A Shaving Brush Primer
As you know, we carry shaving soap, and until recently we carried only Boar Bristle Brushes. Last year we purchased a small batch of Silver Badger Brush heads, and had a friend who does amazing wood turning create handles for us. We quickly realized that all of our research on brushes is not common knowledge to our customers. We want to change that with a bit of education. So here goes.
The idea of having the ability to shave at home became popular in the mid 19th century only after innovations made shaving blades more readily accessible to all. In the early 1800s the first folding handled straight razors appeared on the market, and quickly it became a status symbol to have a razor, mug and brush on your wash stand. The first brush used in shaving is attributed to the French, around 1750. The word they used to describe the brush translates to “badger”, and was made utilizing badger bristles.
Badger is the most preferred because the bristles are porous, and will absorb a good amount of water, making the soapy lather much more liquid. The porous bristles absorb hot water well, remain stiff, and provide a gentle exfoliating experience in addition to distributing the shave soap foam to the face.
In our modern age the badger is a protected species in the United States and Europe. However the current source of badger bristles for brushes is China and Siberian Russia, as there is a large population of the create found there.
Currently available in the United States are the following types of brushes (least expensive to most expensive):
- Synthetic brush – Made of manufactured nylon, these brushes provide a stiff bristle, but do not absorb much water, making the shave foam more dry. A synthetic brush will run under $5 each.
- Synthetic/Natural blend brush – a blend of boar bristle and nylon, this brush offers stiff bristle, and small amount of water absorption. It is considered an improvement on the totally synthetic and runs about $8
- Boar Bristle Brush – Most readily available of the natural bristle brushes, this offers the stiff bristle, the water absorption to create more hydrated foam, and can run between $10-30
- Badger Bristle Brush – The finest available (See the photo above for examples of the types of badger available). Badger is ranked in several grades and offers the maximal moisturized brush experience. These brushes can run between $30-200 depending on quality and grade.
The synthetic and boar bristle are known as “starter brushes” – they give you experience without the expensive commitment. Sadly, they have a life of 1-4 years, and after frequent use they begin to fall apart. Badger brushes are build better – and in some cases we have heard of people still using their grandfather’s brush purchased in the 1930s…. which would make the brush 80 years or better.
The proper technique for using a shave brush is to either run the brush under hot water from the tap, or to have a small bowl of hot water and soak the bristles for 5-10 minutes before taking the brush to the soap and working up a lather. Once done applying the shave soap lather, the brush should be rinsed under running water, tapped dry, and allowed to either stand up, or hang upside down to dry.
Our customers have been asking for badger brushes, and we have invested in purchasing the silver badger brush heads. A very talented woodworking friend, Jeff Rosenbloom turned the handles and set the heads in a mixture of exotic woods. We love these first offering. We think you will as well.