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Grim’s Reaping What I Sow

I know nothing about shave creams or shaving soaps. I have no idea how they are made or their ingredients and frankly, I am not interested in learning. I am a consumer interested in the final product and that final product is a smooth shave. During the process of achieving that, I want the process to be pleasant smelling and not a chore.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never made a lather from shaving cream. I am seeking what the best shaving cream or soap is for me. This might be entirely different than what is good for you. I am not one to just buy one product and stick with it, good or bad. Life is too short to be boring. I am willing to try most things once. So I am buying a group of samples. To give back to the community, I will provide my findings on my journey to find the ideal cream or soap for me. I am looking for something with a scent I like that lasts the length of the shave with a resulting baby smooth face.

I am sure everything I am about to experience has been done before and reviewed to death before by someone. I’ve read so many reviews that my brain is stirred mush from reading. But all the reviews in the world mean little to me if we have a difference in values. What is expensive to me might not be expensive to you. A scent I find pleasing might be abhorrent to you. While the more people that find a product good might indicate a trend, there is no substitute for first hand experience.

I’ve read many reviews and see they all score things on more or less the same scale and set of attributes. I will use a scale to 100 but I look at things holistically, not by individual attributes. It’s the final experience that matters to me, not any one attribute. For example, fancy packaging means nothing to me. I have eaten some of the best food at restaurants that were not fancy. Sure money matters but important to me is scent. I want to smell the cream or soap during the shave, not just when opening the tub. And, it has to be a scent I like, which might not be what anyone else likes. Why the emphasis on scent? Because memories comes from scents and most of those memories are childhood ones. Of course the final result is important and cannot be ignored. If I do not like a product, it might be someone elses #1 pick (YMMV). And that is OK. If we were all the same, life would be boring. And just because I did not like a product in no way implies that it is a good or bad product. It only means that it is my opinion.

I also want to make this journey in a consistent manner, using the same process/technique for each cream or soap using the same tools. For example, if I buy a new brush, I don’t want that to influence my findings so it will not be used in my journey. I am going to start with creams. My technique is simple.

1. Fill the bowl with hot water from the tap and let it stand.
2. Place the brush in the bowl to absorb the water.
3. After a few minutes, squeeze out the water from the brush and give it a few shakes.
4. Throw the hot water out of the bowl but I do not dry it letting any remain water stay.
5. Place a tiny blob of cream in the bowl. I’m not picky about the size but try to be consistent and really don’t care if I am wasting any. It’s shaving cream, not gold. I keep reading “size of an almond”. So I use that as a starting point.
6. Quickly swirl the brush in the bowl to create a lather. If I think it needs more water, I dribble a few drops in from my fingertips after running them under hot water.

Here is an example of the final product. The shaving cream was The Art Of Shaving, Lavender. I don’t own an expensive shaving brush, only a relatively cheap and small Edwin Jagger.


Is this the best technique? I have no idea but it is what I am using. I’m probably not even doing it right but it seems to work and if my process is identical each time, then it should be reproducible. Each sample I have bought with my money and formed my own opinions. Yours might or might not be the same, and that’s OK. It’s all good. If I get some term wrong or do not describe things in a standardized way used in the industry or in other reviews on this forum or elsewhere, I’ll learn as I go along.

In the end I hope to find the right 2 or 3 soaps and/or creams that I will be willing to buy in tubs. Then I will be a happy man. But for now, my journey begins. It will take however long it takes.

All comments, advice, constructive criticism, or just laughs are welcome. Feel free to tell me what I am doing wrong because I am totally new to all of this and I am sure I am making mistakes. This is how I learn. Don’t feel insulted if I don’t like what you love. Our tastes might be entirely different.

After opening each sample, I intend to actually use the sample before moving on to the next. I’m also not going to throw them away. After all, money is money. The process will take however long it takes. Although some samples say they are good for 3 – 5 shaves, I have found that three is about right for me.
Sandalwood – D.R. Harris

I have decided to start my journey testing Sandalwoods. Many manufacturers sell this scent and it seems to have a dominant place in the industry. This seems to be a logical place to begin. The sandalwood scent has never impressed me. It’s not an “in your face” scent. It has always been just sort of there, as in existing, not popping. My first sample is from D.R. Harris.


