I haven't exactly been a big fan of synthetic brushes...I've only tried two up until today, a small 22-23mm Frank Shaving and the much raved about H.I.S.
The 23mm Frank was too small for my liking and didn't impress me much.
The H.I.S. was simply a wet mop on my face - now I understand, a lot of folks like wet mops apparently, it just wasn't my thing. It's not a bad brush - just not what I was hoping for.
I had discussed my concerns with a few here...including GDCarrington; who is pretty much the resident "Yoda" regarding all things synthetic. His reviews are generally extremely well done and I agree with him on pretty much everything, except of course the infamous H.I.S.
Incidentally, the H.I.S. was reported as being very similar to the 25mm Muhle synthetic, so I opted to pass on the Muhle.
Figuring there had to be a "better" way to get a good synthetic brush - I contacted Ian at Frank Shaving and explained my concerns about the existing synthetic choices and what I would personally like to have made. I was mostly interested in using a 28mm knot (like the H.I.S.) but with a shorter loft. We agreed upon a 28mm knot with a 54mm loft - stuffed with as much synthetic hair as he could get in it. I chose his basic black handle and several weeks later - it finally arrived.
My current stable of brushes include (as a point of reference)
Simpson Chubby 3 Super 30/56
Vulfix 40 Super 30/60
Rudy Vey 2 Band Finest 30/55
AOS Pure 23/52
Semogue SOC 2 Band in Cherry
Semogue SOC Bristle in Cherry
Vie-Long BGS 2012 Horse
Omega Pro 49
And I have sold/traded/given away several more...but those are the models currently on hand.
On with the actual brush and its performance.
Once I washed the brush out a bit - I decided upon using a soap that most everyone is familiar with - Arko. I have shaved my sticks down into a tupperware container and it is a good all-around, affordable soap that does a darn good job.
In regards to loading the Frank 28/54, I followed my normal routine - 30 to 45 seconds - while I'm waiting for my sink to fill with hot water.
Pass number 1: Extremely nice lather - brush exhibits an excellent amount of backbone with a just the "right" amount of splay. Face feel is considerably better than my SOC bristle - more like my SOC 2 Band but with softness approaching my Chubby 3 Super. No scritch at all - if you need scritch - this brush isn't for you.
Pass number 2: Same as my first pass - I used "circular" motions this time after just a "touch" of water on the brush - lather was once again excellent - face "feel" of the brush was very impressive - soft, yet firm, if that makes any sense. The brush is actually feeling VERY much like my Rudy Vey 30/55 - and I do mean - VERY much.
My boars are usually fading after 2 passes - unless I use the Omega 49 - which holds 5 passes easily
Pass number 3: Once again, it was very much like using my Rudy Vey 30/55 (which feels very much like a larger Semogue SOC 2 Band) - the Frank Syn 28 is holding ample lather - I added just a spritz of hot water - and once again, worked circular then painted - excellent overall results. At this point, it is feeling very much like a soft, dense badger with a fair amount of backbone - which for face latherers like myself, is a very good thing.
Going into a fourth pass is generally reserved for my larger Badgers or big Omega - but I thought I would give it a shot with the Frank 28.
Pass number 4: Added just a touch of hot water to the brush - this pass was less rich than 1-3, but still very much a "usable" lather. By this time, I have a better "feel" if you will in regards to the "fine line" between soft/splay and backbone. This particular brush is really quite impressive - particularly when you figure it clocking in at around $27 shipped from China.
I decided to go on - just for kicks - to see how far this could go.
Pass number 5: Added a touch of hot water - circular motions once again - not really enough lather to mess with..this show is over!
Overall - the Frank Syn 28 is an amazing brush - regardless of price point. It is not too floppy by anyone's standards - and it's softness is very muck akin to high end badger (semi-gel like). The backbone of the Frank 28 will probably be a concern for those who want a more "luxurious" feel on their face - the H.I.S. felt very my like my M&F Polo 29/60 in that regard - the current Frank 28 is much more like the feel of the Semogue SOC 2 Band or the Rudy Vey 2 Band Finest (TGN knot) - but - it feels softer than either of them.
Lather retention was surprisingly good. With the Frank 28 you can very easily get 3 solid passes of amazing lather - the 4th is pretty good - but if you want 3 solid faces of lather - this brush delivers.
Finally - if you are looking for a 2 band badger "face lathering" backbone with the "face feel" of a 3 band super - in the price range of a decent boar - this is probably as good as you're currently going to get.
My personal comparisons (YMMV):
Horse: Easily wipes out the Turkish horse or the Vie-Long BGS2012...by a considerable margin. I see zero reason not to try this brush if you're considering a horse brush.
Boars: Better overall than my Omega 49, Semogue SOC or the Semogue 2011 LE #2 (which I just traded). Yeah...I said it...Semogue SOC and Semogue 2011 LE #2. Those are both excellent brushes - the Frank 28 simply does what they do better. Equal backbone - better face feel - better lather retention (with the exception of the large Omegas).
Synthetics: Easily beats the H.I.S. and the smaller Frank Shaving - not even a close race.
Badgers: This gets the race closer to home. I believe it is probably better than my much loved Semogue SOC 2 Band which will run you $75 to $90 - it really feels and operates somewhat like a "larger" version of the SOC. In comparing with the Rudy Vey 30/55 2 band, they are extremely close - but the Frank 28 has perhaps a more "lush" feel, but very much the same backbone - it's actually a VERY close comparison. Comparing to the Chubby 3 in Super - well, the Frank 28 offers the same face feel - but less of it - it's considerably smaller on your face than the Chubby 3. In regards to backbone - it provides more "stiffness" than the 3 band super.
I got my 20 year old son involved in my "un-scientific comparison" as well. I attempted a blind "test" of sorts and he ranked the Frank 28 just behind the Simpson Chubby 3 Super - and just about even with the Rudy Vey 30/55 2 Band Finest - followed by the Semogue SOC 2 band and then everything else.
YES - YMMV...but I have to say, if you're looking to get top shelf performance from a synthetic (or any brush for that matter) - regardless of price point - the Frank 28 Syn is a clear winner for me. I haven't tried "them all" - but I will go on record as saying that I don't think you will find a better "all-around" brush for under $75 to $100. For $27 - this is a "no-brainer" and in my opinion, the best dollar for dollar brush investment currently available. Highly Recommended!
I will be doing more testing with various soaps in the days to come. MWF, Tabac and Euro Palmolive are up next.
Photos: Semogue SOC 2 Band - Frank 28/54 Syn - Simpson Chubby 3 Super