|02/02/16||General disclaimer||We aim to make and offer for sale fine shaving brushes of the kind and quality we want for ourselves, to treat others as we wish to be treated, and to go about doing that in a manner that provides a positive experience for all. Accordingly, we will strive at all times to communicate honestly and transparently with the wet-shaving community in general and our customers in particular. The information, observations, and opinions set out here are offered in furtherance of that goal.
That said, it is important to note with emphasis here at the outset that badger-hair is a natural product, that the badger-hair knots we use to make Paladin™ shaving brushes are hand-made, that there are inevitably differences within as well as between batches or sorts of knots, and that much that is interesting to say about badger-hair knots and their qualities is highly subjective (i.e. mileage varies). So what is communicated here should be understood as an attempt to provide perspective and guidance rather than provision of representations and warranties.
|02/02/16||Loft||Loft is the vertical distance from the top of a handle where the knot is inserted into the socket (i.e., knot hole) to the highest point of the knot at its crown. It is the most common, and often the only, measurement given in description of a brush’s knot besides diameter at the insertion point. (See also Brushology: Anatomy and nomenclature.)|
|02/02/16||Free loft||Free loft is the vertical distance from the highest level glue reaches at the center of a knot (i.e., the top of its so-called glue bump) to the knot’s crown, unless the top of the glue bump is recessed beneath the socket rim, in which case a brush’s free loft will be the same as its loft. (See also Brushology: Anatomy and nomenclature.)|
|02/02/16||Blonde Badger, Finest, Lee Sabini||Brushes with KANSAS CITY · LONDON engraved under PALADIN and/or with BLONDE BADGER or FINEST on the side opposite to PALADIN contain knots that were hand-made and installed in England by Lee Sabini (of Morris & Forndran) or under his direction as part of the second batch of Paladin shaving brushes.|
|02/02/16||Paladin™ knot codes||Six-character knot codes associated with individual shaving brushes signify type (e.g., 2-band), source (e.g., China), primary sort or characteristic(s), secondary sort or characteristics(s) (if any, with N indicating none), batch month (of delivery); and batch year, respectively. These codes are primarily intended for our own reference; however, others in the community might find them of interest.
When we post notes with regard to primary sorts and or related characteristics, we will indicate whether those are generally applicable to any knot associated with a particular sort code or more specifically in relation to a batch or series of batches. For example 2CA would be used in the former case, and the full code (e.g., 2CANL2 for 2-band, China, A sort, no secondary sort, December, 2015) would be used in the latter.
|Hand-made in China to our specifications, these knots generally tend to be a little taller in overall height than 2CSNL2 knots (which were sourced as part of the same order); consequently, most of them are set deeper than 2CSNL2 knots, which might be expected to result in somewhat different splay characteristics, all else being equal. Note that these knots also generally have a bit more free-loft, which seems to us to yield a softer and comparatively less scrubby feel, but without being floppy.|
|Hand-made in China to our specifications, these knots generally tend to be a little shorter in overall height than 2CLNL2 knots (which were sourced as part of the same order); consequently, most of them aren’t set quite so deep as 2CLNL2 knots, which might be expected to result in somewhat different splay characteristics, all else being equal. Note that these knots also generally have a bit less free-loft, which might yield stiffer backbone and a somewhat scrubbier effect by comparison.|
|When ordered in March 2016, these knots were expected to match the specifications against which the 2CLNL2 knots (see above) were produced in the fourth quarter of 2015, with the exception of a slight reduction in base diameter and/or density for knots sized to fit 26 mm handle sockets. This was due to the fact 2CLNL2 knots intended for 26 mm handles combined overall height and density such that we set most of them a bit higher than we might have otherwise.
This worked very well for larger handles such as the Lotus. And those knots were very well suited to brush users who prefer high density. We tend to favor medium density, however, and so aimed to dial it down a little for 26 mm L-type knots in the second order. Consequently, although 2CLND3 hair is indistinguishable, at least to us, from that used in making the 2CLNL2 knots, 26 mm brushes with 2CLND3 knots will probably, for the most part, be lofted a bit lower (in the ≈49-51 mm range), and we expect them to exhibit more moderate density than 26 mm brushes with 2CNL2 knots, which by and large we considered to be quite dense.
