Posts Tagged ‘shaving’

Mitchell’s Wool Fat is one of the absolute classic soaps in wet shaving. With its tallow and high lanolin formula (that’s the wool fat part), it delivers great slickness and excellent conditioning after the shave.

But.

But it can be a bit of a bear to get a really good lather. I struggled with it for a long time, and always gave it a demerit because of having iffy, thin lather. There’s a bit of a learning curve. More than a bit. For those of us who are spoiled by the fall-off-a-log simple modern soaps, it can be a bit of a downer.

Have faith, though. Regardless of your water, regardless of your gear, I believe I’ve come up with a methodology that will work for you, and give you excellent lather with “The Fat”.

Step One: Get the product in the puck format. No bowl/ceramic dish/ect. necessary. I have come to believe that this soap works best when out of a container, and you’ll need a loose puck to utilize the process I’m putting forward. Anyway, the plain puck is cheaper and doesn’t have much in the way of throw-away waste. Just a little cardboard box and some waxed paper. So there’s that.

Step Two: Do your prep, wet your face and brush as you’d normally do. Now, grasp the puck, dip it quickly in the water, and apply it to your wet beard stubble, as you’d do with a shaving stick. Don’t be stingy. Soap is cheap, and hard-milled soap doesn’t ablate quickly, anyhow.

Step Three: Hold the puck in your off hand and lather with the brush. Yes. We’re going to lather into the brush, too. That’s kinda the secret. You don’t have to get an unmanageable amount of lather, just work some into the bristles.

Step Four: Rinse off the puck and let it stand somewhere to dry. Now, begin to face lather as you normally would, and you’ll find that the combination of soap on your face and in your brush will come together as a nice, dense lather. Add water as needed, but I’ve found that MWF works really well when it is left in a fairly concentrated state.

From here, you’re off to the races, and should have a superb shave and a happy face. I’ve never had a lather be anything but amazing when doing this double loading technique. Something about the innate slickness of the MWF soap, when it’s applied right to the face, seems to create a wonderful boundary layer.

You can also use this to pump up another soap that just lacks slickness or conditioning. Just do the shaving stick part of the process, almost like a preshave. Mitchell’s doesn’t have a strong smell, so it shouldn’t mess with the scent of the other soap.

Give this technique a try and let me know if it worked for you. For me, it’s totally changed how I feel about Wool Fat, and I will always have that soap in my den from here on out.

Cheers, and happy shaving,

 

Patrick

 

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As I recently did a review of the Crown King formula in my “Sun Down” article, I won’t altogether belabor the point. Okay. I’m going to belabor it a bit. This is me we’re talking about. Talky Verbose and the TLDRs, taking the stage.

The Crown King formula is pretty much as good as you can get. Buttery, slick, voluminous, with protection for days and excellent post-shave feel. There are precious few soaps that can be said to equal or exceed the shave quality you’ll get here. Phoenix Artisan Accouterments essentially puts the lie to the old idea that you have to have tallow and lanolin in a soap to make it awesome. Sure, I love a tallow soap, but tallow isn’t the only game in town.

The scent. Yeah. That’s the thing to talk about here. In the first round of shaves with this soap, the scent came off as very woody, for a Bay Rum. I liked it, but it didn’t seem to have the scent profile I thought it would. I couldn’t quite relate it to a straightforward Bay Rum, like Pinaud Clubman Virgin Island Bay Rum. It didn’t clash with a scent like that, but it was…so much denser and more complex. The complexity didn’t come as a surprise, since PAA is known for going beyond the obvious notes with many of their creations.

For me, it took several shaves to totally get the whole picture. This set of products, particularly the aftershave, has several tricks up its sleeve. You put it on, and get a good jolt of woody character at first, with spice behind it. As the scent matures and cooks away a little, you start getting the Bay, and all kinds of notes my nose isn’t quite able to assign a name to. There’s some alchemy here.

Both the soap and the aftershave have a bit more “punch” in terms of the scents than the average. I believe that this is due to having larger doses of the scent and essential oils than most makers use. This is a soap that will impart some lingering scent to your face for an hour or so after shaving.

In terms of the aftershave, it has good staying power and good feel on your face. Not too strong, but potent enough that you don’t need a whole palm-full to do the trick. Plan on at least three or four hours of perceivable scent after application, easy. Not quite a cologne, but a step up from a lot of the aftershaves that only stay for an hour or so. That also means that the splash will last longer per ounce (which it should, as it’s not the cheapest in the universe).

Altogether, a smashing home run for PAA. Unreservedly recommended. If you are a Bay Rum fan, a must-try.

