How big is yours?

Simpson's Wee Scot and Penworks Finest Badger

There is a current fashion for ridiculously large wrist watches, you are not a real man without half a pound of steel strapped to your wrist, yet I remember when the manufacturers were competing against each other to make the thinnest watches. The same is true of mobile phones, it is not so long since smaller was better, now big is the order of the day.

Which brings us neatly to shaving brushes, the current fashion is for far bigger brushes than our fathers and their fathers used. Unencumbered by fashion previous generations used brushes that were the right size for the job, which we would now regard as being small brushes.

Part of what is going on must be conspicuous consumption. A Simpson’s Duke D3 costs about 50% more than a Duke D1 so it must be about 50% better, right? Well, not really, it just means that it cost about 50% more to make. Followed to it’s logical conclusion we would all be using Polo PL 14s, they cost the most so they must be the best.

Instead of looking at the cost of the brush lets look at what we use it for, building a lather and distributing that lather on our faces. We only need so much lather and even a Wee Scot can carry enough for three passes, so what is the point of having a massive brush and then making enough lather for a soccer team? It seems to me that the main result is a lot of wasted shaving cream/soap going down the plughole.

And when it comes to using the brush on your face the large brush lacks precision, so you end up painting your ears and your nose as well as the stubble areas. A correctly sized brush is a delight to use precisely because it enables you to do a better job, to place the lather exactly where it is needed. And to only use the right amount of shaving cream/soap to shave one person.

Simpson's Commodore X1 and Beaufort B1

It is because of the innate rightness of a perfectly formed brush that I find myself using my Simpson’s Commodore X1 and Beaufort B1 more and more. Admittedly I am face lathering and I have to say that these are just about perfect tools for the job. They might take a little longer to paint your face but they make up for it by being far quicker to load up and to rinse. A further joy is that you can use the same brush at home and for travel, all you need is a standard brush tube.

So if you are a big brush user why not give a small brush a try for a while. Once you have got over the learning curve you might be pleasantly surprised.


  1. useful article. Nice writing style.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I was lucky to find the right sized brush right off the bat and have stuck with brushes of about that size: 95-100 mm total height, with a loft of about 45mm and a diameter of about 20mm.

    I’ve tried a few slightly larger brushes, and they seem too big and lack precision in applying lather.

  3. i actually have the simpson’s commodore X1 and i love it. however, i havnt tried many others.

  4. Hello, I ran across a wooden handle barber brush with a black face man with red lips and red and white uniform. Have you ever seen something like this? I’m having trouble with reseach it must ninthteenth century or older.

    1. Post photographs to the pogonotomy forum
      Maybe one of the members there can help.

  5. The fact is, we are all different. Personally I think a 22mm knot with a loft between 47 mm to 52 mm depending on hair type and density is ideal. But sometimes I enjoy variation. So now and again, it’s out with the Wee Scott and Polo14 – and that’s a monster!

  6. Oh man, I had forgotten about the size of Penworks’ display brushes. He mentioned he actually sold a couple, but I never thought I’d actually see one “in the wild.” Those things were enormous. You could easily lather your entire head with one.

    How large is that Penworks brush? Have you seen the Simpson display brushes too? Those were massive. Absolutely unusable.

    P.S. I love the analogy with the wristwatches. I cannot see the point. If your going to show something off, show off a tourbillon….

  7. @ASR Tourbillon to show off? Those are dress watches, and women love seeing the Rolex Submariner on their men. I’m thinking a Panerai or Parnis for starters; something beefy. And only men with muscles are able to show them off properly. Go big or go home, I say.

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