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Thread: Seeking Suggestions for the Sythetic Brush Shootout

  1. #1
    Senior Member GreenRipper's Avatar
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    Default Seeking Suggestions for the Sythetic Brush Shootout

    Some weeks ago I posted a thread here in the Brush forum looking for advice on buying a better brush. Essentially I outlined my history with less than stellar brushes and was looking for a reasonably priced brush that would put lather, and a smile, on my face without making my bank account cry. Several stepped up in response and while I'm not taking the option any of them suggested it did provide the genesis for a whole new train of thought.

    What became readily apparent in our short discussion is that I simply lack the experience to make an informed choice. My research wasn't particularly helpful either because while I've built an academic understanding of knot size, loft, backbone and "scritch" I simply don't have an adequate reference point outside the few mediocre brushes I've used over the last ten years. Yet my research did lead me down one path, again and again: Synthetics.

    I understand that a synthetic brush isn't a high-end badger but the price reflects that fact and until I use a high performance shavemac knot, or at least get a clear idea of what I do want in a shave brush, I have trouble dropping $100+ on a knot. What I can do for a reasonable financial outlay is try a number of these inexpensive synthetics, build the experience I lack, possibly get a good idea of what I'm really looking for and maybe, just maybe, find a knot I can love until the disciples of the high-end shavemac make a convert of me as well. As an added bonus I have the opportunity to give back to the SRD community with a review of those knots that I choose to experiment with.

    Parameters
    As a scientist I have a deep desire to eliminate any unnecessary variables in an experiment. Each knot has its own characteristics but some of those can be controlled by setting some parameters for my review. In an effort to keep comparisons a close as possible I've settled on the following restrictions on the knots I've procured:
    • Affordability: One of the virtues of synthetics is their value. All knots in this test are currently available for under $20 (one is exactly half that figure.)
    • Knot Size: In an effort to reduce variability I have restricted knots to the relatively common diameter of 24mm.
    • Handles: All knots, due to their common diameter, will be temporarily mounted in a Whipped Dog 24mm Tall handle. Not only does this reduce variability but it also reduces my financial burden. (Exception - The Whipped Dog knot was permanently mounted by Larry as part of my purchase.)
    • Soap: What we choose to lather with has a rather large effect on the finished product. As such, and due to my secondary focus on budget, all lathering will be accomplished with Mitchell's Wool Fat (MWF), it lathers well (for me), is readily available at a reasonable price and puts test to the myth that you need a boar brush to build a lather with it.


    Knots
    I have purchased a number of knots, most from Etsy vendors, for use in this review:
    • Cashmere Synthetic Extra Dense Knot (APShaveCo) $16.98
    • Synthetic "Game Changer" Knot (AMACK4shaving) $18.00
    • Synthetic "Sunrise" Shaving Knot (AMACK4shaving) $10.00
    • Tuxedo Extra Dense Synthetic Knot (APShaveCo) $16.98
    • Ubersoft 2 Synthetic 4th Gen (EnvyShave) $13.99
    • Whipped Dog Synthetic Knot (whippeddog.com) $16.00


    It should be noted that the "Sunrise" knot is currently being advertised by (AMACK4shaving) as likely being the last batch of these knots that they will have in stock. FrugalShave has a similar knot, advertised as a "Sunsoft" knot, for the same price.

    Design
    • Initial Impressions: I will give my initial impressions of the knot prior to being mounted and used.
    • Lather and Shave: Each knot will be used for my daily shave. My preference is to bowl lather and it is my intent to photograph the resulting lather both in the bowl and on my ugly mug for comparison. I don't consider myself an accomplished lather builder, thus if I build a sub-par lather on a particular day I will repeat the process on the subsequent shave. The effort is to eliminate my own failures from that of the knot but I will be sure to note it if this occurs.
    • Review: My own thoughts on the feel of each knot.
    • Rating: I will attempt to rank these knots based on specific traits (backbone, scritch, etc.) and rank them against each other.


    What do you think guys? Is there some component of my plan that should be modified? Is there a specific knot that I have overlooked that needs to be included in the review?

    Thanks in advance for any help you bring!
    Last edited by GreenRipper; 01-22-2017 at 07:20 PM.

