10/8 - Everset

Back after a short hiatus. I’ve taken the past few weeks to re-stock on all supplies, including some very key items I use to create these brushes which are hard to find and should last for several years. Also, I’ve been crafting some brushes for some of The Varlet’s earliest and most loyal patrons. These are folks that were instrumental in The Varlet’s success with their support, feedback, messages of encouragement, and multiple brush purchases since the very beginning of the venture. They waited very patiently for more than 2 years while I had my notoriously lengthy commitments.

Let’s talk about todays offerings. The Everset - USA brand is something that I created back in 2017. Since then, I’ve not been able to offer many of them except for a few times under special requests; namely some members of our military who had been interested and a couple of other brushes that managed to sneak out of the shop.

I had originally envisioned Everset to be a more high-volume production possibility. I designed the handles with that in mind. The designs are streamlined; they do take cues from traditional brush handles but bear their own trademark design element. The groove. Each handle has a very precisely cut groove which gives a nod to design elements such as beads that usually adorn traditional brush handles. The Everset handles take these very well-loved design elements that wood-turners have been using for centuries and instead of trying to re-invent them, simply inverts them. Humbly, I’ll admit that in 2018, with so many brush designs already in the history books, it is an extremely tall order to come up with even one entirely new design which is aesthetically pleasing as well as that all-important criteria: ergonomic. This is a way to bring something fresh to the table, so to speak, and I think the groove might be polarizing, but that could be a good thing.

The Everset designs are classically familiar with just that little touch that makes them modern and fun. The groove is fashioned by using a very thin cutting tool, which I custom made out of some very thin steel, as there aren’t any lathe cutting tools available that are so thin. The groove is so thin and cut so deep, that in most angles it gives the illusion that the handle is made of two parts, one floating on top of the other.

With regards to quality, Everset - USA is right on par with The Varlet. The knots, while offered in Finest Grade, not Alpine, are constructed in the same way and carry the same guarantee. The same materials are used, including adhesives, enamels, and of course, Alumilite handles. As is proper, every knot is hand-tied here in the USA, and hand-cemented with the same high quality adhesive to ensure they won’t shed. The handles are polished to the same high degree as The Varlet’s.

I want to make these available from time to time in the very near future to keep the name alive and protect the trademark. Also, it does feel nice to be able to offer a brush with unparalleled materials and craftsmanship at a bit lower price point. Hopefully I can expand on the brand with regards to the name, the concept, and my hopes for the future in subsequent posts, as there is much to talk about. For now, I’ll follow with details of what’s available today.

R1 / BH1 - 22mm Flat Top knot set at ~45mm loft. This knot is very precise. Great for anyone wanting a smaller knot, curious about how a flat-top feels, or someone who has a goatee, mustache, or other facial hair features which they like to shape. This knot applies lather pretty precisely, within reason.

R2 / BH2 - 24mm knot, fan shaped, set at ~49mm. This is a very similar knot to the ones offered on the early Rangers and Beehives. Well-balanced, not too big, not too small, soft at the tips with a medium-high firmness and density, a very classic Varlet style 2-band knot.

This batch includes Carbon Alumilite handles with matte yellow branding, all are laser engraved and enameled by hand. The purchase limit is one brush and they are available now on the front page of the site until current stock is sold. As always, I’ve enjoyed crafting these brushes and hope you enjoy them in use.

Thank you all,

-Aldo

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8/8/18 Availability

Hi guys,

I will have a handful of brushes up for sale tomorrow, including Orions in Somerset Ivory and 26mm Fan Beehives in Carbon. 12pm Pacific.

Adjustments have been made to the website with regards to the purchase process. I've included Apple Pay in the payment options, and have added icons with all payment types accepted to the very bottom of the site. Also, instead of "add to cart" on each brush listing, the button reads "purchase". Upon clicking said button, instead of merely adding an item to the cart, it will take you directly to the cart to make the purchase immediately. It streamlines the process a bit.

