"DIY" Synthetic Brush Showdown - Choosing YOUR Knot

Discussion in 'The Brush' started by molon_labe, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. molon_labe

    molon_labe Member

    The contenders left to right: Chiseled Face 24mm "Fauxmere", EnvyShave 24mm "Ubersoft 2 4th Gen" (Etsy), Chiseled Face 28mm "Fauxmere", AMACK4shaving 24mm "Lights" (Etsy), Whipped Dog 24mm Synthetic. All are set in Whipped Dog handles at the standard 10mm depth.

    I apologize in advance for the long backstory, but I think previous experiences are important in understanding my opinions and descriptions.

    Early in my wet shaving journey I started to read all the raving reviews about the Plisson brush, the "Brush of the Gods", and how the "original" is better than the "L'Occitane" version, etc... so being new I went to eBay and spent something like $65 or $70 on an original Plisson brush. Stupid. I liked the brush fine, it didn't wow me but I couldn't argue that it generated a great lather and was very soft against my face. My biggest gripe was that the brush is too soft and floppy, and as a face latherer I just didn't feel like it had any "substance" to it. Shortly after, I learned about The Grooming Company synthetic, which is a slightly wider knot set to a lower loft. I wanted to give this brush a try as some reported it was a cure to the floppy Plisson brushes, so again I spent $55 or so ordering one of these. The TGC brush certainly has more backbone, but in my opinion it was even less useable because it is too hard to get it to splay, and takes a lot of pressure to keep it splayed at all. If the Plisson was too soft, the TGC brush was too "hard". At that point I abandoned synthetic brushes when I discovered the Omega 10066, and shortly after migrated to the likes of the Semogue 620 and 610. I used these brushes exclusively until I saw pictures of the Satin Tip "The Purest" start popping up on Instagram, and after reading a few positive reviews I decided to pick one up for around $20 shipped. IMO the Satin Tip was a slight improvement in backbone over the Plisson, not night and day, but slightly better. However, the fibers did not feel to be as fine or soft so there was slightly more scrub to it, and I felt it was slightly springy although not nearly as much as the TGC brush. It was just ok, but at such a "steal" for the price I decided to hang on to it as a travel brush. A little while later the price went up and I saw a WTB ad posted in one of the BST forums, so I decided to let it go for the price I paid to someone who wanted it since it was just sitting on a shelf in my bathroom. I continued to use and love my Semogue 620 and 610 every day. Every once in a while a new synthetic brush would pop up or peak my interest, but they were either too pricey (i.e. Muhle and EJ) or they just seemed to be Plisson knots rehomed in different handles (Fine), so I always passed.

    Fast forward to about 6 weeks ago when I was trying to find information about the Whipped Dog boar knot, and all I was having luck finding was post after post about the Whipped Dog 24mm synthetic brush. People seemed to love this brush, and at only $24 shipped it seemed like another steal of a deal, so I decided to order one along with 2 boar brushes from Larry. When the brushes arrived I decided to give the synthetic a try while the boar knots were breaking in, and almost instantly I was impressed and it renewed my interest in synthetic brushes. I also really like the Whipped Dog handles, especially for the price, and after realizing there are several different stand-alone synthetic knots available on the market I decided to pick up some handles and make my own brushes to test out.

    BLUF, every one of these brushes cost me less than $25, and I like all of them better than the Plisson, The Grooming Company, or the Satin Tip brushes I've used in the past. If you are intimidated by setting your own knot in a handle, it literally takes about a minute to mix the epoxy and set the knot, then just put it on a shelf and let it cure for 24 hours. There's really no need to ever spend the money on expensive synthetic brushes like I made the mistake of doing in the past, unless you are paying for a custom turned handle from WW or something. Even then, if you are going to pay premium prices on a custom handle, it makes sense to do some testing of your own and figure out which knot you like best because each of these I tested feels different and exhibits different characteristics. Here are my personal opinions.

    #5. The Chiseled Face 28mm "Fauxmere" knot set in a Whipped Dog 30mm handle

    At $25 this was the most expensive of the brushes I assembled, and my personal least favorite. Still, it's a great brush for someone who likes a more dense knot that retains the incredibly soft tips of the Plisson fibers. To me, this was almost as difficult to splay as The Grooming Company brush, but in my opinion it feels much better once splayed. The knot has a loft of about 64mm (advertised as 65mm), so an effective loft of 54mm once set in the handle. It has an incredible amount of backbone and scrub (not in an abrasive way), and this may be suitable for head shavers or palm latherers as I found it performed much better in my palm than on my face, or for those who really just like to feel the brush on their face. The knot is not overly large when splayed, but I did find it slightly harder to control the lather since it does require some force to keep it splayed. It also holds more lather and being a wider knot, also requires more product. It was also the most difficult to wash clean because of the density.