We have found the hair used in making 2CLND3 knots to be virtually identical to 2CLNL2 hair in terms of appearance, feel, and resilience (independent of density and loft). Free-loft has also been closely comparable for knots we’ve measured so far.
|When ordered in March 2016, these knots were expected to match the specifications against which the 2CSNL2 knots (see above) were produced in the fourth quarter of 2015, and they generally turned out to by appearance as well as in terms of base and height dimensions. Overall, however, the 2CSND3 knots we’ve measured to date have appreciably more free-loft than the 2CSNL2s. Moreover, although we detected a bit scritch in some of the 2CSNL2 knots we trialed, so far we haven’t experienced any scritch from use of 2CSND3 knots. That said, we’ve only tested a few of them. And mileage will inevitably vary.|
|These knots were ordered in November 2016. The hair from which they were made is relatively long and of high grade; however, it has a noticeably different feel than that characteristic of previously sourced 2CS or 2CL knots, so we assigned a new primary-sort code to designate the general type. Within this primary sort, we identified a subset of 26 mm semi-bulb knots that was further distinguishable by subtle differences in both color and feel, so we also assigned secondary sort codes (2CM1or 2CM2).
In general, 2CM knots have a coarser, scrubbier feel than 2CS or 2CL knots. 2CM2 knots appear to us to have more naturally colored tips than 2CM1 knots, which have somewhat whiter tips. We experienced a bit of scritch in use of a couple sample knots from the 2CM2 group. That seems to have subsided after some initial break-in; however, mileage will inevitably vary in this regard.
In terms of guidance, if you prefer 2-band knots with ultra-soft tips, 2CM2s probably aren't the best bet. On the other hand, if you enjoy a scrubbier brush, one of these knots might be just what you’re looking for. And we'd expect them to perform very well with hard soaps.
|Ordered in November 2016, these knots are more closely comparable to 2CSNL2s (December 2015) than 2CSND3s (April 2016).|
|These knots are comparable to 2CLNL2s and 2CLND3s. Based on the samples we've tried, it seems like this batch might have a bit more presence (i.e., individual hairs could be felt to a greater extent), but that's highly subjective. The 2CLNA4s we've measured so far have slightly more free loft than earlier L knots.|
|The badger hair used to make these knots was sourced from the supplier of earlier 2CS knots; however, these were handmade exclusively for us by the producer of 2CL knots, in relation to whom we appear to have attained greater (and, hopefully, sustainable) influence over quality control directed to meet our requirements.
The several knots we have sampled for evaluation (i.e., lathered and used) exhibited to varying degrees what are often referred to as hooked and/or gel-like tips that tend to dry in rather hard clumps. We believe these characteristics, which many brush aficionados regard as highly desirable, result from the sterilization process. They have appeared among some previous 2CS knots, but based on sampling so far, we expect them to be more widespread and pronounced in these, although mileage is bound to vary.
Subjectively, I would say the knots I've tried from this batch all exhibited very nice presence with no hint of scritch, to which I am highly sensitive. As with most 2-band knots, performance and feel depend significantly on knot shape and density as set, overall loft, and free loft (all of which are -- or should be -- at least in part a function of the length of hair used to make the knot).
Knots associated with this code sized for 26 mm handles were made with longer hair (by about 1 mm on average) and have slightly larger base circumferences. As might be expected, we've found they want to be set at correspondingly higher lofts.
|Same as SCSLD4.|
|Knots associated with this code should be much the same as 2CSLD4s and 2CSLE4s; however, these were specified to be 1 mm shorter in overall height to allow setting lofts a bit lower with medium density.|
|These knots were made with hair from the same allotment as was used for 2CSLH4s; however, we asked that the producer adjust processing slightly due to moderate patchiness in color and texture that appeared among some knots in previous batches. As a result, these knots have subtly different coloration and, in my assessment, exhibit a bit more resilience (i.e., backbone). The ones I've tried seemed somewhat scrubbier, and I'd guess there will be users who experience a hint or more of scritch. I personally haven't found them to be scritchy, but they definitely have presence. After a few lathers, the 26 mm semi-bulb I've used most does seem to have softened, which isn't surprising.|
|Knots associated with this code were hand-made in China and are the first we’ve sourced from the company that produced them. The cost of these knots was substantially higher (by about $20 per knot) than any we had previously obtained directly from China. The decision to give these knots a trial was based on 1) our commitment to continuous improvement, 2) the recommendation of a trusted friend, and 3) careful evaluation of samples (although we’ve learned it often doesn’t serve well to place high confidence in samples).
This order was delivered to us on November 15, so at the time of original posting we’ve only had the knots in-house to test for a little over a week. I’ll append these notes as we accumulate first-hand experience and collect customer feedback.
