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Semogue Excelsior LE2009

Item Description

I bought a Semogue 2009 Limited Edition boar brush. After using 30+ badger brushes and only 2 boars (cheap non-names, one new, one that I got well-used) I decided that this would be a good brush to try out the potential of boar bristle.

Brush #84 arrived in early Jan. 2010, inside a plastic sleeve wrapped in a cardboard tube. Not fancy but cost-effective and functional. A good looking brush with a turned and lightly varnished heavily grained wood handle and a large “2-band” fan-shaped knot approximately 26 x 55 mm. The overall construction quality is very high with the knot held firmly in a aluminum ferrule. The “Excelsior” sticker was applied slightly skewed and could have been better aligned with the wood grain but these details don’t affect performance.

I started out with a ½ hour soak in warm borax solution followed by a work out with conditioner and a long running warm water rinse out – my normal new brush regimen. The initial soak turned the water grey from the dye in the bristle. A test lather on a puck of Floris elite soap – again rather grey and dirty looking. Then I lathered up with C&E sweet almond for the first shave. As expected based on other reports: a weak lather, didn’t seem to wet the bristles and nothing left for a second pass. The next couple of days were basically the same but the bristles were starting to get a lot more flexible and hold water better and develop some split ends.

After about 10 days (which included 5 or 6 test lathers and rinses as well as every day use for shaving) the brush started to consistently produce good quality lather. The number of split ends increased considerably and the amount of grey washout decreased to almost nil. The dark band at the bottom of the bristle was noticeably lighter - lacking the deep uniform black that the new brush had but taking on a dark brown/black color similar to a badger knot.

Two weeks in and the brush had stabilized a lot. During the early stages, the brush lost about 12 bristles but has not lost any in the last 15 uses. 2-passes were standard using about 20% more cream that for a similar sized badger brush. I don’t soak badger brushes, just run them under hot water and then load them with water in the wash basin and shake out excess just before use. This method does not work with boar bristle. Whereas badger only holds water by capillary action on the surface of the bristles, boar also holds much of its water absorbed into the bristles themselves. This means allowing a soak time for water to diffuse into the bristles. I placed the brush knot-down in hot water for at least 20 minutes before using it to make lather. Missing this step resulted in a poor lather quality and much of the lather “disappeared” into the knot. Even after soaking, the brush tended to draw a lot of lather into the core of the knot. This was easily be released by squeezing the knot. The same effect occurs in dense badger brushes like Chubbies and Rooney heritage.

Weeks 2-4 the brush (and my ability to use it) leveled off and the results were consistent and quite impressive. So here is the comparative review of the brush with a 3 roughly similar sized badger brushes. I have no boar brushes to compare with, so I have no idea how an Omega, production Semogue, or Vulfix boar measures up. However, I doubt that the differences between boar knots are as dramatic or controversial as they are between badger ones. Comparison brushes: Simpson PJ3 best (24 x 50), Rooney Victorian (24 x 50), Omega Pure (26 x 57). These comparisons are relative to this set of brushes.

Semogue Excelsior LE 2009: Softness of tips 9, Firmness of knot 9, Lather capacity 8, Lather quality 8, Density 8, Quality 8, Ergonomics 9, Price 10.

Omega Pure: Softness of tips 6, Firmness of knot 7, Lather capacity 8, Lather quality 7, Density 8, Quality 8, Ergonomics 9, Price 10.

Simpson PJ3 Best: Softness of tips 9, Firmness of knot 8, Lather capacity 8, Lather quality 9, Density 9, Quality 8, Ergonomics 9, Price 8.

Rooney Victorian: Softness of tips 10, Firmness of knot 9, Lather capacity 9, Lather quality 9, Density 10, Quality 9, Ergonomics 9, Price 8.

