12-11-2017, 07:43 PM
  • Urolex
  • Active Member
  • Phoenix, AZ
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Those of you on here who know me know of my affinity for Paladin brushes.  I had a unique opportunity over Thanksgiving weekend that I thought I’d share.

 I met my wife in Kansas City over 10 years ago when I lived there for residency.  We’ve since moved away, but travel there often to visit her family.  As soon as we booked our flights to KC for Thanksgiving, I immediately reached out to Ken, owner of Paladin Shaving, and asked if I could visit his workshop.  I had mentioned this to him in a previous email over a year earlier, but life and work had always seemed to get in the way.  Ken responded and agreed to have me visit.  In fact, he invited my directly to his home.
I arrived around lunchtime on Saturday and was greeted by his lovely wife, Pam, at the door.  She immediately invited me in as if I were kin.  Ken was inside along with his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter who were visiting from Wichita.  I felt horrible for imposing such a trivial request during what was obviously great family time, but they were more than happy to have a visitor.
After a lovely conversation with his family, he took me downstairs to his den.  I immediately recognized the family pool table and couldn’t help but grin.  Off the basement was what I could only describe as a lab/wet shaving mancave.  There were too many knots to count, numerous handles, and machines that seem strange to be in someone’s home.  To the side was a bench with brushes that had literally been split in half-their knots and glue inspected in an autopsy-like fashion.  I saw the numerous Churchill LE handles awaiting their knots.
He spent nearly an hour describing his work, what it means to him and how it all began.  He talked about Cody and his gift with laser engraving.  I felt foolish asking him “why” he decided to do this because his answer was eerily similar to many people who discover their passion.  He didn’t really have an “a-ha” moment per se, but rather a series of events and conditions, mixed with the right people, that allowed him to go down the rabbit hole.  He candidly discussed how much personal investment he had sacrificed to start the operation--and it is jaw-dropping.  However, I got the sense that regardless of return, it is money well-spent for him.
We then walked towards the room where he takes pictures of the brushes prior to a release.  On the way, a microscope sat with a single badger hair displayed on the monitor.  I’d have to guess that the hair was magnified at least 100x, maybe more.  Ken stopped and peered at the hair.  He discussed his knots and their attributes, as well as knots that he didn’t use and his reasons for doing so. 
After looking at what appeared to be a professional photography set-up, we then got in his truck and drove about 5 minutes down the road to his workshop where the handles are cut and turned.   It was a rather unassuming building that had previously served as a medical research facility.  His workshop was one of many tenants that have now re-purposed the space.  We parked near the back and entered through a side door.  He showed me his office and directly across from it, the workshop. 
There were rolls and rolls of different patterns.  Everything from butterscotch to Krakatoa.   I even noticed a few ebonites.  Once inside the workshop, I quickly realized that it was built single-handedly by Ken.  There  was no wasted space.  There were computers everywhere, many disassembled with wiring exposed, yet still functional.  There were schematics lying about, the kind you’d imagine seeing in an architecture firm or a physics lab.  Lining the work benches were broken handles, chipped handles, etc.  He described them as mistakes that served as lessons rather than failures. 
I watched as he cut and turned a single handle.  I guess with all the equipment and the flood of pics we see on TSN (or the various other boards and FB pages prior to a release) that I just assumed it was a fast, automated process.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  He spent over 30 minutes turning a single handle to get it to a level that would acceptable to send to Oregon for Cody to polish and engrave before returning it to KC for knotting.  
As a member of the community, as spoiled as we are, it was still a very, very rewarding experience.  To see the process up close was both fascinating as well as humbling.  I, for one, always imagined Paladin to be a large operation with multiple employees.  Well, it’s not.  It’s a father and son, aided by his wife, working in tandem with a thousand miles between them.  I left awestruck in knowing what a single man built by just following his passion.  He didn’t ask me to write this, nor did I receive anything for doing so.  I’m just a fan.  I couldn’t help but share my experience and the new-found respect I have for my favorite brush maker.[Image: mWs3aQf.jpg]

57 481
 12-11-2017, 08:10 PM
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Thanks for your insider's view of Paladin.  Enjoyable and informative reading.

57 8,894
 12-11-2017, 08:16 PM
  • NJDJ
  • Senior Member
  • New Jersey
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Very cool!  Smile

28 780
 12-11-2017, 08:20 PM
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Thanks for sharing.  I'd love to see a video of that meeting/tour!   Wink

Understanding the scale of the operation, relative to the output and quality really puts things in perspective.

23 1,938
 12-11-2017, 08:33 PM
  • MaxP
  • Senior Member
  • Des Moines, Iowa
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Ken is, indeed, a gentleman. And Pam is a delight to be around.

63 1,833
 12-11-2017, 10:15 PM
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Thank you very much for sharing this Thumbsup

8 1,084
 12-11-2017, 10:16 PM
  • Mr_Smartepants
  • Senior Member
  • Cambridgeshire, UK (CONUS post address)
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Totally agree.  And much better than I described my trip to KC to visit with Ken & Pam.
Two of the nicest people you'll ever meet and ones that I'm honored to call friends.

48 2,100
 12-11-2017, 10:30 PM
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Thank you for this, great read, must have been a wonderful experience.. This only confirms my thoughts (from correspondence with Ken) of a great family producing excellent products.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

0 69
 12-11-2017, 10:33 PM
  • SCOV
  • Senior Member
  • Minnesota
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Nice rods in the picture - my next 4 brushes.

Thanks for the write-up. Ken has proven once again to be a real class act!!

13 761
 12-11-2017, 10:44 PM
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Very nice writeup.

182 25,426
 12-11-2017, 10:59 PM
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Nice. Very nice.  Thumbup

9 1,505
 12-12-2017, 12:30 AM
  • chazt
  • Senior Member
  • Queens, NY
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Urolex, I enjoyed reading your post immensely. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

13 3,379
 12-12-2017, 12:47 AM
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Thanks for sharing, i'm sure that was quite an experience to see what all is involved in the actual process

46 722
 12-12-2017, 04:20 AM
  • Sully
  • Super Moderator
  • Cedar Park, Texas
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Thanks for the great write up and insight into the Paladin operation.

11 1,976
 12-12-2017, 04:33 AM
  • eengler
  • Administrator
  • South Dakota, USA
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Thanks for sharing your experience. Much appreciated!

66 5,408
 12-12-2017, 05:16 AM
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Nice story - lucky you
Thank you for sharing

0 144
 12-12-2017, 06:14 AM
  • Niro884
  • Italian Shaving Enthusiast
  • Stoney Creek, Ontario CANADA
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Great story and great people; the writer and Ken.

69 861
 12-12-2017, 08:05 AM
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Great write-up and visit! Thank you so much for sharing with us your experience with Ken and family.

71 2,238
 12-12-2017, 08:15 AM
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great story.  I got to meet them here in Oregon for lunch.  so glad his personal obsession ended up being shaving brushes. nice people for sure

80 1,450
 12-12-2017, 08:16 AM
  • blzrfn
  • Butterscotch Bandit
  • Vancouver USA
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I am super jealous.  I have no particular reason to visit KC, but if I found myself there I would be calling Ken first thing.  Paladin makes excellent shaving brushes and his passion really shines through in the performance and quality.

158 2,896
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