05-24-2012, 06:37 PM
#1
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A recent thread and conversation about lathering the same soap with opposing results got me contemplating the variables & techniques involved in making lather. Unless I'm missing something completely (which is very possible) there aren't that many factors involved here.

I can think of 3 components that we must manipulate to make a quality lather. YMMV comes in here as we all prefer slightly different qualities to our lather. The 3 things we use to make our lather are:
1. Soap/Cream
2. Water
3. Air
The ratio of these 3 are what we manipulate in an effort to get the lather we want.

So how do you prefer to utilize these 3 mandatory ingredients? Add air early and often to have large bubbles that your work into volumes of fluffy cloud-like lather? Avoid air bubbles at all costs? Lots of water in your brush ala Don Marco himself, or just a damp brush & add water little by little.

What type of lather do you like? Thin & wet; dense & wet; thin & airy; thick puffy clouds; dense creamy yogurt? What techniques do you use to get the result you like?

I hope by sharing how we lather to attain certain characteristics that we can reverse engineer any problems we may be having with a soap so that we can optimize its performance as quickly as possible.

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 05-24-2012, 06:42 PM
#2
  • uncledave
  • Returned to DE Shaving After 40 years
  • Kentucky, USA
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(05-24-2012, 06:37 PM)SharpSpine Wrote: A recent thread and conversation about lathering the same soap with opposing results got me contemplating the variables & techniques involved in making lather. Unless I'm missing something completely (which is very possible) there aren't that many factors involved here.

I can think of 3 components that we must manipulate to make a quality lather. YMMV comes in here as we all prefer slightly different qualities to our lather. The 3 things we use to make our lather are:
1. Soap/Cream
2. Water
3. Air
The ratio of these 3 are what we manipulate in an effort to get the lather we want.

So how do you prefer to utilize these 3 mandatory ingredients? Add air early and often to have large bubbles that your work into volumes of fluffy cloud-like lather? Avoid air bubbles at all costs? Lots of water in your brush ala Don Marco himself, or just a damp brush & add water little by little.

What type of lather do you like? Thin & wet; dense & wet; thin & airy; thick puffy clouds; dense creamy yogurt? What techniques do you use to get the result you like?

I hope by sharing how we lather to attain certain characteristics that we can reverse engineer any problems we may be having with a soap so that we can optimize its performance as quickly as possible.

I'm a newbie but I like to mix the lather until it looks like beaten egg whites, only not so stiff. I don't like large air bubbles in it.

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 05-24-2012, 07:02 PM
#3
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For me it can vary with the product being used, but usually I just soak the brush first, shake out excess water, and load with soap or cream. I then slowly and gradually add water to get to the lather consistency I want. And I think another variable to consider in this discussion is the texture and temperature of the bowl or scuttle, if one if using such an implement. What works best for me for most soaps or creams is a warm but not hot container that has some roughness (pattern or ridges) against which the brush tips can work.

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 05-24-2012, 07:08 PM
#4
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I face lather and start off with a relatively dry brush and dip the tips as I go. I like the lather to be like yogurt with a high sheen shine to it. That's when I know I have the right water/soap mix.

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 05-24-2012, 08:07 PM
#5
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Biggrin

Good topic.

Well, it all depends...

I can almost wave my brush over the soap and get lather, my water is that soft, so take that into account. That does cause problems too since I don't need the amount of soap that others with hard soap require. If I lather too little my lather can fall flat with just "one more" dip of the brush tips.

With P.160 and the highly fatted soaps I like to load my brush for much longer than is necessary, then hydrate it fully, but not so much as to get the pint of lather that that quantity of soap could normally make. This makes for an ultra dense lather that is as slick as snot and with super cushion. With lather such as that it's extremely difficult to feel the blade, and after the shave the skin is left very soft. It's that sort of ultra dense lather that I gauge all other soaps by. This lather is almost irridescent.

Lather such as that uses more soap, but that isn't an everyday lather, that's just a once in awhile lather IMO. Part of the rotation. But it can be made whenever one wants with the right soap. The right soap makes it easy.

With soaps that aren't as highly fatted I just like to make a dense lather and be done with it- no big bubbles and no thin lather. I don't bother trying to get the almost cold cream like lather consistency of the soaps that P.160 can easily achieve. This is still a high quality lather though, with good cushion, density, and slickness. This lather can be irridescent with those ultra small invisible "bubbles", but not always.

I always load a damp brush to make a sort of paste, not a brush load of bubbles. Then I add water by dipping the brush tips in the basin of water and I take my time to build the lather on my face. That preps the whiskers for their removal at the same time I'm building lather. I'm in no hurry since the prep makes the shave so much more pleasant. Heck, lather making is just too enjoyable to rush it anyway.

Only once have I had razor burn and on that day I used lather that I knew was thin, but was absolutely certain of my invincibility. Wrong!

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 05-24-2012, 08:20 PM
#6
  • freddy
  • Senior Member
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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I never think about it. I just build up lather until I get the consistency I want. I don't consider specific ratios but do add water as needed.

