Don McIvor is a local woodworker who sells shaving brushes and other turned objects from his website. He uses a natural finish that ages quite beautifully.
When I took up wetshaving a few years ago, I figured I'd get a good brush to start with and not have to mess with buying any more. I got a $100 Dovo brush with an olivewood handle. It served me well, and still does.
Not that it takes much of a brush for me to get a satisfying shave. I hold it under the faucet to fill it with hot water, take a couple of swipes around the mug to build a thin lather, and then swab it on my face. The most obtrusive and longest whiskers are then wacked off with a single pass of a straight razor. After a quick cold water rinse, I'm done.
Accordingly, you can ignore my ratings of density, stiffness, softness, and latherability. My boar's hair traveling brush works just as well for me as the badger Dovo.
So why am I now reviewing a handturned badger brush? The handle. Beauty. Satisfaction. Solidity. After a few years the bristles of the Dovo are still great but the olivewood handle looks like hell. The finish has not stood the test of time, and the beauty of the olivewood is no longer evident under the deteriorating finish. That's what prompted me to get a brush from Don about a year ago.
Don has a love of wood that is communicated in his website. Each of his turnings is a unique labor of love. The first brush I picked from his website had already been sold, and Don and I corresponded a while before I chose another cocobolo brush. When it came it had the bright beauty of freshly turned cocobolo that is evident in the pictures in this review. The finish was not a glossy plastic coat, but rather some kind of natural oil. It felt solid and "real."
The most important thing I have to say in this review, is how the cocobolo handle has aged over the course of a year. There is absolutely no deterioration of the finish. The cocobolo has darkened, as cocobolo does when exposed to oxygen. It is now a beautiful, understated, dark heavy handle. Through the past year it has become even more "real." It has a beauty that comes with age, as if it was my grandfather's brush, heavy and dark with the oils and handling of many decades. I can't help but wonder what it will look like in another decade or seven. I think I know the answer, for I have seen aged cocobolo. It is a naturally oily wood that almost has it's own finish. With a natural finish, it loses it's youthful colors with time, but it gains a beautiful, dark grace.
Recently my wife got a job a ways away, which involved setting up another household in that area, and of course, another McIvor brush for that location. Once again I have a bright and new one. Don's brushes usually have rounded ends and are made to be held in stands. I had him make this latest one with a flat end so I could just stand it on its handle on the counter.
The pictures in this review so far are from Don's website. If I get a chance, I'll snap some pictures of my McIvor brushes, both the aged and new ones, and post them here. The brushes I have are both cocobolo, but Don works numerous other types of wood. Beautiful examples of brushes from other types of wood can be found on his website.
Don includes a soulless plastic brush holder with his brushes. I've never used the one that came with my first brush, and we agreed he didn't need to send one with the second. The first brush I got has a rounded handle and lives in a high-end brushed stainless brush/straight razor stand.
Don's prices are quite reasonable. The last custom brush from him set me back about $90 with tax and shipping.
Those whose sensibilities focus on the feel of the handle, its solidity and enduring beauty, may wish to consider a McIvor brush.
A discussion thread for this review is here.