#1

Posting Freak
Peachtree City, GA
(This post was last modified: 02-19-2020, 03:01 AM by DanLaw.)
Stipulated that my brush expertise is severely wanting when compared to some acknowledged experts on this forum.  As concerns the readers of this post, the lack of extensive expertise may be a virtue in that a perspective based on a broader and more practical perspective has merit for the majority of members simply interested in the end user experience of high quality artisan brushes as opposed to the collector paradigm.  Having owned a number of the traditionally highly regarded British shave brushes in various grades of badger of different era, had come to appreciate their unique characteristics, discovering my preferences.  In the end had come to regard brushes as a soap delivery tool, not a key driver of shave quality & irritation mitigation, the primary criteria used to justify high dollar shaving hardware outlays.  That prevailing perspective had been challenged, convincingly so, in discussions with Mark of Simpsons during collaboration on a very special brush yet in process: for one, having multiples of the dense knots I prefer is really requisite to facilitate thorough drying and life extension of potentially heirloom pieces.  So, thus it is that the quest for the Holy Grail was undertaken – out of ignorance and hope for a better tomorrow such as transcribed in the great historic and literary epics.  If received well, shall endeavor to undertake a series of these comparative reviews both intra and inter artisans but never as a ranking exercise, rather highlighting the strengths of each that may appeal to specific buyers seeking specific traits.  Introductory prose committed, read on for the comparison of two of the most discussed aspirational brushes in the shaving brush pantheon: The legendary Declaration Grooming Blood of Kings B3 and the Dark Amethyst B5.
 
The enthusiasm for this brush supplier amongst the cognoscenti has well and truly perplexed over the past few years.  Much like the Ark of the Covenant, men have fought and died to obtain one and wield the power to seemingly conquer the world; barring that, removal of facial hair by sheer force of fear when confronted with brushes of such renown that no razor is required to deliver a BBS shave. 
 
While having a strong predilection for dense brushes with abundant backbone, definitely have an upper limit on knot size and splay, possessing a narrow and disfigured face from years of accumulated injuries and lack of care.  The ability to control the knot in order to distribute and work in lather to various nooks and crannies without ending in a bathroom dripping in soap splatter is a paramount concern and table stakes for consideration of a brush into rotation – anything not in rotation is culled as am not a collector nor hobbyist.  Declaration Grooming employs a one knot size per handle style policy limiting my choice to the Washington line of brushes as much as have strong interest in Jefferson handles for aesthetic purposes. Do not infer that there is an inherent disinterest in the Washington handle shape, it fits extremely well to hand and has an advantage over the Jefferson shape in that the end tip flare works well to prevent the brush falling into the bowl used for lathering.  Irrespective, the critical factor in selecting these handles hitherto has been that they utilize the smallest knot offered by this artisan, 26mm; even then, understand that 26mm is not strictly 26mm as the world knows it, a consistent measure of diametre but rather a guide suggesting it is something less than the 28mm standard for Jefferson handles.  Would strongly suggest Declaration Grooming develop an optional knot size for the Jefferson handle or bore the Jefferson shape to 26mm naming it uniquely: say Paine, in keeping with the patriots of the Revolution theme.  Declaration Grooming is known for their handles’ quality and colouration, something failed to understand as value added until acquiring one.  Good God! The handles are simply breathtaking; sure, the colours are somewhat on the edge of what appeals to some tastes for understated classic aesthetique BUT when seen in person, they are breathtaking.  While decidedly not a fan of any variation on the purple colour, the Dark Amethyst is just stunning and no picture ever seen remotely does it justice.  The STAR of the show though is the Blood of Kings – no production handle ever seen approaches its incredible beauty.  Tend to less ostentatious colours but loved this from the moment first seen online and never have deviated from lusting after it to this day even in possession of one.  It is easy to see why few are ever offered and shocking that the artisan doesn’t make this his signature colouration available on every release.  As much as fear the Jefferson’s 28mm knot, would buy one in a moment in Blood of Kings it IS that incredible!  There are other reminders that one is dealing with a small production artisan in that the handles have variation amongst the releases, which one can view the photos attached to this post.  The biggest differences encountered amongst the B3-B5 that have crossed my hands has been the end flare differing slightly in diameter which may pose an issue with the stand used to store the brush when not in use.  Ergonomics are outstanding: the end flare facilitates bowl lathering tough soaps without hand fatigue and provides a useful tool to keep the brush sliding into the lathering bowl between passes.  Also, the length is ideal for a wide range of hand sizes to afford both a traditional handle hold on the brush as well as choking up to limit splay and add control when dealing with areas around the nostrils and ears.  Finally, the lack of script anywhere but on the bottom of the handle - and simply a tastefully executed logo to boot - is a much appreciated element more brush makers should employ; nobody needs to know which model it is, knot nor country of manufacture so desperately they can’t flip a brush on end to view or review the box and insert papers in my opinion.
 
Addressing the knot size is a relative metric, buyers should be aware that there is variation in the knot size measure using an industry renowned set of electronic calipres tested against blocks for accuracy and precision.  Much more importantly, there is WIDE variation between knot splay between manufacturers, models and, in this case definitely between batches of badger knots – likely reflecting the artisanal nature of the manufacturer.  That aside, Declaration Grooming knots are fan shaped period and tend to splay period.  If one desires a compact knot, there are better choices out there; truth told though, there are two reasons people prefer Declaration Grooming brushes from the feedback received: the handles and the full splayed (and in many cases, gel tipped) knots.
 
