This is a test I have been wanting to do for some time, and now I thought the time had come - a comparison of my 2-band brushes
The test includes six brushes; Vie-Long E16510 Super Badger, B&B 2012 LE D01 Finest Badger, Restored Rubberset TGN Finest, New Forest 2201 Best Badger, Semogue 2011 LE Finest Badger 2 and Semogue Owners Club Finest Badger.
Normally I prefer to include current production brushes, but I imagine the D01 from Shavemac is their general available knot and I just was too curious to how the Semogue 2011 LE would fit into all this, that is why they are included - besides it is my test, so I can do pretty much what I want
Neither brush is foreign to me, the one I have least experience with is the B&B 2012 LE. I have of course set my mind up for what I expect of each brush and how they compare to each other even though I try to keep as open a mind as possible, but I think it would only be fair to disclose those thoughts.
The SOC, Rubberset and New Forest has the softest tips.
The SOC, Semogue 2011 LE and B&B 2012 LE has the most densely packed knots.
The Vie-Long is as scritchy as a Pure Badger.
The Vie-Long has the stiffest backbone followed by the dense knots.
Vie-Long E16510 Super Badger Acrylic,
59.3 23.0 54.3 48.0 102.3 B&B 2012 LE D01 Finest Badger Plastic,
68.8 23.1 48.5 53.6 102.1 New Forest 2201 Best Badger Plastic,
56.0 23.3 48.8 50.0 98.8 Rubberset TGN Finest Badger Plastic,
35.1 23.3 50.6 50.4 101.0 Semogue 2011 LE Finest Badger 2 Plastic,
74.5 24.2 51.2 52.7 103.9 Semogue Owners Club Finest Badger Wood,
52.8 24.3 51.7 60.5 112.2
I soaked the brushes while showering and then lathered up with D.R. Harris Marlborough Shaving Soap.
Loading: I loaded all brushes as close to 45 seconds as possible without timing it, adding 8-10 drops of water on the puck before I started to swirl.
All brushes picked up soap quite nicely. The New Forest stood out, as it started to create a creamy lather in the soap bowl after about 35 seconds.
Neither brush had any trouble creating a nice creamy lather. The larger knots took a little longer than the small knots, but in the end the results were identical.
First pass: The six brushes could be divided into four "boxes or divisions" of tip softness.
The softest were the New Forest and the Rubberset, their tips were silky smooth with absolutely no prickliness. They are actually more soft tipped than some of my Silvertips.
The next in line is the SOC, it is close to the two first mentioned, but I can just detect a little prickliness - this one is also more soft tipped than some of my Silvertips (including a PJ2 and a Shavemac D01).
Next up is the two LE's, they have prickliness that is obvious right away and it is more in line with what I would expect a Fine Badger to be. Not a hard prickliness, just a nice massaging feel.
Last is the Vie-Long. I recalled it as being rather scritchy, but I have recently given it a hair conditioner treatment as I read it could soften it up a bit (thank you Ackvil) and it has. It is still very prickly and in the region of a softer Pure Badger or a Best Badger.
Neither of the brushes are in any way floppy, but the two less dense knots are also the ones with the softest backbone; New Forest and Rubberset.
The SOC, Semogue 2011 LE, B&B 2012 LE all have very good backbone due to the densely packed knots, but they are not rigid, the hairs has a good flexibility so it never feels uncomfortable.
The Vie-Long is by far the stiffest of the bunch, and again comparable with my expectations of a Pure Badger, not a lot of flex in the hairs; just stiff.
All brushes has handles which gives a good grip and they are all very well balanced, so they don't feel awkward to hold
Another thing I noticed with the Vie-Long was that during the soaking, it was like the hairs repelled water - and they even did that before the hair conditioner treatment, so that is not the reason, it is simply the nature of the hairs.
Second pass: The first pass pretty much gave all the answers. This pass only revealed some small differences between the brushes.
The SOC feels a little more firm than the two LE's and it doesn't splay as much (but the differences are small). The B&B 2012 LE is a little more prickly than the Semogue 2011 LE.
The New Forest still have the softest backbone, but it feels dense at the same time, so floppy will not be a word that will be included in this test.
Third pass: As above. One brush has surprised me a little here and that is the New Forest. It started to create a creamy lather when loading the brush neither of the other brushes did that. But just before applying lather for this pass it looks to have the largest amount of lather in the knot. This might not be the case as some of the other knots are larger, but it does have almost identical data as the B&B 2012 LE, and that brush does not contain the same amount of lather.
Fourth pass: Just a confirmation of all the above, and all brushes held plenty of lather for a four pass shave with touch ups if needed.
Well, my prejudice seemed to be almost right.
I must say I am surprised of just how silky smooth the New Forest and Rubberset felt, they were a delight to apply lather with.
The two LE's performed very well, and gave a nice massaging feel with tips that were just a little prickly and with some nice dense knots giving great backbone to them.
The Vie-Long was somewhat of a disappointment when I bought it; it was scritchy almost like sandpaper and very very stiff almost without any flex. It has softened up a bit, and I like it better now although it will never be in the same division as the other 2-bands. The hair conditioner trick have softened the tips, but the stiffness is pretty much the same. I don't mind the stiffness as much as I do the prickliness. I will use it some more, maybe do like breaking in a boar and vigorous hand lather for a couple of weeks and then give it the hair conditioner treatment again to see if it could soften it up just a little more.
I have saved the comments for the SOC for last because; it is my favourite brush (along with a Thäter 3-band) and it is a brush I know very well.
It performed perfectly and although it had just a tiny more prickliness to it, compared to the Rubberset and New Forest it remains my favourite brush.
None of the other brushes has it all like this brush. Soft tips, dense knot, great firm backbone, good handle and simply a beauty to look at
Footnote: This is by far the most demanding test I have ever performed.
Six brushes in one go turned out to be quite a task, and it was actually very hard on the skin and it did give some irritation in the end, so I won't recommend testing six brushes at the same time - I know I won't be doing it again
But don't feel sorry for me, I had a great time and a lot of fun performing the test