Ease of Lathering: Pretty easy. It’s funny, because the promotional material for this soap warns that it’s more difficult to lather than Razorock’s typical soap formulation (a croap). They actually go on at some length about it. In my experience, if it’s any more difficult, it’s a matter of small degrees. In no way do you have to fight this soap to get it to load or lather. It isn’t terribly thirsty. I’m not sure what all the hubbub is about. In the scale of hard-milled soaps, it’s one of the easiest to work with.

Protection: The WtP soap can be whipped up into a voluminous lather. It has a lot of positive qualities. It rinses easily, has no negative ingredients, and provides decent protection. It gets the job done. The really good soaps provide more glide, more protection from the feel of the blade, but that’s no reason to judge this soap too harshly. Unless you’re shaving in a daredevil mindset, trying to test the outer limits of what you can do without getting injured, this soap is more than sufficient.

Residual Slickness: WtP soap leaves plenty of slickness behind. I think the palm kernel oil in the formula may have some impact on this. I would say that this is one of the best elements of this soap. It’s not Mitchell’s Wool Fat slick, but it’s not bad.

Scent: The Orange is a candy orange, sweet and easygoing. Like all of the soaps in this group, the scent is low/moderate, but carries through the shave. The lime is a slightly sweeter version of Lime Sec aftershave, by Pinaud Clubman. Friendly, crisp citrus. The blue is a barbershop scent, with plenty of powder note and an underpinning of floral scent. I believe it might be similar to Blue Floid, but I can’t say for sure. All the scents are friendly. I’d pick the orange by a small margin. That’s the one I performance tested. Nothing particularly nuanced about these. Just forthright and useful scents. The scent isn’t going to linger around your shave nook or take the place of an aftershave. With rinse, it’s pretty much gone.

Production/Value: This is a real, honest-to-goodness hard puck formula. It’s based upon palm kernel oil. It doesn’t have tallow, but it’s not a vegan formulation, either. Razorock seems to not have a dog in that fight. They’ll throw in lanolin, as they do here, even if they’re 95% of the way to having a vegan formula. There’s shea butter in here, too, by the way. Okay. These soaps are inexpensive to buy. I paid fifteen bones for all three. The 3.5 ounce puck has a really high yield, and you can do shave after shave without any perceptible wear on the puck. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 3.5 ounces of hard soap lasted longer than 5 ounces of croap. As such, this might be right up there with the least expensive soaps around. Given its solid performance and pleasant scent, there’s very little one could complain about here. As we’ve come to expect, killer value from Razorock. Finally, the packaging is a humorous drawing that captures the playful nature of the product. (Update: as of posting this review, the trio of soaps can be purchased for an insane nine bucks. At that price, they’re perhaps the best bang for the buck in the entire industry. Seriously. Get ’em, even if you don’t need them. They’ll make good stocking stuffers.)

Notes: Razorock seems to have a knack for being able to field good products at great prices. This is another example of such a product, further diversifying their lineup. This hard soap would be great for a travel option, being smaller and lighter than the average, while still being able to provide a ton of shaves. While these are not going to unseat your ultimate, favorite, perfect soaps, they do a nice job for a killer price. They’re worth a look.

Note: I reviewed another WSP soap of the same formulation (Rustic/Vegan) a long time ago. I thought that it had been long enough that I could go back and do another full review. Also note that this review has been “in the can” for several months, so make of that what you will. 

Ease of Lathering: Easy. The WSP rustic formula has about the consistency of putty, and it loads onto the brush without any struggle. Following my normal lathering technique, it works up very nicely. No fussing about required. No special attention as to the amount of water required (other than how wet you like the lather, of course.)

Protection: The WSP Rustic falls on the “voluminous” side of the spectrum. If you load up a good dose of soap, you’ll have lather in your ears, falling into the sink, and so forth. While it isn’t quite as dense and buttery as some formulas, it offers plenty of protection for all but the most ill-advised of shaving stunts.

Residual Slickness: Good. Not quite at the top end of the spectrum, but plenty of slickness. With the amount of lather you can create, you can always paint on a little more. A thing that some don’t take into account is that small deviations from your pattern to allow for the equipment being used can make a much wider array of soaps (and hardware) useful. Most soaps, even ones I have been a little tough on, can be made to work, and work well. It just takes some practice, familiarity, and a willingness to play to that soap’s strengths. (Come to think of that, I should write up a never-fail lathering technique I’ve hit upon for Mitchell’s Wool Fat. Hmm. Soon. But I digress.)

Scent: I ordered the whole gamut of soaps from WSP’s Rustic line through the mail quite some time ago. I’ve reviewed a few here, given a few to new shavers, and still have a bunch of them to go through. When I first opened them, Mahogany stood out. Rich, warm, dark, and spicy, it’s a great scent. It’s not quite Fortitude, from Soap Commander, but it’s along that same vein. I dig it. A lot. If I were to try some of their Formula T soap, which is a tallow formulation, I’d probably get a tin of this scent.

