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H.I.S. 3D Retro Shaving Brush - A Tale of the Tape

As everyone is aware, at one time I stressed the importance of the H.I.S. Original shaving brush mainly because their fibers were truly the first Generation 4 Class fibers introduced to the shaving market. These fibers were taken straight from the cosmetic brush industry and are now used in variations by Muhle and Frank Shaving. Generation 4 denotes a class of fibers that are softer more flexible than earlier generations. Generation 4 brushes have extremely soft tapered tips at the end that almost feel like velvet when applied to the face. The fibers are also more flexible than what is found the third generation knots that can allow the fibers to be shorter yet retain excellent backbone. These have a reputation for being softer at the tip than other synthetics and are the "state of the art" fiber at the moment. Please keep in mind that a brush with Generation 4 class fiber is known especially for the soft tips. This will be a very important point later on in this discussion.

Although H.I.S. (FM Brush being the producer and Artist Brushstrokes the distributor) had a high level of interest in the Traditional Shaving community in 2012, they failed to follow up with a more conventional handle style that would be accepted by more Traditional Shavers. Muhle and Frank Shaving each chose handle styles and lofts that were more in line with form, fit, and function to what the overall Traditional Shaving market desired. With the offerings from Muhle, covering the higher priced end of the market, and Frank Shaving covering the lower end of the market, consumers now had viable options to choose from without having the handle that was offered by FM Brush / Artist Brushstrokes.

During this time, the makers and the distributors of the H.I.S. brush decided on a new concept, take a Generation 4 fiber and cut it down and cut some fibers as small circular risers that are supposed to "exfoliate" the face while lathering. FM/Artist Brushstrokes called this concept "3D." So I received one of these to try out. When this brush came in I took a look at it and truly realized that it was by far the most unusual shaving brush I have ever held in my hand.

For this test, I chose something unusual for my self, which was testing a brush before measuring it. This way I would not let any measurement bias sway my evaluation. For a soap I chose the simple but effective VDH Deluxe. The brush was easily able to pick the soap and I was able to mix a good lather in the bowl. As I began lathering I noted that the brush tended to be scritchy and almost to the point of scratchy at time. Well this brush was not to Generation 4 specifications. It felt more like a Generation 2 or maybe an early Generation 3 class brush at best. The brush was able to provide lather correctly but was not any where near at the softness and smoothness levels even inexpensive Generation 3 brushes in my stable of brushes.

When the shave was complete I rinsed the brush and gave it my normal shake to eliminate excess water. I then noticed something else unusual, or rather interesting about the brush. The knot was wobbling in the base as I shook water out. Now since I have made and restored more than my share of shaving brushes, I knew the problem was that the knot was too small for the hole. I have had to restore brushes from various brush makers in which the owners complained about this same issue. So I looked down the knot and could easily see the base ring exposed inside. That visual inspection confirmed my suspicions about the shifting knot during the water shake off process. **

After drying I took measurements to see whether what I had experienced was in line with the physical dimensions of the brush. So here is the Tale of the Tape so to speak. The following is a set of measurements of the H.I.S. 3D Retro versus the Original H.I.S. brush. The only area I could not photograph that would allow a critical view was the top down view. So to describe the 3D knot ending, I drew a diagram as a visual aid to allow the reader to visualize the top from the side view.

As it can be seen even though the Retro handle is slightly slimmer, it still is approximately the same in terms of handling due to the length measurements. Notice that the measurements of the knot size at the hole when compressed for the Original H.I.S. brush denotes a nice tight fit, while the knot of the Retro is too small for the handle for the reasons I stated earlier.

It also appears that the tips that are so critical to a Generation 4 Class Brush have been clipped away as noted in this up close shot of the Original and Retro brushes.

It appears that they tried to throw in a lot a varying factors into one brush thinking that all these things would immediately generate interest. Apparently clipped fibers, short loft, staggered rounded fibers, and a loosened knot (gap) to make the brush twist and splay more. Seems like design by committee or it may have been that there was stock of the H.I.S. brushes that were not moving and FM Brush / Artist Brushstrokes took a clipping mechanism and ...

The problem for them is that the synthetic market has developed rapidly with Muhle and FS now using Generation 4 class fibers, Kent with a very good Generation 3 that is an excellent boar like synthetic. TGN offers a very good Generation 3 knots for the custom builders. In addition, they still hold to 3 basic handle designs for their line of 11 brushes. The large Urn for H.I.S. variants and H.I.S. Retro, The slippery stick for the H.I.S. Bullet and H.I.S. Metro and the Compact for the Traveler series.

Here is there website link showing the three designs across 11 offerings.


So what is the conclusion: A very odd brush. Other brushes (even in the synthetic realm) can exfoliate well and do not need to resort to this method severe and unusual alternation of fibers to do so. As the creator and compiler of the Generational synthetic brush nomenclature based on the tips and the scritchiness, I would register this as a Generation 2.5 brush.

** Having that much space available is a technique some brush makers use to allow a knot to splay more and give the impression that the knot is larger and / or longer lofted than it really is.
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Thanks for the review. This brush is quite a bit different from the original, which I still use on occasion. Now if I can only learn to use the brush without splaying soap on the mirror and keep my wife happy!


Terrific reporting, Gary. As you know, I have on of these brushes, too. I try to get as many new-model synthetic brushes as possible to keep up with this rapidly-evolving field.

I've completed six shaves with it, and ten test lathers. This is a uniquely designed brush, and I am trying to keep an open mind while I ask myself "Why"?

Have you done enough testing to feel comfortanle commenting on the performance of the brush?
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