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I've received more than a handful of emails since my last post, mostly very positive so thanks to all who wrote in. As I mentioned, releases will get larger in the next few weeks as I get things in line. Going from the reserve list to a general sales basis has taken some adjusting, especially with the multitude of messages received with inquiries and also lingering issues with regards to brush purchases and reservations. Also, my supplies have been running low on everything including Alumilite, so I hope to do some casting of rods in the next couple of weeks. I will be offering some additional colors, but I will keep them very much in line with The Varlet's aesthetic, brand identity, and concept. My aim is to keep the number of colors at a minimum, so as I experiment with hues only the best colors will make it to the line-up. 

I have been testing some XD knots and am happy to report that I'm indeed liking them more and more. I'm really pushing the amount of hair I can fit into a certain diameter. Above all, what I value most in a knot is it's lather release. Setting a knot very low and making it extremely dense hinders that, but the trade-off is the additional whisker lifting action and firmer massage as lather is being made. As lather gets driven into the center of the knot the hairs actually get stiffer, and splaying becomes harder and less productive. It's important to keep the knot from splaying too much. As I adjust the lofts lower and lower it's apparent that this technique lends itself more useful but there is a point of no return.

I'll continue to work on them and it will perhaps be an ongoing project for a while. Nevertheless, as anyone who's bought a brush from me knows, I love getting feedback so it's another excuse to message folks to send me their opinions.

 

-Aldo

 

 


It's Time

Gentlemen, it's time. 3 years' worth of time. The Reserve List is no more. Brushes will be available to the general public starting tomorrow.

 

Reserve List Status

The list is winding down and nearing the last entries from early 2016, close to 4 months after the list was opened. As I work through the end of the list, some guys are purchasing a brush right away, but some are responding after 3-5 days saying they are not ready to purchase or are no longer interested, and all in all it's becoming a more drawn out process for me and those remaining on the list. This is completely understandable, as those who signed up later are more likely to not be as active in the shaving community as those who signed up within minutes of the first list announcement. Also, 2+ years is a long time to wait for a shaving brush, and surely some folks view that as a customer service shortcoming, no matter how great the brushes are. That's totally ok.

Nevertheless, at this point I've done all I can possibly do for the shaving community and those who've wanted a brush despite the demand/supply ratio. It is simply no longer viable for me to sell a $200-$250 product in such a slow and drawn out manner. I enjoy exchanging emails with patrons; I'm speaking purely from a responsible business sense. After all, my email signature does read "Proprietor / Craftsman", with "proprietor" being first for a reason. Without the business, there's no craft. It's the world we live in. I truly hope you guys can appreciate the Reserve List and my best attempts at fulfilling it.

Furthermore, naturally, as a craftsman, your creative side takes over and some pieces get made that don't fit the mold. If a brand stops developing new products, it eventually gets left in the dust.

It's been difficult to offer anything new to those on the list, often those who signed up for a brush have wanted the exact brush they requested with no variations. To have offered these to the general public would have created a backlash from those with reservations, to contact the rest of the list one by one to see if they're interested in said variations gets even more complicated, and well, it's not hard to imagine how something as simple as selling a shaving brush can get extremely convoluted. Just one example of the friction that a reserve list creates for the growth of a brand.

I haven't introduced any new colors since the launch, with the exception of some Carbon pieces. I haven't introduced any new handle styles, despite my creative gears still continuing to turn. All that must change for The Varlet to remain competitive.

To those who've been critical about the list and my approach, I hope we can turn over a new leaf going forward, because the past is the past. Decisions were made, whether they're right or wrong is another blog post altogether (which I won't be doing), but we learn, we move on. 

If you got a purchase email but missed it or have regrets about passing on a brush, I do apologize but there's not much I can/will do. The list is done. When I posted the original reserve list announcement, I included that the list could be cancelled at any time if it became too burdensome for The Varlet's productivity as a business. That threshold was probably reached long ago but nevertheless today is the day to end the list.

