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How to make perfect lather with any brush type*

With sincere hope that I'm adding some new content which might help someone to achieve "fool-proof" lather each and every time, here's my day-to-day routine (presented with available and used brushes).

My humble collection is now refined to three brushes, collected during the time and with no particular order. Just as were available and as my interest into shaving-equipment grew.

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Given grom left to right:
  1. NOM Pure Badger - bought couple years ago, for ~11 EUR. Lowest badger grade, but very good performer. Bit shaggy now, lost some hairs along the way, but still - nice softness, decent loft, nice handle, small investment for medium to above-average lathering.
  2. Semogue 2000 - after decade of using boar-brushes, decided to invest a bit in some premium quality boar. Cost me ~13 EUR, very nice, soft, broke after couple shaves, very rich and nice loft, dense, nicely packed, great handle, I'd say - no more brushes needed for me after this one.
  3. Razorock Silvertip BC synthetic - nice soft-tip plus great backbone brush. Although nice for face lathering, sees no issues for bowl lathering as well. Nice exfoliator and nice painter as well. Probably most product-saver of all, uses the least possible amount of soaps/creams to provide absolutelly the most lather of them all. My favorite for low beard growth and daily shaves when I don't need much scrubbing. Price - ~20 EUR I think, bought with some other stuff but def. the most expensive one of them all.
Now, for the sake of providing uniform feedback, I used same bowl and cream for each of them. I do mix in my routine various methods (face/bowl/cream/soap) but my point is on look of the lather and recognizing the right stage of the lather when it gives me the best results. Bowl itself is wortless indeed ~50 cents, nothing special and cream used is Proraso Red ~3 EUR. I used 1cm of cream for each tryout, as shown in image:

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So what can you get and expect from these low-investment gear?

1. NOM:

I did just a tap-wetting the bristles, shake off the bulk of water and started to mix. I did more "push to bottom" method to prevent cream overflowing and make sure it gets into the brush-loft. When it started to get a bit sticky the bristles formed a bit of a hole in loft.

Then I just did a quick swipe with the brush, underneath the thin running tap and continued. Needed to repeat couple of times, until I managed to achieve the final look - the loft shall look like a lightbulb, fully loaded with lather, without visible bubbles. Any lather on brush should not drip when brush is left standing. Also, when swirling in the bowl, the lather should be pushed to bottom and even used tips-tapping to bottom movement to make it whisked. With following look - I'd continue with face-lathering, without any other preparation besides tap-water face-splash. The images are colladed as start-middle-final look.


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2. Semogue:

As mentioned before, this brush was quite easy for breaking-in. Perhaps was even treated in production, or bristles were of higher quality and felt softer, so I see no real need to soak it for ages. 10-20 seconds in about 2cm of water, dipping it couple times, works best for me.

semogue.png


After that, process is just the same: 1cm of Proraso, same bowl, same lathering until I feel it kinda sticks and becomes pasty. I put cream on the bristles just to show look of the wet-bristles, or at least my interpretation of "wet". Hereby it can be seen that sticky and pasty shaving cream will make bristles split and left with hole inside the brush (oh my, how many poor shaves I did get when applying such cream back in the days...). Notice that boar brush absorbs more water and compared to badger - at same "mid-way" point it will be more fluffy and closer to final look, which is presented here:

IMG_20220428_114814.jpg


Although looks watery, when applied to face - it will thicken a bit, so don't hesitate to add more water at any given point as needed.

3. Razorock:

Synthetics are being known to poorly hold the water and when face-lathered they might splash lather around the bathroom. Not my experience so far, so might have something to do with the brush quality and this one is top-notch. I tip the brush in water, shake it off, so it's not too wet and basically looks similar to it's dry condition.

silvertip.png


I'd say that I'm not even trying to make full bowl of lather at all. I keep my lather in the brush and use bowl just for easier application. If needed I'd return excess of the lather from the brush back into a bowl, but won't bother to make large bowl-deposit of lather.

