09-21-2021, 11:53 AM
#1
  • DanLaw
  • Just an old slow fat man
  • Peachtree City, GA
User Info
Stipulated that my brush expertise is severely wanting when compared to some acknowledged experts on this forum.  Irrespective, that is not to suggest a complete lack of brush experience and knowledge, having owned at least a hundred brushes of high repute over the years including: Brad Sears, Declaration Grooming, Elite, Firmin, Kent, Mozingo, Morris & Fordran, Paladin, Rooney, Simpson, Varlet, Voigt & Cop, Wiborg, Wolf Whiskers&c many of which are now in other owners’ hands.  With that in mind, as posited in my original Declaration Grooming B3 v B5 post, have an abiding affection for original B3 Blood of Kings as one of the best pours in shaving brushdom.  Recently had the honour and privilege to compare three pours and three knots in the Declaration Grooming Blood of Kings royal lineage: hey, it’s a tough undertaking but somebody has to man up and sacrifice so others may read of the tale, haha.  There is nothing quantitative in this review; it is based entirely on the qualitative perspective of one person, admittedly biased in favour of this artisan’s knots and this particular pour.

Thanks to the generosity of others, was able to assemble the following:
• Washington Blood of Kings (original pour) in B3
• Jefferson Blood of Kings in B9A+
• Jefferson Blood of Kings in B11


It is unfortunate that an original pour in the Jefferson handle could not be located to make the comparison as consistent as possible BUT this is not a review of the merits of one handle shape over another.  A useful exercise might entail obtaining both Franklin and Theodore handles to author a review of the various Declaration Grooming brush handle shapes over the years but, even within the same ‘shape’, there is significant variability, especially so with Jeffersons and extending far beyond the short variants intermittently offered to include virtually every brush of the shape encountered over the years (dozen plus).  Nor is this a review of the merits of 26mm v 28mm knot size but rather the immanent qualities of badger hair batches in each release.  This review is simply a review of the colouration and knot hair characteristics unique to each release.

Enough Preliminaries – Off With Their Heads!:

Blood of Kings conjures images both positive and negative, from Hobbesians sacrificing freedom for security viewing royalty positively to enlightenment republicans taking a rather dismal view unless, of course, the blood is dripping from the edge of a guillotine and from the severed head of a dethroned despot – pick your poison.  Whether positive or negative, one thing is certain, in Western cultures, royal blood - through generations of selective inbreeding, luxurious decadence and lack of vigour - is popularly believed to have a cyanic tint.  Thus, a colouration alleging to represent the blood of kings need be more than a shade of red; properly it should be infused with a bluish tint clearly distinguishable yet subtly swirling throughout.  My perspective is one should feel the righteous indignation of US revolutionary soldiers slaughtering Brit lesser royals, the joy of French bourgeoisie lifting severed heads and the wrath of Russian peasants shooting entire royal families every time the handle is viewed or held.  Red is bold, red is revolutionary, red is sanguinary.  With that perspective in mind, what follows is one person’s review regarding the colouration and knot characteristics of each of the releases.

The original Blood of Kings colouration was introduced with the release of the B3 series of knots.  B3, to my mind, was the single greatest release of Declaration Grooming handles – virtually all of the most sought after handle colourations were introduced or available during the initial run of B3 brushes.  This particular Blood of Kings handle exhibits the cyanic tint Westerners would expect from royal blood, in spades.  Whether in shade, or especially in light, the complexity and beauty of the colouration is readily apparent; red is intermingled with darker wisps rendering a richness that has to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated.  Frankly, hands down, this is the most beautiful pour ever encountered in a shave brush handle - THIS is clearly the colour of king’s blood.  B3 knots…where to begin…Declaration Grooming’s B3 knot must be the most controversial knot in all shaving: loved by some, hated by many, begrudgingly accepted by the rest.  There are various attributes experts use to convey knot qualities: tip feel, backbone, density, flow through, loft&c; from experience and research, nearly all agree the B3 knots generally possess all the best qualities of the aforementioned attributes but with excessive ‘scritch’ to various degrees.  At the simplest end user level, 'scritch' is a property of the hair having a harsh feel when lathering – taken to an extreme to convey the concept to the inexperienced, imagine lathering one’s face with a scrub brush; now tone that back to imagining a makeup brush leaving a subtle vague feeling of that stiffness whilst yet being soft.  Having owned a couple B3 knotted brushes, will state they differ in their degree of 'scritch' but all B3 brushes possess 'scritch' to some extent.  Moreover, will strongly suggest that those chiding B3 knots most vociferously are those that have the worst lathering technique.  Have found that proper lathering technique employing little tip pressure results in a luxurious 'scritch' free shave; in my experience, B3 'scritch' has always been the result of pressuring the brush against the face – what some term ‘splaying a knot’.  While the B3 knot is hardly the best Declaration Grooming ever encountered, it actually is a quite nice knot by any standard, especially if used properly but will never possess any degree of ‘gel’ – more on that later.  If so disposed, one can condition the knot to impart additional softness, mitigating the ‘scritch’ but it unnecessary.