 

XD™ Knots

Since 2015, when The Varlet first launched, tastes have intriguingly been advancing towards denser, lower lofted brushes. It's quite peculiar to read a review describing a brush that I've made as having medium density, which I would consider quite high in the density realm. In another recent forum post, 53mm is considered high lofted for a 27mm brush, which again made me take note. These certainly aren't guys that were on the forums in 2010-2011. It was utterly eyebrow-raising reading an email from a customer who purchased a 28mm knot from me having an artisan handle-maker set the loft at 46mm some time ago. Or was it 48mm? Either way... absolutely insane! 

Certainly not making a judgement with regards to preferences, but some perspective is in order, as I feel there's a small but growing constituency that looks at traditional knot specs with some form of disdain. Believe me, I have forstner bits and know how to use them. My drill press can go another 5mm down. I say this lightheartedly, of course. 

Back in 2016, I had envisioned and started preparations for what I'm calling XD™ knots, and made a mention of it in my State of The Varlet post in June of that year. An innovation that I've had to sit on due to possible reserve list complications, but I'll start rolling out these brushes as soon as I can and will be making adjustments based on feedback from density fans.

Density X Depth. A denser knot set at a traditionally lower loft for an extremely firm lathering experience. So if you drink barrel proof bourbon to go along with your Marlboro reds, this is for you. Can The Varlet make the densest brushes in the world? Of course. That is the luxury that in-house production affords a craftsman. That's the difference and that's why I have made the decision with regards to the list. Without the rigidity of fulfilling a set list I can expand the product line and ultimately those who get a brush will see the benefits of what I can craft with more freedom.

That said, I still know that a majority of shavers prefer more luxurious density and loft measurements, so there will still be offerings with more traditional, well-balanced knot specifications. That will always be at the core of what The Varlet is. Time will tell what trends come and go, but what I'm most proud of and I think what fans of The Varlet love most is the subtlety and finesse, the balancing act which makes a knot perform with both power and grace. Worry not, traditionalists.

 

Tomorrow's Offerings

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Tomorrow, Monday, July 23, I will post a few Beehives in 26mm Bulb knots (not XD) in Somerset Ivory. They will be priced at $220. Traditional 2:1 loft/knot size ratio, at about 52mm. I will make them available at 12pm Pacific. I'll have some more offerings later in the week. The number of brushes offered will get larger in the next few weeks as I'm still making adjustments returning to a general sale model.

Thank you all, very sincerely.

-Aldo

 

 

 

 

 

The Varlet's New Blog

After making the decision to leave The Shave Nook last summer, The Varlet needs to fill the resulting void and establish a new communication line with its patrons. Since this venture is still very much in its infancy, engagement with potential customers needs to be at the forefront. 

It's clear to me that The Varlet's brand needs to be solidified much further and its road map to goals set forth needs additional surveying to plot the best course forward. I have considered the current trends of the industry with regards to expectations in terms of construction but ultimately have decided that there is a large enough constituency out there that is still longing for a product like The Varlet.

Having my own platform allows me to expound upon The Varlet's product without limitations. I can also communicate more efficiently and with much more clarity should I encounter any setbacks in the coming future. I can post as often as I like, and not worry whether the nature of my posts either contributes or drags down a forum's energy or engagement. While I appreciate the immensely warm welcome TSN gave me I found it taxing to continually post about the setbacks I was encountering throughout late 2016 to early 2017. I thought it was best to part ways with the forum and align my focus on streamlining production issues, as I felt I wasn't contributing anything positive at the time.

The path forward includes an updated website which informs with a solid foundation what The Varlet is about, relying on the Twitter account to post news updates more consistently, a more engaging Instagram account to maintain excitement and grow a bigger following for the brand through amazing photos, and this blog, which I am going to think of as a blank canvas where I can post any and all ideas that come to mind. The website has already had a nice update so be sure to check out the additional sections.

 

The Orion Reserve List has been fulfilled.

Any further Orions manufactured will be sold on a general sale basis. Beehives, Megas, and the updated Ranger will still be sold through the reserve list for the time being.

