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Horse Hair Tips

For years, I've used the Vie-Long horse hair shaving brush options. They vary as to tail-to-mane ratios, but in viewing the tips with a 10x loupe, they all seem to taper to a very fine point. Indeed, the finest tip of other natural hair options like badger and boar. I have found them not so agreeable to use for face-lathering, and I have been under the impression that it may have to do with the fineness of the tips.

Recently, I have tried the Semogue and Zenith horse hair brushes. Both of these manufacturers offer a choice between a "normal" and a "softer" knot, the "softer" being more expensive. And in viewing the two brands' offerings side by side, the knots seem very similar, leading me to think that they may be coming from the same source. Feel in face-lathering with all of these, be they "normal" or "soft," is better than with the Vie-Long brushes in my opinion. In looking at the tips with a 10x loupe, it appears that most of the hairs have been clipped, with a minority of hairs not clipped and tapering to a fine point like the Vie-Longs. My sense is that the clipping of the tips may be contributing to the less "pointy" or "pokey" effect when face-lathering. Also, the hairs have been loaded in the base of the knot so as to introduce a little bit of "bloom" like badger knots.

Out of curiosity, I ordered a recently-made Vie-Long horse knot to see how it compared. Once again, the tips tapered to a fine point as before. But this time, the hairs had been loaded in the base of the knot so as to introduce a more significant "bloom" than in the Semogue and Zenith knots.

What's up with all this? I understand that things must evolve, but the clipping of the hairs seems to be a lowering of the bar, and in introducing bloom, it seems that the knots are moving away from the quality of horse hair in and of itself, in order to mimic badger which thus becomes the only standard. Much the same seems to be the case for the newer-generation synthetic knots.
 
I recently got an Epsilon from Spain and am still evaluating. There are things I like and things I don't. I personally like it better than bore, but I don't have an explanation why. Your observation about the tips is timely as I thought it was just me. It really is a face full of hair, the one I got, and I can't help wondering if that is contributing. Like a thousand little needles, dull ones at least. What I mean is, I think the density is playing a part by keeping the majority of the hairs from bending.
 

FarmerTan

"Self appointed king of Arkoland"
I recently got an Epsilon from Spain and am still evaluating. There are things I like and things I don't. I personally like it better than bore, but I don't have an explanation why. Your observation about the tips is timely as I thought it was just me. It really is a face full of hair, the one I got, and I can't help wondering if that is contributing. Like a thousand little needles, dull ones at least. What I mean is, I think the density is playing a part by keeping the majority of the hairs from bending.
I'm about to get my first horse hair brush, so I'm excited to see what you Gents are talking about!
 
I recently got an Epsilon from Spain and am still evaluating. There are things I like and things I don't. I personally like it better than bore, but I don't have an explanation why. Your observation about the tips is timely as I thought it was just me. It really is a face full of hair, the one I got, and I can't help wondering if that is contributing. Like a thousand little needles, dull ones at least. What I mean is, I think the density is playing a part by keeping the majority of the hairs from bending.

From my experience, the horse-hair tips don't bend. Badger tips may bend or hook, non-clipped boar tips split, but horse tips that are not clipped remain pointy. The comparison to a needle is a good one.

I haven't tried the Epsilon line of horse-hair brushes. Made by Vie-Long or whatever company is running things these days from what I can tell. The now-ubiquitous wide waist and short loft is what keeps me away from them, again an apparent case of making them follow the current standard of badger brushes. That said, just as the fakir might prefer to sleep on a densely-packed bed of nails rather than loosely-packed, maybe the face-lathering sensation is improved that way.
 
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FarmerTan

"Self appointed king of Arkoland"
From my experience, the horse-hair tips don't bend. Badger tips may bend or hook, non-clipped boar tips split, but horse tips that are not clipped remain pointy. The comparison to a needle is a good one.

I haven't tried the Epsilon line of horse-hair brushes. Made by Vie-Long or whatever company is running things these days from what I can tell. The now-ubiquitous wide waist and short loft is what keeps me away from them, again an apparent case of making them follow the current standard of badger brushes. That said, just as the fakir might prefer to sleep on a densely-packed bed of nails rather than loosely-packed, maybe the face-lathering sensation is improved that way.
Good thought process my friend.
 
Not a user of horse hair brushes, but I always thought that the hair is cut in general. Both mane and tail will grow very long when not cut from time to time. I think it must be really a chore to get the tips all on one level. Badger hair is put into a tapping box and this one it tapped then onto a granite or such stone plate to bring all the tips to one level. Must be tough to get the horse hair in the same way. Both mane and tail hair is not a fixed length like badger hair when cut off the pelt. Tail hair is thicker than mane.
 
Strange, I quite enjoy the stray poke from my Epsilon. But the tips are quite soft and so I only experience poke when I splay the brush.
 
Not a user of horse hair brushes, but I always thought that the hair is cut in general. Both mane and tail will grow very long when not cut from time to time. I think it must be really a chore to get the tips all on one level. Badger hair is put into a tapping box and this one it tapped then onto a granite or such stone plate to bring all the tips to one level. Must be tough to get the horse hair in the same way. Both mane and tail hair is not a fixed length like badger hair when cut off the pelt. Tail hair is thicker than mane.

Thank you for your insights here. If you ever have the opportunity, I would recommend looking at the tips of the Vie-Long horse-shaving brushes with a loupe. The tips there come to a very, very fine point. This contrasts with the Semogue and Zenith offerings in which the tips are flat across from cutting.

I'll try to make some close-up shots to show this.
 
The Epsilon ones in the fan shape were my preferred ones. I found the other ones prickly and not pleasant. The increased knot size really helped for me. They can be a bit prickly if not used with a light touch. My preferred of the two is my brown horse hair. It's been some time since I used it, but won't part with it just because of the uniqueness and to have brushes of all hair types.
 
They can be a bit prickly if not used with a light touch.
Although I had been meaning to anyway, this inspired me to work on this for my evening shave. I will say it takes an incredibly light touch, but when maintained it produces a very nice scrubby face feel. I think the problem I have been having, and continue to work on, is getting water to stay in the tips. Horse hair doesn't seem to hold water the same way as any other fibre. What I think needs to be done is use the spray bottle right on my face and then scrub with the brush and repeat. I don't know where all the water goes that I try to get in the tips, it doesn't run down the handle like my synthetics or boar for that matter.
 
In recent years, I have not soaked my horse hair brushes prior to shaving, just dipped the tips for around 30 seconds or so, dunking the knot quickly once or twice. They seem to work better that way, and are less inclined to clump together. Additional water can be added as needed in building up the lather. Horse hair sheds lather pretty well into the bowl from my experience, rather than holding onto it.
 
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