    #4. The Chiseled Face 24mm "Fauxmere" knot set in a Whipped Dog 24mm handle

    Although I rank this brush as number 4, don't let that deter you if you are a fan of the Plisson. At $18 shipped it is the cheapest option I tested, and regardless of being ranked number 4 it is a fantastic brush. This knot is advertised as having a 66mm loft, so an effective loft of 56mm when set in the handle. If you like the Plisson, I really think you will love this brush. Althought it's not night and day difference in backbone, this 24mm Plisson clone does offer more support and face feel than the standard 22mm Plisson-type knots. If I had to guess I'd say around 10-15% more backbone, so while it's still possible to splay this knot all the way and "bottom it out", unless you are intentionally applying pressure I don't think it's an issue. With the standard Plisson you almost have to consciously not apply any pressure to avoid full splay. This knot is still slightly too floppy for my liking, especially during the paint brush stroke application, but just like the standard Plisson this really makes an awesome lather almost effortlessly. It's also very easy to control the lather because it doesn't require a whole lot of pressure to get it to splay during initial lather building, it is the best of all the knots I've tried in this regard. I have another one of these knots on order from AMACK4shaving on Etsy, it's called the "Sunrise" knot, and I plan on setting it about 2mm lower in the handle so it will have an effective loft of around 54mm. Just based on theory alone I really think this knot will be a top performer for me when set at that loft. I'll report back here once I've tried it out.

    #3. EnvyShave 24mm "Ubersoft 2 4th Generation" knot set in a Whipped Dog 24mm handle

    I am somewhat tossed up about this brush. Initially I wanted to rank this #4 but I decided to give it the #3 spot only because it is absolutely unique in face feel and performance. There is no advertised loft, but based on a few rough measurements and comparisons to the other brushes I believe the loft to be around 64mm, with an effective loft of 54mm once set in the handle. I think of all the brushes this one disappointed me the most, even though it's not my least favorite, simply because I had really high hopes for it based on the description. I was expecting a fan shaped Ubersoft knot, but in my opinion this uses a different type of fiber altogether; they are not as fine or as soft as the other brushes in the line up. I still really enjoyed using this brush, in my opinion it has the most unique ability to splay easily while still retaining strong backbone, and more impressively without the stiffness or springiness usually associated with synthetics. If this knot used the same fibers as the Ubersoft I think it would easily be my favorite, but since it doesn't feel quite as soft against my skin as the others this is the best ranking I feel I could give it. I think this is the most densely packed knot out of all the brushes with exception of the 28mm Fauxmere. I think the concept of the fan shaped synthetic knot is also pretty cool, and this brush really excels during paint brush strokes.

    #2. Whipped Dog 24mm Synthetic

    This is one of the most universally loved synthetic brushes available, and for good reason. There's really not too much I can say that hasn't already been said. In a discussion with Larry at Whipped Dog, the loft on these knots has a slight variance between 64-65mm, giving it an effective loft of 54-55mm once set in the handle. The shape of the knot is more of a hybrid between bulb and fan, probably one of the reasons it performs so great. The fibers on this knot are every bit as soft as the Plisson-type knots to the fingertips, but I think ever so slightly less soft against the face. Where this brush excels is in the backbone department and what I like to call "substance" when describing the face feel. If I had to really nit pick about something, and this is the reason it is only ranked #2, is that initially it is a little hard to splay when first starting to face lather. However, once the lather gets started it stays splayed and doesn't require any unusual amount of pressure to keep it that way unlike the 28mm Fauxmere and The Grooming Company brushes. I figured out the best way to overcome this is by slightly splaying the brush while loading it up on the puck of soap, and this essentially becomes a non-issue. This is also a fairly densely packed knot, just behind the Ubersoft 2, so it is also great at paint brush strokes because of the hybrid knot shape. If this were the only brush I had I would be happy. It would easily have been my #1 pick if I didn't find the next knot.

