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Foolproof Lather Method (TM)- Part 2, Graduate Class

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
@ylekot Buckle up, buttercup, we're about to put the hammer down now!

So, for those of you who followed my Foolproof Lather Method (TM) - Any soap, Any brush, it may have sounded a little braggadocious, but it was...



You cannot fail to stumble into a good lather if you start way below the proper hydration level and slowly sneak up on it. I also mentioned in that thread that my method was not the only method. It was not the best method. I said there were plenty of other methods that worked. So why did I post that?

Well for folks like ylekot having trouble learning to lather, and for us more experienced shavers trying to dial in a new product that method is foolproof and guaranteed (I know, because I am a fool!), because it guarantees you will come up to the proper hydration level from underneath. From waaaaay underneath, because you use a lot of product and not much water. The excess product makes for a wider acceptance window when you start adding water, as well, so a learner is more likely to stop with something acceptably hydrated rather than overshoot it by a bunch. Apparently, it helped ylekot in very short order.

The thing that is confusing to new shavers by all our nuanced discussions about lathering is we've been at this a while. If someone says don't shake the water out of the brush, and I see he's using a 22mm best badger knot, and I have a 24mm finest or a 24 mm synthetic, I'm experienced enough to know I must shake some of the water out of my brush to equal the water retention in his brush. For someone new, I'm not at all sure that would be obvious.

Brushes hold a very variable amount of water. Very variable. You couldn't make marinara sauce with instructions like, "soak your brush and don't shake any water out." Yikes, that's not a recipe! But as was pointed out in the last thread, making such stiff initial lather probably stresses the brush, and it takes a while to get to a decent lather. You don't want to stop with that technique. It's guaranteed to work, which is why I did that tutorial, but where do you go from there?

Well I thought I'd start with a much-beloved soap, but one which has posed a bit of a lather problem to many of us experienced shavers. It's Barrister & Mann's Reserve base. It's an extremely thirsty soap, and starts out kinda gummy if you don't use enough water. And if you start out getting a lot of that gummy lather it can take forever to hydrate it and then you're left with like a quart container of Cool Whip-looking stuff. Yeah, there's a 30 minute video by West Coast Shaving with the proprietor of B&M, but who has time for that?

So, I started with my Foolproof (TM) method to get a feel for the soap and how it behaves. @ylekot the process I am about to describe is called "Dialing It In". It may not take too long, but you don't want to shortcut it. The key is starting out with the hydration level below where it should be so you can sneak up on it. The Foolproof (TM) method assures this, but once you use a product enough to know what neighborhood it lives in, you can start out closer to where the correct hydration is, rather than very dry. The Foolproof (TM) method is meant to be a starting point, that's all.

So, in the B&M video I see the proprietor wants to start out with a wet brush (not defined, the brush size/type or what 'wet' means) and do "25 swirls" on the soap. This is the kind of non-specific nonsense that is totally unhelpful. So. Once I discovered the gummy stage with B&M Reserve, using the Foolproof (TM) method, and wanting to go beyond that, I got to this.

(continued next post)
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
So, experimentation always goes well with a Martini. Here I am starting out with my 24mm TGN Silvertip reknotted Ever Ready 150. I made it, I know exactly how much water it holds. I am blooming the soap here.

IMG_2559.jpg

Now, I pour almost all the water off the soap, maybe leaving a teaspoon on a very wet soap and I shake the brush almost dry. Then I load for 50 swirls (25 was obviously not enough!).

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Now, I swirl it a bit in the bowl, maybe 15 seconds.

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And immediately take it to my face ugly mug.

Next post
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Working it around for a while, I add water to the tips a few times (3, 4?) and work it up to this.

IMG_2563.jpg

Still looking a bit thin, but I have learned this soap builds with more water and a bit of elbow grease, so I keep at it.

IMG_2564.jpg

Oh, baby, now we're getting somewhere! I worked it a little longer, but did not get a photo, but it was marvelous. Thick (not dense, this soap doesn't do dense), and impossibly slick. Here is what was left afterwards.

IMG_2565.jpg

So, the Foolproof (TM) method is not a destination, but a stepping stone.

Start waaaaaay below the proper hydration point, use lots of product, if you are new to lather or new to a particular product.

If you get a new product, start that way, and use it daily for a week, to learn how it behaves.

