09-22-2016, 03:19 PM
  • Aldo
  • Default User Title
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It has been a little over three months since I posted the State of The Varlet memo which communicated my plans with regards to the Reserve List as well as details about The Varlet's first year in business. Since I announced that the Reserve List would be fulfilled by summer's end it's prudent that I post an update since we are at fall's doorstep.

I consider the fact that the Reserve List is not anywhere close to being fulfilled as a heartbreaking setback for The Varlet. It truly pains me to have to make this announcement. The month of August and these first few weeks of September presented challenges which I could not overcome in time to meet the end of summer deadline. Mostly, setbacks occurred in the shop but a personal matter also contributed to the delay but I'm glad to say it has since been resolved. 

The batch that was shipped in July was the last batch which included pad-printed logos. Despite being very happy with the longevity of the ink and hardener I used, I knew that for The Varlet to truly rise to the next level I would have to use a more permanent way of printing the logotype. Furthermore, pad-printing is very easy if all of the pieces are of the exact same size and shape, but hand-turned pieces that have varying dimensions and contours present especially tedious challenges in order to print with high fidelity and in correct alignment. To make matters more difficult, the ink and hardener are vulnerable to changes in temperature and humidity and the summer months always have me scrambling to get logos printed cleanly. And here's the icing on the cake: the ink, hardener, and thinner used in pad printing is noxious and toxic, something for which I personally have an abhorrent disdain. Despite this, my original plan was to fulfill the Reserve List using pad-printed handles and introduce laser-engraving with the Gaslamp TSN LE at the end of summer. After the July batch, however, I made the decision to scrap the pad printing altogether at once. 

The goal and vision of The Varlet is to make truly outstanding tools, ones that can be considered heirlooms. With proper care it's entirely possible for the logos that were printed in ink to last decades and even several generations. However, that is not a certainty. With the care and attention that I give each and every brush it is reassuring that now I'll be able to permanently add my "maker's mark" that will stand the test of time. From now on all brushes will be laser engraved.

The transition to laser engraving began in late July with the engraving machine finally arriving in early August. A process that I hoped would take a week turned into several weeks very quickly. Despite purchasing the machine from a U.S. based company several shortcomings were present on delivery. Firstly, basic setup and operating instructions were substantially inadequate. Additionally, some of the factory settings for the rotary attachment which allows for engraving round objects (such as shaving brush handles) were incorrect, leading to skewed engravings. Compounding the challenge, some of the wiring of the rotary attachment was poorly soldered which prompted me to re-solder them entirely as well as take apart the entire mechanism to fully inspect it for other abnormalities in hopes of finding the root of the problem. Needless to say, a very brief description of a monumental series of challenges.

Once these issues were addressed I could begin to test the laser on Alumilite. This was a bit challenging but it was expected. Thankfully, an Alumilite technical rep had given me some pointers ahead of time on how best to use a laser on this material. It is so fickle a material that as little as one percent change in the laser's power settings can yield unacceptable results. Good news is, I have a pretty good handle on the engraving process as well as methods for adding color to the engravings, which was in itself another process which took some time to master. The photo at the end of this post is one of the test pieces on an Orion handle.

As I mentioned, not being able to fulfill my commitment with regards to the Reserve List has been truly vanquishing. I've had many successes during this venture, mastering several aspects of this craft which I consider to be real achievements, including offering indestructible handles and crafting knots by hand without any prior knowledge.

However, the biggest shortfall so far has been the inability to meet demand while maintaining the level of quality that I promote. I absolutely refuse to amp up production if it means sacrificing quality. I've seen it done many times by young, eager companies itching to gain market share in all types of industries only to result in the crash and burn of their reputation and integrity. If it means I lose a few disgruntled (and rightly so) patrons in the beginning, that is a tough pill to swallow but something I must accept. Nevertheless, my goal to raise production to a more steady and predictable level have gone unreached so far. 

I've made too many promises that I couldn't keep during these past 15 months. I could state to a patron that a batch would be two weeks away, and I'll have to re-start or backtrack due to some issue. Then there is the Reserve List, which is the biggest manifestation so far of this recurring shortfall. Going forward, I must find another way to manage production and expectations because this is not sustainable, being not only a disservice to my patrons but a very heavy burden to carry on a personal level. I will realign my focus in the next 2-3 months; I do believe with the laser engraver in place many of my production woes will be lifted so I am feeling positive.

For the remainder of the year, my focus will be to complete the TSN Limited Edition brush as speedily as possible. I have made a promise to the TSN crew and since I've been welcomed so well here I owe it to the community to put forth a stellar brush. I'm excited to get this done as I think the Gaslamp is a smash hit. I will still be fulfilling the Reserve List throughout the fall and into winter as well; I am not turning my back on that commitment at all. I'll keep working through the end of 2016 to get it done.