My first impression was that this was a decently strong scent. I had to dribble a little bit of extra water to create a lather as it seemed a bit dense. As soon as I started to shave, the scent disappeared. The lather was not particularly slick. However, the end result was excellent. I have to start somewhere and I can’t rate the first product I try at 100 so I will begin rating this a 76. This will be my standard for now and if I have to adjust ratings, I will.
I think you will find that not only are the members of this forum in disagreement over which soap/cream is best, but also that the best techniques are also up for debate. In reading you have certainly come across the saying YMMV. The power of a forum like this is that it is a sounding board for ideas that may or may not improve your shave. There really is no short cut you need to read, and try the ideas and products you think might improve your shaving experience.

For instance I shave with cold water and prefer it to shaving with hot water I think it leaves my hairs less floppy and I believe that it makes the razor cut better. I have also heard that the cold keeps the blood away from the outer layers of skin effectively tightening my skin by contacting the blood vessels there.
I think you will find that not only are the members of this forum in disagreement over which soap/cream is best, but also that the best techniques are also up for debate. In reading you have certainly come across the saying YMMV. The power of a forum like this is that it is a sounding board for ideas that may or may not improve your shave. There really is no short cut you need to read, and try the ideas and products you think might improve your shaving experience.

I agree with everything you said. :001_smile YMMV is why I said things like:

- all the reviews in the world mean little to me if we have a difference in values.
What is expensive to me might not be expensive to you
A scent I find pleasing might be abhorrent to you.
just because I did not like a product in no way implies that it is a good or bad product. It only means that it is my opinion.

In reading reviews, one can see trends. If many reviewers like a product, any products, then its popular for some reason, although it might be a reason relevant to you.

I need to keep an open mind and not be swayed by confirmation biases. I "think" I know the scents I like but most of those scents are from childhood. For example, Bay Rum just reminds me of cheap aftershave from decades ago. I don't know if anything has changed over the years. The idea of "Rose" Shaving Cream sounds a bit strange. But the one confirmation bias I am truly afraid of is the old saying "You get what you pay for". It's natural to expect that the more one pays for any product, the more superior it will be, within the Law of Diminishing Returns. I hope that really isn't true here. I'd like to see the cheapest of products being the best for me!
Sandalwood – Taylor of Old Bond Street.

This is my sample of Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood. It sort of looks like any white cream. The scent is not as strong as the D.R. Harris. It took a little bit of time to get a good lather but once it happened, the lather thickened nicely. The differences are very small between this and the prior Sandalwood. I rate this shaving cream at 72. These differences are minute and maybe probably within the probability of error between qualities of the samples.

Sandalwood – Geo. F. Thumper

This is GFT Sandalwood. (I’m learning the abbreviations!)


The scent was understated. I barely felt there was anything there. It was subtle, maybe sublime, but had a presence. Creating a lather was simple taking little effort and requiring no extra water. The lather itself was superb, the best of the samples so far. Afterwards, even after being cleaned, it left the brush smelling wonderful. I rate GFT Sandalwood just the same as D.R. Harris, 76. The GFT had better lather but the D.R Harris smelled better. They both made for an excellent shave.

Sandalwoods are growing on me. I never thought I would like them and was perhaps somewhat biased but as I used them over the days, I acquired a liking to them.
Any thoughts about treating this, instead of a round-robin of a couple dabbles here and there, but as a 3017 exercise that would force you to use the product until you either hate it (and toss it) or fall into a good & steady rhythm with it. It really forces you to find that sweet spot for it to work well for you.
Any thoughts about treating this, instead of a round-robin of a couple dabbles here and there, but as a 3017 exercise that would force you to use the product until you either hate it (and toss it) or fall into a good & steady rhythm with it. It really forces you to find that sweet spot for it to work well for you.

OK, I gotta admit I had not idea what "3017" meant so I looked it up and it started around 2010 as a joke? Ahh, not going to happen. These are samples, not full jars (except for a few small cheap tubes I picked up) and Life is Way To Short to use it until its used up. My goal is to find the top 3 - 5 products I like and use just them.

But its an interesting concept but I feel kind of bad for jonniegold? http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php/128392-My-Guess-3017?p=1785219#post1785219? I figure life is just to short to waste a single day longer than needed with something you don't like.

But thanks for the thought, interesting, but not for me.

Indian Sandalwood - Cyril R. Salter

This is my sample of Cyril R. Salter Indian Sandalwood.