Then you can dial it in so you don't have to start waaaaay below the perfect hydration point or use too much product, you can start with a reasonable amount of product and start just below the right hydration point and get there faster. At this point, I can grab this soap and get it to a beautiful shave in fairly short order. But it took me a couple of weeks of shaves with it to get there.

Hope this makes sense.
 
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JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
B&M Reserve was one of the first soaps I tried and I quickly gave up on it. The Excelsior base was so much easier that I saw no reason to waist my time. I guess this means I am going to give it another try...
I would. It is truly terrific stuff. But you need more product than the WCS video shows, and you should probably start with not quite as much water. If you try to nail it right away, it likely won't work.

But if you start dry, at the gummy stage, then begin to start a bit wetter, if you work with one brush you know well with it for a bit, you'll get to the point where it lathers easily. Don't get me wrong, the B&M Reserve base is a finicky soap, by any reasonable measure. It's not something that lathers itself like Arko, Cella, Tabac, etcetera. But it is definitely worth the effort, IMO, to learn to master it. It's definitely a tough soap, one that takes an experienced shaver to master I think.

But the process from the Foolproof (TM) starting point to 'dialing it in' was what I was after explaining here. I'm glad it got ylekot over his frustrations so quickly, he's well on his way.
 
Working it around for a while, I add water to the tips a few times (3, 4?) and work it up to this.

View attachment 1324484

Still looking a bit thin, but I have learned this soap builds with more water and a bit of elbow grease, so I keep at it.

View attachment 1324485

Oh, baby, now we're getting somewhere! I worked it a little longer, but did not get a photo, but it was marvelous. Thick (not dense, this soap doesn't do dense), and impossibly slick. Here is what was left afterwards.

View attachment 1324486

So, the Foolproof (TM) method is not a destination, but a stepping stone.

Start waaaaaay below the proper hydration point, use lots of product, if you are new to lather or new to a particular product.

If you get a new product, start that way, and use it daily for a week, to learn how it behaves.

Then you can dial it in so you don't have to start waaaaay below the perfect hydration point or use too much product, you can start with a reasonable amount of product and start just below the right hydration point and get there faster. At this point, I can grab this soap and get it to a beautiful shave in fairly short order. But it took me a couple of weeks of shaves with it to get there.

Hope this makes sense.
I'm going to be honest. I was disappointed when I saw your pictures. I was expecting to see Johnny Bravo! 😁
 
Alright so I haven't tried the Reserve yet, but I was experimenting with another soap and made some unexpected discoveries. I fully admit that my lather quality has been lacking with tallow soaps and I have never gone looking for tutorials. I have good luck with hard soaps. However, this thread and another made me realize where I am going wrong. I don't like high structure lather and it is why I avoided artisan soaps for a long time.

Some soaps have a wide hydration window and some don't. Not all can work optimally when saturated to the point of dripping. Where I went wrong was how I went about getting a low structure instead of rejecting soaps that don't like a ton of water. What I did right, from experience, is start with a known quantity of water in my brush and enough soap. What I did wrong was not build the lather fully. In other words, I subconsciously stopped working the lather prematurely to avoid developing structure.

What I did this time was spend a lot of time between each water addition and let the lather develop how it wants to. I produced a photo worthy lather and proceeded to have a wonderful shave, but I have a lot to think about now. A soap that I had evaluated positively previously now feels too dense on my face, but produced a very enjoyable shave. I now to have to re-evaluate all my soaps and whether my preferences are rational.

Thanks @JCinPA for this series
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
OK, and now to wrap this up.

Those of you who are a bit more experienced at this game may have already figured out that this is not a "new method". Not really an old method either. It is not a method at all, it is a process, and the process I used with the three soaps and three brushes in the first thread is exactly the process I used with the B&M above. Let me explain.

As has been pointed out different soaps have different 'hydration windows', i.e., you may slide from perfect lather to something unusable fairly quickly, or you may be able to maintain a great lather over a wide range of hydration. Soaps are all different in how much product they need, how much water they need, how much water they can take (how forgiving is that hydration window?), and brushes are all certainly different in how much water they can retain. All that I've been writing about has been an attempt to get you to hit the process with enough product and far enough below the proper hydration level that you can sneak up on it, that's all.

