05-27-2012, 08:22 PM
#1
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However you go about it, the goal of making your lather each and every day is to hit that perfect soap:water ratio each time. Some prefer to start drier while others prefer a much wetter approach to start. While we all must experiment with our hardware & software combinations in our water, I thought it could still be beneficial to discuss these two approaches and what you like and why.

Many are familiar with what I've read is the traditional Italian barbers' method of a large soaking wet boar brush on a soft Italian soap known around the forums as "Marco's Method". With this approach you utilize a fully saturated brush to load slowly on the soap. This method tends to have suds and water dripping out over the soap container. Once loaded for the typically recommended 45-60s you can then build the lather on your face, palm, or bowl/scuttle. So you basically start with a ton of water and keep adding soap until you hit the sweet spot. You can certainly produce mountains of lather with this approach. The fallbacks being that it can be pretty sloppy if you don't start slow enough and you're more likely to over aerate and end up with thin lather.

A drier brush approach, which I don't think has a moniker full of alliteration, is basically the opposite. You start with a damp brush, but certainly not fully saturated. You load your brush on the soap for 30-60s but instead of water & suds spilling out of the container you end up making more of a paste. You then take this pasty brush to your face, palm, or bowl/scuttle. Now as you build the lather you'll also incorporate water as needed by either dipping the brush tips in water or dribbling water on the brush or into the bowl/scuttle. So in this approach you start with lots of soap and just add water to reach the sweet spot. The fallbacks of this approach include the potential for under hydrating the lather leading to poor glide & poosible razor burn. This method may also take you a bit longer if you're stingy with adding the water back in.

Both of these approaches set out to accomplish the same goal by starting at opposite extremes. So obviously any number of modifications can be made that will fall somewhere in the middle on this lathering spectrum. How you do it is completely up to you & involves some personal preference. I just suggest that while you may prefer a certain method that you don't forget that there are other ways to make a lather and that some products may require you to be flexible and try something out of your comfort zone. Whether or not you find that effort to be worth your time or not given the plethora of great choices we have is neither wrong nor right, it just is.

Now that I'm coming to the conclusion of this little lathering exposition I'd like to propose a thought. The water we use is for the most part constant. The variable that inspires such AD is the soap. The soap is what houses all the goodies to prepare our skin & hair for the shave. We don't talk about such & such water leading to a super slick shave that was extremely moisturizing. No, all of those properties that we so desire from our lather come from the soap, all the good stuff as my friend Brian SD refers to it. So doesn't it make more sense to err on the side of more soap than on the side of more water? Even when on the more soap side of the equation it's still easy to have a very well hydrated lather. You just have more soap solids that aren't fully saturated. If you kept adding water you would eventually get that lather explosion, but to what end? A dilution of all the good stuff that's in contact with our skin & hair?

I know many of you have mentioned that you don't really think about how you lather and all the variables involved, but I find the lather to be the part of the shave that we have the most control over each and every time. Sure you can change your brush & some of us can change brushes much more often than others before repeating but you can't really control the characteristics of a brush like you can your lather. Lather seems to take on a life of its own. It requires building. You're almost raising those little suds from infancy to mature soap that is ready to serve its duty as your perfect lather for today. To get the most out of our shaves I believe it is worth the time & effort to really understand your lather & be able to make the right adjustments when needed.

Enjoy your shaves gentlemen. May they be slick, cushy, and close!

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 05-27-2012, 08:48 PM
#2
  • CMur12
  • Semogueiro de Coração
  • Moses Lake, Washington State, USA
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Hi Brian -

I start with a drier brush, but I repeatedly dip the tips under a trickle of water as I load the brush to the point of lathering. Then I transfer to a bowl to finish it. I do it this way to avoid sudsing. Also of note, I work the brush rather gently, again to avoid sudsing and out of respect for the brush.

- Murray

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 05-28-2012, 06:01 AM
#3
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Really depends on the brush. Some hold more water, some release or dump the water easier. Overall I use a wetter brush then I see in most pictures and videos.

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 05-28-2012, 06:07 AM
#4
  • slantman
  • Expert Shaver
  • Leesburg, Florida
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I prefer a damp brush and add small amounts of water as necessary. It all depends if I am using soap or cream and which brand.

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 05-28-2012, 07:56 AM
#5
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Years ago, I used a wet boar bristle brush on a puck of Williams or Colgate soap, and never thought much about it one way or the other.

