01-07-2020, 03:08 PM
  • DanLaw
  • Just an old slow fat man
  • Peachtree City, GA
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Having reviewed and coordinated Tatara passarounds for the Masamune (正宗) and Nodachi (野太刀) razors, it was my pleasure to receive a Masamune (正宗) brush.  Relatively unknown in the US, Tatara is a small Portuguese based company founded by 3 friends with mechanical engineering education and an appreciation for Japanese swordsmith craftsmanship.  The goal was to apply their engineering acumen and love of all things samurai to improve double edge razors in craftsmanship, design, ergonomics and technology then expand to other wet shaving items - but only if they could carry the theme of Japanese minimalism to improve the market.  They have in the past focused on minimizing blade vibration through a unique fastening system, perpendicularity of the head to handle and tight tolerances with great effect and have achieved a classic, dare I state minimalist aesthetique in keeping with traditional Japanese design and truly unique razors.  Now they have applied their experience and philosophy to the shaving brush.  

The Masamune (正宗) line is named after the greatest swordsmith in Ancient Japanese history from Sagami Province producing blades in the latter Kamakura period.  Of such renown were his swords that the most prestigious award for swordmaking, the Masamune Prize, is awarded at the Japanese Sword Making Competition to this very day (but only to a worthy candidate so not annually).  Masamunesan's swords have a reputation for superior beauty and quality, which was no small feat in that steels were far from pure during his reign.  A hallmark of his swords is the nie () finish, arising from martensitic crystals embedded in a pearlite matrix resulting from the tempering process and said to resemble stars in a night sky.  The reason for this brief history lesson will become apparent in the review that follows. 
If one is but secure at the foundation, he will not be pained by departure from minor details or affairs that are contrary to expectation. But in the end, the details of a matter are important. The right and wrong of one's way of doing things are found in trivial matters.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
As with the razors, the first thing one notices is that the packaging screams low volume craftsmanship.  While simply boxed in high-grade paperboard and - in an homage to Portuguese heritage - beautiful cork insert, the impression is one of low volume handmade craftsmanship with a nice touch of marketing sizzle.  Inside rests the most uniquely finished steel brush handle I have encountered; the finish has a texture and appearance imparted from the sandblasting that is so strikingly different that many of the design features are easily overlooked.  Were one to describe it, the best I can offer is it is derivative of the colour and texture of the frame/casing finish of Ducati Reparto Corse superbikes of the 90s and early 2000s.  This is the nie finish effect alluded to above and almost worth the price of admission alone.  As one stares transfixed by the finish of the brush, other obvious design details begin to make an impression: that of quintessentially traditional Japanese elegance reminiscent of the feudal samurai weaponry that presents as simplistic, beautiful design accentuating its inherent strength and capability.  This brush will never be mistaken for anything but a Tatara – it is stunningly beautiful, honest and singularly unique.  One marvels that a Portugese design team could produce a product more distinctly capturing Samurai culture and heritage than any Japanese manufacture has managed to date – Tatara products radiate and epitomize Japanese tradition!

Once beyond the initial visual impression, the uniqueness of its design captivates - the brush handle is fully dimpled, mimicking the texturing of the Masamune razor handle but with a heft and dimension unique amongst any brush handle I have ever encountered.  Contrary to the razor handles, the shear physicality of the brush handle imparts a solidity that hasn’t been encountered in ANY modern product used since a child.  In a very real and impressive manner, something as simple as a brush handle restores one’s belief that manufacturers can produce products meant to last many lifetimes without fail – ever.  It was refreshing and something that had slipped from the consciousness of my youth over time as manufacturing efficiency has yielded lighter, more fragile products without regard to longevity as a virtue.  Tatara has definitely established a design ethos that is setting a standard others would be wise to consider.  Nothing approaches how their finish, minimalist design, dimpling and weight distribution is executed at anything approaching their price point – maybe at any price point.  Tatara's designs synergistically interact in a positive manner to remind the experienced user that their products are something unique – even if blindfolded in a dark room, there will never be any doubt that one is handling one of their designs.  Having acclimated to the look and feel of the brush in hand, the next obvious design element is the knot.  Tatara has cooperated with Semogue to fit the handle with a Finest Badger knot of 24mm diameter and 50mm loft.  The knot is dense with barely any scritch (even new and unbroken in) exhibiting excellent backbone and pass through.  Were one to compare it to a quality knot in wide circulation, I would state it is squarely between the Simpson Super and Manchurian knots of similar diameter, a very favourable comparison especially considering the price.

Having taken a solid month to fully break in the knot, cleaning and lathering numerous times to be sure the feel had stabilized, have come away with a very favourable impression.  Unlike the razors, there is an overall impression of heft and handle bias, yet the brush retains a medical instrument feel to the hand.  As with all Tatara handles, there were qualms that the dimpled handle design would be quite slippy when combined with slick modern soaps such as Grooming Dept and Wholly Kaw but between the sandblasting and dimples, there was never a moment of jeopardy over the course of a month's shaves.  The knot quickly whips up beautiful lather from multiple soaps and creams without fail feeling lovely on the face whether on a week’s worth of stubble lathering the first pass or the nearly BBS third pass lathering.  While not a brush expert, I have used many brushes with radically differing properties but the Tatara was without question the most unique brush used to date by a long shot!
My conclusion is that this continues the beautiful and unique aesthetique Tatara has established making a seamless compliment to their razors or added to a rotation of quality brushes.  It is limited in availability, beautifully designed, well executed and yet quite affordable.  Frankly, am probably keeping this brush in my rotation despite not being a brush collector.  I loved this brush and would only suggest 3 additional options be made available requiring minimal capital investment:

1, Offer a stand carrying foreward the minimalist Tatara design ethos as no other stand will do justice to this brush

2, Offer the dark finish to the brush handle

3, While the knot is wonderful, one can not help but wonder what a Simpson Manchurian knot or Declaration Grooming knot would be like in this museum quality handle – Tatara should consider partnering with the industry leading knot producers to issue some truly special brushes and raise the price to reflect the occasion.  Perhaps they could even offer handles sans knots for those having a preferred supplier
So now this brush is offered to other passaround testers that will undertake the cleansing routine required to make this experience available to all and join the threads opining on the DFS and TSN forums.  It will be interesting to read their impressions and looking forward to the feedback which will be shared with Tatara.  There are extremely limited slots available, if you would like to be included in the passaround, PM directly.  Thank you for your time and best to all forum members.
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4 485
 01-07-2020, 03:25 PM
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Thanks for such a thorough and thoughful review.

60 9,853
 01-07-2020, 03:30 PM
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SBAD fiercely enabled.
Superb review.

63 1,652
 01-07-2020, 03:50 PM
  • chazt
  • Senior Member
  • Queens, NY
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Well done, Dan. Thanks for the good read.

15 3,888
 01-08-2020, 07:23 AM
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Enjoyed reading the detailed review Dan. Aroused my interest to buy one.

4 1,279
 01-08-2020, 08:23 AM
  • SCOV
  • Senior Member
  • Minnesota
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I like history and good reviews - enjoyed reading.

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