In summary, the SE LE2009 has many performance qualities similar to a dense, high quality silvertip badger brush. While there are both obvious and subtle differences between the Victorian and the LE2009, they have similar traits: dense, solid feeling knots, soft tips, and a good capacity to make and hold a dense lather. I ranked the Rooney higher overall, it is definitely a more luxurious brush. I paid $47 for the LE brush delivered to my door. This is a lot for a boar brush but only about entry level for a badger and only 1/3 the price of a heritage. I think that it is better than any entry level badger brush that I have tried, certainly beats the Omega pure by any reasonable measure IMO. I have no plans to reduce my badger brush usage or replace them with boars. Nevertheless, this boar brush shows that a well made one can be a very fine shaving tool that doesn’t cost nearly as much as a similar performance badger. I am very glad to add it to my rotation - definitely a keeper.


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Latest reviews

I feel like I shouldn't write this review yet as I really don't think my brush is broke in completely (and it has been through a good 30-40 latherings).

I overpaid for this brush over the initially offering as I bought it second hand, but am glad I did as it is hands down the best boar brush on the market.

I generally am not a huge fan of wooden handles, but the semogues handle on this brush is probably one of the best from an ergonomic standpoint.

I've owned the SOC and would say that this LE is probably 25-30% more dense than that. Hence the long, long, long break-in time required.

The brush has plenty of backbone (though I feel it would be a bit better at about 3-4mm less loft) and the softest tips of any brush I own, be it boar or badger.

Having recently received the semogue custom blue boar, I am once again setting the badgers aside and will nightly lather this and the bluey till completely broken in. I think this brush literally will take another 2-3 months to reach full potential.

I've only seen a handful of this pop up on BST, and if you happen to see it - snap it up regardless of the price. You won't be disappointed.
Price
4.00 star(s)
Density
4.00 star(s)
Quality
4.00 star(s)
Ergonomic
5.00 star(s)
Latherability
5.00 star(s)
Softness of Tips
5.00 star(s)
Stiffness of Tips
4.00 star(s)
I received #82 second hand in a trade for a restored Case Red Imp 132. I overpaid for the Case, but I consider the trade a delight, given how badly I wanted this brush. On the numbers:

Price: Like I said; delighted.
Quality: Bar-none, best built boar I've ever encountered.
Density: Quantitatively, it's rather high on the scale at a 9. Any more dense, and other brushes would begin orbiting around it. However, at this loft, it really works.
Stiffness: I take this to mean backbone, and it's got plenty. 8 is the high-end of my sweet-spot on the stiffness scale. Due to the size of the knot and the loft, the crazy density yields moderately high stiffness that's excellent for soaps.
Softness: Best. Boar. Hair. Ever. Well split and broken in, it's a dream on the face.
Ergonomic: Best. Brush. Handle. Ever. Beats the Simpsons Colonel X2L for ergonomics due to the direction of the taper, but with a sudden flaring outward near the knot.
Latherability: It's got a big appetite for soap, but feel it adequately and you'll get excellent lather back in copious amounts with little effort.

This is, without a doubt, the high king of boar mountain. The only thing that comes close is the Semogue Owner's Club brush, which sacrifices some density and a little shelf-appeal (the 2011 SOC will be a similar handle, but won't have the faux-finest hair). You could replace this brush with two boars: the SOC and the '10 Custom "Blue Boar" from our group buy. Hope you got one...
Price
5.00 star(s)
Density
4.00 star(s)
Quality
5.00 star(s)
Ergonomic
5.00 star(s)
Latherability
5.00 star(s)
Softness of Tips
5.00 star(s)
Stiffness of Tips
4.00 star(s)
A monster with soaps, a great surprise, this brush performs better than any other with soaps in bowl,....It's much denser than other boar brushes, the tips, after 10 uses are very soft
Price
4.00 star(s)
Density
5.00 star(s)
Quality
4.00 star(s)
Ergonomic
4.00 star(s)
Latherability
5.00 star(s)
Softness of Tips
4.00 star(s)
Stiffness of Tips
4.00 star(s)

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