09-11-2018, 07:20 AM
#1
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Caveat: YMMV, one size do not fit all, etc - these are my observations and suggestions, but I look forward to hearing other weight in on this.

Brushes can be confusing at times, and complicated too. Selection of material and sizes vary wildly.

Broadly speaking, a larger brush offers more coverage while a smaller brush offers more control. If you opt for small knots (under 22 mm) you should go for short lofts, and conversely if you want to use a big knot (over 22mm) you should choose a tall loft.

Personally I like my brushes on the small side, with a knot around 19-20 mm across and 55-60 mm tall loft. However, in my opinion this size is best suited for horsehair and badger with a lot of backbone. A softer badger should be larger, say a 22-25mm knot with a loft between 60 and 65 mm tall. Boar brushes also work well in large sizes, but I have used small boars that work just fine.

As far as the hair go, that is complicated too.

Avoid the so called "pure" badger if you want a high end brush; this is in fact the lowest grade. Opt for "fine" or "silvertip" if you can, since they are both softer, retains water more easily and also lathers much faster - but be aware that there is no set standard for what constitutes "pure", "fine", "silvertip", or any other grade. Ask around or check the manufacturers website to work it out.

Boar hair are not graded, but I would avoid boar that is dyed to look like badger; this is often perceived as wearing faster due to the dye (although it may just be the dye being worn off and not the bristle itself). A good boar will have tips that split during use and softens with age.

Horsehair is somewhat of an acquired taste, people either love or loath it. I'm a fan of a good horse brush myself, but I do admit that I'm a minority in that regard. Horsehair brushes are made from a mix of mane and tail hair, collected during normal grooming. More tail means a stiffer brush with more backbone and more scritch. For those who care, it's the only animal hair I know of used for shave brushes that is collected in an animal-friendly way.

Synthetics varies wildly, so it's hard to generalise about those. My experience with them is also limited to cheap ones from a decade or two back... and synths have come a long way since then.

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 09-11-2018, 02:50 PM
#2
  • Rufus
  • Senior Member
  • Greater Toronto Area
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After 50 years of shaving I found trial and error worked for me. Over the years I’ve learned that the best knot size for me is 22 - 24 with a loft at least 2.5X the knot diameter. As for hair type, I like badger and boar; I’ve yet to find a synthetic that doesn’t feel “synthetic” and horse leaves me cold. My 27 badger brushes range from pure to extra dense 2-band silvertip. I have 2 pure badgers, a pre-Vulfix Simpson and a shavemac, both of which I like very much. My favourite badgers are shavemac Finest, Simpson best and shavemac/Thater 3-band silvertips. My least favourite badgers are 2-band silvertips as I find them too dense and having too much backbone. My boars are high-end Thater, Semogue and Omega, which make for a nice change of pace from my badgers. I think I’ve settled my brush experiments with the 30 I currently own; if I were to sell any of these brushes they would be the 2-band silvertip. My journey through brushdom has been very pleasurable, but expensive.

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 09-14-2018, 01:50 AM
#3
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One note about the pure grade. Kent advertises their BL/BLK 4-12 line as pure badger, but it is quality silvertip badger. As per Warrior's advise consult the forums if you are in doubt on the grade. Overall there is more similarity than not between the manufacturers and grades. Another wrinkle on grade is with boar. Semogue actually grades their boar, but they are the only one that does so.

Definitely great advice from Warrior here. Boar and synthetics both have wonderful options that won't break the bank, and areas that I would suggest for people first. Horsehair can even have its place and can be just what someone would love. My preference goes for quality badgers, but I've dabbled in all the areas. Just something about when I first saw a shaving brush on a tv show that always appealed to me, and then I found out later in life that they're still being made. I've been lost down the rabbit hole since.  Wink

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 10-06-2018, 05:47 AM
#4
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A key consideration for me is handle length.

I appreciate Wegian's info immensely.  Sadly, I'm not that versed in all the vagaries of the different types of knots and their grades - I stick with silvertip and call it good Smile  But such reviews are emminently helpful and appreciated as I continue to learn more about wet shaving.

For me, I prefer a longer handled brush to what I sense is the more popular "stubby" length (just a sense, mind you).  I don't face lather, but use a bowl (Georgetown G20).  I like to have sufficient handle length such that it won't collect lather when set in the bowl.  

I also like a longer handle because of the way it fits in my hand - a little more handle, a little more control of the brush.  When I first started wet shaving, I bought a cheap stubby-style brush (being cheap at the time), but felt like I was always holding it in my fingertips, which seemed awkward.

Anyway, just my $0.02.  I purchase my knots from a reputable source and turn my own handles (wood & acrylics), so I am blessed to be able to customize my brushes to my liking.

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 10-08-2018, 03:00 AM
#5
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Here's what I have learned. Buy a brush from one of these makers...
(listed in alphabetical order)
Brad Sears
Elite Razor
Paladin.
and you will have a great brush.

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