Men’s Retailer Kaliandee Interviews Managing Director of Vulfix, Britain’s Top Handmade Shaving Brush Manufacturer

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Progress Vulfix, who also own legendary brush maker Simpsons, are one of the top manufacturers of high-quality traditional shaving brushes. Managing Director Mark Watterson shares some insights into this increasingly popular niche product.

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It takes a craftsman or craftswoman many years to perfect the art of good bundling or knot formation. We are blessed with the best in the business.

Traditional wet-shaving using a brush, shaving soap and a vintage-style razor is back in fashion, with men’s magazines, grooming experts and even James Bond bringing badger brushes and single edge shaving back into vogue, though there have always been a hard core of traditional shaving enthusiasts. Although straight razors steal a lot of the limelight, the shaving brush is probably the most important tool in a wet-shaver’s armory, and it is less common for men to use vintage brushes than razors. Perhaps because of this, many traditional brush manufacturers are experiencing renewed fortunes.

Both Vulfix and Simpsons were founded in the heyday of brush and soap shaving, making them some of the oldest and best known brush manufacturers in the business. One of the keys to their high reputation is their insistence on traditional hand manufacturing, as Mark Watterson explains.

“Every shaving brush knot is hand-tied, this process entirely unique to our company in Great Britain”.

Brush making is a very labor intensive process, with most models taking a week to produce. Mark is especially proud of the amount of hand work that goes into one of his products, and out of the week long manufacturing process “probably three or four of the days are spent actually constructing and finishing the brush [by hand]. The weighing of the hair, bundling, tying and setting of each knot takes a couple of days followed by the actual glue process, finishing and packing of each individual brush.”

Producing the knot (the name for the finished bundle of badger or other fiber that forms the business end of the brush) is as skill intensive as it is labor intensive:

“It takes a craftsman or craftswoman many years to perfect the art of good bundling or knot formation. We are blessed with the best in the business. Some knots really do provide the most amazing test of their dexterity and concentration- most notably the tiny Wee Scot and the legendary monstrous Chubby 3.”

Vulfix has a long and storied history of its own, but their ownership of the prestigious Simpsons marque is relatively recent. The previous owners struggled to replace their highly skilled workers as they reached retirement age. Unwilling to let the legendary brand die, or worse, compromise on quality, they realized Vulfix were the only British company with the skills to keep the Simpsons reputation alive, and sold the business to them in 2008. Both companies are now based on the Isle of Man, a British Crown Protectorate in the Irish Sea, and have recently moved into a brand new factory. According to Mark, the main differences between the Simpsons and Vulfix branded brushes are, “the density of the knots, the finish of each handle and of course the names of the brushes and the history attached to them.” Simpsons brushes are some of the most sought-after in the world, with a reputation for the density of their knots. The top Simpsons models sell for well over $200. While Vulfix also produce excellent high-end models, in Mark’s view, the strength of Vulfix’s own branded brushes lie in the “mid-high end luxury” level. Much of Vulfix’s output is actually for other brands, so many wet-shavers may be shaving with a handmade Vulfix brush without realizing it.

Despite making a very traditional product using equally old-fashioned processes, Vulfix and Simpsons are looking to the future. In the last few years, great advances have been made in synthetic fibers, with some enthusiasts comparing them to best badger and even silvertip badger in softness and water retention. For the last eighteen months, the brand has been working with a specialist manufacturer to produce, in Mark’s words, “what we believe will be the most revolutionary synthetic fiber available in production run shaving brushes.” Production of these brushes is underway, and if the reaction to the second batch of prototypes circulated among senior members of wet-shaving forums last year is to be trusted, these brushes may well live up to Mark’s claim.

For beginners interested in a Simpsons or Vulfix as their first shaving brush, Mark recommends the 2199 or a similar model in Pure Badger from the Vulfix line up, and singles out the legendary Duke 3 from the Simpsons stable. The Duke is available in both pure badger, for those who prefer a stiffer brush, and best badger for softness and water retention. More details about selecting a shaving brush can be found on our shaving section.

For the full text of the interview, check out the Kaliandee website, where you can also find a selection of quality badger shaving brushes from Simpsons and Vulfix, as well as complete wet-shaving sets featuring some of their most popular brushes. Kaliandee is a retailer of high-end men’s shaving and grooming items, as well as a source of advice and information for the shaving novice and enthusiast alike.

For more information on getting started with wet-shaving, see Kaliandee’s advice page.

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J. Bradney
Kaliandee Inc.
+1 (888) 877-6564
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