The consistency of the cream was not uniform. The cream is medium brown with darker flecks of brown in the cream. This was not so much a cream as a gritty paste. Making a lather was far more difficult than the other Sandalwoods. It was a chore requiring far more water and taking maybe 3 to 4 times longer. The scent became more evident during lathering but was a dark, musky scent reminiscent of rotting wood. This is the sandalwood scent that comes to my mind rather than the fresh and light scents from D.R. Harris or GFT. Shaving became a tedious task as the lather would dry out on my face and I would have to re-lather. My face would dry out and the lather was not remotely slick. In the end, the shave was smooth and the lather did a good job. However, the smell, the work put into creating the lather, the dryness, and just the overall experience was lacking.

So far with samples, the advertising is that they usually get 3 – 5 shaves. My experience is that I get three. For this sample I could only get two. On my second attempt, it was worse than the first. While making the lather, halfway through shaving, I found lumps of paste that had not dissolved into lather. This could be a problem with my process. It could be my mistake. But the problem is, in the end I want things to be simple, and not a chore. It could be my lack of skill but to me, this sample failed for me.

Over time, I have begun to enjoy my shaving process. I enjoy the pre-shave routine, the smell of GFT’s Lime Skin Food and the warmth of a hot towel on the face. I even enjoy making lather. The best analogy I can think of is imagine you pack the kids in the SUV and head to Grandma’s house for Sunday dinner. The traffic is miserable. It takes twice as long to get their as normal. And then it starts to unexpectedly snow. In the end dinner is fine but the trip to the end was miserable. On the other hand, you could have driven in a nice sports car, top down, a sunny day over twisty mountain roads with no traffic, and in the end, dinner would have been the same.

This was the same thing. I wanted my morning shave routine back. For two days I felt like I had wasted my time when I could have been using something I would have enjoyed more. I judge this shaving cream failing me, or I failed it, and rate it 30. It produced a good shave, but I was miserable getting there. YMMV.

Indian Sandalwood - Crabtree & Evelyn

C&E sells their shaving cream in their stores. One size available is a small 1.8 oz tube. This product is cheap enough that it is practical to just buy the small tube and use the product as needed. Here is my small tube of C&E Indian Sandalwood.


The texture of this product was the opposite of the CRS Indian Sandalwood. The scent was the same, a dark, musky rotten wood scent but the product was thin and runny. Making a good lather took just as long, that is, several minutes. The lather did not explode like the British creams. While shaving it quickly dried out to the point I had to re-lather while shaving one side of my face. To make it worse, unlike the British creams, it took twice as much product to generate the same amount of lather. Further, the blade did not glide well.

I rate this product 32, a bit higher than the CRS Indian Sandalwood. In the end, I did get a close shave, but the difficulty getting there was like the snowstorm on the ride to Grandma’s house turned into a Blizzard.

Sandalwood – Proraso

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this shaving cream. The Proraso brand is well known in the shaving community and respected. Apparently it is used by many and revered. My question was why? Was it because it cost little in comparison to the higher priced shaving creams? This version is the red box in Sandalwood scent.


Given its about the lowest cost shaving cream, outside of those sold in supermarkets, I’m not sure if I had high expectations or low expectations. In any case, I was eager to try this shaving cream. In honor of using Proraso, I use the Proraso Green pre-shave instead of my usual GFT Lime Skin Food.


Like the C&E Indian Sandalwood, I squeezed from the tube and put a bit more of the product into the bowl than I would the British samples. It needed it. The cream looked runny. There was little, if any, discernable scent. Whipping up the lather took time and water, a lot of time. In the end, a decent lather was created but I wondered if it was worth the effort. During shaving, I felt the lather was neither particularly protective nor slick. The scent was the same dark, musky scent of the Indian Sandalwoods, one I do not particularly enjoy, and the lather tended to dry out and needed to be reapplied periodically. For me, I rate Proraso Sandalwood 34.

However, this product deserves special consideration. I understand the appeal of the brand. While I am not factoring in cost into my analysis, sometimes it’s difficult to ignore it. In terms of practicality, this product is dirt cheap compared to some of the other shaving cream products. They are just about give Proraso away. The product works, you can get a close shave, it just takes some work.

The best analogy I can come up with, and this is a compliment, is that Proraso reminds me of a Toyota Corolla. It is, relatively speaking, cheap, economical, gets you to your final goal, and I will assume it is reliable, that is, it will do so forever given its longevity on the market. It’s never going to be as fast as a Ferrari, but it will do in a pinch and always be there. And for this reason, the financial consideration, despite the fact I feel it is not on par with some other products, makes it a product that cannot be ignored.