    #1. AMACK4shaving 24mm "Lights" knot set in a Whipped Dog 24mm handle

    First for the good news. This little guy really surprised and impressed me. There are no advertised dimensions but again by eye-balling and trying to take some measurements I believe it to be in the 64mm loft range, with an effective loft of 54mm once set in a handle. I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I do because it is probably the most bulb shaped knot out of them all, and I tend to prefer more fan shaped knots. But I have to say, this knot is just absolutely incredible. It has the backbone characteristics of the Whipped Dog 24mm knot, with all the softness of the Plisson knots, but it also splays effortlessly as well, nearly as much as the Plissons do. This is literally a gem in hiding among knock-offs and clones and more expensive brushes that don't even peform in the same league as this one. It may be the best kept secret in the synthetic brush world, I couldn't find any information or reviews outside of the few that are posted on the vendor's Etsy page. I think this brush peforms most closely to a natural hair brush, with a face feel that is similar to a cloud of synthetic fiber softness. The only area I give the nod to the Whipped Dog is during paint brush strokes; the bulb shape feels a little narrow during this but the backbone prohibits it from feeling floppy like the Plisson knots. Depending on your preference, you may like this knot better because the narrower profile allows slightly more control while painting, it just takes more strokes than with the Whipped Dog or Ubersoft 2.

    Now for the bad news. After using this knot for the first time I immediately went back to AMACK4shaving's Etsy page and ordered 2 more, thinking I would set one and give it as a gift to my father and keep the other knot on hand in case I ever take the leap and order a Wolf Whiskers handle or something. Unfortunately, they are now sold out, and the vendor is unsure if he will be able to get any more because of changes the distributor is making. If you think this is a knot you would be interested in trying out, I highly encourage you to send an email to AMACK4shaving and let him know. He told me the "Sunrise" knots are similar, but if they are anything like the 24mm Fauxmere knots (which I believe they are the same) then these knots are definitely different. He does still have some 22mm "Lights" Knots available, I wouldn't hesitate to give one of those a try if it comes down to it but I don't know how closely they resemble the 24mm version.

    I hope this was informative and helps some of you take the leap and start putting together your own synthetic (or any other separately sold natural hair knots) and figure out what you like and what works best for you. There are so many options and combinations available, it just doesn't make sense to pay premium prices for brand-name brushes when you can assemble your own custom brush however you want it.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  2. RaZorBurn123

    RaZorBurn123 waiting hardily...............

    Great job!
    Has Larry changed his synthetic knot supplier? I had a synthetic from Larry a couple of years ago that didn't look and perform as well as you have stated.
    InspiringK and Dzia Dzia like this.
  3. molon_labe

    molon_labe Member

    Sorry, that I don't know. I believe Larry uses the Ubersoft knots which are pretty popular. The Whipped Dog brush I have is fantastic, which is my only experience with a Whipped Dog synthetic knot. His boar knots are also great FWIW.
    Dzia Dzia likes this.
  4. RaZorBurn123

    RaZorBurn123 waiting hardily...............

    I think he changed suppliers, the WD I had did not look like that. Which is a good thing.
    Dzia Dzia likes this.
  5. DDuckyMark

    DDuckyMark Ducky Duck and the Hiding Bunch

    Which of Larry's Badger knots gets raved about the most. I have a lathe at my moms house and plenty of beautiful wood to make handles. May have to save enough for a badger, boar and synthetic knot from him when I get my razor later in the year. Brings my total just over $100 but I'll have decent brush knots in each type. I only have one popularly decent brush now. and 2 crappy ones.
  6. wmbjr

    wmbjr Duck, duck, cooked goose!

    Excellent write up! Thanks for the reviews of the various knots. Will definitely be helpful when I am looking for a synthetic knot to replace or supplement my current boar brush.
  7. ObiDon

    ObiDon member in questionable standing

    Great write up! I only have one synthetic, a Sterling that was on sale, and I use it as my travel brush, and it is good for bowl or face lathering, once you get the technique down for synthetics My favorite brush is a Whipped Dog Silvertip 30mm set deep, at 45mm. I have a few Silvertip knots in 24mm from Larry and they are all consistent in quality. So if you can't get your #1 pick, Larry's is a safe bet. YMMV
    Dzia Dzia likes this.
  8. Tdmsu

    Tdmsu Well-Known Member

    Great write up! Thank you for the information. I just ordered a 24mm from Chiseled Face to set in a handle my brother is making. I liked the Plisson, but it was too small. I love my HIS, and it's 28mm so this one should be a happy medium.
    Dzia Dzia likes this.
  9. david of central florida

    david of central florida Rhubarb Rubber

    I HAVE three silvertip, one high mountain. I'm sorta partial to the silvertip. they are just as soft and seem a bit denser. I'll try the two band next. I've got a couple of custom two band( best) from Gary. they are a bit stiffer than the whipped dog. but they are what they are, the silver's( finest) are meant to be softer.
    my softest brush, my opinion, is my FS pur-tech.
    a good middle ( good for everything) is my ace black badger.
    I've also got a tgn high mountain white, it's in a big hand carved handle.
    also very nice.
    I'm sorry, I've rambled and not offered much help. the silver tip is as good as the white and cost like 2 bucks less.
    hope I've helped
    Tdmsu likes this.
  10. Redfisher

