Brush Care & Feeding
Morris & Forndran and BSSW brush handles are individually turned by master turner Brad Sears on a manually-controlled wood lathe. Using only hand tools, reference models, engineering drawings, and precision calipers, Brad calls on many years of wood turning and brush making experience to ensure that the handle of your Morris & Forndran or BSSW shaving brush represents the finest work of which he is currently capable.
After turning, sanding and polishing, each brush handle was imprinted with State-of-the Art inks--the same inks used to imprint medical instruments--and fitted with a hand-tied Badger hair knot--Morris & Forndran in the U.K. and BSSW brushes in our Maryland Eastern Shore workshop. For these reasons....
What’s “Proper Care?” Although we carefully prepare brushes shipped from our Maryland Eastern Shore workshop, it’s still a good idea to shampoo your new brush with warm water and a good quality shampoo with conditioner.
Work up a good lather by gently “brushing” back and forth against the palm of your hand. After a minute or so, rinse your brush thoroughly–again with warm water—until the water runs clear. Gently squeeze out the excess water, shake out the remainder, then dry the handle with a soft towel. Set your brush on its base and allow it to dry completely in a well-ventilated area. These few simple steps help prevent mildew and the buildup of soap scum around the bristles--the main cause of shedding-- both of which will ruin your brush and void your brush’s warranty!
Please note: Your brush might exhibit an “animal smell” at first, during what we call "the Break-in Period." It might also shed a few hairs during this time. Don’t worry, any smell and/or hair loss should disappear over the first 8 – 12 shaves.
The Keys to Long Brush Life…
- Don’t subject your brush to water hotter than your hand can tolerate! Be nice to it. Your brush is made of hair which will break and/or fall out if you mistreat it.
- When lathering, compress your brush only about ¼ of the way down. Pressing harder slows lather formation, ruins the tips and eventually leaves a “donut hole” in the center of the knot. (“Donut holed” brushes are not covered under warranty.)
- After every use, rinse your brush thoroughly under warm water until the water runs clear. Then squeeze out the excess water, etc. as described above.
Building Terrific Lather!
Iif you’re new to wet shaving, building terrific lather with your new brush can be a challenge! So, we’d like to offer some suggestions. Most of this pertains to soap, since that’s what we use. Cream users will need to pick and choose. The big thing is to relax and enjoy the experience!
To start, lather consists of three components: soap (or cream), water and air. Get those proportions right and you will build terrific lather! Let’s get to it….
First off, most lather “failures” come from using too much water—or too much water too soon! So lesson #1 is controlling water application. The rule of thumb is: better too little than too much. You can always add more water, but it’s tough to take it away.
We like to soak the entire puck in water for five minutes or so while showering. Soaking the entire puck works for especially well for hard soaps like Mitchell’s Wool Fat—and for those who have hard water. The idea is to soften the soap to get it ready for “Loading the Brush.” (Cream users can obviously bypass this step.)
Next comes “prepping the brush.” Some folks like to soak their brushes for a few minutes. That’s fine, but since we engineer our brushes to hold a lot of water, prolonged soaking can result in too much water at the outset. So instead of soaking, I like to simply run the brush under warm tap water just enough to get it wet, then gently wring out most of the water. But if you do soak your brush, remember to do so in warm—not hot—water. (Hot water—hotter than your hand can stand for 30 seconds—will eventually ruin the hair and loosen the epoxy, which can result in shedding and other nasty things.)
Loading the brush. Loading the brush is probably the most important step—it’s certainly where most “lather failures” happen. If you’re using a synthetic brush, leave a little water on top of the puck; otherwise dump all the water. Then swirl the brush against the puck for 30-45 seconds, depressing the bristles no more than about ¼ of the way down. (Pressing any farther only slows the loading process and breaks the tips, eventually causing a “donut hole” in the center.) You should feel resistance as the tips drag across the soap. This means soap is collecting in the bristles. Ignore what appears to be lather forming at this stage. This “proto lather” is just a precursor to true lather. If the soap starts to feel dry and pasty, you can add a few drops of water. What we’re looking for is rubbery “goo” on both the soap and brush.
Now that our brush is loaded, we can either “face lather” or “bowl lather.” Which one you choose is purely personal preference. Let’s talk about face lathering first.
Face Lathering. Pass the loaded brush around on your face, alternating between swirls and back and forth “paint brush” strokes. Gradually add water, a little at a time, by dipping the tips of your brush in hot tap water. Continue lathering for a few minutes or until the lather reaches a rich, foamy consistency.
Bowl lathering. Bowl lathering is similar to face lathering except here we develop our lather in a shaving bowl or scuttle (again, the choice is yours.) Put a few drops of tap water in the bottom of the bowl, then swirl the brush around for 30 seconds or so gradually adding water a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Again, depress the brush only about ¼ of the way down. Then start shaving.
These are techniques that work for me; but “your mileage may vary." You can always call or email me with questions. I love to hear from you. There are also a ton of shaving videos on YouTube and lots of advice on the shaving forums.
Bottom line: I find immense satisfaction in building terrific lather the way my father and grandfathers did. It’s one way to connect with the generations that have gone before us. But whether you think this way or not, the big thing is to enjoy the ride!
Yours in fine shaving,