  2. #2
    Forum mogwai thebigspendur's Avatar
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    Use distilled water that way you have eliminated a variable with the local water.
    BanjoTom and GreenRipper like this.
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    Senior Member GreenRipper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebigspendur View Post
    Use distilled water that way you have eliminated a variable with the local water.
    For the sake of the experiment, where I am comparing knots, water quality isn't a variable simply because I'm using the same water source with each knot. That said, I agree that this is a useful suggestion in that it sets a benchmark that the rest of the membership can relate to. I have a water softener in my house so while my water is supplied by a private well in an area that is known for hard water, it doesn't plague my lather building efforts. Yet distilled water is something easily obtainable and is the first suggestion most of us hear when complaining of difficulty in building a lather. Consider the suggestion heard, implemented and appreciated!

    On the point of issues I can't control - the skill set of the guy conducting this little experiment. I've been using a mediocre badger brush for most of the ten years that I've been wet shaving. When I posted my original thread, regarding brushes, I mentioned that I should probably go back and relearn the skills I use to build a lather. I did this and I can honestly say that the quality of my lather drastically improved. Then I got my first synthetic brush (Whipped Dog) that I've been using for approximately two weeks now...and I've had to begin the process all over again. Yes, the skills are the same but, as many have mentioned, the brushes just behave differently. I get what I consider very nice lather but I simply don't get the quantity that I did with a badger. I attribute a lot of that to the fact that these brushes just don't retain water like badger brushes because I feel like I add ridiculous amounts of water as I build the lather. Personally I'm curious to see if the different knots perform in a similar manner or if there is some variability.

    Last note for the evening: I have the Whipped Dog, the Sunrise and Game Changer knots in my possession but am still waiting for the other knots to be delivered. I expected to see the Ubersoft 2 knot this afternoon but it obviously didn't make it to my local post office for today's delivery. The Tuxedo and Cashmere knots are coming from Canada and should have shipped today, which means that I hope to see them by Monday.

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Only one fly in the ointment that I can see. Using synthetics knots will not give you a point of reference when selecting a badger brush or boar brush for that matter. Synthetics are simply different in how they like to be loaded with soap and how they handle water retention, not. As with badger knots, the type of synthetic material used and loft make a difference also.

    OTH once you get the hang of using a synthetic they will lather anything easily. They seem very efficient to me.

    Bob
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    Senior Member GreenRipper's Avatar
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    To be fair, I don't really plan on using a synthetic to judge badger brushes, merely trying to determine what attributes I truly like in a brush. At this point I generally get very nice lather I just don't get the quantities I normally get with a badger brush.

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenRipper View Post
    To be fair, I don't really plan on using a synthetic to judge badger brushes, merely trying to determine what attributes I truly like in a brush. At this point I generally get very nice lather I just don't get the quantities I normally get with a badger brush.
    Yes, my point was that if you find the attributes/feel of the brush that you like in a synthetic knot and the parameters that make it so are usually size to loft ratio. Then those same parameters may not give you the same attributes/feel of the brush that you are looking for in a badger knot.

    Also the materials that the synthetic knots are made of can be dissimilar and/or of different densities and will create different attributes even if the knot size and loft remain constant. Same would apply to the different grades of slivertip badger knots.

    Anyhow, it sounds like a fun experiment but I think it will be difficult to draw too many hard and fast conclusions from it. Good luck though.

    Bob
    After listening to someone talk ever wonder who ties their shoe laces?

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    Senior Member GreenRipper's Avatar
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    Actually my conclusions are less specific than that, more along the lines of what "feel" I prefer in a brush with no real intent to try to extrapolate size/loft/density parameters of synthetics to their natural brethren. Like I said, more an effort to broaden my experience and find a synthetic I like than an attempt to convince myself to spend a wad of cash on a high performance knot.

    The experiment is simply a fun, hopefully informative experiment that results in me finding a brush and passing a little info along to the membership so those who are interested in synthetics can make the best choice for themselves. I know that I read a review of several knots that was compiled a few years ago and the author was a big fan of the Sunrise knot I'll be testing here. Based on my initial impression, playing with the knot that hasn't even been mounted as of yet, I suspect this won't be my favorite. The challenge is going to be communicating why I prefer one knot over the others while being cognizant of all aspects of each knot so that others can make a useful appraisal for themselves. As always, the subjective aspects of this is going to be so much more challenging for me than the objective aspects. I say this with the strong belief that the lather test is unlikely to yield any huge differences in performance but its the best objective standard I've been able to come up with.

    Ah, the difficulties of dealing with a subject that is only truly understandable through experience when you're relying upon non-direct contact to pass along that information!

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