01-07-2020, 03:08 PM
#1
  • 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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 01-07-2020, 03:25 PM
#2
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Thanks for such a thorough and thoughful review.

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 01-07-2020, 03:30 PM
#3
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SBAD fiercely enabled.
Superb review.

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 01-07-2020, 03:50 PM
#4
  • chazt
  • Senior Member
  • Queens, NY
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Well done, Dan. Thanks for the good read.

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 01-08-2020, 07:23 AM
#5
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Enjoyed reading the detailed review Dan. Aroused my interest to buy one.

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 01-08-2020, 08:23 AM
#6
  • SCOV
  • Senior Member
  • Minnesota
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I like history and good reviews - enjoyed reading.

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 02-11-2020, 06:28 PM
#7
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The Masamune pass around brush reached me yesterday.   I"ll use it for two weeks, then post a review of it here.

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 02-21-2020, 02:12 PM
#8
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This is my third Tatara passaround review; this time I am reviewing the Tatara shaving brush over an extended 3 week period.  Before discussing my experience and opinion of this product, I want to clarify that my background impacts my preference both in terms of culture and opinion.  I am Italian and continental Europeans tend to prefer Boar brushes with me being no exception.  Dan has encouraged me to try numerous badger brushes of various grades, all top of the line but the knot material just doesn’t appeal to me the way boar does.  Only recently have I come to have a liking for synthetic knots due their ease of usage and affordability but there are still times when only the exfoliating scrub of a boar brush will do.  So it really is unfair for me to review this brush commenting on a knot that I have a prejudice against; instead I will review its handle, which is an area Italians really excel at: style and practicality.

 
Repeating my previous reviews of Tatara products, design is an important element of all things for Italians; we view it as an integral part of our visual and tactile life experience.  Tatara’s commitment to unique yet elegantly simplistic design helps their products stand out. Their unique treatment of the design elements of the handle texturing and blast finish are nicely done as a design signature. The build quality of the handle is way over engineered in a good way.  I am really pleasantly surprised anybody would go to the effort and expense of making such a complex handle, especially at the price point they are asking.  Tactile satisfaction is enhanced by the heft which will appeal to some people seeking the comfort of a weighted object in hand even though my preference is for light handles.  The weight does reflect quality and craftsmanship which have been my impression of Tatara from the first product of theirs I tried. 
 
If you can’t tell, I really liked this handle design.  My preference would be for the brush to be about an inch longer at the same weight and available with either/or a boar and synthetic knot which should be easy give the relationship with Semogue.  People will find comfort in the consistency of Tatara’s unique design theme established in the razor handles being continued in the shaving brush.  In my opinion more razor manufacturers should consider designing complementary thematic handles and more shave brush manufacturers should consider adding texture to their handles to help with grip when wet    Again, thank you for the chance to try this brush and I would be interested in following up with future offerings from Tatara.

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 03-15-2020, 05:44 PM
#9
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I had an opportunity to participate in this pass around, and used the Tatara Masamune brush for two weeks.  I purchased a Tatara Masamune razor from BullGoose when it first started carrying them.  I find the design of the razor to be among the most unique and beautiful available today.  Thus, it's not surprising that I like the design of the brush.  However, this brush should not just be seen as a companion to the razor.  The brush offers much by itself, and is worthy of consideration even by those who do not have the razor.

My initial concern was that the handle is on the small side, and perhaps not ergonomic for those like me with medium to large hands.  However, the handle naturally settled quite nicely in my hand.  The weight of the stainless steel is evident, but the handle is by no means too heavy.  The weight is evenly distributed, and the handle has a solid feeling reassuring you that you are holding a quality piece.  The machining is flawless, as is the matter finish.  The dimples, besides being aesthetically pleasing, assure nice grip even when the brush is wet and covered with lather. 

I had high expectations for the Semogue knot set into the handle.  It's listed as a 24/50mm, and has similar dimensions to the excellent knots in the Semogue Taj Resin and Semogue/TSN 2018 LE.  I measured my knot to be about 24/49mm.  It's a dense fan which splays well, releases lather easily, and feels as large on the face as some 26mm bulb knots.  Backbone and scrub are excellent.  This is not a soft knot, as a Thater, but it is softer than than Shavemac D01 2 band.  The best way I can summarize this knot is firm and scrubby, without scritch.  I find the knot similar in feel to Simpson Manchurian, and my knot actually had more backbone and scrub that the one in my Simpson Manchurian M7.

DanLaw, thank you for organizing this pass around and allowing me to participate.  There aren't many brushes which have such a distinctively elegant handle design and are machined out of stainless steel.  When you add a superb Semogue knot, the result is an outstaning offering by Tatara.

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 03-25-2020, 09:53 AM
#10
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Hey everyone - I had an opportunity to participate in the Tatara Masamune brush pass-around, and used this wonderful brush daily for a period of two weeks. Here are my quick takeaways:


Pros:
1. The brush is absolutely beautiful. The design is timeless and classy.
2. It is also is perfectly balanced. It's quite heavy, but it felt "just right" in my hands - very satisfying.
3. The brush is extremely well made. I haven't experienced any shedding whatsoever, no a single hair. High end metal was used for the handle.
4. The knot was fantastic - excellent backbone, exfoliating scrub without it being too rough to too mushy. Absolutely loved it.
5. Price / performance ratio is very good given the quality of this brush.


Cons:
1. The knot is a bit too small for my taste. It is smaller than the 24mm knot  equivalents of Maseto and Muhle Chrome. 


Conclusion: If you prefer smaller brushes, you will absolutely LOVE this beauty!

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 04-16-2020, 12:07 AM
#11
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Is there any difference between the knot on this and 2 Band SOC?


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 04-17-2020, 03:40 AM
#12
  • DanLaw
  • Just an old slow fat man
  • Peachtree City, GA
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Tatara response:

Semogue use it in SOC brush and in our brush also both finest badger

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 04-17-2020, 10:35 AM
#13
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Thanks Dan.


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