Size, shape, conformation, and density
The producer designates this grade of hair as High Mountain White (“HMW”). We evaluated samples in several shape, base diameter, and height configurations before deciding limit our first order to medium-height semi-bulbs with optimal fit for 26 mm and 28 mm handles. The size matchups were in keeping with the producer’s recommendations. Although the base size selected for 26 mm handles at first seemed like it might be slightly small, when we tested one set at lofts in the range of 50-51 mm, it bloomed nicely to a very manageable size with well-balanced density. Experience with the semi-bulb sample size we chose for 28 mm handles was essentially the same.
With regard to conformation, these knots are as consistent in size, density, and shape as any we have had to offer.
Performance and feel
The hair, free loft, and density of the 2CH3K4 knots I’ve use-tested so far just about exactly suit my personal preferences in terms of performance and feel. I’d say they have borderline gel tips, with a slick but not gooey texture when wet. Lather production and release have been efficient. The tips feel soft to me but with enjoyable presence (i.e., not moppy). I’ve experienced no scritch from face lathering with them. Of course as always, mileage is bound to vary.
From the time we started sourcing knots from China and setting them ourselves (i.e., late 2015), we have hand-washed and combed every single one before installing it in a Paladin handle to be offered for sale. Virtually all of them give up at least a few hairs – often more than a few – in the process.
When the first samples from this supplier arrived, I selected a semi-bulb knot, set it snugly (but not permanently) into a 26 mm handle, and put it to practical use immediately. It turned loose of more than a dozen hairs through the course of its first lathering, and I’d say it shed at least a couple dozen more before settling down substantially after five or six uses. I reported this experience to the supplier, who requested photos, which I provided. Assurances were given that special care would be taken to ensure secure construction of any knots produced for us.
Since the 2CH3K4 knots were delivered, I’ve aggressively tested three knots (two in 26 mm handles and one in a 28 mm handle). My experience with them has been substantially the same as with the sample.
I think what we’ve observed with these knots results from a greater than usual number of hairs that were cut too short to be embedded in glue, but which were tied and tightly and held in place just above the glue during construction. Overall, hair in the 2CH3K4 knots appears to me to be very fine, and I suspect that could be a contributing factor.
Of course, we can’t put every knot through multiple latherings prior to setting it in order to purge loose hairs, but we have developed a process that should serve to remove most of them. There will, however, likely still be some shake-down period with these knots.
I believe these knots are exceptionally good and have high hopes for them. For me, the positive attributes outweigh the bit of nuisance in involved in liberating loose hairs. We’ll work with the supplier to see what might be done to eliminate that nuisance. In the meantime, we look forward to receiving customer feedback.
|02/06/18||2CLSA5||We ordered these knots from our original supplier in early January 2018 after protracted discussions largely focused on samples exchanged in both directions. Those discussions resulted in a commitment on the part of the producer to give more time and careful attention to collecting, sorting, and processing the hair. In consideration of that commitment we agreed to a significant price increase (the second in less than a year driven by quality improvement efforts).
In appearance and feel when dry, I would say the hair in these knots compares closely to that of the 2CLNL2s and 2CLND3s; the tips are fine and naturally soft, with color to match (i.e., not alpine white). In use, however, the A5s I've tested delivered a bit more presence than the L2 and D3 L knots, but without being coarse or scritchy. At least so far, these knots haven't exhibited the gel-like properties that can result from bleaching.
Bottom line: I like these knots a lot and hope we can get more that match their properties.
|02/16/18||2CWHB5||Knots associated with this code were hand-made in China and sourced from the same company that produced the 2CH3K4 knots, which turned out to shed excessively. That was a very costly experience for us. Although only two of the 30 brushes we sold with 2CH3K4 knots have been returned so far, I know most, if not all, of our customers who bought one probably put up with more shedding than we would consider acceptable. On the positive side, however, the supplier responded with high integrity and best efforts to restore trust. 2CWHB5 knots were sent to us in replacement for the unused 2CH3K4 knots we were able to return.
2CWHB5 knots are constructed somewhat differently than any knots we’ve offered previously. The glue base has a flatter profile across its top, and hair is bound in a manner that results in comparatively less splay than more commonly constructed knots. The hair has a dark lower-band with distinctively white tips. In use, I’ve found these knots to exhibit a remarkable combination of backbone and softness at the tips, which I would call moderately gel-like. I hope we can continue to source knots made with hair of this kind and quality.
