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How Much Does the Brush Affect Quality of Lather

Howdy. I recently got a Simpson Trafalgar T3 brush. Now, I haven’t done a scientific study or even a simple side-by-side comparison, but I was wondering if the brush makes a big difference in the lather you get. It’s only within the last year that I bought a Parker silvertip and this T3. Prior to that, I have been using an Omega boar brush for the last ten years. It was my only brush. It seems to me that when I mix up a lather in the bowl, I never go back to the bowl after lathering, because the T3 has enough lather for more than three passes. It seems like I could use half the cream or soap as usual and still have plenty for a shave.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
If the soap and water chemistry are remaining the same, the same lather should be achievable. However, the method might need to be adjusted in order to achieve that, depending on how quick it loads, how much water it holds, etc. Also, not all brushes hog lather to the same extent. So if a change in brush give you lather that wasn't as good as before, changes in method should let you compensate and rediscover it again.
 
In my experience much less than one would expect. The quality of the soap/cream is most important, hard/soft water can make a difference (although a well formulated soap should be pretty unaffected by this), technique makes a significant difference for soaps - some have particular quirks. Not so much for most creams.

A properly made $10 boar usually works as well as any $500+ custom badger. Of course, this game is mostly about aesthetics, not utility. Better brushes are typically more enjoyable to use.
 

musicman1951

three-tu-tu, three-tu-tu
A lot of variables here. If you're going from a crappy brush to a great brush it could make a considerable difference, but that seems like a pretty unlikely assumption.

Some brushes load easier/faster. Some build lather faster. There is a considerable variation in how much lather is hiding in the brush. But my basic assumption is that if you learn what the brush wants in terms of load time, water and build time you can get good lather from any decent brush.

Will you want to? I don't. I have some tendonitis in my elbow and I'm not interested in a brush that does any of those things slowly. For me there is a too small or too wimpy category. But I theoretically could make a good lather with them - eventually. If you face lather the backbone can make a large difference in your comfort level with a brush.

There does seem to be a slightly better lather available to me with a couple of my brushes. Does that mean the brush is better, or my technique matches those brushes better? I'm not really sure.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
There does seem to be a slightly better lather available to me with a couple of my brushes. Does that mean the brush is better, or my technique matches those brushes better? I'm not really sure.

I can relate to this. Despite just having four home brushes, some noticeably "prefer" different soaps. My Kent INF1 works great with hard soaps, and my Maggards synthetic works great with soft soaps and creams. I can achieve the same great lather swapping those two brushes to the other soap type, but it's less intuitive, and feels like I'm having to do more work.
 
I've only used 2 badger, 1 boar and 4 synthetic brushes so far and for me the synthetics are much easier to use and they are superior compared to natural brushes in pretty much every aspect and on top of that they require much less maintenance, they also don't shed and are way more inexpensive and I also have no problem with harder soaps, creams or whatever.

Like others said, the more expensive brushes are usually better made and more beautiful, but somehow I don't see how are they going to produce better lather compared to a much more inexpensive but decent synthetic brush so it all comes down to whatever your personal preference is and if you want to own a brush that says ''hand made'' by an artisan and pray to the shaving Gods that you're going to like it or you can just grab a mass market synthetic brush for $10-$20 and be done with it for many, many years.
 
Brush size can make a difference in how much lather the knot will hold. Also, how much lather the knot will retain and not release.

Synthetics in general seem to make lather faster, and need less soap, but I would not say it's better lather than, say, a big Omega boar brush.
 
Having a great brush can certainly make the lathering process easier. I bowl lather and like to have a smooth lather developed in 30 seconds. I refuse to spend more than 60 seconds lathering any soap, so soaps like Williams that need a minimum of two miinutes lather time are rejected.

I have a Trafalger T3 synthetic. It is my favorite synthetic brush. I had a T2 brush at first, but found it was too small for my preference, so I upgraded to the larger T3.

The Parker silvertip was the first badger brush I owned. Although it is a reasonably soft brush on the face, the density is so low that I find the brush to be floppy. I do not like that for loading soaps from tubs. Thus, I reserve it for soft soaps, croaps and creams that I can scoop into my bowl. I have other badger brushes which work much better for most soaps.

Boar brushes vary in character based on how they are processed. I love my Omega Professional boar for loading hard soaps. I have a couple of Semogue boars. Although many people like them, I find it is much more difficult building a great lather using them, so they primarily sit on the shelf.

So yes, you can develop a lather with nearly any brush, but some brushes are better suited to the tank.
 
