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


The Lather Maestro
@Hannah's Dad

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”

-George S. Patton


Even more clueless than you
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:
Well said! 👍


Remember to forget me!
Nice write up job, John. :thumbup1:

I too tend to start with soap first, and then add water later. However, my process differs from yours in a couple of ways.

Using synthetic brushes, I've found a way that works better for me, than dunking the brush. I dunk the soap! I keep a mug soap in one lidded pewter dish, and a small serving of a tub soap in another. I'm a sink filler, but also fill a mug with water for rinsing the razor in. That way the sink water stays stubble free for face rinsing, brush rinsing, etc. I scoop up some water in the pewter dish, and dump it back out again quickly. Literally, turn it upside down and then immediately back right side up. Some water remains on the soap, and some more runs down from the walls of the dish. This, for me, is the perfect amount of water to get the lather started, irrespective of brush size. I just get stuck in with a perfectly dry brush, and once there's a bit of drag (only a few seconds), I'm ready to face lather, and add water as needed. There's only a couple of specific occasions that I'll bother with a lather bowl (loading creams, or using slow lathering soaps). Even if I use a natural hair brush, I'll sometimes squeeze out the excess from the brush, and still dunk the soap. I depends on the products in question.

On the picture where you said the lather was too thin, my lather is actually probably nearer to that, than to the photograph afterwards. A lean lather works much better for me. That said, even then, sometimes I overhydrate, and end up getting the lather thinner than I desire. However, whereas you work it in the bowl or on the face till it thickens up, I take the lazy option and just leave it a while. With a lot of soaps, all that extra effort isn't actually needed, it really just takes a little extra time for the soap and water to do their thing. I don't make it happen, I just let it happen. Occasionally, I'll even walk out of the bathroom, and go and grab a coffee. I'm pretty much guaranteed to return to a much thicker lather.

I'm not saying these are categorically "better" for anyone else, but they do work better for me, and simplify my own process somewhat.
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.

View attachment 1324479

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!).

View attachment 1324480
View attachment 1324481

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

View attachment 1324483

And immediately take it to my face ugly mug.

My shave was hours ago, and this Martini seems to be evaporating on its own.


B&B's Man in Italy
You’re quickly becoming a favorite of mine here on B&B - keep doing what you’re doing, John! (Even though you are an Eagles fan)
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Dear Dan, John @JCinPA has been one of my best friends here on B&B for many years now, he is a truly special person. You Dan are one of B&B's most respected and knowledgeable Team Members and an outstanding Ambassador. It seems very natural to me that you and John get along extremely well, too.
Thanks to @JCinPA- these threads are wonderfully enjoyable! Start damp not dripping, put a little water on the puck, add some product, then add water slowly and a fine lather will be achieved. The threads nicely lay out the basic process I've used as well- for many, many years now.

And I'll testify that the process works on soaps reputed to be tough, whether it's the Fat or B&M Reserve, or for any soap that's new to you. Making some extra lather at first is part of the learning curve for me. Yes, more soap goes down the drain than needed, but the lathers always turn out pretty good, even on the first use of a new soap.

I do find the variation in a brush's ability to hold water and the size of the brush, both in relation to the soap container or bowl, if one is being used, play a strong factor as well. Most of my badger knots fall into the 20-24 mm size, with my most used boars being a little larger, 24-27 mm. Jumping from a small to a much large badger brush has thrown off my lathering, and I would suspect it might do so more for newbies. So I would suggest folks stay with similar brush sizes and types until they get the process @JCinPA lays out down well. Better yet, IMHO would be to use a single brush for a while, if learning.

As to small to mid-size badger brushes, my suggestion is to soak for a few minutes; I put my brush in a mug of hot water when I go into the shower each morning. The soak time is about the same each day; I'd guess about 5 or 6 minutes. Being almost bald, washing my hair doesn't take long at all :001_rolle .

So know thy brush, learn that soap, hydrate slowly and your lathers will reward you.


The Lather Maestro
I'm a knucklehead, I should have put the link to the original, Part 1 thread in the OP. Too late now.

Part 1 here

Alright, I have an update. I have put The Reserve to the test. Thank you again @JCinPA for getting me try again after more than a year.

Equipment: I am using a high quality lab scale, a bowl and my Wee Scot(due to the tiny amount of soap)
Normally I use distilled water, I used tap to put this to the worst test.

Procedure: I am measuring out a tiny amount of soap and smooshing it into the bowl. I started with a squeezed out brush. I add water, with everything on the scale, by drizzling carefully. I am taking time to integrate the water up to certain ratios. I am going until I break the lather. I am painting the lather on sections of my face and back of hand and allowing it to dry as I go.

Test: My water is extremely hard to the point that most artisan soaps are a waist of money, they lose their qualities that I am paying for. I started with some Kaizen. It never got creamy, had no residual slickness and eventually collapsed prematurely. This isn't my technique, this is to show what I am working with in terms of water. I waisted soap just to demonstrate how hard my water is. I spent about 15 minutes total, It's not worth going into.

Results: As for Reserve, I can confirm it is very hard water tolerant and produces excellent residual slickness. I introduced water extremely gradually up to 10:1. This is not stable for shaving as it is chalky on the skin after a few minutes and can't be rubbed without it flaking off. At just 12:1 and better at 15:1 we have stable lotion like residual slickness that can be moved around. Everything up to 30:1 is about the same. With more water I expect it would provide better initial slickness, but I didn't shave with it. I see no difference in density up to this ratio and no large bubbles forming. This could save somebody money by using less soap. Now from 30:1 to 50:1, we start getting into some difficulty. Large bubbles start forming, but can be tamped down with more agitation in the bowl. This is where I personally want my lather, super wet. It looks ruined when the water is added before agitation. Up to 75:1, we still have stringiness to the lather and it is still useable. This is really soupy and airy at the same time. You are running out of options because more agitation just adds more air. I wouldn't go there except for testing purposes to see what it looks like. This soap really does tell you when it's had enough water, even without the scale. It took fully 100:1 to get what I would call broken. It didn't collapse per-say, but it is entirely unsuitable for shaving. There just isn't any residual slickness and the creaminess is long gone. At this point, if you are adding water gradually, you have been at this more than 10 minutes. You should know to stop well before this point just based on time spent!

Bonus: I didn't mention above, but I used 0.2 grams of soap. If I had stopped at 50:1, I could have done at least a two pass shave. If a normal sized brush were used, I probably wouldn't be able to load less than .6 grams reliably without the scale. That would easily produce enough for 4 passes even at a thicker 30:1. I also wouldn't use tap water except under duress.


The Lather Maestro
Um. Cool! What was your conclusion? That seems a rather exhaustive test, and I'm not sure I'm getting the takeaways you want me to get. I think you are telling us this has a wide hydration window (is useable with a wide range of hydration, and does not shoot through the usability range quickly)?

You didn't shave with it. What was your sense of what you were feeling, do you think it would shave well? All I know is if I leave that small amount of water on the soap in the container it comes in (I've never removed soap to a bowl first in my life, unless it was a sample, always loading from the container the soap comes in), dry my silvertip brush, load for about 50 swirls, take that to the bowl to even out and then to my face, dipping the tips in water and lathering for about a minute and a half, I get an outstanding shave.

I don't know how you feel about it after reading that. Good, bad? ready to try shaving with it again? Where does it leave you?
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.
Good write up John with all those great pictures, Seeing is believing and tells a lot more sometimes than a lot of words. Nice Martini to finish your shave I also noticed.
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