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Can someone please explain badger hair grades to me?

Hey everyone, I don't have any experience with badger brushes and am looking to round out the brush collection with a badger and horse and get ever closer to finishing my shaving infinity gauntlet. However, there seem to be different grades of badger hair (i.e. 2 band, 3 band, silver tip, high mountain, gel etc.) and I cannot for the life of me tell which one is the 'quintessential' badger to own other than they each come in different price points. I would really appreciate it, if someone could explain what each of these terms mean and the experience they provide when used. By all means, if I've left a grade out please add it in and explain it too!
 
The first thing to be aware of is that there are no firm rules in naming and grading badger hair and different companies use the terms differently. I'll provide you with the most common terms used in grading them.

Before starting let's talk about two band or three band. It has been said (and I tend to agree) that all badger hair is three band, however some of the pelt yields a much wider middle band so that sometimes only two bands show above the handle. I suppose you might call Black Badger a one band though.

On the bottom is Pure aka 100%. About all you can say for it is that it is all Badger without something else mixed in. Perhaps below this (or some would claim an improvement) is a mixed Badger and Boar. Today, most Pure Badger is trimmed at the tips, leaving them very scratchy. Given enough time and use they may eventually start to split and become softer. The few I have had I gave up on. Black Badger is Pure Badger but selected so all the hair color is black and has the same pitfalls.

Next up is Best Badger. This is a wonderful utility grade. It tends to have thicker hair strands so they are very durable. They are almost always three band. Face feel is not really scratchy, but some describe it as scritchy or even scrubby. This is the preference of many.

Next up is Finest. It is usually two band, enough so that the terms Finest and Two Band are often used interchangeably. The hair shaft is somewhat finer than Best but still thicker than the next grade, Silvertip. The tips are softer than Best but the backbone of the brush is nearly as firm as Best. Many feel this is the best you can get for shaving brush use. There is a wonderful balance between face feel and backbone.

At the top is Silvertip Badger. It is the softest. Only about 15% of the pelt is Silvertip. It comes from the collar area providing the animal with softness around his face. Many feel this is the best you can get and indeed I often say I'm addicted to Silvertip although I also enjoy other brushes.

Some interesting confusion is there are some Two Band Silvertip. The ones I have seem to be somewhere slightly short of a true Silvertip.

Another term you may see is Super. This is certainly one that isn't used in a consistent manner throughout the industry. Sometimes it is only a term meaning it is something select above Best Badger. Sometimes they refer to Badger hair that has had the tips bleached to make them lighter and softer. What may be my favorite brush (although I could also say many compete for that title) was advertised as Super Silvertip. It is certainly the softest brush I own. Of the knots that simply say Super, I have not found any that I care for. They don't to me seem significantly different from Best.

Manchurian, or High Mountain, are terms with some controversy. Some claim that it is from a different species of Badger. Others say it is from Badgers from high altitudes where the hair grows thicker due to the cold climate. Others say it is simply a marketing term. They are usually Two Band Finest but with a somewhat thicker shaft. I have some High Mountain knots that don't seem to be any different from Two Band Finest.

High Mountain White seems to be a Three Band Silvertip version of the above. The couple I have seem to be somewhere between Finest and Silvertip and in my mind are not worth the premium often charged for them.

You asked about Gel Tips. This is something that can happen when the tips are bleached. When the bleach is left on longer than needed to just lighten the tips, the tips become somewhat distorted with curved or hooked tips. Sometimes gel tips are accidental and sometimes they are intentional. The claim is that this gives a softer gel tip like face feel. They get mixed reviews. I had one that was intolerable, creating a crunchiness that was bothersome. I threw that one away. Currently I have one that I like. It seems to work best if I soak the tips before shaving, something that usually is only needed with a Boar brush.

This should give you a general idea of what to expect as you shop around.
 
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Good summary above. Names and grades are not universal for all makers. The more expensive grades such as Silvertip are generally softer, but many people prefer the "lower" grades such as Best or Finest, which have more backbone and scrub.

Terms such as High Mountain are marketing creations, it's just different grades of badger hair, really. Gel tips are chemically treated and this can be a way for a maker to make lower grade hair feel softer. Some would say they feel fake. Good quality hair shouldn't need gel tips, IMHO.