Finally, as honorable mention, for loading soaps - I use nothing different. I've presented hereby my "poorest" brush and my lowest price-point soap just to show how much soap I load into the brush:

IMG_20220428_115047.jpg


The surface of the soap will become pasty when it's ready and I need no more than just about 5-10mm of bristle tips to be soaped. After that, I'd repeat same process add water as needed until I reach final look:

IMG_20220428_115422.jpg



I guess what you're thinking - it's the cheapest soap and cheapest brush, right? Well, yes. And that is totaly fine, you don't need top-of-the-price-range products to make a wonderful lather and this thread is all about that - how to maximize your performance with what you have. Using higher in quality product might help you on the way, but as for the basics - nothing will ever replace technique and mastering what kind of lather works best for your face & beard type, and what method works best with equipment you've got.

In order to better understand the lathering, the function of soap, water, what makes some product better than others, I'll share this video I've found some time ago and I hope it will serve someone else as well:


Enjoy your shaves :shaving:
 
@dmshaver thank you for kind words. I've just wanted to share something back to B&B community, as many great posts helped me as well. Amazing how minor adjustments in daily routine can cause such improvement.

Although some better razors did helped me on reducing iritation and weepers, investment in brushes was a good step-up. My best shaves came from point when I reached my "gold standard" for lather consistency and soap-water ratio. Now I shave daily with any given razor and any given blade without any issues worth mentioning. And yes, obviously some tools just outperform others (you get what you paid for) but it shouldn't be a show-stopper to push your brush to it's limits. I strongly believe that any will provide good lathering when adjusted right.
 
I enjoyed your tutorial on lathering, I'm not the type to buy high end brushes and I enjoy just middle of the road brushes myself.
I enjoy mostly Yaqi and Razorock brushes and I found also when bowl lathering is soak the brush well and squeeze most of the water out and just add water as needed(6-12 droplets of water at a time by your hand or mister(atomizer)).
If the brush is to wet you will have to add more soap or work harder to make do with soap to water ratio.
I use synthetics, boar and badger brushes and have no issues as long as not to much water is not introduced, also I use a mister with distilled water some times and that is such a easy method to make nice lather also. Another way is just add water with your hand so not to over saturate the cream.
Looking at your photo's you get the paste to a cream and just add a little water and then stir and with in a minute or 2 you have a nice lather, I used to only synthetics when first making lather and then bought natural hair brushes and with in a week it did not matter what hair bristle I used I can crank out nice lather in 1-2 minutes also like you have shown.
Nice tutorial write up !
 
I enjoyed your tutorial on lathering, I'm not the type to buy high end brushes and I enjoy just middle of the road brushes myself.
I enjoy mostly Yaqi and Razorock brushes and I found also when bowl lathering is soak the brush well and squeeze most of the water out and just add water as needed(6-12 droplets of water at a time by your hand or mister(atomizer)).
If the brush is to wet you will have to add more soap or work harder to make do with soap to water ratio.
I use synthetics, boar and badger brushes and have no issues as long as not to much water is not introduced, also I use a mister with distilled water some times and that is such a easy method to make nice lather also. Another way is just add water with your hand so not to over saturate the cream.
Looking at your photo's you get the paste to a cream and just add a little water and then stir and with in a minute or 2 you have a nice lather, I used to only synthetics when first making lather and then bought natural hair brushes and with in a week it did not matter what hair bristle I used I can crank out nice lather in 1-2 minutes also like you have shown.
Nice tutorial write up !
Yup, indeed. Once you see and feel the "right" lather (for own skin, hair, razor type) it's much easier to get to final stage. I lacked boar soaking before or did overwetting, badger filled the gap and caused me to become less carefull. Synthetic was pure curriosity but ended up as great water-retentioner (perhaps the type of hair, material statics, knot density just holds it at ideal amount) so it's pretty much bullet-proof for myself. I'd use boar at least once per week for more scrubbing or with 3+ days of growth.
Your practice is quite refined must admit, agree totaly on starting damp and add water as needed, although now I just swipe the tips under the running tap and it's just enough. Wish I were methodical as you when starting, could save myself from lots of pain.
 