Have encountered a couple B3 knots in the limited experience with this artisan and true to the public postings, they vary substantially in feel along a continuum.  In every case have found them to be the least splaying of the B3-B6 knot batches by a substantial margin although only measuring the knots for this post, a characteristic preferred here but generally less well regarded by the majority of owners.  Further, have found the knots to have elements of gel tips without quite achieving the feature as characterized by the clumping when wet but unlathered.  The knots used have all presented extraordinarily soft tips but just below the tips there are wide ranging differences in scritchiness ranging from damn near nonexistent to on par with low midrange Simpson Manchurian knots (which is to say livable but less than optimum).  Were one to point to the distinguishing characteristics of the B3 batch versus the B4-B6 batches, it would definitely be the degree of variability knot to knot and the scritchiness of the midlayer versus the tips.  Those wishing to mitigate against the scritchiness can employ an overnight lathering & deep conditioning hair treatment paying specific attention to massaging into the midlength of the knot over a course of ongoing treatments that helps considerably without creating a puffball.  The B3 knots possessing the aforementioned density lather somewhat less willingly than the B4-B6 knots but nothing worse than a Simpson Chubby.  Irrespective, if using the tips of the brush as one should for a badger brush, any scritchiness is minimal, even in the most extreme case.  The relative density of the knot is a Godsend from the perspective of those accustomed to having control over the tips, the resulting exfoliating qualities welcome (especially on the first pass lathering) and flow thru pretty outstanding.
 
Generally possess a high degree of affection for the B3 knots tried, some of them even loved.  Certainly find the handle colourations amongst the best that Declaration Grooming has ever undertaken including the amazing Ebonite Sandstone – another has to be seen in person handle because photos do not begin to capture its incredible beauty.  With a little work on the owners’ part, the B3 knot can be transformed as close to a B4 knot’s properties as humanly possible, which to my perspective is a world-class combination of density, backbone and softness.  Absolutely hands down, it is superior on the first lathering versus the B5 where the ample backbone is a blessing.
 
My experience with the B5 knot extends to a sample size of…one.  However, the characteristics experienced align perfectly with EVERY description encountered on the various fora.  A word of warning, these knots are huge, I mean really huge splaying to nearly the size of a Kent BK12, which is…HUGE!  Not only is the knot huge but it is puffball soft having more backbone than the Kent BK12 but not by much.  Have never experienced gelled tips to the degree exhibited on the B5; if into gel tips, sell the kids and make it a point to track one down!  Another desirable trait it does possess is density, density in abundance.  In the end, it does work and many prefer the characteristics of the B5 knot to any other on the market from any manufacturer.  For those preferring more backbone, the Washington handle easily facilitates using the fingers on the knot base to control the splay adding some backbone: alternatively, one could use a hair band to essentially effect a shorter loft.  Of course, a big soft knot easily lathers but what is surprising is that unlike the Kent BK12, the Declaration Grooming B5 knot is not a lather hog.  Were one pressed to tell the difference in tip feel between the B3 and B5 knots, it would be difficult BUT if applying any pressure at all, exposing the badger hair just below the tips to the skin, THEN the scritchiness of the B3 would be immediately apparent.
 
It may seem a tough review of one of the most beloved knots on the market and worse, coming from a self-avowed dilettante.  I have no pretentions to expertise, reputation to cultivate nor collection to promote; my perspectives are solely based on an end user’s perspective.  In the end, though it may seem otherwise, really like this knot although it might not possess the key performance characteristic those preferring backbone would find ideal.  While there are control issues with such a huge knot (and bear in mind this is the smallest size offered!), it nonetheless is a wonderful brush and visual delight.  Certainly, it is superior to the B3 on the second and third lathering once heavy stubble is removed and the soft tips just make love to the skin.  The B5 is an incredible shave brush and will remain in the rotation. 
 
Hopefully this has been helpful to those considering Declaration Grooming brushes.  Masses feel free to address any questions and the experts, to hurl invective: for the former shall endeavor to share my perspectives as they apply to your enquiries and for the latter shall undoubtedly confirm your views on my ignorance.  


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Deus Vult, NJDJ, CK89 and 8 others like this post
#2
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Allow me to partaligize....B5>B3

TheHunter, shaveSymptomatic, Kehole and 5 others like this post
#3
This should be required reading for anyone thinking about buying a dec brush.

If I were Scott, I would make every buyer read this before placing an order.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write it.

jeffm54321, Michael P and shaveSymptomatic like this post
#4
I must agree with you, the quality and depth of color with which the Declaration handles are made is truly only to be appreciated in the first person. While I cannot attest to your thoughts on the batches B4 and B5, I wholeheartedly agree that the B3 batch can maintain soft tips, even with the underlying scritch. An idea knot for multiple days of beard growth!

If one were to expend further, you might find B8 to be well suited to your fancies. Think of a knot with very solid backbone and density, just missing the gel tip quality, yet having very soft tips, and without the underlying scritch. Truly a joyous knot to use!

Deus Vult, TheHunter and DanLaw like this post
#5

Posting Freak
Peachtree City, GA
(This post was last modified: 02-19-2020, 03:19 AM by DanLaw.)
My perspective is can concur that B5>B3 but not by the margin suggested by the consensus; a good B4 though shifts the balance to damn near equal depending on relative preference for backbone versus softness
#6
I liked B3 more than B7, so it’s not my least favorite batch.

herbert7890 and DanLaw like this post
#7

Posting Freak
Peachtree City, GA
Have not tried a B7, at least yet
#8
As much as I enjoy knot differences, I think I just wore down on it after hundreds of brushes, thus taking the approach of B1 and done.

Sascoman, TheHunter, pork and 2 others like this post
Joe
#9
Very nice read! My favorite Declaration batches are B1 and B6!

Batmanacci likes this post
#10

Posting Freak
Peachtree City, GA
1,5&6 are often heralded

ExtraProtein likes this post


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