Archive for the ‘Shaving’ Category
Don’t use the shampoo bar as a shaving soap. Any all-NaOH soap will not produce a proper shaving lather. You may be able to shave with it, but it is far from ideal.
A shave soap needs a large percentage of long-chain fatty acid content (preferably from direct addition of stearic acid or use of soy wax which is mostly tristearin) These produce dense creamy lather with small bubbles. Many artisan shave soap makers include a few percent coconut, but I feel it does more harm than good, encouraging big fluffy, unstable bubbles with high water content.
A good shave soap also needs some, but not a lot of unsaturated fats. Too much makes the lather slimy and unstable. Shea butter, mango butter, beef tallow, lard, castor, and avocado oil are the most-used sources of these. All but the last one also deliver stearic/palmitic acid content in addition to oleic and in the case of avocado, linoleic. They also deliver unsaponifiable content that makes for great post-shave feel.
The last condition for a shave soap is that it needs to be made with KOH lye. Generally between 60 and 100% of the lye content is KOH with the rest being NaOH. This produces a soap with higher water solubility. Without this, the soap will produce overly light fluffy lather that lacks necessary cushion. An ideal lather is dense, opaque, and gloppy and composed of extremely small bubbles. It contains much less water than you might expect. Finding the sweet spot is definitely part of the learning curve when starting to wet shave.
Because of the stearic acid normally used, shave soap generally has to be made as hot process since it turns into pasty, chunky glop as soon as lye is added. I have not tested it, but if using soy wax, it should be possible to run it as a cold-process.
“Taboos in the Shave Soap World”
-Olive oil and Bentonite Clay. There is a persistent bit of bad advice from soapmakers that adding bentonite clay to normal cold process soap makes it shave soap. This is a horrible idea. While bentonite clay can be responsibly used in a well-formulated shave soap to enhance slickness, it will in no way transform a normal bar soap. Since most small soapmakers have olive oil as their primary ingredient, it’s gotten a bad rap. It is absolutely possible to use it as a source of unsaturated fats in shave soap but it will be 10-30% of the batch and not the bulk of it. Plenty of stearic acid is needed to balance the performance.
-Melt & Pour. Several crafter/artisan oriented soapmaking supply companies resell melt and pour bases from SFIC, one of which is notably marketed as shave soap. While it isn’t the worst shave soap in the world, it is very mediocre and best avoided.
This is a pretty decent but not optimized starting place if you’d like to make your own shave soap: http://www.modernsoapmaking.com/the-best-wet-shaving-soap-recipe/
So far as I can tell, Franklin Soapworks doesn’t offer a shaving soap.
I just received yesterday a complimentary prototype of Phoenix Artisan’s Bakelite slant, and so I decided to do a full Phoenix Artisan shave.
We were discussing the Wee Scott on Wicked Edge, which prompted me to use mine. It really is a superb brush—certainly this one is, purchased some years before Vulfix acquired Simpson. Its capacity is astonishing and its feel and performance are excellent.
I easily loaded it with Phoenix Artisan’s Honeysuckle shaving soap, which I purchased a short while back and have just not gotten around to using until today. The fragrance is (of course) honeysuckle and the performance, in terms of quality of lather, is extremely good. I had no problem at all in loading the brush, and the lather was thick, creamy, slick, and fragrant. I added a little water as I worked up the lather on my face, mainly because I wanted to play more with the lather. It easily accepted the additional water without losing consistency or slickness. The soap’s ingredients:
Potassium Stearate, Glycerin, Potassium Cocoate, Aqua, Potassium Kokumate, Sodium Lactate, Potassium Shea Butterate, Potassium Castorate, Sodium Stearate, Potassium Avocadoate, Parfum [Fragrance]
Kokum nut oil, shea butter, castor oil, and avocado oil probably contribute to the great feel of the soap both during the shave and post-shave: my skin feels quite soft.
