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Foolproof Lather Method (TM) - any soap - any brush

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
I am a Lather Master!

Not being braggadocious, just stating a fact. And you can be too! I'm here to teach you. No need for a Brotherhood of Lather Masters, every member of B&B should be a Lather Master.

Unfortunately, with so many people who enjoy this activity so much, and the more OCD of us probably tending to experiment and post more, I think some of us are confusing the dickens out of new shavers. We're well-meaning, but we're not helping. What follows is a 100% totally guaranteed lather method that works for any soap (or cream) with any brush, except possibly for stuff like Mitchell's Wool Fat or Williams Mug Soap.

If you are not using a scuttle (some soaps do not hold up to heat well), there are only three things that can go wrong with a soap lather.

1. Not enough product
2. Too much water
3. Not enough patience.


Different soaps do have different hydration requirements. If you don't have enough product, the product/water ratio becomes critical. If you start with too much water, there is no recovery from that, you toss your lather and start over. And it takes a little elbow grease to make a great lather. If you don't have the patience, go with Barbasol.

So, are you ready for the secret to the Foolproof Lather Method (TM)? Before the hand-wringing and recriminations begin, let me say this. This is not the best or the only way to make lather! There is the Marco (Italian Barber) method, the Modified Marco method, the contraption methods (glue pennies in the bottom of your bowl), and any number of other methods that work just fine. But if you are having trouble getting good lather and/or you are slinging it all over your bathroom, start here. Just start here. Play with the other stuff the OCD's post later, that's fine, I sometimes use other methods or I shortcut with products I know like the back of my hand.

Here are the secrets

  • USE LESS WATER- DAMP BRUSH
  • USE MORE PRODUCT
  • CREEP UP ON THE WATER S-L-O-W-L-Y
  • TAKE YOUR TIME

Example 1 - Soft Italian CROAP with Boar brush

Razorock Don Marco and a Sterling 24mm boar brush

So, first thing it to get your brush nearly dry, you can always add water, you can't take it out. You are going for LOADING THE BRUSH, not proto lather, not some thin soup that you hope will congeal into something workable later. Shake it, squeeze it. You want to load from the soap into the brush. If you are not picking up any soap, carefully dip just the very tippy tips of the brush in water and keep going. The top of the soap will look very, very dense, even gummy with some soaps, and the stuff in the brush will be very dense indeed. Get that off the soap with your fingers and onto your face.


DM1.jpg

Now, work the brush in the bowl a bit. Notice this is a plain ceramic mug, no ridges, no glued pennies, none of that is bad, but none of it is needed, either. After about 15 seconds you'll have something like this, which obviously needs water.

DM2.jpg

Now, dip just the tippy tips of the brush in water and continue whipping it up, doing however many dips are needed and however long it takes. I think this took about 4 little dips of water and about 90 seconds, but I hesitate to say that, because you don't count or time! This is not a recipe it's a method. The recipe is different for each soap. Counting swirls, or load time or water dips is where the problems start. This is where I go to my face.

DM3.jpg

Now, lather on your face for a while, maybe 30 seconds. It will continue to build. If it needs it, dip the tippy tips in water and add some. S-L-O-W-L-Y. The photo below is after my first pass. I whipped the soap from the face lathered brush with what was in the bowl again for 15-20 seconds, vigorously. You may add water again, but it likely won't be necessary.

DM4.jpg

The key to all this should make perfect logical sense. If you start with more product and less water than needed, you will be able to creep up on the proper hydration level slowly. If you start with either not enough product or too much water, or both, you cannot salvage things.

Damp, nearly dry brush
More Product
Add water slowly

Guaranteed success
 

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JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Second example, hard milled soap and synthetic brush.

Tabac and a Stirling Synthetic tuxedo


Here you may want to bloom (soften) the top of the soap with a little water for a few minutes. This is not required with CROAPS but really helps with milled soaps. Dump that water out, and again, start with a nearly dry brush. See how the soap is pulling away from the surface of the soap? Get all that with your finger and smear on your face.