Finest or two-band grade is for me a good choice. Avoid Pure grade generally. Best grade can be OK or quite good depending on the maker. Silvertip tends to just fall over when using hard soaps, so not my personal favorite. However, for those who love softness and use creams, nothing else will do.
 
The first thing to be aware of is that there are no firm rules in naming and grading badger hair and different companies use the terms differently. I'll provide you with the most common terms used in grading them.

Before starting let's talk about two band or three band. It has been said (and I tend to agree) that all badger hair is three band, however some of the pelt yields a much wider middle band so that sometimes only two bands show above the handle. I suppose you might call Black Badger a one band though.

On the bottom is Pure aka 100%. About all you can say for it is that it is all Badger without something else mixed in. Perhaps below this (or some would claim an improvement) is a mixed Badger and Boar. Today, most Pure Badger is trimmed at the tips, leaving them very scratchy. Given enough time and use they may eventually start to split and become softer. The few I have had I gave up on. Black Badger is Pure Badger but selected so all the hair color is black and has the same pitfalls.

Next up is Best Badger. This is a wonderful utility grade. It tends to have thicker hair strands so they are very durable. They are almost always three band. Face feel is not really scratchy, but some describe it as scritchy or even scrubby. This is the preference of many.

Next up is Finest. It is usually two band, enough so that the terms Finest and Two Band are often used interchangeably. The hair shaft is somewhat finer than Best but still thicker than the next grade, Silvertip. The tips are softer than Best but the backbone of the brush is nearly as firm as Best. Many feel this is the best you can get for shaving brush use. There is a wonderful balance between face feel and backbone.

At the top is Silvertip Badger. It is the softest. Only about 15% of the pelt is Silvertip. It comes from the collar area providing the animal with softness around his face. Many feel this is the best you can get and indeed I often say I'm addicted to Silvertip although I also enjoy other brushes.

Some interesting confusion is there are some Two Band Silvertip. The ones I have seem to be somewhere slightly short of a true Silvertip.

Another term you may see is Super. This is certainly one that isn't used in a consistent manner throughout the industry. Sometimes it is only a term meaning it is something select above Best Badger. Sometimes they refer to Badger hair that has had the tips bleached to make them lighter and softer. What may be my favorite brush (although I could also say many compete for that title) was advertised as Super Silvertip. It is certainly the softest brush I own. Of the knots that simply say Super, I have not found any that I care for. They don't to me seem significantly different from Best.

Manchurian, or High Mountain, are terms with some controversy. Some claim that it is from a different species of Badger. Others say it is from Badgers from high altitudes where the hair grows thicker due to the cold climate. Others say it is simply a marketing term. They are usually Two Band Finest but with a somewhat thicker shaft. I have some High Mountain knots that don't seem to be any different from Two Band Finest.

High Mountain White seems to be a Three Band Silvertip version of the above. The couple I have seem to be somewhere between Finest and Silvertip and in my mind are not worth the premium often charged for them.

You asked about Gel Tips. This is something that can happen when the tips are bleached. When the bleach is left on longer than needed to just lighten the tips, the tips become somewhat distorted with curved or hooked tips. Sometimes gel tips are accidental and sometimes they are intentional. The claim is that this gives a softer gel tip like face feel. They get mixed reviews. I had one that was intolerable, creating a crunchiness that was bothersome. I threw that one away. Currently I have one that I like. It seems to work best if I soak the tips before shaving, something that usually is only needed with a Boar brush.

This should give you a general idea of what to expect as you shop around.
Very good write up and that all a person needs to know about badger brushes, I enjoy 2 band badgers(finest) and HD silvertips also work well for myself.
A few other important parts of a any brush is loft and knot size that can make face feel change from luxury to stiff prickly brushes. Lower set loft you will get more a scrubber feel and not as good a painter as a brush that is set with a good height balance of loft for softness and lather painting charteristic's I enjoy.
 
The first thing to be aware of is that there are no firm rules in naming and grading badger hair and different companies use the terms differently. I'll provide you with the most common terms used in grading them.

Before starting let's talk about two band or three band. It has been said (and I tend to agree) that all badger hair is three band, however some of the pelt yields a much wider middle band so that sometimes only two bands show above the handle. I suppose you might call Black Badger a one band though.