I started breaking in this guy, Shavemac Red Dragon. Knot: 30 mm, Loft: 58 mm.
The pics are from " just out of the box", and the last two are, the lather it produced and how its hair looked after first use.
First thought: It's a Lather Hog.
So, what to do?
First thing just start using it.
Second thing: as it has a fantastic backbone one can start using a hard soap to see how it behaves with the loading.
Third: use a generous loading and take your time. On the next shave one can decrease the amount of load until by attempt and error one learns the amount of stuff it really needs in the subsequent experiences. It's a learning curve.
Fourth: buying a dense huge knot It's like buying a Ferrari, one doesn't have to worry about the consumption of soap it makes. Soap is cheap.
Fifth: if it hogs one can squeeze with thumb and index the loft until it gives more lather.
By continuing the process of breaking in and discover the right amount of loading one will enjoying it very much in the future.
Wet Shaving it's all about trying and patience.
 

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I started breaking in this guy, Shavemac Red Dragon. Knot: 30 mm, Loft: 58 mm.
The pics are from " just out of the box", and the last two are, the lather it produced and how its hair looked after first use.
First thought: It's a Lather Hog.
So, what to do?
First thing just start using it.
Second thing: as it has a fantastic backbone one can start using a hard soap to see how it behaves with the loading.
Third: use a generous loading and take your time. On the next shave one can decrease the amount of load until by attempt and error one learns the amount of stuff it really needs in the subsequent experiences. It's a learning curve.
Fourth: buying a dense huge knot It's like buying a Ferrari, one doesn't have to worry about the consumption of soap it makes. Soap is cheap.
Fifth: if it hogs one can squeeze with thumb and index the loft until it gives more lather.
By continuing the process of breaking in and discover the right amount of loading one will enjoy it very much in the future.
Wet Shaving is all about trying and patience.
 
I usually say I suck at lathering, but to be more charitable to myself, its just the last part of the shaving equation that stands out for needing improvement. I have been getting better, incrementally, over time. I think part of the problem is just the variables... the type of brush, breaking in, water amount (for soaking brush, or adding to soap), pressure, even swirling/circling technique. And of course, as everything, YMMV. I really like this breakdown, because it details each step, and even if I don't follow it exactly, it gives me ideas and things to try.

I have discovered a big improvement with a firmer pressure. I was just being too delicate. Also, and I know there is a lot of variation on what people like, but I'm not a fan of smooshing straight in, I'm more of a swirl it around a bit more tilted to its side. I think I was being gentle on pressure because I didn't want to smoosh, rather than just changing brush angle.

I never get water amounts right, but I've at least realized this is a major part of my problem, and that I just have to keep experimenting to get the right feel. I've discovered that I really don't need to give either my badger or boar such a long soaking time. Sometimes I don't even 'soak' I just let water run over it half a minute or less.

Sometimes admitting defeat. I gave up on hard, triple milled type soaps awhile ago. I might try again at some point, but I just find soft soaps in tubs so much easier. I now own a badger, a boar, and a synth (minimalist here, recovering RAD, only can own what I use regualarly)... the boar and synth so fit the bill, that I'll likely PIF or auction off the badger. So, finding the right brush, and for me the synth is great for quick large area lather.

Thanks again for the thread and breakdown. It definitely helped confirm that too much water was one of my problems.
 
Seems that any new boar will consume lather until broken properly. My Semogue has this "false break" as it's so soft like straight out of the box but I see daily more and more split ends. Guess that is only due to natural hair feature of soaking water (and lather) as mine can soak like 30ml without dripping 🙁
I'm just using cheaper products for now and face-lather, I only need 1pass at 90% of cases so it's not a deal-breaker for me.
 
Seems that any new boar will consume lather until broken properly. My Semogue has this "false break" as it's so soft like straight out of the box but I see daily more and more split ends. Guess that is only due to natural hair feature of soaking water (and lather) as mine can soak like 30ml without dripping 🙁
I'm just using cheaper products for now and face-lather, I only need 1pass at 90% of cases so it's not a deal-breaker for me.
The split ends are what you want in a boar. You don't want to trim the ends, there was an unfortunate post here not long ago where somebody did just that. The amount of water it is absorbing is what keeps it from eating lather, that's why it needs to be soaked beforehand. They can be messy and drip water everywhere, but usually the lather stays put.
 
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