If C.O. Bigelow is a Proraso clone, and I do not know that for a fact other than C.O. Bigelow is advertised as being made by Proraso, which does not mean it is identical, then C.O. Bigelow can be found as low as ~$1.50/oz. At this time, one company is running a “buy two get one free sale” and certainly there must be coupons available. It’s easy to see why Proraso is popular. It’s cheap and it works, but for me, it might not be “the best”. I rate it slightly higher than the CRS and C&E Indian Sandalwoods in that it was slightly easier to get a good lather and the scent was so faint as to be not noticeable, and therefore not as offensive to me.
I want to revisit Proraso's soap but my memory of it was similar. It'll get the job done just fine and isn't miserable doing so. But it's no Arko or Tabac.
Sandalwood - Art of Shaving

Art of Shaving (AOS) stores are stunning reminding me of a Las Vegas store. Its packaging and displays are beautiful. Here is the small tube I bought.


Unfortunately, the product left something to be desired for me. If AOS Sandalwood had any scent, I could not detect it, not the slightest note. It took a fair amount of product to produce a lather and quite some time, just as much as the Proraso and C&E.

While shaving, the lather in the bowl started to fall apart. Between passes I had to whip up the contents to create some body. But the worst thing to me with how artificial the product looks. It was “too” white and glossy looking. Now that might be a bias on my part as perhaps my expectations from a glitzy store, but the best explanation I can think of is that it looked “plastic”. It was not the velvet smooth texture I have seen in other lathers. In other words, it appeared that the lather was "enhanced" in some way to make it look artificial in a way a modern shopper might expect from a beautiful, modern store.

I did not enjoy this shave. Although the shave was close I’ve had better. The AOS stores are pretty. Their advertising and marketing is slick. But AOS Sandalwood will not be on my shopping list. I rate this product 33.
Mysore Sandalwood – Queen Charlotte Soaps

I discovered that QCS Sandalwood is more a croap, a combination of cream and soap, than a true shaving cream. It was a thick paste much like the CRS Sandalwood, but mixed much better. It was difficult to lather taking much longer than the creams and taking much more water, which makes sense as a croap.


Upon opening the sample I detected virtually no scent. Upon lathering a faint, dark peanut butter scent appeared. It wasn’t as dark or musty, like the Proraso or CRS paste which were more like rotting wood in a wet forest to me. It was more like peanut butter. Smelling peanut butter in the early morning was not appealing to me.

The shaving experience was lacking. The lather fell apart about midway through the second pass requiring me to whip it up several times to generate more lather. This easily could be because of my inexperience in creating lather from soap like material and I can believe I am at fault. But that is not really relevant to my experience. It simply took far too much work compared to the Big Three T shaving creams.

There was only enough croap left for one more shave. I smeared the remainder in the bottom of my scuttle. It took quite a bit of water compared to what I was used to. Using it this way, as the scuttle was warm, allowed the scent to bloom more. By the start of the second pass the lather was falling apart again so I ended up lathering on my face. I was getting inpatient. I don't like face lathering and this made the scent bloom more under my nose resulting in the smell of a dark peanut butter. Sandalwood scent is not for me. Given the peanut butter scent, the more work it took to get things together, and just the overall experience, for me (and its possibly my techniques are lacking), I rate this sample 33. YMMV.
Thanks for the focus on Sandalwoods; I like them and often use Rani Sandalwood "normal" soap (Sri Lanka) in the shower.

Sandalwood – Edwin Jagger

This is my sample of Edwin Jagger Sandalwood shaving cream.


There was barely any scent but the scent that was present was the light, airy scent similar to TOBS and GFT. This product was fairly easy to lather but required attention to the amount of water added. Per Edwin Jagger, this is Santalum Album from Indonesia.

During shaving the lather seemed protective but was not slick. The razor did not glide. In fact, the lather dried out on my face and on my hands, not to the degree of the Indian Sandalwoods but it still dried out. The shave was as good as the Indian Sandalwoods in being acceptable, but the overall experience was lacking

Until now I have been trying to get the most shaves I can from each sample, usually three. However, depending upon the source of the samples, the sizes are different. As I have now found shaving creams I do not enjoy and I have so many to try, I am trying to ensure I get two shaves per sample. One isn’t enough for a fair assessment and for that one I follow the procedure outlined at the beginning. But for the second shave, I am starting to use my scuttle. Warm lather is so much better than cold lather.

