we are particularly excited by their quality.

Can we get perhaps a bit more info on the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee brush? It is certainly stunning and it appears that many Nook Members are excited about the development and release of the brush. I feel it helps that we were there each step of the way as you have always updated us with the status of the brush

The QEII Jubilee brush was something we thought we must do with the company links to Buckingham Palace & the House of Windsor.

The handle design can be closely linked to conversations I’ve had with a very good friend of mine from Italy. Marco Riccio, a very well known gentlemen from the Badger & Blade forum suggested a specification from a quick sketch – he wasn’t a million miles away from what we had in mind. The brush is based upon the Duke 2 handle and there will be 150 No. produced. Each brush will have a 2012 British one pound coin set within its base. Pictures can be seen within the Brushes section of this forum. They will be for collectors.

[Image: Jubilee2.jpg]
[Image: Jubilee1.jpg]
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Can you give us a look behind the curtain perhaps and tell us what goes into making a brush? How long does the process take from start to finish and how much is done by hand?

Another great question

The brush handles are in the main cut from Polyester plastic rod, machine turned on CNC lathes.
The handles are vibrated in wet Limestone chippings for a minimum of 8 hours for de-burring.
They are left to dry overnight before spending another 8 hours in polishing drums with wax covered wood chippings.
The handles are then engraved using lasering.
The badger hair is bought in one kilo ‘rolls’.
This is sorted and weighed (on traditional brass scales) according to the brush type and knot.
The knot is tied and formed (bundled) using plastic or wooden cannons.
The knot is then set or glued to ensure each hair has a sufficient bond and then re-tied further down the shaft.
The knot is then cemented into the handle.
The head would then be ‘twiddled’and combed to remove lose or short hairs.
The handles are then given a paint and the famous Simpson sticker is applied.
Packed and ready to ship …

All in all, each brush would take around a week to produce.

All of the Gary Young Limited Edition Brushes have been marvelous. Are there plans for more in the near future?

They were stunning pieces and we were very grateful to Gary Young for helping us out on the project, a real English gent. As to other brushes bearing the name? It’s a maybe, I’d like to think so but I know Gary has a lot going on in his life at the moment and it’s about getting together and making something happen.

We’ve seen a few brush manufacturers begin releasing synthetic shaving brushes. Is there a chance that we might see a Simpsons Synthetic Brush in the future? I can only imagine the quality and performance of a Simpsons Synthetic Brush both in the handle and the knot.

We are in talks with several hair suppliers over the sourcing of a high grade synthetic imitation badger material – It’s very much work in progress, as are a range of Simpson boar brushes.

Thank you so much Mark for taking time away from your busy schedule. We certainly do appreciate it. As an aside, my personal favorite Simpsons brush was always the Colonel. There wasn’t a finer brush in my den than the Colonel X2L.

A genuine pleasure – Our love for brush making is still as strong as it was when Alexander Simpson got things going in 1919.

Simpsons products can be purchased from your favorite wet shaving website or directly from Simpsons (including the above Special Editions) at

A huge thank you again to Mark for doing the interview.

116 3,804
 07-20-2012, 02:58 AM
  • Banned
  • Woodstock, Vermont
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Great job with the interview. Like Dave a Celtic F.C. fan myself Mark from my years living in Edinburgh. As I am your age we are passing on the passion to the next generation! Simpsons is in full swing these days. Great brushes, a new lineup....these creams look fantastic, and devotion to great brush making. It is a real asset having Gary Young involved both with you and here on the Nook. A Chubby 2 in Best is in order this morning indeed!

42 1,041
 07-20-2012, 04:25 AM
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A really great article and now I know the history of Simpsons. Thank you both for sharing.

147 14,105
 07-20-2012, 04:51 AM
  • ben74
  • Senior Member
  • Perth, Australia
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Dave, perhaps your best interview to date.

Mark, insightful and well composed responses.

Thank-you both for a most enjoyable and informative read.

101 18,026
 07-20-2012, 05:37 AM
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Great interview, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Thanks Mark and Dave!

3 315
 07-20-2012, 07:00 AM
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Another great read.

Thanks for taking the time to do this!

7 1,181
 07-20-2012, 07:18 AM
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Great interview, gentlemen. Thanks for the info.

90 21,251
 07-20-2012, 07:35 AM
  • bullgoose
  • The Enabler
  • Redondo Beach, California, U.S.A
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Great Interview and behind the scenes look into Simpson. That Jubilee handle is stunning! Darn...another brush I am going to have to add to the collection. Biggrin

52 20,609
 07-20-2012, 07:43 AM
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Another great interview. Thanks to both.

229 13,304
 07-20-2012, 07:58 AM
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Fantastic !!!

Well put together Dave as usual.

Mark, thank you for giving Dave the time and for giving us a brief history on how your family got started in this business.

Job well done and much appreciated by all.

182 25,472
 07-20-2012, 08:10 AM
  • Dave
  • Moderator Emeritus
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I think Honestly if Mark is up for it down the road, I'd love to hear a bit about Vulfix and the history of the company as well as the products they're working on. I'll approach him with that soon as I think we all want him to be focusing on the QE Brush now Biggrin

116 3,804
 07-20-2012, 08:46 AM
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Another Stellar interview! Simpson's boar brushes? We will see I suppose...

37 408
 07-20-2012, 08:51 AM
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Great interview and a fascinating insight into the process behind the Simpsons brushes. I hope to add one of these legendary brushes to my collection soon and look forward to the boar variety.

0 54
 07-20-2012, 11:29 AM
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This is a fantastic read...very informative.

0 140
 07-20-2012, 11:49 AM
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Well done, another excellent article. Thanks to both Mark & Dave.

Synthetic Simpsons??? Dave, it looks like you may eventually be able to get your Goldilocks brush... a synthetic knot in a Colonel handle.

31 8,060
 07-20-2012, 11:50 AM
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Nice job, Dave! I had a Duke 3 in Best. A terrific all-around brush, which was a chronic shedder for a time.

After shampooing and combing it out several times, it settled down to only loosing a hair once in a while.

I passed it on to my son-in-law, and it's doing a good job for him!

0 1,377
 07-20-2012, 12:01 PM
  • Dave
  • Moderator Emeritus
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(07-20-2012, 11:49 AM)SharpSpine Wrote: Well done, another excellent article. Thanks to both Mark & Dave.

Synthetic Simpsons??? Dave, it looks like you may eventually be able to get your Goldilocks brush... a synthetic knot in a Colonel handle.

I know and I'm thrilled at the proposition. It's a good thing I'm decent at keeping secrets, because I've been excited about that since Mark answered the question.

116 3,804
 07-20-2012, 12:57 PM
  • freddy
  • Banned
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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Another excellent and interesting interview. Thanks to both Dave and Mark for taking the time to do it.

2 5,000
 07-20-2012, 02:54 PM
  • gijames
  • Mile High Soldier
  • TN, USA
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Thanks to both Mark and Dave!

Dave, another fine installment Biggrin

9 1,684
 07-20-2012, 07:38 PM
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A well written and interesting article. Thanks to Mark for taking the time for the interview and to Dave, TSN's resident reporter.

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