After I became acquainted with shaving forums, I went through a period of starting with a damp badger hair brush, adding a little water at a time, and building lather rather slowly.

These days, I am again starting with a pretty wet boar bristle brush, adding a bit more water as needed, and the lather develops much more quickly.

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 05-28-2012, 07:58 AM
#6
  • Dave
  • Moderator Emeritus
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When I use my horsehair brush, it needs to be much wetter than my synthetics. The Muhles can pick up a great amount of product with less water than natural brushes.

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 05-28-2012, 09:02 AM
#7
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Thanks for opening up this discussion Brian. I really think it needs to be discussed, especially the last few paragraphs of your post. I assume explaining why is OK. We've discussed this in PMs, maybe it's time to open it up.

When I first began shaving with a blade I realized that more soap cured most lather problems, so I've been doing what I'm about to write for the entire time and never thought it was unusual. But I saw others having problems and always wondered what was going on. I have ultra soft water and I can lather most anything, and that in itself can lead to problems. I can start with far too little soap and by a slight more addition of water my lather can fall flat. I've always compensated for that by using too much soap. I don't worry that I use "too much" soap. The quantity of soap we use for the shave is pretty miniscule even the way I use it. "Too much", whatever that means, we're doing a job and soap is one of the tools we use.

I start with a damp brush and make a paste. I do that for one reason; I can get more soap onto the brush as a wet paste than as a sloppy foam. Using more soap is important to me for exactly the reason you state, "That's the good stuff.". That's where the lubricity comes from, everything that protects the face, the moisturizing qualities of the soap, in short everything. I face lather and control the water addition, but I don't want the pint or so of lather that I can get by using this quantity of soap. I only want a fully hydrated soap that won't dry up on me. I don't make dry lather, I need to stress that. What I want is a lather that has a lot of soap solids, but has plenty of water, just not all of the water that the soap/lather can possibly hold. The resulting lather is extremely dense and protective, yet stable.

I don't find the brush makes a bit of difference for this. I can make it with a $.50 Chinese boar brush or a Silverip badger.

Be careful when doing this with Williams though. It will appear to be ready for use long before enough water has gone into it to make it stable. I was almost caught by this today. After my first pass, which was disappearing on me, I just added more water to what I had and relathered on the face and everything was made right. Using Williams as an "ultralather" (ultra dense lather) it's a pretty decent soap. But add all the water it can hold to get the pint of lather you can make from it just makes it humdrum. BTW, Williams will never be a great soap IMO. It's just too drying for the skin but use a skin conditioner and Williams works fine.

Brian, initially I was of the opinion that only the most super fatted soaps, like p.160 could make the ultralather, but as you know I've changed my tune on this. I'm finding most soaps can, one just needs to find out how to make it with them. The Williams experience I had this morning being a case in point. I do find however that the really highly fatted soaps make the ultra lather a real experience in luxurious shaving. Making this sort of lather with p.160 is like shaving with cold cream, the lather is so rich, dense, and creamy.

But this began with a wet or dry brush... I use the dryer brush because it allows me to get that fine control I want over my lather and it allows me to put more soap into it.

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 05-28-2012, 09:16 AM
#8
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i prefer the drier brush approach as i have can manipulate the lather the way i want and amount of it.
May the slickness be with you all.Biggrin

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 05-28-2012, 10:25 AM
#9
  • freddy
  • Senior Member
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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I don't consciously give much thought to how wet or dry the brush is and so never remember which way is better with which soap. I just start my usual way, soak the brush and let the excess water drip out from it, and then go from there by either adding more product or more water, whichever may happen to be needed.

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 05-28-2012, 10:28 AM
#10
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I think glycerin-based soaps need a drier (not dry) brush and tallow-based soaps need a wetter brush. At least that is what I experienced the last few days with glycerin-based after a long absence.

I had gotten used to dunking the brush in hot water with Cella being my regular soap, and then I tried that with Mama Bear's which is glycerin-based. The soap was thin and runny, not the thick and rich mix I had remembered. I also cut myself pretty good with a straight razor.

What I learned is that I need to settle on a soap and stick with it to get the most out of it. When you switch off all the time, you forget what works best with that particular soap.