Production/Value: WSP is moderate priced soap. Given the yield of their formula and the price, it’s a very fair deal for the money. Even the one ounce samples last a long time. One interesting thing is that they carry on using tins for both small and large soaps. In 2018, the vast majority of artisans use plastic tubs. With the samples, it doesn’t make much difference. You spoon out the soap anyway. I’m not against tins, but have only one of them in my inventory. That really isn’t a big deal to me, but it might be for you. I am continually intrigued at the things that cause a mad-dog rage in people.

Notes: It’s been interesting to come back to WSP, one of the first soaps I tried after the mass market stuff like Proraso. I was concerned that I might be spoiled, but that hasn’t proven to be an issue. Because I’m better at working up a lather, I’m getting better performance now. WSP Rustic is solid soap. Good scents across the board, productive formula, reasonable price. Worth a try.

Ease of Lathering: In an unusual move, I’m going to say “Weird”. This is a super thirsty formula. I’m not kidding. Put some water on the puck to loosen it. Leave more water in your brush. You’ll still be well within margin, and will have to add more, and more again. The soap also loads with, to me, a very strange consistency. Something I’ve never experienced. Without wishing to sound grotesque, I found the formative soap to resemble snot. It starts as a stringy, glutinous mess, but will turn into a nice, slightly nut-brown lather if you work a bit. Not hard, again, just weird and totally novel in my experience. I’m not a soap maker, so I don’t know what kind of chemical interaction is at play to make this happen.

Protection: Excellent. This is not quite the same formulation as the white-jar or “glissant” bases. It is a tallow base, but doesn’t have lanolin. It has a high glycerin component, and has a whole bunch of different other saponified oils as well. This is a high quality soap. Perhaps its character doesn’t quite send me into the paroxysms of joy that some people experience, but it doesn’t leave you wanting in regards to slickness or cushion. It’s not so much the end result as the method of getting there, at least for me.

Residual Slickness: Very good. No issues here at all. Just a step behind the very best slickness I’ve experienced.

Scent: Good scent. I don’t find that it knocks me down in terms of being an homage to Old Spice. I like but don’t love it. I feel like, in a lot of ways, Crown King “Sundown” is a better Old Spice scent (even though it doesn’t really even mean to be) than the Reserve Spice. All that said, the Reserve Spice is not going to be a disappointment if you’re looking for that classic scent profile.

Production/Value: Barrister and Mann is right at the top end of what I’d consider to be a mid-priced soap. The presentation here is classy and refined, with the wide-mouth jar and strong graphic design for the labels. I find that it leaves me wondering if I’ve paid a few bucks too much, though. I just want that extra “something” I’m not really feeling for the higher cost. The shave soap business is exceedingly competitive right now, and you can get so much for, say, fifteen bucks/tub that charging more for your product will often bring a sense of lofty expectations. I’m not going to say that the Barrister and Mann products are poor values. No. They are hard pucks that will yield a lot of shaves per ounce, and the quality is there. However, they’re far from the only game in town, and other soaps seem to deliver the goods at a lower price point.

Notes: I will go against the general trend and say that I prefer the white jar B&M formula to this one. Once learned, it lathers in a predictable and normal manner. There’s no weird, congealed mucus phase. I may be missing out on some grand idea that others can grasp, but this one isn’t quite a home run for me. That’s not to say that, with several more shaves under my belt with this stuff, I won’t suddenly click with it. That’s happened before. Early days, though, I’m a little on the fence about Reserve Spice.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

Ease of Lathering: Very easy. This is on par with the easiest soaps to load. Very nearly as easy to load and lather as Catie’s Bubbles (if you can fall off a log, you can do it.) The wide-mouth container and eager soap formulation give you every advantage here.

Protection: Amazing. Perhaps the best I’ve experienced. Only a handful of soaps get to this level of protection, with a lather that is both voluminous and thick and buttery. We’re talking up there in the Tabac level of killer lather, all provided with a vegan formulation. I suspect some sort of evil sorcery. Seriously, this stuff is a formulation you can count on, even with an aggressive or even perilous choice of shaving implements. Even if your regular reference soap is quite good, this will likely be an improvement.

Residual Slickness: Again, fantastic scores here. PAA is not kidding around when they talk about this being a high butter formulation. If there’s any dampness at all, this stuff is going to let your razor glide right across. Great face feel after the shave, as well. Although the product gloss can sometimes feel like it verges upon hyperbole, it ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up. The Crown King formula backs it up. Wow.

Scent: This soap’s fragrance is an homage to the short-lived ’60’s scent called “Sun Up” by Gillette. I’d call it a cousin to the Old Spice scent, but with more of a powdery delivery, as well as a hint of the darker character of Pinaud Clubman Special Reserve. Very much a classic, old school scent. Upon first sniff, many will nod and feel a tug of nostalgia. Many of your classic scents would work fine in conjunction with this profile. Good scent strength here, but in no way overpowering or intrusive. I purchased another soap that is purportedly an Old Spice homage, and I think that, in a lot of ways, Sun Down ends up being closer in spirit than that soap.