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 05-24-2012, 09:47 PM
#7
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(05-24-2012, 07:08 PM)CyanideMetal Wrote: I face lather and start off with a relatively dry brush and dip the tips as I go. I like the lather to be like yogurt with a high sheen shine to it. That's when I know I have the right water/soap mix.

Just as Randy described. It does not take long to build and i can do it by "paintbrush style". i find this method extremely efficient, economical, and less damaging on the bristles. Just works for me.

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 05-25-2012, 03:52 AM
#8
  • ben74
  • Administrator
  • Perth, Australia
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I tend to "paint" too and without much thought...

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 05-25-2012, 05:05 AM
#9
  • wlmcad
  • Senior Member
  • Memphis, TN
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(05-24-2012, 08:20 PM)freddy Wrote: I never think about it. I just build up lather until I get the consistency I want. I don't consider specific ratios but do add water as needed.

Although I consider myself still a newbie. I don't over-think lather making I just do it. I like a lather that has the consistency of beaten egg whites, soft peaks that stand up on my brush. I've also starting combining soaps & creams when making my lather. I start applying the lather to my face in a circular motion but finish off paint brush style like Ben.

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 05-25-2012, 05:08 AM
#10
  • Songwind
  • Soap Slinger & Scuttle Pusher
  • Burnsville, MN
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I like to start with a relatively wet brush. Exact amounts depend on the brush and soap, but when I try to start with a fairly dry brush my bristles seem to clump together and I can't get them working right afterward - especially if I try to face lather.

I like my lather dense and slick. Meringue lather is great for lather shots, and I'm sure it's great for some guys' shaves, but not for mine. My best lathers have a bit of body. The best comparison I can make is hand-made whipped cream.

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 05-25-2012, 05:37 AM
#11
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I appreciate those who say you don't give lathering much thought. It's a testament that you've been doing this awhile & can get the lather you want each time without thinking about it. However, I'd appreciate it if you could think it through "out loud" here so we can all learn about different styles & end results.

In the past I thought I needed to start with a lot of water & soap to get good lather in my hard water. It would start out foamy with big bubbles that I would then continue to work with my brush for quite some time. I'd have to break down the big bubbles into smaller ones. All the water & air lead to volumes of lather that was very wet but thin. It would break down easily & dry out.

Lately I've been creating lather differently thanks to some chats with ShadowsDad. I now use a much drier brush, still quite damp, and try to keep the air introduced at a minimum. Now in much less time I'm getting very dense, creamy, slick lather that protects & hydrates my face better than ever. Lather like this can certainly not be considered as poor for cushion. It may get called dry, but it's actually got a lot of water trapped inside. It just feels a bit drier on the face while still being very slick. This type of lather is usually not the best for those that whip up huge clouds of lather, nor does it look as great in lather porn shots

Thanks for your help!

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 05-25-2012, 05:38 AM
#12
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(05-25-2012, 05:08 AM)Songwind Wrote: I like my lather dense and slick. Meringue lather is great for lather shots, and I'm sure it's great for some guys' shaves, but not for mine. My best lathers have a bit of body. The best comparison I can make is hand-made whipped cream.

exact same here. when i 1st started wet shaving, i was going for the puffy, meringue type lather, but found out quickly, i like a thicker, richer, creamier lather for shaving.

for most of my soaps, i start with a soaking wet boar, or a gently squeezed badger. application time on the puck is usually 30-60sec. (30 for soft soaps, 60 for hard soaps), the i either bowl or face lather. as for creams, i either swirl on top (if they are like QCS creams) or scoop out almond sized in my bowl (AOS etc) and then lather with a damp badger or damp boar.

hand made whipped cream, is a perfect comparison.

here is how i like mine:



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 05-25-2012, 06:18 AM
#13
  • Songwind
  • Soap Slinger & Scuttle Pusher
  • Burnsville, MN
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Another important variable, I think, is the willingness to be wrong. Every one of these factors, if changed, can affect your lather. Different soaps, obviously. But also new brushes, water from a new location. You have to pay attention and adjust.

There is a vocal minority of regulars on this forum and others that take the approach "this soap didn't work when I treat it just like some other soap, therefor it's crap." More power to you, if you want to limit yourself that way, but you could be missing out on some great shaves.

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 05-25-2012, 06:40 AM
#14
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(05-25-2012, 06:18 AM)Songwind Wrote: There is a vocal minority of regulars on this forum and others that take the approach "this soap didn't work when I treat it just like some other soap, therefor it's crap." More power to you, if you want to limit yourself that way, but you could be missing out on some great shaves.

agreed. many soaps/creams require a different approach. more water at end, as opposed to more water at start etc. but inevitably, some soaps just don't work for some people, luckily there are a ton of great quality products out there to satisfy almost everyone.

i think that is why "test lathers" are so important when getting a new soap/cream. it's the 1st thing i do when i get a new one, as i don't want to be fumbling around with a new product during my shave, tearing my face apart. i'd rather waste a bit of product doing a few tests, to get the basics down on it.

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