Recently I was offered a trade for a vintage Simpsons Chubby 3 Best Badger and I was excited about receiving the brush. It was originally purchased for around $325 about 10 years ago and was never part of a regular rotation. Because it is a Somerset shaving brush, it could still be valuable to collectors and could easily be priced over $200 on the used market. I was very disappointed to receive the brush and discover that many bristles in the inner core of the loft were broken off. When I made the dreaded phone call to the brush’s owner, he was very gracious. He said he had not given much thought to brush care and he did not know that the brush loft was not supposed to sink in after use. He is not alone; it is common to see online pictures of raggedy used shaving brushes. The goal of this article is to inspire wet shavers to use their brushes in ways that do not indent or invert the brush lofts.
The biggest mistake that many men make is using excessive pressure when creating lather. It is important that you avoid applying excessive pressure that crushes the inner core of the shaving brush. Pressing the brush down and lathering with hard circular motions will cause the bristles to twist, especially in the center core of the knot, and run a high risk of breaking off. Several manufacturers and many shaving retailers advise their customers to always use the brush in a back and forth paint-brush motion and not in circular motions when lathering. This recommendation is logical and it guarantees the least amount of wear from daily use on the brush; however, many experienced wet shavers, including myself, prefer the scrubbing feel of the brush against the beard during shaving. The exfoliation can still be achieved when you push the bristles down most of the way, but not all the way.The owner of the vintage Chubby 3 was taught to lather aggressively (as was common for many early Method shavers) and he did not realize that he was breaking bristles during his shaves. Upon examination of the brush, I could easily see that the outer bristles of the brush have never been used. They are whiter in color and taper to natural tips, whereas the inner bristles are broken and worn. The owner was only using 80% of the loft surface, rather than the full brush loft. It is obvious that he was smashing the bristles flat down against his bowl or face using the shafts of bristles instead of the brush tips. If he had used a little lighter pressure when shaving, he would have used the entire brush loft to create lather and would not have inadvertently broken the bristles in the center. My new era Chubby 3 Best has been used dozens of times, but looks brand new next to the Somerset Chubby 3 Best.
In addition, I have spoken with men who use their brushes to wash out their sinks after shaving. Again, smashing the delicate badger bristles all the way down will damage your brush’s knot and break the hairs. Shaving brushes comprise natural animal hair, which excels at water absorption and lather making. Instead of using a shaving brush, buy a cheap kitchen dish scrubber (or use your hand or a washcloth). Use common sense and your shaving brush will provide an enjoyable shaving experience, and will probably be damaged if you use it for other purposes.
It is also important to take care of your brush after the shave. Rinse your brush thoroughly to remove all of the soap or cream and leave it in an open area where it can completely dry, since mildew and soap scum will also deteriorate badger hairs and cause breakage. Many shavers claim that it is unnecessary to use a brush stand, but I prefer to hang my wet brush on a stand after my morning shave so that it can dry upside down throughout the day. At the end of the day when I’m in the bathroom brushing my teeth, I take the dry shaving brush off the stand and gently squeeze the loft with my hand to reform the shape of the brush. Then as I’m returning the brush back to my display rack, I quickly run a comb through the bristles so they are straightened if they were twisted or kinked while shaving. This routine takes only a minute, but it helps keep the brush in its original shape, keeps it from looking raggedy, and keeps all my brushes looking nice and neat on display.
Although shaving brushes are available in a range of materials and prices, there are some brushes that can be a quite an investment. It is not uncommon for wet shavers to purchase shaving brushes for $100-200 and in some cases up to $600 or more. These brushes are made with quality materials and can last for decades with a little attention. While some men may say that I’m crazy for taking a couple extra minutes to care for my shaving brushes, I feel it is crazy to ruin a $100 shaving brush when a few minutes of care can keep your brush looking brand new after hundreds of shaves.
Many people inadvertently damage their brushes during and after their shaves, but with the right care and storage – and common sense – it is easy to use a shaving brush to create lather. It is acceptable to use either a paint-brush motion or circular motions while shaving with your brush. The key is to only apply enough pressure to work the bristles against your soap and/or face to build a suitable lather. This lighter pressure will still exfoliate your skin, lift the beard for a close shave, and provide all the other benefits of using a shaving brush. In addition, taking a couple minutes after your shaves to help reform your brush’s loft will increase the lifespan of your brush and maintain its value. By giving a little time and thought to brush care, you will maximize your investment and enjoy your shaving brush for many years.