Tab1.jpg

Again, about 30 seconds of whipping, needs water, obviously. Add slowly, dipping just the tippy tips of the brush in water, and whip it for ... who knows? Add water, and whip it till it looks right.
Tab2.jpg

Here I am about to face lather for a bit. Add water on the face, if needed.

Tab3.jpg


Here is it after the first pass is whipped into the bowl ready for pass #2.

Tab4.jpg
 
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JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Example #3, an Artisan soap

Barrister & Mann, Reserve lavender and a TGN Best Badger 22mm reknot of an old Ever Ready handle.

This one can be finicky, and there's a half hour video on YouToobz talking about how thirsty this stuff is (and it is) and how it's a low-structure lather (won't be in stiff peaks, won't hold the brush up in the bowl). That's all true, but ... you guessed it. Use a damp, nearly dry brush and load a lot of product. I dipped the tips of the brush in water once for this load.

bm1.jpg

Half a minute of lathering, obviously not ready yet.

bm2.jpg

After adding water slowly and working it for a long time (this one took at least two minutes, for sure, again I don't time it) but you will creep up on the right hydration level. Do not be tempted to dump water in it because it's "thirsty". You go too far and you're cooked. Creep up on the right lather slowly. I took it to my face right here.

bm3.jpg

After the first pass, mixed back in with the bowl lather for the second pass.

bm4.jpg
 
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JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
No recovery from too much water?
There have been times I started with too much water. I went back to the puck and swirled 2 or 3 more times. That fixed the lather.
Yes, that is true. I was trying to cut to the basics and get people having trouble to get really dry with the brush and really slow with the addition of water, that's the part that makes this foolproof and guaranteed. You, I, and many others on the board can recover at many points along the way in building lather, but I wanted something that would work, every time. A drier brush, more product, and slowly creeping up on the hydration level is guaranteed to work and will keep people from being frustrated.
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Sorry I thought you were trying to lather a full 1/4 stick at a time, that was stupid of me. I find the denser I start, the more the soap is pulling away from the surface of the soap, the gummier it looks, the better, because then you know you are way under the required hydration level. And using more product gives you a wider window of hydration to work with, lessening the probability of overshooting it.

Once you use a soap for a week or more, you'll find you can go a little wetter at the start, and not overshoot the hydration level because you are now more familiar with it. You'll get a little faster. But with a new product, I always start out this way until I get familiar with it and what the proper end state is. This may take a little longer, but that's why it's foolproof. You'll become an expert with hitting the right spot quicker after a handful more shaves with that Arko.

Next time you try a new product, though, go back to drier brush at the start, load more product, and go slower on the water. Never fails. Have fun!
 
Sorry I thought you were trying to lather a full 1/4 stick at a time, that was stupid of me. I find the denser I start, the more the soap is pulling away from the surface of the soap, the gummier it looks, the better, because then you know you are way under the required hydration level. And using more product gives you a wider window of hydration to work with, lessening the probability of overshooting it.

Once you use a soap for a week or more, you'll find you can go a little wetter at the start, and not overshoot the hydration level because you are now more familiar with it. You'll get a little faster. But with a new product, I always start out this way until I get familiar with it and what the proper end state is. This may take a little longer, but that's why it's foolproof. You'll become an expert with hitting the right spot quicker after a handful more shaves with that Arko.

Next time you try a new product, though, go back to drier brush at the start, load more product, and go slower on the water. Never fails. Have fun!
I reread my initial post and understand how it caused confusion, my wording and phrasing was poor.. But hey! Cranking you up made you post this tutorial. Which is very well done and helpful for us untalented fools for sure.
 
Yes, that is true. I was trying to cut to the basics and get people having trouble to get really dry with the brush and really slow with the addition of water, that's the part that makes this foolproof and guaranteed. You, I, and many others on the board can recover at many points along the way in building lather, but I wanted something that would work, every time. A drier brush, more product, and slowly creeping up on the hydration level is guaranteed to work and will keep people from being frustrated.
Makes sense. They have to get the basics down first. This is a great tutorial.
 
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