Brush Observations

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Welcome And Let’s Take A Look At Some Badger Brushes.[edit | edit source]

This article was conceived in a forum discussion, as to which shave brush was better than or as good as, a top of the line badger brush. When I use the term “top of the line”, I mean a brush made by a reputable company, made of select quality material and a brush that gets great reviews by wet shavers who have purchased it. The brush that represents that term, for purposes of this article, is the Heinrich Thater model 4125/2, a 26mm badger knot set in faux ivory.

Many shave brushes become popular by reviews that are packed with subjective information.

Statements like;

  • “This brush makes great lather.”
  • “The brush feels great in the hand.”
  • “The brush has just the right amount of scritch.”
  • “This brush performs better than all my other brushes.”
  • “The brush lifts my whiskers so I can get a close shave.”
  • “The brush has soft tips and feels good on my face.”

The list of subjective statements made about brushes can go on and on. There is nothing wrong with personalizing your shave brush or any other equipment, for that matter. This is actually part of the pleasure of using it. How we feel about the performance of our brush, is very real to us. The problem lies with recommending a brush to someone else. We are not all alike; meaning, our faces are different. What feels good on your face, may not on mine. Our beards are different. Our experience level in wet shaving may be vastly different. I truly feel that a great shave cream can enhance the performance of a brush. Does this mean I have a great brush?

The Tests

Most of us will never get the opportunity to witness the manufacturing of our favorite brush.

Is there a way I can tell if the brush I want to buy will perform solidly and last?

How do I tell the difference between a good starter brush and a brush that carries the associated term “top of the line”?

These questions rang loudly in my head also. So let’s have a simple test of selected brushes and see if there is a pattern in their performances that can be described with facts.

Nine brushes were selected for the test. Obviously the Thater model 4125 is included in the selection. Eight other brushes were chosen based on their manufacturer’s reputation for producing fine shave brushes. Some of the brushes were made by well know companies and the others are custom made brushes. The custom brushes were made by men who are well respected in their craft for producing quality shave brushes. The company manufactured brushes will have their company logo visible in the tests and named accordingly. The custom made brushes will be identified by the state from where the craftsman lives. I did this so, because I value the work of all of them and I will not use this article as a promotional tool to benefit one over the other. If you contact me privately, I will tell you who made a particular brush.

Before we get started with the test in this article, take a good look at the brush photos. Can you identify the type of badger knots in each brush? Which knot is a best badger, a pure badger knot, a finest badger knot, a two band badger knot, a super badger knot, a High Mountain White badger knot, a silvertip badger knot? Probably not, unless you spend a lot of time learning about them and constantly stay on top of the current marketing involved in the badger knot business. I’ve spent several weeks trying to draw clear lines between some of the knots mentioned; I’ve had little success.

Heinrich Thater b.jpg Heinrich Thater.JPG

California Custom - 1 b.jpg California Custom - 2 b.jpg Edwin Jagger b.jpg

Idaho Custom b.jpg Missouri Custom b.jpg Olde Apothecary Shop b.jpg

Ontario Custom b.jpg Taylor of Old Bond Street b.jpg

Four cream/soap products were selected to test the brushes. Each product is vastly different in texture and some could argue quality. From one of the most expensive and respected products, to a good everyday go-to product; each brush will be tested on the four products. I have tried to control the mechanics of each brush tested to ensure a fair outcome.

Nomad-Maca Root-VDH Deluxe-Martin De Candre.JPG

Maca Root Shave Cream was chosen for its ability to easily produce a fine lather.

Van Der Hagen Luxury is inexpensive puck soap and a great everyday use product.

Martin De Candre is a hardened paste cream, it needs no introduction; truly in a class of its own.

Nomad Shave Soap is puck hard and comes in its own container.

Van Der Hagen Luxury Test[edit | edit source]

In all the product tests, I soaked the brush in hot water, not hot enough to burn my hand, for 1 minute & 30 seconds. Many shavers will soak longer, especially if they set up before entering a shower. I felt the time chosen was enough for test purposes. 1 teaspoon of hot water was added to the Van Der Hagen Luxury puck as it sat in a Pyrex bowl.

The brush is removed and slightly compressed with my hand, not squeezed. If there is an inconsistency to be found at fault in these tests, it would be this step. I tried my best to be consistent.

The puck is worked for 1 minute & 30 seconds to produce lather. Care is taken to use the slightest amount of pressure, ensuring that only the tips of the badger hairs are working the product.

Taylor of Old Bond Street

This TOBS brush was a vintage antique store rescue. I paid $4.00 for it. It is probably older than I am & I am 54 years of age. You will see close up photos of the hair‘s condition later. It still produces a good lather. **


Heinrich Thater


Ontario Custom


Missouri Custom


Idaho Custom


Edwin Jagger


California Custom # 2


California Custom # 1


Olde Apothecary Shop


What we see in the Van Der Hagen test is that all the brushes produced lather suitable for a nice shave of two or more passes. There are no surprises here, adequate water & the lather is produced off the entire product. Pyrex bowls are great for this. For the next test, we are going to change some key factors.