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 05-28-2012, 04:50 PM
#11
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I soak my brush while showering. I tend to use boar and horse brushes with soaps or firmer creams and therefore then leave more water in the brush. The badgers see more creams and hard creams and generally start them with less water and add the water as needed.

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 05-28-2012, 06:04 PM
#12
  • wlmcad
  • Senior Member
  • Memphis, TN
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This is a great thread. It has given me a lot to think about. I need to come back to this thread again and again.

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 05-28-2012, 07:23 PM
#13
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Starting with a wet brush seems to give me better results, but I end up wasting a bit of soap that way.

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 05-28-2012, 07:27 PM
#14
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(05-28-2012, 07:23 PM)Pnume Wrote: Starting with a wet brush seems to give me better results, but I end up wasting a bit of soap that way.

Winnipegers are taking over TSN....

i tend to use your method. wetter brush (especially with Boars) and when using soaps. for creams, i soak by brush, but then gently squeeze before lathering.

the more product i use, the faster i can buy more Rolleyes

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 05-28-2012, 08:25 PM
#15
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(05-28-2012, 09:16 AM)celestino Wrote: i prefer the drier brush approach as i have can manipulate the lather the way i want and amount of it.
May the slickness be with you all.Biggrin

+1. Same here.

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 05-28-2012, 08:42 PM
#16
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Do y'all really think you go through soap faster with a wet brush? I find I can get much more actual soap on my brush when it's drier. Sure if you actually fully build your lather on the soap with a wet brush you will burn through your soap faster. But if you're just softly & slowly swirling a very wet & soft brush on the soap there is no way it will pick up the amount of soap that a drier brush will pick up. It's basic physics & friction. More water will reduce the coefficient of friction thus decreasing the efficiency of the brush to scrape off some soap. With a drier brush I can actually see track marks from the hairs on the surface afterwards. A wet brush just leaves a smooth glistening surface. Again, I don't think I can explain this appropriately so a video just may be needed.

I want my lather to be primarily soap with just enough water to make it very slick. Anything beyond this point is only diluting the amount of good stuff on my face. So less cushion, less protection, less moisturizing, etc. I for one want more of all those things, not less. I'll live with a less than stellar lather shot! Winky

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 05-28-2012, 08:58 PM
#17
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I agree, Brian. Slickness is the holy grail of lather for me.

Careful though. I brought up coefficient of friction on another forum as it relates to CWS and it ended badly.Confused

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 05-28-2012, 09:00 PM
#18
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(05-28-2012, 08:58 PM)CyanideMetal Wrote: I agree, Brian. Slickness is the holy grail of lather for me.

Careful though. I brought up coefficient of friction on another forum as it relates to CWS and it ended badly.Confused

I agree that I have enough knowledge to be dangerous on the topic, but I'm not sure I see how temperature would affect friction. You'll have to PM me a link.

Here's a quote I found...
"Temperature has a small but generally negligible effect on the coefficient of friction; as temperature increases, the friction coefficient reduces minimally."

So it appears to me that it's negligible.

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 05-28-2012, 09:19 PM
#19
  • CMur12
  • Semogueiro de Coração
  • Moses Lake, Washington State, USA
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Brian's observations are interesting to me. Though I start with a damp brush and, adding little bits of water, load it with a lot of soap, I slowly build up a pretty wet, tightly formed lather.

What I want is maximal lubricity and minimal cushion. Both are actually protective, but I find that cushion impedes the cut and requires me to apply pressure, which results in irritation. This may be one reason that I prefer a mild razor, albeit with one of the sharper blades.

On another forum (foroafeitado.com), I found another member with sensitive skin who had also come to the conclusion that he got less irritation with wet, slick lather and less cushion.

- Murray

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 05-28-2012, 10:33 PM
#20
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Murray, BrianK here, I'm wondering if the extreme cushion I get is why I love the super aggressive razors? Since BrianSS and I started on this exploration a lot of things have rushed through my head, and probably BrianSSs as well.

For instance, I regularly average 14 shaves from a SE razor. That's quite unusual. Is it due to the lather? I have a pretty tough beard, but I know no way to compare beards over the net. Lather with more lubricity and cushion will both make the razor last longer when cutting these whiskers and cushion the skin from the problems.

All I know is that it seems to work, but how does one test this? It's impossible. The only way is by folks making ultralather and getting those results and seeing if there is something there. But how does one judge whether the lather is what is being discussed? Impossible.

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