Despite the challenging summer, I am more than ever optimistic and excited about The Varlet. I'll be unveiling the Cambria very soon as well as a revamp of the Ranger. I have been working on casting various handle colors which I'm really happy to finally turn and polish. I've gained an even better grasp of knot construction, being able to consistently craft perfectly symmetrical knots more speedily and with near perfect consistency which cuts down on knots going into the donation pile. I've developed methods for crafting deep, round bulb knots and knots of varying degrees of convexity. I really think The Varlet is going to offer some amazing things in 2017. Some sneak peeks at what is coming below.

Thanks everyone for your attention as always.


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2 93
 09-22-2016, 03:34 PM
  • Steelman
  • Delaware
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BRAVO Aldo.  Thank you for your honesty and integrity.

As a "patron" of yours, I truly appreciate your dedication and have absolutely no objection to the additional wait.  I know it will be worth it.

178 1,678
 09-22-2016, 04:09 PM
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We are patient men Aldo. Take your time and get it done the way you meant to. I for one appreciate a superior quality product that I have to wait for rather than a subpar product I get immediately. The wait will make it that much more special.

Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk

16 52
 09-22-2016, 04:10 PM
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That tortoise, Fender sun burst looking, Chubby Stubby thing, second picture, awesome! I want that . Thanks for the update.


4 432
 09-22-2016, 04:13 PM
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I'd like to recommit to your endeavor, especially the bulb knot shown above and the Ranger revamp. When sign-up time arrives I'll be there.

29 1,775
 09-22-2016, 04:19 PM
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Thanks for sharing your process, glad to hear of your successes with the laser engraver and knot production.

6 29
 09-22-2016, 04:20 PM
  • Giorgio
  • Senior Member
  • Pennsylvania, US
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Thank you Aldo! The wait is a small price to pay for your work of art

34 1,627
 09-22-2016, 04:30 PM
  • beamon
  • Active Member
  • Greenville, SC USA
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Bravo, indeed, Aldo! I'll bet you and James of Wolfman Razors could have some interesting phone conversations well into the night, assuming you both weren't working well into the night!  Smile  The Gaslight will be a blast to watch as will the new products yet to come. Go get 'em, Tiger!

0 363
 09-22-2016, 04:36 PM
  • Entasis
  • Atop the Razor's Edge
  • Southern California
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 09-22-2016, 04:42 PM
  • eengler
  • Emeritus
  • South Dakota, USA
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Thanks for the update Aldo. Your integrity and attention to the detail of your craft is an inspiration.

68 5,620
 09-22-2016, 04:43 PM
  • ARGH
  • Senior Member
  • Boston, MA
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126 2,213
 09-22-2016, 04:46 PM
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I appreciate your message and wish you success and an easier road ahead. Still -- and I'm sure this won't be a popular sentiment -- I have to wonder why you agreed to take on the Shave Nook job without being able to fulfill requests you already had on the wait list.

4 903
 09-22-2016, 04:47 PM
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Very thorough update Aldo..!! Thank you. I'm not going anywhere so take your time ;-)

Best wishes,

23 1,385
 09-22-2016, 04:51 PM
  • bullgoose
  • The Enabler
  • Redondo Beach, California, U.S.A
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Thank you for the update Aldo!

54 22,531
 09-22-2016, 04:54 PM
  • refles
  • Senior Member
  • New York
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Aldo, Thanks for such a very thorough update! Striving to maintain your levels of quality in all aspects of the Varlet really exemplifies your integrity and commitment that truly makes owning a Varlet special. My revised Mega, received this summer is proof of that, its clearly one of the best performing big brushes I've experienced.

May you continue to enjoy doing what you clearly have a passion for!

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

36 1,338
 09-22-2016, 04:59 PM
  • GreeneMD
  • Senior Member
  • Grand Island, NY
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Very nice!

0 600
 09-22-2016, 05:02 PM
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Great looking bulb.

I like the colors you came up with too.

Thanks for the update. Sounds like a lot of work has been done in a short time.

I'm looking forward to the heat and humidity of summer being in the rearview mirror too.

11 1,627
 09-22-2016, 05:14 PM
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Your candor is appreciated Aldo.  I'm fine with waiting and, as it turns out, I'll get a laser engraved Ranger.

By the way, that's a great looking bulb knot you posted.  I would definitely like to see some  bulb knots on your brushes.

60 12,226
 09-22-2016, 05:19 PM
  • gp569900
  • Senior Member
  • Franklin, TN USA
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Aldo, I sincerely appreciate your humility and commitment to excellence. Starting any business is a challenge. Doing it with excellence is even harder. Again, as stated above, thank you for your candor.

64 507
 09-22-2016, 06:03 PM
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No worries here. I can wait for my Orion, Aldo.

The laser engraving sounds great, take your time.

11 1,170
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