We all know that variety is the spice of life. however, with variety can also come confusion and too many options. Such is the case with the massive brush options that we wet shavers have. Gone are the days of simply choosing Badger or Boar. Here now are the days of Badger or Boar or Synthetic or Horse or mixed knot brushes……Ya its not easy to choose especially if you are just starting out. Today’s post is to help simplify the brush buying experience with a few things I have learned as well as some pros and cons for each brush type……Also a link to my video on Choosing a brush!
Now not only is there a massive selection of brush types but there is an equally large range in prices. From $3 up to hundreds of dollars….Im sure there are even brushes that go for over a thousand dollars. Are they worth the price? Its all about perspective. Do you get what you pay for? In a lot of cases yes, but there are some deals to be had. So lets dive in and have a look at the three Major types of knots…..BADGER, BOAR, and SYNTHETIC
****Before we start. By lowering the loft of any knot you will increase the backbone. Also by decreasing the loft you will also decrease the ease at which the knot will splay.
Badger Hair Brushes!
Badger hair is probably the most varying in both quality and price. I have seen badger brushes from as low as $10 all the way up to close to one thousand dollars. And I can tell you the difference is massive when it comes to the quality. Yet you do not need to spend anywhere close to a thousand dollars to get an outstanding brush. However you aren’t likely to get a great badger brush for under $75-$100(not saying you can’t).
A major factor with badger knots is the different knot grades. From black badger, to best badger, to 2-Band, to Silvertip, to High Mountain white and everything in between there is a lot to look at. The issue is that there is not an actual grading system across the board amongst manufacturers or vendors. I have owned quite a few silvertip badgers which are amongst the favorites of wet shavers and the quality in those knots varied from awful to outstanding. A high quality silvertip will cost you upwards of a hundred dollars at the very least and well up into the $150+ range for increasing quality brushes.
The lower end of the spectrum on knots are mixed badger, black badger and pure badger. While not the best quality they will do the job and in all honesty can be great brushes especially for a new wet shaver that doesn’t want to invest big coin in a brush. I’ve owned a black badger that I used for a few months and really enjoyed. While it did have some scritch it also had some decent backbone. A warning is that this is the type of knot that you can get some real duds. You may get a Shedder(brush that looses lots of hairs), lots of scritch and just all around poor quality.
Best and Finest knots. This is my personal sweet spot. This is where a deal can be found for top quality knots at reasonable price. The quality on average is quite good in these knots and the prices aren’t going to be too high. My person preference is two band finest knots. I have gotten a couple from the Golden nib and really enjoy them. Great price and top quality. I find the two band finest to be a great balance of softness and backbone. While the best badger knots can be softer than the finest in my experience I find the they can lack the backbone I prefer(personal preference).
My all time favorite knot is a gel tipped two band knot that I have on a custom handle. A gel tipped knot it actually when the hair tips hook. They feel quite stiff when dry, but once soaked they feel ultra soft and almost like silk. They knot maintains its backbone while still being very soft. This is exactly what I like in a knot.
Lastly are the Silvertips and High Mountain White and the high end knots. The problem with buying these knots off of ebay and not from a reputable dealer is that there isn’t a quality standard. You could call any badger knot any quality. So if you are looking at these high end knots I recommend paying the extra money and get the knot from a well known dealer or brush manufacturer(ie Shavemac, Saville Row, Simpsons….etc) I haveg otten a couple of silvertips off of eBay and while they are ok, they are nothing like the high end badgers that these companies offer. The big plus with these high end knots is how dense the knots are and the quality of the hair and knot itself. These should not shed more than a few hairs in total over the first couple of uses. And if they do shed these companies will replace the knot. These knots are luxurious, but like any luxury item come at a cost. If you have the money they are worth it, but if you are on a budget you will be better served doing your research and finding a lower cost option and having money for software!!
OVERALL BADGER KNOTS
PROS : Large range in Quality
Luxurious face feel
Numerous custom options
Bulb, fan, or flat top knot options
Large choice of backbone and softness options
CONS: Badger funk – badger knots can have an odor for the first few uses
Price – higher end knots are quite expensive
lack of standard grading system
Too much variation in knots(too much choice)
THE BOAR KNOTS
I love boar knots. Now at first they tend to be stiff and not have very good face feel. Once worked in they are fabulous. The key is to break them in. The knots tend to take longer than badgers to break in. For myself I usually test lather a bunch and leave the lather in the brush over night to soften the bristles and shorten the break in period….but to each his or her own.