    Redfisher Doesn't celebrate National Donut Day

    Great information on these brushes thank you for taking the the time to do this. I haven't tried most of these but I do have a Whipped Dog 22 and a Satin Tip. I'm liking both, But the WD is my favorite. The best thing about synthetics for me is they don't shed. Also can I say the way they load and lather is perfect. Each one holds a amazing amount of water and need a decent shake before starting. The ST has a nice scrubbing feel the WD is the same just a little softer for me. I have an old Made Right handle that is going to get one Larry's knots in it when get a round tuit
  11. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    Excellent write up. I hope you don't mind me adding a link to this in the brush sticky. :)
    wmbjr and Tdmsu like this.
  12. TheFiveO

    TheFiveO Well-Known Member

    Superbly written article. Thank you for taking the time to devote so much time investigating, and then writing, about these knots. :happy088:

    Not to sound like a California tree hugging vegan, but I am really becoming more and more fond of the synthetics. They are soft, lather GREAT and require little, to no, soaking so they are perfect brushes for when you have to, or prefer to, shave in the shower.
    Tdmsu likes this.
  13. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    I would avoid Larry's "High Mountain." It's what I would call 'Grey' or 'Pure' badger, and fairly low quality at that. The one I got was rather misshapen and showed signs of being poorly trimmed. There were a number of back hairs in the brush as well (about 10-20%), recognizable from their thin wispy appearance. These hairs lack any backbone whatsoever and tend to tangle within the brush.

    As far as I know, I'm the only one to have an issue with this knot and I know Larry would replace it free of charge if I asked. He's a real stand up guy.

    I keep the knot around because it incorporates so many different properties of a low quality brush.

    Despite all the above, it does have a nice face feel. It just doesn't look like much. The fact that it's called 'High Mountain' doesn't amount for much either, as the High Mountain appellation is quickly turning into a meaningless catchphrase.

    His Silvertip brush gets pretty good reviews though, as do his synthetic knots.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  14. MoAllen

    MoAllen King of Unscented

    Excellent article! Thanks for the extra effort to compare each knot so carefully.

    I recently did some restorations using synthetic knots from AMACK4shaving and I was quite pleased. I share your enthusiasm for the "Synthetic Lights" knots. I also used one of the black fiber "Game Changer" knots and it is excellent, also. I suspect that the two knots are the same except for the color. The "Sunrise" knots are nice, too, softer but still good for face lathering. They have more backbone than a Plisson.

    Thanks again for a great article!
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2015
  15. oscar11

    oscar11 Well-Known Member

    Nice write up. Thanks, oscar11.
  16. molon_labe

    molon_labe Member

    Sorry for lack of participation, I didn't realize this thread was getting any comments because I wasn't receiving email notifications. Since writing this comparison I have received one of AMACK4shaving's 24mm "Sunrise" knots, as well as another 24mm Chiseled Face Fauxmere that I intend to set slightly lower than the previous at around 53-54mm. The handles to set both of these in should be delivered today, so I look forward to adding these new brushes to the comparison and will post my thoughts over the next few days here.

    On a side note, I've still been favoring the 24mm Lights knot as the clear favorite (for me) of the brushes I have already tested. I've been using it exclusively every day since writing this comparison, and even went as far as to sell all of my beloved boar brushes. Here is an example of the fantastic lather I've been producing using the Lights brush; it is Soap Commander Integrity palm lathered to simulate my normal face lathering process.

    Last edited: Sep 30, 2015
  17. wmbjr

    wmbjr Duck, duck, cooked goose!

    Looking forward to seeing your comparison of the AMACK lights with the AMACK sunrise knots. Thanks again for all the information!
  18. feeltheburn

    feeltheburn Well-Known Member

    Wow, that's some nice looking lather!
  19. Boojum1

    Boojum1 Valet Parking Available Here

    Excellent article. Thanks for sharing. :happy088:
  20. wmbjr

    wmbjr Duck, duck, cooked goose!

    Have you been able to compare the lights knot to the sunrise knot from AMACK? I have noticed the shop only has the sunrise available these days and was wondering about its quality. Thanks!

Share This Page