The Wee Scot was still full of lather after three passes and had I wanted to do 2-3 passes more, it would not have required reloading.
The razor is relatively light, and to my hand it feels less brittle than the bakelite slant I already have. The Merkur vintage white bakelite slant is 18g; the Fine Superlite ABS plastic slant is 16g; this Phoenix slant is 17g. As I’ve noted, because of the slant’s cutting efficiency, it does not require head mass to drive the cutting edge (something that does help in conventional razors, which cut purely with compressive force: the slant uses shearing force in its cut). So the light weight is not a drawback—indeed, since slants require the use of very light pressure, the light weight can serve as a reminder.
The Phoenix slant has a comb guard and on the cap are several groves. Guard and grooves are both design elements that have (IMO) little effect on the shave for anyone who shaves every day or two.
The cutting action is very smooth—it’s a slant—and the razor is quite comfortable: no nicks and it never felt as though it wanted to nick. I do, of course, now have considerable experience in using a slant, so I did keep the pressure light.
I’m told that this prototype is “pretty close” to the production razor, which will be available in white, black, or a combination of white and black parts (black handle, white baseplate, black cap; or white handle, black baseplate, and white cap). Price will $19.95, and we’re having a surge of slants at that price: RazoRock’s German 37, this Phoenix Artisan Bakelite slant, and the Maggard slant scheduled for release next month.
A three-pass shave, most of my face BBS after the second pass (XTG) and my entire face BBS after the final pass (ATG). A very comfortable and trouble-free shave is always a pleasure.
A good splash of Phoenix Artisan Cavendish aftershave—one of my favorites—and I’m ready for the day.
This continues the German 37 review started in my previous SOTD post.
The Kent Infinity synthetic brush shown looks a little odd and feel (when dry) somewhat springy, but when it’s in use, it feels fine: a terrific little brush that made a terrific lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Natural Bay Rum, a very satisfying soap typical of the MT line.
I alternated the Merkur 37G and the RazoRock German 37, and really they shave very much alike. The German 37 initially seemed slightly less comfortable, but as I eased up on the pressure and paid closer attention to angle, the two came out much the same in terms of feel and performance—and I did get a great shave: BBS result, no problems at all. (I used the Geerman 37 for the chin and upper lip, and today it was smooth sailing all the way: W, X, and A TG.
A good splash of TOBS Bay Rum aftershave, and the week begins on a very nice note.
Tallow + Steel “Dark” once more, and a wonderful soap it is. The Plisson European Grey badger brush is an extremely nice brush for those who like to feel some texture: it has a coarse but not prickly feel on the face that is very nice, and it easily worked up a fine lather.
The RazoRock German 37 is a knockoff of the Merkur 37C slant, but the German 37 is a three-piece razor, and with a solid chromed brass handle the German 37 has more heft than the 37C: the 37C is 78g and the German 37 is 95g (both weights include blade). The 37C handle is 2.8″ long, the German 37 handle is 3.5″ long.
The benefit of the three-piece design is obvious: if you later want to get a different head (e.g., a different slant, such as the iKon X3 or 102 or the upcoming Maggard slant head), you can use the German 37 handle.
Int terms of shave it was efficient but (like the 37C) not quite so comfortable for me as some other slants. I will soon compare it to the 37C directly (side-by-side shave) and later to the Fine Superlite slant. The German 37 costs $10 less than the Fine Superlite ($20 for German 37, $30 for Fine Superlite—and around $40 for the Merkur 37C; the iKon X3 head is $35 and the iKon 102 head is $45).
I got one small nick on my upper lip in the XTG pass—probably bad blade angle—but no other problems and the result was an easy BBS.
For $20, this is quite a good slant. I will emphasize once more: use very light pressure when using a slant.
A dot of Esbjerg aftershave gel—a really nice aftershave balm—and the weekend gets underway.
In the next SOTD post I compare the German 37 and my Merkur 37G.
