“Hi, I’m Rob and I’m a wood turner. I make traditional shaving gear and other wooden goods.”
On every other Tuesday at 9 a.m., Benton, Ark., resident Rob Moffett posts 10 to 20 items for sale on ThatDarnRob, his online shop hosted on Etsy.
By 9:01 a.m., he’s typically sold out.
Rob handcrafts and sells traditional shaving gear, mostly wet-shaving brushes made of acrylic. The brushes sell for $40 to $70 apiece and are highly valued for both their functionality and collectability.
Marketing is done entirely through social media. He’ll post sneak-peak previews of products on Facebook and Instagram, letting his followers know a new batch of brushes is in the offing. Sales are strictly first-come, first-serve, so customers log in on Etsy and have PayPal ready so they can quickly hit the “buy” button.
“I did a little research and found there’s a big subculture based around traditional, wet shaving. It’s a much larger market than I ever imagined.”
Rob has a five-star rating on Etsy, and recent reviews left by buyers include: “Love this brush, it looks so elegant;” “Resin casting on this brush is outstanding! Sunlight is required to fully appreciate it;” and “Another fine example of Rob’s craftsmanship. Awesome take on the “Vampire” color theme.”
What Rob has tapped into is a new trend in shaving. Old-school, doubled-sided safety razors similar to those found in your grandfather’s medicine chest are suddenly popular again. Shaving brushes and shaving bowls with handcrafted soaps are in; shaving gels and creams are out.
“I used to sell wooden pens and mechanical pencils, but they weren’t moving,” Rob said. “I did a little research and found there’s a big subculture based around traditional, wet shaving. It’s a much larger market than I ever imagined.”
Rob generally spends 60 to 90 minutes per brush. Shaving brushes are basically three parts: the knot, which holds the bristles, the handle and the base at the end of the handle. Rob uses synthetic fibers or silvertip badger fur for the knot, mostly acrylic for the handle, and he places a ThatDarnRob branded coin in the base.
It’s the handle section where the magic happens. Different pigments and dyes make up layers and swirls in the acrylic. Some of his ideas are drawn from classic brushes created in the 1930s and 40s. “I just wing it on the rest of them.”
Rob, who sports a beard, has been wet shaving for six or seven years. “Yeah, I take a lot of ribbing from my customers for having a beard, but I have to shave around the neck and clean it up.”
Part of his enjoyment in this craft/business is the opportunity to meet customers via the Web who sometimes become friends. “I was having a Facebook conversation with someone from Abu Dhabi. After the sale he reached out to me and we continue to talk a couple of times a week.”
Customers hail from 43 states and 11 foreign countries, and they are both users and collectors. Most are men, but he’s attracting more women customers who are using the products as well as gifting them.
Rob said he’s not the only Arkansas-based entrepreneur to tap into the traditional shaving craze. He likes to talk shop with the owner of The Crazy Badger in Van Buren, Ark., a company that offers hand-turned wooden brushes, bowls and razors. He said the Stirling Soap Company in Booneville, Ark., is considered by many to offer the best shaving soaps on the market.
Rob started ThatDarnRob about 18 months ago in his garage. “I aspire to a stand-alone shop, but for now I work out of one-half of my garage.” Brush making takes up most weekends and early morning hours during the workweek. He works days as a web designer for the Pulaski County School District, a position he said he’ll keep as it offers security for his family.
He’s also considering adding more items to his shop. He’s created prototypes for lather cups and a makeup brush. “A lot of women in my life have been after me to make knots for makeup brushes. I’ve made a couple of prototypes, but the shapes aren’t working out yet.”