This is really a very subjective topic. Many factors involved. I found it very hard to compare brushes that are totally different, like a syn to a badger (not much if any experience with boar on my side). Even different badgers will give you a different result.
What you should be shooting for is to get about the same results with either brush, so lathering time on the soap, amount of water, how much air you get into the lather etc. etc. - many influential factors. Just work out a way that gives you acceptable results with any of your brushes.
 
I find that synthetics (at least my T2) lather a lot quicker than my badgers. My boars seem to lather quicker as well. Within my brush collection though I can generally end up with the same result after approaching things differently.

I need to load up a lot more soap with my badgers versus my synthetics/boars. With my smaller knots I shake out less water versus my larger knots. I need to work the lather longer with my badgers.


If I'm in a hurry I reach for my Trafalgar. Easy peasy quick monster of a perfect lather. Every time. Nice face feel, nice handle. Yup, totally taking mine out and going to use it tomorrow :)
 
With different brushes you may need to adjust your technique. So, yes, a different brush may work better for someone, but I think it has more to do with how the individual prefers to use the brush.
 
IMHO, quality of lather is not related to the brush. The only influence is on the velocity lather is made. The factors involved in quality are proportion of cream/soap-water, quality of water and, in minor influence, temperature of water.
 
The things that are not addressed in detail here are face lathering, exfoliating performance, and luxurious face feel. Can one make a quality lather with any brush? You should be able to with the correct soap, water, and skill. However, the lathering experience can be much more than that. I face lather 95% of the time. The choice of brush makes a huge difference for me. The way a bush whips up a lather on the face can impact both the enjoyment and performance of my shave. The face feel is a huge factor as well. I never really understood this until I bought my first Paladin badger brush. I thought expensive brushes were a frivolous luxury that didn’t impact the shave. I had other badgers, but preferred a synth up to that point. My first Paladin lather was mind blowing. The feel on my skin, the exfoliating properties, the pure unadulterated luxury of the experience were all off the charts. I still use a synth the majority of the time. But when I take out one of my Paladins, the luxury and enjoyment levels increase dramatically. And I do feel that adds to better performance as well.
 
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My observation is that different brushes aerate the soap differently. The end result is the same but getting there needs different techniques.

My Maggard synth produces the most bubbles, my vintage horse the least, and the badgers and boars are somewhere in the middle with the boars tipping towards more bubbles.
 
Thanks, everyone. I was wondering, because I was so surprised at the copious amounts of lather when I use the T3. It’s like having a big ball of lather on a handle with even more lather in the bowl. It made me wonder if type of brush mattered in building lather. If I use the Tabac soap stick on the face, I use the Parker silvertip badger. I like the shape of the brush for that task, and the results are fine, good lather and plenty of it. But lathering in the bowl, the T3 seems to be king (among my three brushes).
 
I have the same experience with my Trafalgar. It whips up lather very quick, and doesn't hog it. The only brush I have that compares in performance is the Omega mixed midget.

I agree with @BradWorld that face feel and exfoliation are totally different with every brush. That's how I justify spending money on more brushes.😅
 
My Trafalgar T1 literally performs like a lather machine. I load some DR Harris soap to get some bubbles going and the next thing I know there’s lather all over the place. That’s one magical little brush, much like a Berkeley, but way better in every way.
 
I mainly used synthetic brushes for 3.5 years and a 24mm knot is ideal for most folks IMO for making enough lather, recently (6months) I had a chance to buy & use badger brushes and I have used boar of and on for years.
I was a bit intimidated about badger brushes because they are new to my rotation. Now that I used badger and boar brushes along with my synthetics it seems to make no difference because I learned the best way is start lathering with a damp brush and just add a few drops of water when the cream(foam) starts and just try to keep air bubbles from forming to a minimal and it is just that easy. Add to much water you will fight your lather for a while to get it under control to your liking I found.
I bowl mostly and like it that way, I use a stick soap to face lather once in a while but bowl is so easy and suits me just right.
I do not like to big a brush regardless if it is synthetic or natural because you can use a lot of soap wastefully IMO, I have 26mm brushes and I see no reason to go larger unless you body lather. Synthetic brushes will always be in my den long with my natural brushes.
I like to use a synthetic one day and next day use a natural hair brush because I seem to collected enough of them over the years. Each brush seems to have Personality almost(handle, knot size) when it comes to face feel when lathering, very enjoyable with variety(spoiled shaver).
 
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I haven't found much difference between them besides boar being a lather hog eating the soap. Badger(and maybe horse) might do this, but on a much smaller scale that it's barely noticeable.
 
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