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Bulb v. Fan

Are the bulb and fan shapes of brushes just aesthetics, or are there certain benefits of having one over the other? Is one more beneficial than the other in certain cirmstances?
 
IMHO, there are distinctive differences. . . Specially in dense/scrubby brushes

I tend to like brushes with fan shape, unless the hair is ultra-soft.
 
OK, good thread. I think from reading the forums lately you would get the impression that fan shaped brushes were superior and much more sought after. I think this stems from a disappointment in certain companies who are producing brushes that are unpredictably shaped/sized and out of keeping with tradition. However, I DO think that bulb shaped brushes that are specifically designed to be bulb-shaped; Shavemac, Plisson etc, work very in that form and create a difference experience to, say, a Rooney. The issue is Chubbies being produced with tall, bulbous knots; they could well be fine brushes, but they shouldn't be called Chubbies any more in my opinion. Vent over.
 
I don't know if you can call one more beneficial to the other .That is to say that any quality made brush will produce great lather with any quality made soap or cream.I do notice a difference though in lather application.The fan shape is excellent for lathering in small circular motion.The bulb shape is excellent for lathering in long sweeping motion.I like both, I use both, I'll keep both shapes in my den.
 
I'll give my still forming thoughts on bulb vs. fan. I have tried about 20 brushes now, so I would like to think I'm at least getting the basics down.

A fan shaped bulb has support hairs that build up to the peak of the bulb. These support hairs can in theory supplement backbone. You can get quality backbone with a minimum amount of density. However if a bulb is to peaky it can feel sharp to the face going from "one side of the mountain to the other". Bulb shaped bulbs tend to create large breaches too. This can be important as soap is harder to load with a pronounced breach.

A fan does not have the support that a fan does, so to gain backbone fans have to be set at a short loft, or stuffed extra dense. Both will keep a brush from being floppy, but its important to remember that even a medium density flan can feel floppy. Fans do however load soaps better as more bristles are kept in contact with the soap. Plus the flatter the knot the less it should breach. In the same way that more bristles keep in contact with the soap more bristles will also come in contact with your face as you apply your lather, making the brush feel bigger. As less bristles are in contact with your face a bulb will feel smaller. This might be the most important factor for me between them. Personal taste will dictate brush size, but you can cheat these numbers by choosing one or the other. You could save yourself some money by purchasing a 24mm fan over the 26mm bulb as both will feel of a similar size on your face.

You could make the argument that fans are better for soaps, but with so many other factors affecting how a brush performs its not a hard and fast rule. Loft, density, knot size, hair quality, etc, etc, all play a big part in how a brush performs.
 
I do notice a difference though in lather application.The fan shape is excellent for lathering in small circular motion.The bulb shape is excellent for lathering in long sweeping motion.
But if you are a face latherer, you build lather in the brush for passes two and three by using those circular motions (at least I do). So if you are lathering with a bulb in long sweeping motion, you aren't pushing lather into the knot to develop.

So, folks getting the soft but scrubby short loft bulb shapes specifically to do a lot of face lathering may have a harder time building lather for successive passes. Is that what's happening?
 
But if you are a face latherer, you build lather in the brush for passes two and three by using those circular motions (at least I do). So if you are lathering with a bulb in long sweeping motion, you aren't pushing lather into the knot to develop.

So, folks getting the soft but scrubby short loft bulb shapes specifically to do a lot of face lathering may have a harder time building lather for successive passes. Is that what's happening?
I have never noticed this, but I mix up both motions. Dense knots need lather worked into the bottom sections of the bristles. I do this by using very deep paint brush strokes that push lather down and onto the sides (and into the base) of the brush.

I should note that I like use really dense brushes.... so this goes for most of mine lol
 
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A fan shaped bulb has support hairs that build up to the peak of the bulb. These support hairs can in theory supplement backbone. You can get quality backbone with a minimum amount of density. However if a bulb is to peaky it can feel sharp to the face going from "one side of the mountain to the other". Bulb shaped bulbs tend to create large breaches too. This can be important as soap is harder to load with a pronounced breach.

A fan does not have the support that a fan does, so to gain backbone fans have to be set at a short loft, or stuffed extra dense. Both will keep a brush from being floppy, but its important to remember that even a medium density flan can feel floppy. Fans do however load soaps better as more bristles are kept in contact with the soap. Plus the flatter the knot the less it should breach. In the same way that more bristles keep in contact with the soap more bristles will also come in contact with your face as you apply your lather, making the brush feel bigger. As less bristles are in contact with your face a bulb will feel smaller. This might be the most important factor for me between them. Personal taste will dictate brush size, but you can cheat these numbers by choosing one or the other. You could save yourself some money by purchasing a 24mm fan over the 26mm bulb as both will feel of a similar size on your face.