B&M is a different kind of soap and takes most of us a while to figure out. I started with my Foolproof Lather Method (TM) with it on the second shave because my first attempt was an unmitigated disaster. So, I got more product, less water and got way below the hydration level and experimented a bit. All I did above was go right to the right spot for it almost at the beginning, but remember I have used it now maybe a dozen times. @ylekot and @APBinNCA don't do what I did above, back off a little bit, take your time, and you'll hit it. Eventually, you'll step up and bang out a terrific lather with it, but be patient, it takes a little study and more lather time than most soaps. If you watch the Youtoobz of guys lathering B&M Reserve, they lather a looong time. But you will be rewarded.

Let's take an 'easy' soap to lather, any of the Sterlings. I read a couple posts about it, took a look at it, poked it with my finger, and went to work with a fairly damp brush and quickly sprang to a good lather first time out with it, and by the third shave I was lathering that like a bauss. Not so with the B&M Reserve. That doesn't make it a bad soap, it's wonderful. But people get impatient with it, like APBinNCA did (which I understand, BTW, I'm not being critical). But I had enough confidence in the experience of its fans here at B&B and the vids I saw to stick with it. But that one took me well over a week to get to where I could jump pretty quickly to where I should be and get terrific lather. It's also a different kind of lather, don't expect it to be like other products you use.

Anyway, what the Foolproof Lather Method (TM) was about was trying to help newer shavers learn the process so they would not be so frustrated. You will go through this process with virtually every soap in your den, they will all have different product and water requirements and have different hydration windows. But once you get a soap wired in your head, you'll be able to pick up a brush you are familiar with and get right to it pretty quickly--but only after you've gone through this discovery process.

I think too many new shavers think they should be able to pick up any brush and any soap and jump right to the lather photos they see around here on their first outing with it, and it usually does not work that way. But hopefully, I've given you a path of discovery that will get you to a good lather, every time, guaranteed. As you work with a product more that lather will come faster and more consistently, but be patient. The learning is fun, too.
 
Love the Reserve base. I get some of the best lathers with it but not always. It's definitely finicky but dialed in its incredible lather. One thing it doesn't do is post shave condition well so if that's important to you you'll probably not like reserve . Who doesn't apply post shave product anyway.
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
+1! ’..not a method but a process…’ Yes indeed!

The point is that you need an approach to dial in a new product!! :thumbup1: :thumbup1: :thumbup1:

That's exactly right. I think what may be a cause of frustration for newer shavers is they may follow a thread between experienced shavers talking about this process, which we now do without even thinking about it. They then grab a brush they are not so familiar with, and a new product, and try to follow along with what we're doing and end up with a mess of unusable lather, and then they think there is something either wrong with them, or with the product.

You and I could grab a new product and dial it in within a couple, three shaves (sometimes) because we've lathered dozens of other products over many years and we are familiar with the brushes in our den. The new guys will be able to dial it in, but it will likely take them a bit longer because they just don't have that base of experience over dozens of products. I did these two threads to give the new guys a track to run on that guarantees success. There's no hurry. If it takes them 6 shaves to really dial in Sterling and it took me 3, who cares?

Hopefully this demystifies the process for some folks. I sure had fun doing it! And now I find myself wanting a martini with my morning shave! :c9:
 
Some soaps- Stirling especially doesn't get the hype and praise as some of the other artisans fancy soap bases...some may say Stirling soap is behind them in terms of performance- at one point i agreed, but i went back to it and found it lathered too easily which made a dry high structure lather. Adding more water fixed any performance issues i thought it had. Its a great soap for me, now, and i've settled into a regular rotation with Stirling in the mix.
 
Thank you for your tutorials both beginner and graduate. This is exactly what I've been looking to find. As a beginner there are SO MANY variables in equipment and technique. It seems a daunting task to achieve a good shave. I already realized that I need to hold some variables constant while I work on techniques of lathering and with the razor itself. This process should help me "zero in" on one end point which appears to be elusive. It is mostly fun and only a little frustrating at times.

Cheers!
Tom
 
I burnt through half a tub of Reserve till I figured it out. And even now I am not sure If I've actually figured it out.... :w00t:
 

JCarr

More Deep Thoughts than Jack Handy
Beautiful! This is how I lather...too much product up front with a little water...and add water...a little bit at a time until it's right. It really is foolproof. If you have too much water up front...you may get lucky and whip it into shape, but it might never materialize and you end up with a soupy unsatisfactory mess. Blooming helps with the initial brush load...enables you to get a lot of product on the brush.
 
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