For my second Edwin Jagger Sandalwood shave I used the scuttle. If possible, this experience was worse. The final shave was still close but the experience was lacking. The lather took a fair amount of work to generate, I detected no scent whatsoever, and the lather would dry out in the scuttle between passes. While cleaning up, I was washing out the scuttle and quickly saw that the lather had actually caked. I stopped cleaning it out, grabbed my camera, and shot this.


While the final shave was a good one, the experience to get there was a poor one. I was going to rate this product higher than CRS Sandalwood because the scent to me was better. But the shaving cream drying up into a cake type substance in such a short time pushed me into rating it 29.

I guess I’m in a batting slump. It happens.
I always treat a slump with a Tabac shave.

And I intend to take a break. I am sick of Sandalwoods and need a break. And since its the Holiday season, I am going to take a break from them and move on to what I consider some Holiday scents. I'll then come back to the Sandalwoods after the Holidays.

In the meantime, I needed to shave the second time in one day. It was just a touch up and trim. My current sample, the one I was working on, was done and I didn’t want to start another. What will I do? I have tubes of Proraso Red and AOS Sandalwood along with a very small tube of C&E Indian Sandalwood. Unfortunately, I dislike all of them.


So my first thought is to go with the C&E. The tube is small. It takes more product to generate sufficient lather than the British products, and the scent, although still that of a dark, damp rotting wood, was at least faint. Then I thought the Proraso tube is huge and basically they give Proraso away free. Its dirt cheap and can be easily ordered. Last I thought the AOS Sandalwood has about no scent, which is much better than the other two rotten wood smelling Sandalwoods, but not cheap and easily replaceable as a store is nearby. However, the chances that I buy another AOS Sandalwood are zero so that is a non-issue. So I decided to go with the C&E Indian Sandalwood. My reasoning was simple. It’s the smallest tube and just clutter. I hate to waste product so its just better to use the product and the more I use quickly, the quicker I can move on to better things. And so I did my quick and dirty shave. I used a bit of Proraso pre-shave, whipped up a big batch of lather, and set out to clean up my face.

Big mistake. I should have read my own notes: “the blade did not glide well”. I think it’s a mistake to shave twice in a day anyway. Within a few minutes certain areas of my face were pretty raw. So I cleaned up, got out the alum block, splashed on some aftershave, and learned a valuable lesson, well two lessons.

1. Read my own notes.
2. Life is too short to use products I rate poorly.

Now I just got to remember that lesson. And I gave away the C&E.
I am burnt out going through Sandalwoods and I have more to go through :crazy:. So I am taking a break and celebrating the Holidays with Holiday Scents, or at least scents that remind me of this time of year. :santa:


I’m going to reiterate the purpose of going through all kinds of samples. I am looking for what works for me, which might not be what works for anyone else, and the scents I like might be totally different than anyone else. They are my opinion. I could have got a bad sample. I might have no clue to what I am doing, but in the end, I know what I like. On the surface, I don’t look at costs. Sometimes, its unavoidable and surely the Law of Diminishing Returns will come into play somewhere. So with that, it’s off to the Holiday Scents. I will return to Sandalwoods later. First up – Peppermint and Rosemary by Simpson.

Peppermint and Rosemary - Simpsons

To me, peppermint is a Holiday scent. Peppermint and Rosemary is an interesting combination. I don’t know how anyone came up with combining these two herbs, one that is normally used, in my experience, on steaks. Upon opening the sample container, the scent of peppermint was strong. Look carefully. See the green separating out? From my very limited experience, any separation in a cream is not a good sign.


Whipping up the lather, the scent of rosemary came through. Through the entire shave, the more predominate scent of peppermint, although fading some what, remained the entire time.

Making the lather took a bit extra work, as this cream required additional water. The slickness was not there and the shaving cream was drying. Half of my face would be drying out while working on the other side. Looking closely at the sample, it appeared to be drying out. Interestingly enough, the lather in the bowl remained moist. By the end of my shave, my neck was so irritated it required an aftershave balm rather than a splash. I do not believe this combination of scents worked for me. Due to the irritation I rate this sample 20. The slump continues. This is getting old. :o10:
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