You could make the argument that fans are better for soaps, but with so many other factors affecting how a brush performs its not a hard and fast rule. Loft, density, knot size, hair quality, etc, etc, all play a big part in how a brush performs.
+1, Great post

A bulb shape can add more backbone to a soft brush like a Silvertip, but it can get quite uncomfortable in stiffer brushes such as Two-band. I prefer fans myself as I really like face lathering using soaps with a very high backbone brush.
 
Loric -- thanks for your insight.

So, folks getting the soft but scrubby short loft bulb shapes specifically to do a lot of face lathering may have a harder time building lather for successive passes. Is that what's happening?
Good question.

I have a Commodore X1--bulb shaped, 20mm knot, with 46mm loft--and this seems to be what is happening. I can only swirl that brush once around my face, after that first round the only way to continue building lather is by using sweeping paint brush strokes.

This has been kind of annoying me because I got the Commodore because I thought that I could face lather with just the swirling strokes. I thought that the Commodore would ofter me a good massage while swirling lather on, but I have found that I have to apply paint brush strokes to get the Commodore's full potential.
 
A fan gives me a much more luxurious face massage because it "hugs" the face better than a bulb.
 
What exactly is behind the move by manufacturers to a more bulbous shape of brush? Most notable to me is by the very popular Simpson brushes. Is it just a "different model", such as auto designers are apt to do, or is it strategic in its design?

Does Simpson feel they are assisting shavers by offering scrubbier brushes at a time when more and more men are apt to call themselves face latherers, or is the brush company actually able to use LESS longer hairs in a bulbous brush? Simpson brushes are quite dense, but does the bulb shape let them use up more of the shorter badger hair--could this be what's driving the shape change from the more traditional fan shape?
 
Interesting question. Personally, I was fairly disappointed and annoyed at the pronounced bulb shape of the 2-Band Chubby I got. It very much has the tendency to pivot about the bulb peak and flop from side to side that was discussed above. Makes it rather unsatisfying to me for face lathering, given the stiffness. By contrast, the shape and feel of the knot on my Colonel X2L in Best is great. I just wonder why such a bulb on a 2-Band Chubby and whether enough people would prefer such a knot to make it a marketing decision. Hard for me to believe.

What exactly is behind the move by manufacturers to a more bulbous shape of brush? Most notable to me is by the very popular Simpson brushes. Is it just a "different model", such as auto designers are apt to do, or is it strategic in its design?

Does Simpson feel they are assisting shavers by offering scrubbier brushes at a time when more and more men are apt to call themselves face latherers, or is the brush company actually able to use LESS longer hairs in a bulbous brush? Simpson brushes are quite dense, but does the bulb shape let them use up more of the shorter badger hair--could this be what's driving the shape change from the more traditional fan shape?
 
I love my boars that have a very flat top; you get that "wall of hair" sensation, and they have the backbone to keep them all on my face. However, with badgers, I like a fannish-bulb. The Simpsons Colonel I have fits that bill well.

Pure bulbs (well described above, actually) are nice, too. I had a Savile Row that was very bulbous, but because it was so soft at the tips, the resulting feel was a very comfortable face latherer (but efficient in a bowl, the once per month I break one out).
 
....Personally, I was fairly disappointed and annoyed at the pronounced bulb shape of the 2-Band Chubby I got. It very much has the tendency to pivot about the bulb peak and flop from side to side that was discussed above. Makes it rather unsatisfying to me for face lathering, given the stiffness....
I have two identical model Finest brushes with "identical" bulbs, but in reality one is noticeably peakier than the other. I attribute this to variances in manufacturing. both fall within tolerance I believe, but it's sort of a make-or-break deal since I face lather and can feel the difference with each swirl.

I like the bulb with the flatter top, personally. My peaky bulb has the same characteristics that you describe above, which I don't like so much. Also, the peaky brush has slightly stiffer hairs, which only exacerbates the effect.

Interestingly, on some days, I find that the flatter brush feels a little bit boring on the face, and I prefer the action of the peakier brush. But most of the time the peakiness is distracting and the flatter brush just feels more "right."