These knots seem to shed more hairs than any we’ve sourced from our other supplier. Of course, we would rather they didn’t, but it doesn’t appear to be a significant issue (not anything like the 2CH3K4s). We’ll do our best comb them out; however, I anticipate it may require repeated use-dry cycles to completely effect shake-out. The supplier has confirmed that this is normal.
Like the 2CH3K4 knots, our cost for 2CWH*s is substantially higher than any others we’ve sourced from China. We are introducing them without a corresponding increase in the prices set for our brushes; however, assuming the positive reception we expect, we’ll probably have to make some adjustments.
|02/23/18||2CLSB5||Knots associated with this code should be much the same as 2CLSA5s. Note, however, that we requested an increase of 1-2 mm in overall height for the 26 mm knots in this order.|
These knots are from the same source as the 2CWHB5s and were made with the same type of hair; however, they are constructed and shaped a little differently. 2CWHD5 knots have more traditional construction with hair near the circumference glued into the base at a slightly greater angle, so they’re a bit less compact and splay more easily. Also, these knots have a somewhat more hybrid shape (i.e., less curvature across the top) than 2CWHB2s, which have more rounded tops.
Like 2CWHB5s, in use I find these knots to exhibit a remarkable combination of backbone and softness at the tips. I described them to a friend as “deliciously scrubby”. They have a lot of presence, and I’ve detected a few transient hints of scritch, but none that I couldn’t easily eliminate with a minor adjustment of stroke.
|04/26/18||2CLSD5||As referenced in the notes corresponding to 2CLSA5 knots, the order for those knots followed “protracted discussions largely focused on samples exchanged in both directions.” More specifically, we based that order on two distinct sample types, one designated by the producer as K4 and the other L1. The fundamental difference between those types was the extent to which they were exposed to bleach in the course of ordinary processing. We had been pressing the supplier for almost 1 ½ years to develop a reliably controllable process for production of knots with so-called gel-tips. The L1 samples appeared to reflect achievement of our objective in that regard, and so we eagerly placed an order for 150 L1-type knots. When that order arrived, however, it was almost immediately apparent that the knots we received were more like the K4 than the L1 samples, which isn’t to say they were/are not very good knots; they just didn’t have what we would call gel-tips.
Long story-short, I asked for an explanation and was told the producer became “scared” that 1) our customers would “use hot water to lather, so when the hair connect to the hot water, it will be very soft” and 2) more bleaching would reduce the life of the knot. I’m sharing this here because it serves making a couple of important points. First, it’s generally not a good idea to expose badger-hair knots to hot water. Second, the methods of processing that tend to produce gel-tips likely involve some trade-off in terms of longevity. To the best of my knowledge, all 2-band knots of the type we offer have been exposed to some bleaching. The whiter and/or more gel-like a particular knot’s tips are, the more exposure its hair probably had. In other words, gel-tipped knots should be assumed to involve some compromise. I don’t think of that as either good or bad; it’s just a matter of striking an optimal balance for the sake of producing desired characteristics. These knots strike a different balance than the 2CLSA5s or 2CLSB5s, which turned out to be closer to the K4 samples. 2CLSD5s are like the L1 samples. As expected, the ones I’ve tried have been luxuriously soft. Correspondingly, they aren't what I'd call scrubby or long on presence.
We can’t say whether or to what extent all of the 2CLSD5 knots will exhibit gel-tips. There will probably be some variance, and how knots are used (e.g., with what products) can affect results.
As for care and maintenance, although I mostly use hard soaps and face lather, I’d say gel-tips typically aren’t best suited for hard-soap destruction or aggressive lathering. And keep in mind that they don’t like hot water. In any case, curling tips sooner or later is fairly common with gel-tipped knots.
|07/05/18||2CLSE5||Produced from the same material and to the same specifications as 2CLSD5 knots. We haven't noticed appreciable differences between the two orders.|
|08/10/18||2CWHE5||Produced from the same material and to the same specifications as 2CWHD5 knots. We haven't noticed appreciable differences between the two orders.|
|10/14/18||2CLSJ5||Produced from the same consignment of material and to the same specifications as 2CLSD5s and 2CLSE5s; however, the hair used to make these knots was slightly shorter. Although Free Loft was generally maintained very close to that of 2CLSD5s and 2CLSE5s, overall knot-height appears to be 1-1.5 mm less on average, so I expect we might end up setting overall loft of semi-bulbs lower by about the same amount. (There were no 2CLSD5 or 2CLSE5 fans.)|