 

Return of the Ranger™

The updated Ranger is a brush I'm extremely proud of and a precursor of the next step in The Varlet's philosophy as a brush-making manufactury. 

This new Ranger has an extremely dense knot but a relatively high loft. As I introduce new models to The Varlet's range this knot spec will definitely have an influence on how I design their corresponding knots in the future. This is one of the best knots I've made so far, and only possible by making knots in-house.

So far I have only been able to make 3 of these Rangers because I went through so many versions upon the development of this brush. I appreciate everyone's patience. Once my hair supplies are restocked, I will make more Rangers.

The Ranger had to be updated as the original was great, but it wasn't enough of a brush to fit into The Varlet's line-up. I think this new iteration embraces what the original was, but brings a more eventful experience for those who've come to regard The Varlet as a premium product. I had originally envisioned the Ranger as the entry-level brush, but it was apparent very soon that was misguided. 

 

Revised Warranties

The Varlet's knot warranty and handle warranty will be reduced to 3 years from date of purchase as of the posting of this blog post. Brushes purchased prior to 03/09/2018 will retain the warranty outlined in the insert included with the brush. While my quality control and corresponding customer feedback remains unchanged (i.e. just about perfect) it was misguided to offer warranties that lasted longer than the company has been in business. For full warranty information customers should refer to the warranty insert included with the brush.

 

Final Note

I really must address the lack of communication and online presence over the last few months. Despite how it may appear, I am fully aware of some of my unorthodox decisions leaving folks perplexed. 

Not one to make excuses, I'm truly apologetic to patrons who have endorsed The Varlet and its story thus far. This is really the only way I could have done it based on my values, my philosophy, and my nature as a craftsman. Also, I've tried to make the best decisions for The Varlet and it's forthcoming projects with long-term viability in mind. That means establishing a foundation for the brand and a reputation which isn't based on novelty but on a concept that seems to endure in many industries, namely quality and originality. That means if I can't ensure both, the products won't ship. I go back to the drawing board and figure out another way to do it.

After these first two years, my understanding of this craft is coming to a point where the learning curve is starting to level off. It was only a matter of time. Brush-making is fairly straightforward, and I think I have tended to "over-engineer" my offerings. Nevertheless, attention to detail is something that's a part of who I am and naturally it will reflect in my work.

Despite my missteps I have to look at things with some perspective. Being the first in any endeavor is difficult. The one who blazes the trail is the one with the most cuts and scrapes because the brush has to be cleared. (No pun intended)

The Varlet's approach to each component of the shaving brush, the knot and the handle, was unique. 

Firstly, there are no knot-makers in the U.S. to learn this craft from. To learn how to make a knot from scratch and have it compete with those made by manufacturers with decades of experience is something I'm proud of. 

Second, rather than use readily available resin blanks for handles I decided it was best to try to adopt an unorthodox material, Alumilite, and face the challenges of learning how to cast it, turn it, and polish it, because I believed in the advantages of said material. With everything considered it's apparent that the effort and investment made in Alumilite early on is the most sound decision I've made. 

Trends come and go, but the names that endure are those that build a legacy by carving their own path. As a mea culpa, my shortfall this past year has been an unclear roadmap and the resulting lack of communication on the web at large. No one is interested in reading about The Varlet's production bottlenecks, though I've been glad to inform those who have inquired via email.

Nevertheless, the Orion list has been fulfilled, which is a small but welcome victory, and the brand has been developing a more grassroots following through direct messages with patrons. A little over 2 years in and it would be extremely foolish to say The Varlet hasn't panned out. Maybe the limited production has muted the brands exposure, and it's partly due to my taking of large risks. Going all in in terms of quality and originality was the toughest path to take early on, because when you commit to delivering an exceptional product you have to abide by that promise. That decision, however, is starting to pay dividends.

Whereas I've typically been blindly optimistic in what The Varlet could do, in contrast right now I feel comfortable in a very grounded way with regards to the craft, the reputation of the brand, and the many things to come in the near future.

 

- Aldo