Poll: That seems like a lot of work, just for a bowl. Is the flame worth the candle?
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 02-01-2017, 05:07 AM
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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As related in another thread (found here), a little over a week ago, yr obdnt srvnt accidentally demolished the piece of exquisite Japanese pottery that had been my shaving lather bowl for over 50 years.  I had bought it new in the autumn of 1966 directly from the potter, a one-man operation in the small town of Iwamizawa on the island of Hokkaido, far off the beaten path in Japan.  The potter sold it as a coffee mug, but it was very wide, and relatively not-tall, compared to typical coffee mugs.  For decades, I had used that mug daily to build lather.  

Deprived of my daily ceramic companion, I turned to The ShaveNook for guidance for a replacement, and read the sage advice of some of the Giants of The ShaveNook:  Ben74, Agravic, Johnny, and Primotenore, all of whom had discovered virtue in, and had fallen in love with, a specific stainless steel lather bowl designed by Japanese designer Sori Yanagi and sold by Aēsop, a rapidly expanding “Concept Store” originally from Australia, but now a subsidiary of a Brazilian company. As luck would have it, Aēsop has recently opened two of its (frankly, from my point of view, weird) Concept Stores in Portland, Oregon, close to me.  I purchased an Aēsop shaving bowl at one of those stores the very next day after shattering my beloved Japanese ceramic shaving mug.

Closely examining the bowl after it was in our home, I found that it has a name:  the word Martian is engraved on the underside of the bowl, with a cartoonish stick figure that presumably depicts a Martian.  “Martian” is the first of the three M’s of this thread’s topic line.  

The next morning, I used the Martian bowl for the first time to build lather for a shave, and found that — for my accustomed lathering routine — the Martian bowl suffered from several debilities:
  •  It lacks substantial thermal mass:  that is, it does not retain heat well;
  •  In fact, it lacks substantial physical mass:  it floats atop the water in the sink, and bobs like a cork;
  •  The rounded bottom shape of the bowl causes the top of the sides of the bowl to sink below the surface of the water in which it floats, so the lather inside the bowl repeatedly takes on water from the sink.
As a result of these properties, I was unable to use the lather that I had built in the Martian bowl for a second pass of my shave.  By the time I had whipped up the lather initially while holding the bowl in my palm, the bowl and its contents already had cooled from hot to lukewarm, and, when, in order to warm the lather for the second pass, I set the bowl into the hot water in the sink during my first shaving pass, the sink water slopped over the sides, and the lather inside the bowl turned to milky water.  Moreover, the rounded underside of the bowl, though somewhat flattened, was hardly Mr. Stabiity when set on the side of the sink, so even if the bowl had not cooled so rapidly outside the hot water bath, it would still have been a constant threat to fall over with a slight nudge.  

My first attempt to address these problems was to use three pairs of half-inch diameter, quarter-inch thick, neodymium disk magnets to create tripod-like feet on the bottom of the Martian bowl:  
[Image: BTQQxwl.jpg]

The surface treatment of the Martian bowl already causes water to bead in the manner that it beads on a freshly waxed automobile, so lather can be built easily even on its smooth surface:
[Image: FgRQoMH.jpg]

But the three magnets adhering to the inside of the Martian bowl had the ancillary beneficial effect of adding nubbins to the interior surface of the bowl that adds aeration while building lather:
[Image: 7rXzBcs.jpg]

However, even with the added mass of the six neodymium magnets at its bottom, the Magnetically Modified Martian (“M3”) bowl still floats high in the hot water of the sink, and great care needs to be taken to keep sink water from slopping into the bowl.  

To address the latter problems, I picked up a massive glass candle holder at a thrift store for 50¢; when I place the glass weight (shown here sitting atop the outside of the inverted M3 bowl for clarity):
[Image: IIgdH84.jpg]
. . . inside the bowl, the M3 bowl will sit securely on the bottom of the sink, with hot water in the sink, without bobbing.  Order of operations is critical, however:  it is nigh impossible to whip up lather with the glass weight inside the bowl; the M3 bowl must be held in the palm to make the lather, and then the glass weight put into the lather in the bowl.  The weight has to be put into the M3 bowl before putting the bowl into the sink water to keep it hot, because, without the weight, the bowl will bob in the sink water, and it is very difficult to put the weight into the bowl while it is bobbing without water slopping over the sides of the bowl from the sink.

Below is the M3 bowl with only the kumquat (bloom water) from a puck of Mystic Water The Brown Windsor shaving soap inside; this happened to be a somewhat greater quantity of  bloom water than I normally use for the kumquat lathering method, and — whipping it up using a dry brush — the result was some slightly thin lather, as will be seen below; you must trust me that I have made some Merkur Man-like “yogurt” lather with this M3 lather bowl, but that was for, you know, shaving, and I did not have a camera set up to take a picture at the time.
[Image: OGTGuOQ.jpg]

Using only the kumquat shown above, and a L’Occitaine Plisson brush, I made some lather in the M3 bowl:  
[Image: H0B6t8p.jpg]
The glass weight actually is in the bowl in the image above, but the lather conceals it.   Wave1
However, if one wishes to rest the brush in the M3 lather bowl, it is necessary to take the glass weight out, put the brush into the bowl, and then replace the glass weight atop the brush bristles, because otherwise the brush sits too high in the bowl and the weight of the handle tends to make the brush want to fall out of the bowl.

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