On the bottom is Pure aka 100%. About all you can say for it is that it is all Badger without something else mixed in. Perhaps below this (or some would claim an improvement) is a mixed Badger and Boar. Today, most Pure Badger is trimmed at the tips, leaving them very scratchy. Given enough time and use they may eventually start to split and become softer. The few I have had I gave up on. Black Badger is Pure Badger but selected so all the hair color is black and has the same pitfalls.

Next up is Best Badger. This is a wonderful utility grade. It tends to have thicker hair strands so they are very durable. They are almost always three band. Face feel is not really scratchy, but some describe it as scritchy or even scrubby. This is the preference of many.

Next up is Finest. It is usually two band, enough so that the terms Finest and Two Band are often used interchangeably. The hair shaft is somewhat finer than Best but still thicker than the next grade, Silvertip. The tips are softer than Best but the backbone of the brush is nearly as firm as Best. Many feel this is the best you can get for shaving brush use. There is a wonderful balance between face feel and backbone.

At the top is Silvertip Badger. It is the softest. Only about 15% of the pelt is Silvertip. It comes from the collar area providing the animal with softness around his face. Many feel this is the best you can get and indeed I often say I'm addicted to Silvertip although I also enjoy other brushes.

Some interesting confusion is there are some Two Band Silvertip. The ones I have seem to be somewhere slightly short of a true Silvertip.

Another term you may see is Super. This is certainly one that isn't used in a consistent manner throughout the industry. Sometimes it is only a term meaning it is something select above Best Badger. Sometimes they refer to Badger hair that has had the tips bleached to make them lighter and softer. What may be my favorite brush (although I could also say many compete for that title) was advertised as Super Silvertip. It is certainly the softest brush I own. Of the knots that simply say Super, I have not found any that I care for. They don't to me seem significantly different from Best.

Manchurian, or High Mountain, are terms with some controversy. Some claim that it is from a different species of Badger. Others say it is from Badgers from high altitudes where the hair grows thicker due to the cold climate. Others say it is simply a marketing term. They are usually Two Band Finest but with a somewhat thicker shaft. I have some High Mountain knots that don't seem to be any different from Two Band Finest.

High Mountain White seems to be a Three Band Silvertip version of the above. The couple I have seem to be somewhere between Finest and Silvertip and in my mind are not worth the premium often charged for them.

You asked about Gel Tips. This is something that can happen when the tips are bleached. When the bleach is left on longer than needed to just lighten the tips, the tips become somewhat distorted with curved or hooked tips. Sometimes gel tips are accidental and sometimes they are intentional. The claim is that this gives a softer gel tip like face feel. They get mixed reviews. I had one that was intolerable, creating a crunchiness that was bothersome. I threw that one away. Currently I have one that I like. It seems to work best if I soak the tips before shaving, something that usually is only needed with a Boar brush.

This should give you a general idea of what to expect as you shop around.

Good summary!

I would emphasize two points:
1. There is no consistent classification: each manufacturer has their own grading system.
2. The scheme outlined goes from less to more expensive, but price does not guarantee performance.

My approach is to find a company or artisan I enjoy, then figure out where my tastes lie on the spectrum.:a29:
 
Another term you will often see used in modern brushes is "gel tips". Generally, these are two-band best or finest badger knots that have been processed to intentionally damage the tips of the fibers through the use of bleaches such as those used by hair salons. The bleach softens the tips of the fibers. If done properly, the result is a wonderfully soft brush. If not done properly, the brush can be ruined.

In addition to the type of badger hair, other things to consider are knot diameter, knot height/loft, knot density, and knot shape: flat, fan, bulb, or pointed.

Because there are so many different variations, you might need to try several before you determine which works best for you. You do not have to spend hundreds of dollars to get a good brush, but if your budget is severely limited, you might want to consider a boar or synthetic brush. You are likely to find that inexpensive badger brushes sold on Amazon are a waste of money.
 
I have only one silvertip badger and a super badger is on it's way and both were gifted to me. I'm no expert, but most people advice to stay away from pure and best badger brushes and use only super, silvertip or 2/3 band brushes with high grade badger hairs. I have no idea whatever that's true or not, but since I don't like scratchy brushes, I don't think i'll ever buy pure or best badger.
 
