[Note from Mantic59: This is an image-intensive article.] The quest to find the perfect shaving brush can be a long and strenuous journey. There are so many makes, models and different types of knots it’s hard to find a brush that really fits your personality or a brush that just says “you”. Fortunate for me I think I found a brush that describes my sense of style.
Several months ago I contacted Alessandro Pistoia of PantaRei and asked him to make a custom shaving brush for me. I’ve seen his work all over Facebook and decided it was time to take the plunge. He gladly accepted the challenge, and we messaged back and forth for few days with the design. I wanted a simple brush that demonstrated my wet shaving work or an honorary reward to say the least. About a month later I found my new brush waiting for me in the mailbox. I was very pleased with the outcome.
Before we get to the actual review, I’d like to discuss the company. PantaRei is a very small operation in Palermo Italy which happens to be the tourist capital of Sicily. It’s a town full of culture, beauty and art, some of which dates back to over a thousand years before the USA signed their declaration of independence.
Alessandro is the artist behind PantaRei products. All of his work is handmade, hand painted and designed by himself. His products truly fit the contemporary style of his home town. He does not make brushes, he composes works of art.
Just a few clicks in his online store and you’ll understand what I mean. The art work speaks for itself. Beautiful images ranging from ocean scenery to an old time barber shaving himself, from palm trees to ships and all in between. He uses bright colors to really highlight the story behind each brush and compliments the art by texturing the background and outlining the main images to really make them speak to you. Needless to say, each piece is a small window of a beautiful scene straight from your favorite story book.
The composition of the canvas or “brush handle” is a material that I have never seen used on shaving brushes before. PantaRei uses hand spun ceramic as the major component of their brushes. They are available in either a standard “cylinder” shape or several other conical shapes that are used depending on the artwork chosen. The handles are each made by hand and to order so each and every one is unique. They are fired and glazed to create a solid bond that ensures the beautiful artwork stays true for years to come. The bottom of the brushes are textured to prevent slipping and are perfectly level.
When choosing a knot, there are several options, ranging from boar, horse, badger, synthetic or a blended boar/badger knot all of which are guaranteed to last. The sky is the limit when it comes to possibilities with these brushes. In addition, PantaRei makes soap bowls, scuttles, lather bowls and 7 day straight razor set boxes. All available with artwork and you can make a set of it if you desire.
Alessandro was very kind to share some images of production. All of his products go through an extensive series of steps before they are ready to ship. Because the process some time. These images are of different products all going through the steps of production.
All art work is drawn on paper in color.
The clay is processed
The clay is spun and formed in desired shape.
Let the artwork begin!!
Brushes that have been heated and ready for paint
Each brush is hand painted with only brushes.
The painting area. Wow!
The artist at work.
Putting on the finishing touches.
**Disclaimer: This article is the view of the writer and does not actually represent the ideas and views of Sharpologist.
My brush came in a large textured box securely wrapped in layers of tissue paper. It was extremely protected to prevent damage from its long journey from Italy to south Florida. The box had no frills or any fancy lettering with the exception of a small sticker with the company’s name at the top.
When I finally unwrapped my brush in the typical (impatient) wet shaver fashion, I was impressed with the actual size of it. It was larger than I anticipated and weighed more than I originally thought it would. It felt solid but not overbearing. It was neither top nor bottom heavy so one could say that this brush is a balanced piece indeed.
I chose the blended boar/badger knot as the sound of it really intrigued me. The knot is approximately 28-30 mm at the base (from my measurement) and is counter sunk several mm in order to make the knot a little denser or add some backbone to it.
When we discussed the design, I wanted a basic black and white color scheme with the logo on the front to say “Wet Shaving News” podcast on one side and the logo of my personal site “shavestraightandsafe.com” on the other. Just in case you’re wondering, this brush was designed as a dedication to work I’ve done on these sites. I am really happy with it!
The bottom of the brush has a no slip coating to prevent accidents. The brush sits perfectly level and does not wobble in the least bit. It’s very stable. Storing the brush on a brush stand posed no issues, although I would recommend using a stand that doesn’t store the brush too high due to the weight of the brush and that it’s made from ceramic.
For several weeks I used this brush almost solely. I tried different scenarios such as (pre-soaking, not soaking the brush, face, bowl and scuttle lathering just to see how the brush performed under a multitude of scenarios. Here are my results:
Although the brush performed well in all situations I found it worked optimally with soaking the brush and bowl lathering. The natural boar/badger hair did an excellent job holding just enough water and did not over saturate when soaking. I found the knot to combine the denseness of a boar with the heat and water retention of a badger knot providing the best of both worlds scenario. Shedding was minimal, maybe four or five hairs in the first few uses which is typical with most new natural brushes.
The brush whipped a thick lather in a matter of seconds and held it for a typical three pass shave. Even if I face lathered with it, I could still get a pass without having to reload the brush with soap. It was not at all scratchy on my face and evenly dispersed the lather for a very comfortable shave.
Most people feel the ceramic handle would slip when wet. I will admit, I was one of those people. Once I began using the brush I was very surprised how stable it was in my hands. I found the best way to use it was to put the bottom in my palm, then take the tips of my fingers and rest them on the rim closest to the knot (See picture). This way the brush was stable and you get awesome control. The size of the brush made it perfect for this technique and I fully understood the reasoning for the design.
Rinsing or cleaning the brush is typical although I would recommend using a good brush cleaning soap periodically as you would with most brushes.
All in all this is one of my favorite brushes. Although I have several dozen, I find myself using this one quite often. It’s a very special brush that is truly a custom piece with some real craftsmanship into it. I highly recommend trying one out! Alessandro is a true gentleman and a pleasure to work with!
Check out PantaRei’s products here and tell them Joe sent ya!!
About the Author:
Joe Borrelli is a long-time wet shaving enthusiast and collector. He hosts the Wet Shaving Talk Podcast and runs his own self-funded website http://shavestraightandsafe.com/ to help inform the community of new information involving the wet shaving world. Joe holds a BBA from Florida Atlantic University, and currently works for the nation’s largest wine/spirits/beer retailer. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Linda, reading, writing, outdoor activities and collecting wet shaving apparel. Find out more about Joe here.