The two big names in Boar hair brushes are Semogue and Omega. they also happen to be the two brands that I have the most experience with. For me the Omegas seem to be a bit softer out of the box than the stiffer Semogue’s. However I enjoy the Semogue’s knots more once broken in….personal preference.
With boar brushes they all tend to be budget friendly unless you get a really fancy, or custom, handle. The boar brush pictured on the left above has a custom handle but is loaded with an Omega knot. Ranging from about $10 up to about $50 they are a very budget friendly option and a brush I recommend for new wetshavers. The Semogue Owners club being one of the best brushes I have ever used costing $30 Canadian shipped to my door.
There is not a huge variance in knot quality between the big boar brush makers but they do have enough difference that many guys side with either Semogue or Omega. Although I prefer my Semogue’s I do enjoy Omegas as well and would never say Not to buy either brand….both are fantastic for your money.
As with all knots boars can be altered by increasing or decreasing the depth at which the knot is set(LOFT). Sink the knot deeper for more backbone, raise it up for more splay.
Boar knots are great for hard soaps as the can really tear into the soap better than the majority of other knots. they soften a great deal once they have been soaked as well. In my opinion everyone needs at least one boar brush in his or her den.
OVERALL BOAR KNOTS
Price – lots of budget friendly options
Availability….Omega brushes can be found at most pharmacies
Great for hard soaps, and also face lathering
Lack of knot variety
Boar stink – much like badger knots these can smell for a bit
Can be too floppy, or if knot is sunk too low they can be too rigid(too much backbone)
Can take a while to break in
Long drying time
Have to soak for a bit before use
Last of all lets take a look at SYNTHETIC KNOTS!
If you look back on my blog you will see I wasn’t always a big fan of synthetics. Well, that has all changed. Not only am I a fan but I am a huge pusher of trying synthetic knots for both new shavers too anyone who will listen.
It would be hard to argue that the synthetic brush market in wet shaving is one of the biggest changes in the past couple of years. It started off with the wildly popular Plisson Synthetic….and rightfully so. This brush changed wet shaving in my opinion. Uber soft and able to whip up lather in the blink of an eye. Next came the Muhle STF(silver tip fiber) brushes. While the Plisson came in one size the Muhle came in 4 different sizes but carried an ever increasing price tag. At first I preferred the Muhle but since have came back to the Plisson. With the increasing popularity of synthetic brushes came an influx of new synthetic knots looking for a piece of the action…..but Not all Knots are created equally. Many of the knots were terrible quality, lacked any density and were almost too floppy to even be usable. however there are now some great cheaper options for synthetic brush lovers. Razorock has a couple synthetics that retail for less than $20…far less actually and they get rave reviews. Omega has whatr they call an S-Brush which has many fans as well. There are ubersoft knots, and plissoft knots, and just a lot of great options now that are almost identical copies of the original Plisson knot. This is great for us wet shavers as the prices are really outstanding for what you get.
early on my complaint with Synthetics was the lack of backbone, but in reality it was the lack of ‘face feel’ that I missed. These brushes are just so darn soft you can barely feel some of them. Awesome brushes for sure.
SYNTHETIC BRUSH PROS
Price – so many great options and the prices are super low…like boar knot low
NO STINKY BRUSH FUNK….NONE
Versatility – these brushes can lather anything……even Williams(totally a joke)
Travel Beasts – These knots dry super fast which make them ideal for travel(its all I travel with)
Softness – If you want extremely soft knots without paying an arm and a leg for a badger this is your best bet!
CONS(this is like splitting hairs and being super picky)
Face Feel – Brushes can be so soft that if you like some scritch or backbone these wont be for you
The look – In my opinion the majority of synthetic knots look ugly. Gorgeous handle but I like the look of natural hair
That is my quick look at brushes. PLEASE take a look at my video linked below on brushes. I am a big fan of brushes and did the video and this post to help guys maybe narrow their search as I know how confusing buying a brush can be.
Cheers everyone and let me know what you would like to see next from The Canuck Shaver!!! Also let me know what is your favorite brush!