I have only one silvertip badger and a super badger is on it's way and both were gifted to me. I'm no expert, but most people advice to stay away from pure and best badger brushes and use only super, silvertip or 2/3 band brushes with high grade badger hairs. I have no idea whatever that's true or not, but since I don't like scratchy brushes, I don't think i'll ever buy pure or best badger.
Perhaps because you don’t like “scratchy” brushes you’ve been given this advice, but many people prefer Best Badger over Silvertip.
 
The first thing to be aware of is that there are no firm rules in naming and grading badger hair and different companies use the terms differently. I'll provide you with the most common terms used in grading them.

Before starting let's talk about two band or three band. It has been said (and I tend to agree) that all badger hair is three band, however some of the pelt yields a much wider middle band so that sometimes only two bands show above the handle. I suppose you might call Black Badger a one band though.

On the bottom is Pure aka 100%. About all you can say for it is that it is all Badger without something else mixed in. Perhaps below this (or some would claim an improvement) is a mixed Badger and Boar. Today, most Pure Badger is trimmed at the tips, leaving them very scratchy. Given enough time and use they may eventually start to split and become softer. The few I have had I gave up on. Black Badger is Pure Badger but selected so all the hair color is black and has the same pitfalls.

Next up is Best Badger. This is a wonderful utility grade. It tends to have thicker hair strands so they are very durable. They are almost always three band. Face feel is not really scratchy, but some describe it as scritchy or even scrubby. This is the preference of many.

Next up is Finest. It is usually two band, enough so that the terms Finest and Two Band are often used interchangeably. The hair shaft is somewhat finer than Best but still thicker than the next grade, Silvertip. The tips are softer than Best but the backbone of the brush is nearly as firm as Best. Many feel this is the best you can get for shaving brush use. There is a wonderful balance between face feel and backbone.

At the top is Silvertip Badger. It is the softest. Only about 15% of the pelt is Silvertip. It comes from the collar area providing the animal with softness around his face. Many feel this is the best you can get and indeed I often say I'm addicted to Silvertip although I also enjoy other brushes.

Some interesting confusion is there are some Two Band Silvertip. The ones I have seem to be somewhere slightly short of a true Silvertip.

Another term you may see is Super. This is certainly one that isn't used in a consistent manner throughout the industry. Sometimes it is only a term meaning it is something select above Best Badger. Sometimes they refer to Badger hair that has had the tips bleached to make them lighter and softer. What may be my favorite brush (although I could also say many compete for that title) was advertised as Super Silvertip. It is certainly the softest brush I own. Of the knots that simply say Super, I have not found any that I care for. They don't to me seem significantly different from Best.

Manchurian, or High Mountain, are terms with some controversy. Some claim that it is from a different species of Badger. Others say it is from Badgers from high altitudes where the hair grows thicker due to the cold climate. Others say it is simply a marketing term. They are usually Two Band Finest but with a somewhat thicker shaft. I have some High Mountain knots that don't seem to be any different from Two Band Finest.

High Mountain White seems to be a Three Band Silvertip version of the above. The couple I have seem to be somewhere between Finest and Silvertip and in my mind are not worth the premium often charged for them.

You asked about Gel Tips. This is something that can happen when the tips are bleached. When the bleach is left on longer than needed to just lighten the tips, the tips become somewhat distorted with curved or hooked tips. Sometimes gel tips are accidental and sometimes they are intentional. The claim is that this gives a softer gel tip like face feel. They get mixed reviews. I had one that was intolerable, creating a crunchiness that was bothersome. I threw that one away. Currently I have one that I like. It seems to work best if I soak the tips before shaving, something that usually is only needed with a Boar brush.

This should give you a general idea of what to expect as you shop around.
Amazing! Thank you very much for your very detailed reply. I suppose I should be looking for best, finest or silvertip. Any brands or specific brushes you would recommend?
 
The first thing to be aware of is that there are no firm rules in naming and grading badger hair and different companies use the terms differently. I'll provide you with the most common terms used in grading them.

Before starting let's talk about two band or three band. It has been said (and I tend to agree) that all badger hair is three band, however some of the pelt yields a much wider middle band so that sometimes only two bands show above the handle. I suppose you might call Black Badger a one band though.