For me, unless the shape of the bulb is just right, fans give me a more consistent feel on the face from brush to brush, one that I prefer. For face latherers, I think bulb knots can be hit or miss in that way. YMMV, of course, and one person's perfect face feel may be different than another's.
 
What exactly is behind the move by manufacturers to a more bulbous shape of brush? Most notable to me is by the very popular Simpson brushes. Is it just a "different model", such as auto designers are apt to do, or is it strategic in its design?

Does Simpson feel they are assisting shavers by offering scrubbier brushes at a time when more and more men are apt to call themselves face latherers, or is the brush company actually able to use LESS longer hairs in a bulbous brush? Simpson brushes are quite dense, but does the bulb shape let them use up more of the shorter badger hair--could this be what's driving the shape change from the more traditional fan shape?
I don't know what's up with the Simpsons brushes' shape, ESPECIALLY in Two-Band. Not saying that they are necessarily bad, but I have purchased and sold three different Simpsons Two-band brushes all because they arrived incredibly pointy! To me, there is no benefit of the bulb shape when the bristles have so much backbone on their own.
 
I don't know what's up with the Simpsons brushes' shape, ESPECIALLY in Two-Band. Not saying that they are necessarily bad, but I have purchased and sold three different Simpsons Two-band brushes all because they arrived incredibly pointy! To me, there is no benefit of the bulb shape when the bristles have so much backbone on their own.
This is only a theory, but I think they are making the two bands in a bulb shape because of the two band hair. The top part of of the two band hair is much narrower than the base, so I am guessing that they were using the pointed bulb shape to get some thicker base hair up higher and give the brush more backbone up top. I have used three Simpson two bands and they seem to consistently have the most difference in hair thickness of any two band brush I have ever used. The tops of a flat bulb might not offer much backbone as all of the hair would be very thin. Also with the reduction in hair volume, the top of the brush might feel very un-dense as well.

If you have a Simpson two band give a feel above and below the point where the hair turns white. I notice a drastic difference in density here. It is possible that with out the bulb shape we would all be bemoaning them for how un Simpson the density is at the tips.

Again, just a theory.
 
What exactly is behind the move by manufacturers to a more bulbous shape of brush? Most notable to me is by the very popular Simpson brushes. Is it just a "different model", such as auto designers are apt to do, or is it strategic in its design?

Does Simpson feel they are assisting shavers by offering scrubbier brushes at a time when more and more men are apt to call themselves face latherers, or is the brush company actually able to use LESS longer hairs in a bulbous brush? Simpson brushes are quite dense, but does the bulb shape let them use up more of the shorter badger hair--could this be what's driving the shape change from the more traditional fan shape?
I have no idea why they do what they do but a thought did occur to me.Maybe it's a marketing design to show off the white tips better.Kinda how Plisson does to theirs.Fan shaped brushes when viewed from the side profile show very little of the tips where as a pronounced bulb shows the tips alot more.If one were to go off the deep end they might think that a bulbous brush is so eager for lather it's reaching out for the nearest cheek.
 
I have no idea why they do what they do but a thought did occur to me.Maybe it's a marketing design to show off the white tips better.Kinda how Plisson does to theirs.Fan shaped brushes when viewed from the side profile show very little of the tips where as a pronounced bulb shows the tips alot more.If one were to go off the deep end they might think that a bulbous brush is so eager for lather it's reaching out for the nearest cheek.
It could also be for product diversification. It might be harder for "normal" people to justify buying ANOTHER Chubby if it was exactly the same except for the type of hair. Using a bulb would move give the product a new selling point and make it more unique.

I feel paranoid tonight, all this groundless speculation.
 
I seem to remember Simpsons saying their 2 band would be too scrubby in a fan shaped knot.

I have a Shavemac 24mm 2 Band Fan, it rips soap right of the cake. I also find it is too scrubby unless I soak it for at least a shower ~ 5 mins.

Boars are better in a fan IMO


I had two TGN finest extra stuffed 2 Bands, one a fan & one a bulb. The bulb wins, hands down.
 
I had two TGN finest extra stuffed 2 Bands, one a fan & one a bulb. The bulb wins, hands down.
I'm very interested in your observation. Could you elaborate on the differences?

I wasn't aware that TGN made extra stuffed finest knots in a fan. Was it a recent acquisition, or an older one? I was waffling between a TGN extra stuffed bulb and a normal fan, but if there's an extra stuffed fan, well, that's an even tougher choice.

I'd certainly like to hear your take on the two knots.
 
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