How this all started
After getting fed up with those multi-bladed razors, I went to the double edge about 12 years ago. And like it. All is recyclable. Then I started looking the cans of shaving creme and thought there has to be a better way. And bought an inexpensive shaving brush, soap and mug. That brush with the stubby handle worked OK, but the mug with no handle just didn't cut it - it gets slippery. So, I grabbed a coffee mug I liked and it's working great. But now, the stubby handled brush is definitely too short.
Step 1: The Search Is On...
My search started on eBay for long handled shaving brushes. They were much more expensive than the traditional length. More than I wanted to pay. But, what I did discover were the shaving knots. These are the bristles in a plastic sort of cap/glue that holds them securely. They come in a wide assortment of natural and synthetic bristles. And the end comes in an variety of diameters. I measured the one I was using and it was about 20mm in diameter. I chose boar bristle and placed an order.
Step 2: Now What?
A few weeks later they showed up from China and I began to give some serious thought as to what to make the handle out of. I wanted something warm and natural, not plastic or metal. So, I'm thinking about what I have laying around and remembered a clump of bamboo out back. This is supposed to be timber bamboo, but after about 15 years is just the right size for handles. Took my saw and cut down a couple pieces.
It was green, so after some research I tried drying it in the microwave. It works, but not something I'd recommend. Far better to plan ahead a bit and have the bamboo drying under cover.
Step 3: Putting It All Together
Choosing a section of bamboo a bit longer than I wanted for a handle, first I sanded it down to get rid of the little bud protrusions and remove the outer layer or skin. Then I worked one end of the bamboo open enough to fit the shaving knot into using a Dremel type rotary tool.
E6000 is an excellent adhesive/sealant and that's what I used to glue the knot into the handle. Set or prop the handle bristle end up so the adhesive doesn't run into the bristles. Very simple.
I discovered that if the bamboo was cut below the node, the diaphragm made a nice end cap to the handle. (see the pictures). If cut above the node the handle was hollow and I filled those with some urethane casting resin left over from another project. Tinted and with some metallic flakes in it, those turned out pretty cool. If you are going to do this, I recommend putting something into the hollow end up against the bottom of the glued in knot to keep the resin of your choice from getting past the knot and into the bristles. That makes for a real mess. The last ones I just stuffed some pieces of paper towel down there packing about 1/4" of them in tight.
I had ordered 10 of these knots, and soon decided there must be an easier way (I was going into production) and purchased a 20mm Forstner bit from Amazon. I chucked the bit into the drill press and holding the bamboo toward the lower end (as far from the bit as I could get) it was easy to drill the end to give me the 20mm hole I wanted along with a nice "step" for the knot to set on. Naturally, it turned out the knot's don't have a very precise 20mm diameter, but some sandpaper and a bit of scraping took care of that.
Step 4: The Finished Product
I've been using the same brush for about 5 years now, I don't take good care of it, I never rinse it out or let it dry. I whip up some lather, brush it on and set the brush back in the mug on top of the moist soap. It has lost a couple bristles in the first year, but none since. The bamboo handle is holding up beautifully. I rubbed a homemade mix of beeswax and mineral oil into the handle after everything was together. The bamboo is hard enough that I don't think there was a lot of penetration and after all this time the finish is probably gone, but it still looks great. The natural shape of the bamboo pieces makes a very natural handle that is comfortable in my hand. And it is exactly the length I was looking for.
The handle material can be anything you want. I am happy with the bamboo, for me it was readily available. It can be ordered from various places on the internet. I have some large pieces I purchased with the idea of making a bamboo shaving mug. I am waiting for some razors to arrive and will replace their handles with bamboo.
If I were to do this again, I would probably purchase a larger diameter knot than the 20mm. Not a lot bigger, but a couple millimeters larger.
Materials I used are:
The shaving knots. These are not the ones I purchased, actually I bought from a couple different sellers, but it's been so long there is no record of the purchase. This is a representative sample of the ones I used:
E6000. This has a great shelf life and is something I use frequently. I purchase it in industrial sized tubes from a local company, and it is available many places.