Sarah Hovde posts this at Shakespeare & Beyond, part of the Folger Shakespeare library site:
Two Folger exhibitions in this anniversary year have explored Shakespeare’s far-reaching effect on consumer culture: first, America’s Shakespeare considered how the United States has made the Bard our own, and now Will & Jane examines the celebrity status of literary superstars William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. This month’s Folger Find is another example of how deeply Shakespeare has saturated Western culture: a set of “Gentlemen’s shaving paper with quotations from Shakespeare.”
Shaving papers were small scraps of paper used to clean a straight razor after one had finished shaving with it (or in between strokes). Obviously any stray piece of paper could serve this purpose, and several magazines published humorous anecdotes of book pages being used, but this depended on one’s available paper products or ambivalence toward their personal library.
Ideas for shaving papers and shaving paper cases appeared frequently in domestic and arts magazines well into the twentieth century, from woven mats and embroidery to painted cardboard and tissue paper supernovas. (You may notice that these craft ideas were generally marketed towards wives and children to make for their husbands and fathers. Though both men and women have employed various methods of hair removal throughout the centuries—a history stretching back at least as far as the ancient Egyptians—men were the main consumer base for the modern mass-produced razor industry until the mid-1910s, when the first razor marketed to women was produced.)
If you had no books to spare, or no one interested in crafting you a homemade set as a gift, you could also buy ready-made pads of shaving papers, such as the one featured in this post. These were mass-manufactured and bound with string or glue for the convenience of the shaver. . .
The problem with having too many good soaps is that you have trouble using them all in a timely manner, so some are neglected even though they are good—or, as in this case, excellent.
No. 89 is the house number of the Floris home store, and Floris No. 89 was a favorite of James Bond. This soap is from before the most recent reformulations (one reformulation which totally ruined the soap, then a second reformulation to try to fix the damage, and I lost track after that), and it is an exquisite tallow-based soap that has an extremely fine fragrance and easily makes a creamy lather, this morning with the Simpson Persian Jar. I really was struck by the fragrance: intense and extremely pleasant. From the Floris web site:
Top notes: bergamot, lavender, neroli, nutmeg, orange, petitgrain
Heart notes: geranium, rose, ylang ylang
Base notes: cedarwood, musk, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver
Orange and bergamot blended with lavender and neroli give No.89 its classical cologne aspect. Warmed with a touch of spicy nutmeg, the floral heart is underscored by the dominant woody accord of sandalwood, cedarwood and vetiver in this quintessentially English gentleman’s fragrance.
Introduced in 1951, No 89 takes its name from the number of the Floris shop in Jermyn Street. Devoted followers include Ian Fleming.
I normally detect the citrus notes, but today the woody scents (and the vetiver) came through more clearly. This is a keeper, I think.
Three passes with the Baby Smooth left my face absolutely… well, baby smooth. This is a terrific razor, and it’s a shame the line was not continued.
A splash of Floris No. 89 aftershave, and we are on the verge of the weekend.
The soap shown is the Nuávia green, which made a fine lather with the G.B. Kent BK4. The fragrance is light but pleasing. All told a good soap, though to be honest I find some of the artisanal soaps that sell at 1/4 the price are just as good. Possibly I’ll appreciate it more with more use, but initially it seems like a good artisanal soap. The ceramic tub is quite nice and has a lid not shown in the photo. The amount of sidewall is appropriate: enough to help the novice, but not so much as to draw attention.
The DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating marks this Weber as the first Weber model, and indeed I bought it just after Weber started selling them. It’s quite a good razor—I think Weber used the same head geometry with their other two models (Advanced Razor Coating, and the polished head). The head is here mounted on a UFO handle, and it did quite a nice job this morning: BBS in three passes, but after a couple of days of using slants, I was conscious of the slightly greater cutting resistance and the fact that after the second pass I did not feel large areas that were already BBS as I do with the slants. Still, it’s a very fine conventional razor.
A good splash of Fine’s l’Orange Noir and the day begins.