A few months ago a friend happened to come across tonight’s object lying in the bottom of a tool box and quickly spotted the /|\ marking so rescued it for me… quite how an Australian marked shaving brush came to be lying in the bottom of an old tool box in Huddersfield is something of a mystery, but having spoken to collectors in Australia, these brushes are an unusual find even there so it was very generous of him to give it to me for my little WW2 Australian collection.
The brush is fairly typical and has a handle of dark wood:
The bristles are black and are almost certainly badger or horse hair:
An 1880s encyclopædia of industrial processes explains the many different types of hair used in brush making and their different properties:
For the smaller kinds of brush known as pencils, feathers are employed, and the carefully selected hair of the camel, badger, squirrel, goat, fitch (polecat), sable, bear, horse, and other animals. For artist’s pencils, the hair of the ichneumon, and a portion of that which grows in cows’ ears, is reserved. Bear’s fur, being coarse and stiff, is principally consumed in varnishing brushes; badgers’, long soft and elastic, in training and guiding brushes; sable tail, which is very long and very elastic, makes the finest and dearest artists’ pencils; camels’ hair comes next in value to sable; cows’ ear hair is useful for striping and lettering brushes. The greatest care is taken to prevent loss when working up the valuable hairs, as a double handful of sable is worth £20, and camel hair nearly as much. But the consumption of the products above mentioned does not approach that of hogs’ bristles, which really form the mainstay of the manufacture. The best of these are procured from the wild hog of Northern Europe, about five sixths of the total coming from Russia and Poland. During the Crimean War, the imports of these fell off very considerably, and split whalebone was attempted to be substituted, but with very indifferent success as it splits and wears much more rapidly. The whitest and best hog’s bristles are used in hair, tooth, clothes and hat, and the best paint brushes.
The bristles are secured into the handle with string binding:
What makes this brush interesting however is the D/|\D stamp indicating it is the property of the Department of Defence in Australia:
On the opposite side of the handle is another /|\ mark and what appears to be a ‘W’ but what the significance of this is unfortunately seems to have been lost to the mists of time.