On the bottom is Pure aka 100%. About all you can say for it is that it is all Badger without something else mixed in. Perhaps below this (or some would claim an improvement) is a mixed Badger and Boar. Today, most Pure Badger is trimmed at the tips, leaving them very scratchy. Given enough time and use they may eventually start to split and become softer. The few I have had I gave up on. Black Badger is Pure Badger but selected so all the hair color is black and has the same pitfalls.

Next up is Best Badger. This is a wonderful utility grade. It tends to have thicker hair strands so they are very durable. They are almost always three band. Face feel is not really scratchy, but some describe it as scritchy or even scrubby. This is the preference of many.

Next up is Finest. It is usually two band, enough so that the terms Finest and Two Band are often used interchangeably. The hair shaft is somewhat finer than Best but still thicker than the next grade, Silvertip. The tips are softer than Best but the backbone of the brush is nearly as firm as Best. Many feel this is the best you can get for shaving brush use. There is a wonderful balance between face feel and backbone.

At the top is Silvertip Badger. It is the softest. Only about 15% of the pelt is Silvertip. It comes from the collar area providing the animal with softness around his face. Many feel this is the best you can get and indeed I often say I'm addicted to Silvertip although I also enjoy other brushes.

Some interesting confusion is there are some Two Band Silvertip. The ones I have seem to be somewhere slightly short of a true Silvertip.

Another term you may see is Super. This is certainly one that isn't used in a consistent manner throughout the industry. Sometimes it is only a term meaning it is something select above Best Badger. Sometimes they refer to Badger hair that has had the tips bleached to make them lighter and softer. What may be my favorite brush (although I could also say many compete for that title) was advertised as Super Silvertip. It is certainly the softest brush I own. Of the knots that simply say Super, I have not found any that I care for. They don't to me seem significantly different from Best.

Manchurian, or High Mountain, are terms with some controversy. Some claim that it is from a different species of Badger. Others say it is from Badgers from high altitudes where the hair grows thicker due to the cold climate. Others say it is simply a marketing term. They are usually Two Band Finest but with a somewhat thicker shaft. I have some High Mountain knots that don't seem to be any different from Two Band Finest.

High Mountain White seems to be a Three Band Silvertip version of the above. The couple I have seem to be somewhere between Finest and Silvertip and in my mind are not worth the premium often charged for them.

You asked about Gel Tips. This is something that can happen when the tips are bleached. When the bleach is left on longer than needed to just lighten the tips, the tips become somewhat distorted with curved or hooked tips. Sometimes gel tips are accidental and sometimes they are intentional. The claim is that this gives a softer gel tip like face feel. They get mixed reviews. I had one that was intolerable, creating a crunchiness that was bothersome. I threw that one away. Currently I have one that I like. It seems to work best if I soak the tips before shaving, something that usually is only needed with a Boar brush.

This should give you a general idea of what to expect as you shop around.
Very good! I have some high mountain that are nowhere near silvertip
 
To me there's like three categories of badger hair relative to how they feel on my delicate skin.
Long hair - short hair - short stubbly hair. I'm not a fan.
 
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Kentos

Wiped out at 25
To me there's like three categories of badger hair relative to how they feel on my delicate skin.
Long pubic hair - short pubic hair - short stubbly pubic hair. I'm not a fan.

I found only one source that asserts Badger pubic hair is used for brushes. Other’s say the under belly(what part unknown), neck etc are used.
However who knows really where the hair is from? It would hard to market a 300.00 brush made from Badger Pubic hair I think.
 
Amazing! Thank you very much for your very detailed reply. I suppose I should be looking for best, finest or silvertip. Any brands or specific brushes you would recommend?

There are many, but for someone like you that is looking for good quality and value pricing I would suggest Whipped Dog. I would suggest a 24 mm in High Mountain or Silvertip set in your handle of choice among his several offerings.

I have something north of 50 brushes in my in-use collection, many of which I have made myself, buying knots from several sources and usually buying handles from several sources although some were reknotted heritage brushes and a few were from handles I turned on the lathe myself. If you want to build your own and know roughly what you want I can recommend sources.
 
I found only one source that asserts Badger pubic hair is used for brushes. Other’s say the under belly(what part unknown), neck etc are used.
However who knows really where the hair is from? It would hard to market a 300.00 brush made from Badger Pubic hair I think.

Just my humour is all. :thumbup:
 
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