Collectors long prized B3 BOK brushes thinking that there would never be a reissue…and so it seemed until the B9A knot was rereleased in a bleached alternative to promote ‘gelling’ as quality badger hair became increasingly difficult to secure – designated B9A+.

The follow-up to the B3 BOK handle was highly anticipated as was the B9A+ knot.  Many were hoping the treated tips of the B9A hair would mimic a return to the ‘gelled’ hair famed in B5, B6 and B9B knots and available in the by then legendary Blood of Kings handle in Jefferson shape no less!  The release, as with all Declaration Grooming brush drops, sold out immediately but unlike the handful of brushes almost immediately flipped for profit following a release, BOKs were almost impossible to find – I know as searched for one…desperately; in the end had two prospects, one for $500+ and another for $600 – yikes!!  With time, reviews of the B9A+ knot trickled out and some unflatteringly so.  A friend recently lent me his B9A+ Blood of Kings specifically for this review.  The metrics of the Jefferson brush handle varies greatly even within brush drops.  The particular handle lent is of the slimmer medium height variety and quite ergonomic if not as ideal as the fat handled iterations.  Colouration is noticeably brighter with less traces of cyan compared to the original BOK which is not to suggest it a RED handle, far from it: the cyan IS there but it watered down from a generation of breeding with actress/model/whatevers.  Some would suggest the colouration is much less sanguinarian than revolutionaries would prefer during genetic cleansing of their despot infestations – Hell, one might actually feel bad for having slaughtered a ‘Twit of the Year’ contestant relying on family wealth to become an Olympic Bobsledder or Dressage participant – as John Stewart once chimed: ‘…these are the people on your money….’.  All snark aside, the handle is outstanding by any standard excepting the original and remains worthy of any collection.  B9A knots were the soft but ‘nongelling’ counterpart to the B9B released concurrently.  ‘Gelling’ refers to the ends being hooked in such a way as to clump, giving the impression of multitudinal tiny mats against the skin versus individual hairs - the feeling is distinct and incredibly luxurious when exercised judiciously.  ‘Gelled’ hair is identifiable on wet brushes by the distinctive clumps of hair looking straight down on the distal end of the knot from above as opposed to individual hairs – it unmistakably distinct.  Word is Declaration Grooming resorted to chemically treated B9A hair to achieve the ‘gelling’ in the B9A+ knots in the absence of quality badger hair from China but cannot swear to its veracity.  The danger of chemically treating hair is that it can be overdone; while a properly executed chemical treatment can achieve a ‘gel’ as perfect as the best nature offers, over treatment can result in a knot exhibiting softness as a vice rather than virtue.  Some have suggested this is the case with B9A+.  My experience with a couple B9A+ knots to date, including this one is that, in a vacuum, one is tempted to judge the knot over treated BUT when comparing to the best ‘gelled’ knots side by side, it honestly not that bad.  Specifically, overtreated knots have a wet fibre cloth face feel, lather poorly and fail to release lather to the skin: B9A+ knots do feel overly soft in the tips whilst retaining backbone, lather as well as any DG knot and release lather at least as well as any DG knot.  All in, would pronounce it a middling Declaration Knot – REM: MIDDLING DECLARATION KNOT; that is a damn high standard most brush makers will never meet in the best knot tied on the best day of their lives.  Final assessment of Jefferson BOK B9A+: a fantastic brush at any price under $450 in today’s market; buyers will come to love this brush and especially so if cleaning and treating less frequently.

Finally there is the B11 knotted Blood of Kings.  The handle shape is ever so slightly fuller than the B9A+ cited above and the colouration is barely more imbued with cyan – virtually indistinguishable, truth told.  All in it another royal for a modern neoliberal celebrity mad world – screw it, slaughter them anyway as Tyler Durden would be wont, haha.  The B11 knot was much anticipated; as Scott was exceedingly disappointed with the B10 batch, swearing to regain the quality DG had become famous for achieving.  When it finally launched to a long and widely viewed stream from the artisan, much was expected and did it ever hit the target squarely!  To my perspective having owned every knot between B3 and B11 at one time or another, this is one of the top four Declaration Grooming knots ever: B5, B6, B9B and B11.  Every element measuring a knot’s quality ticks the rev limiter at full bore.  There is nothing to fault period, full f*cking stop!  In conclusion, this is the best knotted of all production Blood of King brushes known to me.  The handle is lovely too but yet maintain that the cyan present in the original B3 release is optimal.


Hopefully this has been helpful to those considering Declaration Grooming Blood of Kings brushes.  Any one of these would be welcome additions to any den: user or collector.  Masses feel free to address any questions and the experts, to hurl invective: for the former, shall endeavor to share my perspectives as they apply to your enquiries and for the latter, shall undoubtedly confirm your views of my ignorance.



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 09-21-2021, 01:52 PM
#2
  • NJDJ
  • Senior Member
  • California
User Info
Really nice write up, Dan. I always enjoy reading your reviews.

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