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Making Lather From a Soap: Some Perspectives

ackvil

Moderator
Many new shavers have used canned shaving creams and when they start off doing traditional wet shaving they are shocked that their lather looks nothing like what comes out of a can. They immediately think something is wrong with their lather since it is not as fluffy as what they used in the past. The goop that comes out of can may look nice but it does not have anywhere the lubricating qualities of what you can make for yourself. Plus, many new shavers see photos of what some of the folks on this site put up and they see mounds of lather and wonder why doesn't my lather look like that. Again, these photos are more for show than for what you use to shave with. Sort of reminds me of some soup commercials years ago. The bowl of soup looked like it was chuck full of meat and vegetables. When I opened the can of soup and dumped it into a pan I wondered what happened to the meat and vegetables. I learned later that the photographer put marbles in the bowl and then dumped the contents of the can on top resulting in a photograph showing the soup was full of meat and vegetables.

Another issue that comes up is the idea that there is only one way to make lather from a soap. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are a number of different techniques that can be used. One excellent technique was demonstrated by Jim and can be found here. Jim used a brush more on the dry side and added water to the soap gradually.

Another way to make superb lather was demonstrated by my friend Marco. It can be found here. Marco uses a wet brush to make lather and face lathers.

I have adopted a modification of Marco's method and I use it to bowl lather. The purpose of this post is to demonstrate how whipping the soap up changes its consistency and what at first looks like thin lather turns out to be rich, thick lather.

First, I take a brush and soak in in my scuttle for a few minutes. The purpose of wetting the brush is to soften the bristles.

Next, I shake the brush gently just once. I do not wring out the brush as Jim does. I then take a wet brush and twirl it around the soap. In the following photos I am using my favorite soap, McD, and the 2012 B&B LE brush with a Shavemac knot.

I twirl the brush around the soap puck for less than a minute. Since the brush is wet the soap appears foamy and thin at first. This is what the soap mixture looks like at first.

$step 1.jpg

The amount of soap on the brush does not appear to be very much at first blush.


$step 2.jpg

Next comes the important part. I use my brush similar to how I use a whisk to beat eggs. I twirl the brush rapidly in various directions for at least two minutes.

$step 3.jpg

After a few minutes the soap changes. What was foam is replaced by a rich, lubricating lather.

$step 4.jpg

This is what the lather looks like after whipping it up for a few minutes. I shaved with this lather today and got a wonderful shave with it.

$step 5.jpg

(to be continued).
 

ackvil

Moderator
(Continued)

The result was this is what I shaved with. $step 7.jpg

As I said previously, there is more than one way to make a decent lather.

I would love to hear from other folks what variations they have.

Happy Shaving!
 

Mike H

Instagram Famous
Moderator Emeritus
Excellent Post!

I like a dryer brush, mixing on top of the soap until the brush is fully coated with a paste/yogert like consistency. I dip the tips of the brush into the water and then build lather on my face. I add more water by dipping the tips of the brush in water as necessary.
 
I have to admit that I have been unable to get a decent lather by trying to load the brush and then create a lather, either in a bowl or on my face. What does work for me is to have the soap in a mug, soak my brush for ten to fifteen minutes, and then start whipping up the lather in the mug with the wet brush. After two or three minutes I have a very nice lather that gives me a nice shave.
 
Excellent Post!

I like a dryer brush, mixing on top of the soap until the brush is fully coated with a paste/yogert like consistency. I dip the tips of the brush into the water and then build lather on my face. I add more water by dipping the tips of the brush in water as necessary.
This is how I like to do things as well
 
Jim:
Excellent post and certainly 'dispells' many myths on how to build a lather. I happen to use VDH Deluxe and like Marco (likewise...excellent post), I also face lather, but sometimes I use my Becker scuttle in lather making after loading my brush (I wonder if a enterprising member posted a 'How to make lather in a Scuttle" thread?). :thumbsup:
Did you happen per chance add your post to Jim's 'Info Post' sticky in the Newbi subforum?


“Laughter is the [shaving lather]...brush that sweeps away the cobwebs of your heart”. Mort Walker
 
Excellent post. To show how different approaches may work with different soaps, I recently returned from a trip and suddenly could no longer make decent lather with MWF or Pre de Provence--which I previously thought I had mastered. Some late-night experimenting revealed that--for me, using an HJM synthetic brush and with fairly hard water--the drier brush approach (squeeze, then shake) with two full minutes of loading does the trick for MWF, while the wetter brush approach (four shakes, as the HJM brush retains lots of water) with two full minutes of loading works great for PdP. So, two contrasting approaches to obtain excellent (moist, rich, dense, and slick, but not voluminous) lather.
 
Great post Jim !! I find I get the best shave from a wet yogurt like lather as well. I use Marco's method with a very wet brush and the combination of alot of soap with alot of water for glide of the razor results in a truly awesome shave ..
 
Excellent post about building quality lather. I've found that my approach often depends on the type of soap. For instance, MWF seems "thirstier" than other soaps, so I use a wetter brush. Mystic Water soaps, on the other hand, are very particular about how much water can be used and require much less water for a great lather. That's why practice makes perfect!
 
I have some Coate's Tea Tree and Rosemary soap and on the box they have very detailed instructions on how to use their product. They recommend face-lathering for 3 minutes. Yes, that is a very long time to lather (whether on your face or in a bowl), and the results are an amazing lather that renders your whiskers abjectly defenseless.
 
great post good for the newbies to get a good idea how to develop a good lather.but everyone has their own style just like everyone has their own technique.i mean there really is not a right or wrong way,its whatever works best for you.yes a good quality soap or cream,does play a significant role in a decent shave,but i believe a good razor and blade combo is just as important,along with proper prep.i myself like a partially wet brush,but for me i have found if i need the right amount of water on my soap, i dip my fingers in my water and flick drops on my soap to get what im looking for.again this is not rocket science,its whatever you prefer to do.but still a good post for anyone who has never used this style of shaving but wanting too...
 
Excellent Post!

I like a dryer brush, mixing on top of the soap until the brush is fully coated with a paste/yogert like consistency. I dip the tips of the brush into the water and then build lather on my face. I add more water by dipping the tips of the brush in water as necessary.
This. My method in general for all my soaps -- even the dreaded Williams!
 
So much of lathering is about finding the product that works for you. Once I discovered razorock and especially once I begun using Arko, I had a fantastic lather in about 15 seconds. I think there are so many soaps out there a lot of first timers don't know where to start. It's easy to go with what smells great and is flashy... form over function.

I also experimented with various things. Ultimately, I found that a thin lather works just fine. I don't need grand, foamy peaks on my brush. I don't need my brush to stand straight up in the bowl, either.
 
I use a lot of Artisan soaps made locally. I'm going to try this method with those soaps.

For brand name soaps, I've tried the Marco method and it works great for me.
 
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