Martin De Candre Test
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• As stated in the first test, 1 minute & 30 seconds the brush is soaked in hot water.
• Before the first brush was tested , a small amount of water was placed on the top of the Martin De Candre for 1 minute to slightly moisten it. The water was then removed. This product has a semi hard consistency, paste like.
• A common bowl was used, a bowl I use most of the time. It fits my hand well as I work lather.
• No water is placed in the bowl, the only water that will be used, is the water that the brush retains after I slightly compress it, upon removal from soaking.
• The brush is loaded with “12” clockwise strokes, then “12” counter clockwise strokes. Only slight pressure is used to ensure that the badger tips are the only part of the knot that loads the product.
• The loaded product is worked in the bowl for 1 minute & 30 seconds to produce lather.

Heinrich Thater


Olde Apothecary Shop


Taylor of Old Bond Street


Ontario Custom


Missouri Custom


Edwin Jagger


Idaho Custom


California Custom # 2


California Custom # 1


What starts to become apparent in some of the brushes is how much of the product gets loaded onto the brush. The Jagger, Missouri Custom & the Taylor of Old Bond Street do not load as much product into the brush as the others in the test. Still, we get a great lather from all. Is this a testimony to Martin De Candre? Many have said that, “A little goes a long way with Martin De Candre.” and it’s true.
**Note** I forgot to photo the California Custom # 2 as it was loading product & the Thater loaded photo was not taken at the best angle to show it. Both loaded an extensive amount of product.

Nomad Soap Test
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• The brushes are soaked in the hot water for 1 minute & 30 seconds, just as they were in the other tests.
• Before the first brush is loaded, a slight amount of water was place on the Nomad for 1 minute to moisten it, then removed.
• The Nomad is a very hard soap, not as easily loaded as Martin De Candre or Van Der Hagen Luxury.
• The bowl has no water, the only water used will be what the brush retains after I compress it after soaking.
• The brush is loaded with “12” clockwise strokes & “12” counter clockwise strokes. Only slight pressure is used to ensure that the badger tips are the only part of the knot that loads the product.
• The loaded product is worked in the bowl for 1 minute & 30 seconds to produce lather.

Missouri Custom


Taylor of Old Bond Street


Heinrich Thater


Ontario Custom


Edwin Jagger


Idaho Custom


California Custom # 2


California Custom # 1


Olde Apothecary Shop


What you see in the Nomad test is that all the brushes picked up a lot of product, but what you can’t tell from the photos is that several of the lathers were not as moist as they seem in the photos. Nomad needs more water than Martin De Candre and Van Der Hagan Luxury. Taylor of Old Bond Street, Ontario Custom, Edwin Jagger & the California Custom # 2 lathers were not as moist as the others. The brushes did not retain as much water and/or the Nomad soap took its toll on the water retained in these brushes.
I was expecting Olde Apothecary Shop & Missouri Custom to suffer this same problem, but they did not. They both produced a moist lather from the Nomad that would cover 2 or more passes.
Heinrich Thater, Idaho Custom & California Custom # 1 easy handled Nomad soap creating lots of moist lather for multiple passes.
In the next test, we are going to control the amount of product that the brushes work with, Regardless of the brushes ability to load product, the brush must work with only the amount we give it.

Maca Root Shave Cream Test[edit | edit source]

• The brushes are soaked in the hot water for 1 minute & 30 seconds, just as they were in the other tests.
• Maca Root Shave Cream is known for a rich, easy to obtain lather.
• The bowl has no water, the only water used will be what the brush retains after I compress it after soaking.
• The brush will be loaded with a measured amount, placed upon the tips of the badger hair.
• The loaded product is worked in the bowl for 1 minute & 30 seconds to produce lather.

Maca Root (2).JPG Maca Root (3).JPG

The amount of product in the spoon has been topped off & is probably a lot less than someone would load at home.

California Custom # 1


Taylor of Old Bond Street


Heinrich Thater


Ontario Custom


Olde Apothecary Shop


Missouri Custom


Edwin Jagger


Idaho Custom


California Custom # 2


What we see in the Maca Root Shave Cream test is that all made great, moist lather. The amount was less than what I normally use. Is this a testament to Maca Root Shave Cream or did other factors even out the results?

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In the four tests, there were “5” brushes that did performed without an issue. What I learned from the lather tests was the importance of water retention in the knot and the knots ability to load product. Why did some of the knots load more product than others? The density of the knots seemed to play a major roll.

Take a look at some of the brushes in this article that loaded better than the others.

Heinrich Thater

Knot Density (20).JPG

Knot Density (19).JPG

I’ve never seen a more beautiful (subjective ) & denser knot on the inside. The hairs are thicker than the others in the tests. When the Thater loaded product, it tended to keep the product away from the base, in comparison to the other brushes in the test. I would attribute this to the density of it’s thick hairs.

California Custom # 1

Knot Density (16).JPG

Knot Density (15).JPG

A very dense brush, with light colored hairs that are not as thick as the Thater hairs.

Here is my Taylor of Old Bond Street vintage rescue; sparse, battered, worn hairs. You can see the base of the knot.But it still makes a beautiful lather.

Knot Density (4).JPG

  • I learned from these tests to search out reputable manufacturers that carry the type of knots that focus on water retention and densely packed quality hair to aid in loading product.
  • I learned what type of knots to request when ordering a custom brush.
  • I learned that a quality cream or soap can make an average brush stand out while making lather.
  • I also learned that Heinrich Thater makes a great brush that could not be surpassed by the other brushes in this test.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article,


Member of Straight Razor Palace