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How to Build a Shave Den Part 3

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Brushes. This could be the most controversial part of this whole series. There’s a reason why I didn’t write it first. Everyone has opinions about their razors, creams, soap, and aftershaves…but I’ve found that when the topic comes to brushes, some people act like we’re insulting their church, mom, or whatever is near and dear to their heart. Me? I’m more laid back and really only get my dander up when someone wants to criticize my shaving hobby. Do I tell you how to spend your disposable income? Well, come to think of it, I do, but it’s on shaving stuff! Good god, man, why WOULDN’T you spend money on that?
But the issue of brushes is one that definitely lights the fires under some people. God bless ‘em, they have a passion. They defend their brushes, know the bristle loft, diameter and more. Heck, they’re not sure about their kid’s birthdays or their anniversary, but damn they can get themselves into a lather when describing their brush. (See what I did there?)

When you first get into the wet shaving, it can seem overwhelming. So many types of creams, soap, and razors and blades and aftershave…and then you have to actually SHAVE! It’s like the old line in golf: “Remember these 20 things…now relax and hit the ball.” While some people go out and buy the most expensive brush they can find, I went the other route. While I tried lots of different creams, soaps and aftershaves, I also tried different brushes, but I realized that if I was trying out everything at once, the odds of me finding what tripped my trigger were low. So I stayed with just a few brushes. But as I found my “go to” products with it came to everything else, I still hadn’t found the brushes that I’ll keep for the long haul. That’s when I decided to dive headfirst into the world of brushes.
Anyone who’s hung around the wet shaving world and cruised some websites knows that there’s hundreds of different brushes out there. Different badgers, boars, horse, synthetic. Now it was my job to try as many as my budget and OCD could handle to find the ones that “felt” right. To me, it’s more than just lathering up and wiping it on your face. From the heft and feel in my hand to sensation of the bristles on my face, it’s a helluva lot more than “it’s just a brush.”
One of the first brands that I salivated over was Vulfix. I would go to West Coast Shaving, Royalshave, or Bullgoose and just get all bug-eyed over the selection. It’s like I was overcome with the Spirit and was talking in tongues at the computer. “Do I want to get a Super or Full Badger, but that Pure looks good…black handle or white. Maybe a good boar will do the trick!” It’s like I was a Navajo code talker. Only the CHOSEN ones could understand me. Hell, no one else even wanted to try to understand my mania.
So I tried several brushes and honestly, I didn’t give any of them the right amount of time to see if they worked for me. I would get a new one, soak it to get the funk out, and then start shaving. But I would keep hitting the websites like the junkie that I was, looking over other brushes and brands. “Semogue! I can’t pronounce it, but everyone talks about how great the 1305 is. I have to get that one!” And I’d sell what I had owned for maybe a month and away I’d go again. I did this with Omega, Parker, Vulfix, Vie-Long and probably a couple of others that I can’t remember.
At one point I decided that I just to try…the Simpson line! That’s where I decided to drop some major bank. While I couldn’t justify, even to my OCD-addled brain, spending $300 or more for a brush, but I could get a Duke 2 band for a little over $100. While many websites sell the famed Simpson line, I love The Superior Shave. They have measurements for every Simpson brush they sell and you get to pick the one you want. I got a Duke, then a Commodore, a Wee Scot, and finished with a Colonel. All great brushes…but none of them knocked my socks off. I’m not bashing the brand or the brushes, but they weren’t for me. I don’t know why, but the feel wasn’t right.
Then…I found the first of the many I would keep. A 2012 Semogue Owner’s Club Special Edition. I loved the heft of the base, it’s a mixed badger/boar knot and to me, it has the perfect amount of backbone and scratchiness.
One of my other favorites is one that I’m not sure who I bought it from. It’s probably a pure badger with a nondescript black handle. It’s got good backbone…and whoever made it put a rare earth magnet in the base. It hangs upside so it dries quickly. I’m not a fan of gizmos, but this one combines a good brush and a cool way to dry it out.
Then I found a Fuller brush that had been redone with a 24mm banded boar knot. This thing feels like it’ll strip the skin off your face, but it turns fairly soft when soaked.
As you can see, I need to put a new knot in this one. That fun adventure could be the subject of a future article of mine. (Man sets himself on fire trying re-knot a brush! Film at 11!)
I had tried a Semogue Owner’s Club Boar in a cherry handle and really liked it. I picked up a cheapie Boar as a comparison and found that it was a decent one to put in my slowly growing collection.
The only other type of brush I had never tried was a horsehair, so in 2013 I found a Vie-Long that I found really fit the bill. If you’ve never tried a horsehair brush, give it a shot. Some are as cheap as a boar and I found it has a much different feel on my face.
As you can see, I’ve got a few more than the ones I singled out. I actually bought a set of three synthetic just so I could get the Ever-Ready Nylon. I always like the look of the old style brushes, so I snatched that one when I saw it. One of the others is a Whipped Dog synthetic, which has a great feel in my hand. I do have a couple of other cheapies that I got over the last couple of years as traveling brushes.
That’s how I went from one brush to many to one and then to the collection you see. It helped me realize what I wanted in a brush. Every now and then I cruise the websites again to check out what’s new, but I have to say that I’m satisfied with my collection. It’s not the biggest, it’s not the most expensive or expansive, but it’s mine and it rounds out my shave den.

Jay Harrell

Jay Harrell

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