Production/Value: This is a solidly mid-priced soap. With 4 ounces in the tub, it’s a little behind the value competitors in per-ounce price, but the ingredient list is absolutely above reproach, with nothing hinky and most every sought-after ingredient you could add and still remain a vegan formulation. Crown King’s recipe needn’t apologize for anything. To my way of thinking, it runs with the best soap I’ve ever used. I often ask, as a value test-case, if a tested soap is demonstrably better than Razorock. In this case, yes. Nothing against RR soaps, but other than maybe SMdF and The Dead Sea, this one has them outgunned.

Notes: I’m kind of kicking myself for taking so long to try Crown King soaps. Although I have more soap that I could easily use in a decade, I’m really considering buying more of this line. (Oh, I did. My willpower shattered like a chair across a wrestler’s back.)

This stuff has a lot going for it. Useful packaging, nice, wide mouth, fantastic soap, cool vintage scent. Sun Down has it going on. Highly recommended.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

Cella and the question of progress

Posted: November 13, 2017 in Shaving Articles
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Things are getting better. We’ve come so far.

This is the rallying cry that we hear in the shaving world with some frequency. Every year, soap makers come out with better formulations that lather quicker and provide more glide and feature thicker, silkier texture. New things. Better versions of awesome. With Argan Oil and Nutrient X (I just made that up).

I have a great many different modern soaps, from several different brands. Are they good? Yes. Often very good. Fantastic, even. There is a tangible difference between the soaps. The way they load and lather. The amount of water they require. All the stuff that I write reviews on. In some cases, a change in formulation for a particular brand will yield some perceivable benefit.

Don’t get me wrong. The number of great choices in today’s wet shaving market is fantastic. I love it. I hope things continue to be so focused on innovation and progress. It’s a great time. A time of being spoiled for choice. Barring allergies and sensitivities, it’s hard to make a really bad choice with any reputable artisan. Even a small amount of study can get you into a brand that will treat you right.

But…if it’s all about progress, where does that leave the old, storied brands of soap? Have they been far outshined, consigned to be the dusty relics of the past? Let’s think of Cella soap, and use that as our basis for today.

Cella has been around essentially forever. Since 1899. It says so right on the package. I don’t know if the formula has changed over that span, but even if it has, I don’t think it invalidates my point altogether. We’ll just talk about what it is today, because we can’t time travel into the past to test it out. We shall assume that it was good then, and that people liked it. Why? Because they’re still making it now, and the company is still in business. Seems logical.

The Cella of today is no more expensive than your average artisan soap. Cheaper than some, more expensive than a few. Like the bulk of the artisan soaps, it is a soft croap (very soft, in Cella’s case). It is based in tallow and coconut oil. Again, not unknown in the wetshaving world. Likely, it has been formative to what shaving soap even IS to a lot of artisans, throughout the years. Similarities almost have to abound.

I’ve been using Cella, both A/B testing it with some of the best soaps available today, and just day to day through the last several weeks. Here are my thoughts:

When you know how to use Cella, it requires no real sacrifice of quality, even when compared to the best artisan soaps of today. It is easy to work with, provides a great lather, and is kind to your skin (provided that you are not sensitive to any of the ingredients. I am aware that some have a sensitivity to the calcium carbonate in the formulation. Happily, I am not one of those people.) To my nose, the sweet almond scent is always a winner. Even if it isn’t particularly compelling to you, few would complain about it. The scent doesn’t linger, so any aftershave you wish to use will be fine.

Weaknesses? If pressed, I would list two. The first is that, because of the extreme softness of the croap, the rate of ablation is greater and faster than other soaps might show you. Particularly, a triple milled soap is going to last longer, ounce for ounce. The other weakness I would list? The wee, narrow jar. The classic red jar, while iconic to the brand, makes it harder to lather than a wider mouth container might. This is easily fixed, as one can scoop out a little and put it into a lathering mug or bowl. You can also get this stuff by the kilogram, in case you just don’t want to have to think about soap for a long, long time.

So, then. If we factor the price vs. yield, where does that leave Cella?

For me, very much still in the mix. You can get a fantastic shave with this stuff. Maybe a few soaps are a little slicker. Maybe a few have even denser lather (very damned few). Maybe a precious couple leave your face with better post shave (yes, Mitchell’s Wool Fat fans, I hear your shouts). All that said, Cella still stands as a great option, an option that could easily be your set-it-and-forget-it shave soap.

Progress is a great goal. Progress has been made. The long, long shadow of the classic products have yet to be altogether escaped. For me. Let me know what you think.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!