Author: Bob W.

Midwest shaver from St. Louis.

Classic Proraso Red

prorasoProraso Red is a well known classic shaving soap. The red version of the soap is often described as one of the best pure sandalwood scents of any shaving soap. I have been using Proraso Red for several months now in my regular rotation and have gotten a good familiarity with it’s characteristics.  Over the cold winter months and for my daily shave I have to say that I have enjoyed the experience.  So let’s get into some details.

Lather

My first attempts at lathering the soap were a bit frustrating.  I found it to be a bit frothy with many bubbles.  But after about 4 or 5 brush loads and whipping in the bowl, I was able to get it to a good working yogurt like consistency although with some bubbles remaining.  But I will say that the frothiness has seemed to dissipate over time as I have gotten deeper into the container.  This is not a thirsty soap and does much better if I try to wring out as much water from my boar brush as possible before I start loading.

Scent

It is fairly close to the pure sandalwood scent that you might be used to if you are familiar with sandalwood oil or incense.  I do use Australian Sandalwood oil on my hair on occasion when it is very dry outside in the winter so I have some familiarity with the scent.  But if you are not familiar with Sandalwood, I would describe the Proraso scent as a mild, somewhat medicated and woodsy smell.  You might say sweet but I would say more woodsy than sweet.

Performance

The cushioning and slickness is average.  But I would say the lather tends to be good at cushioning as long as you don’t use too much water (which can be easy to do).  The post shave feel is quite good and post shave scent is very mild.

Economy

What I mean by economy is how long the soap lasts and how much soap you get for the price.  On this parameter, Proraso Red is quite excellent and one of the best buys of any  shaving soap.  5.2 ounces for $10 is pretty much unparalleled for a good shaving soap.  But even better is that this soap lasts a long time.  Even with my typical 4 to 5 brush loads to create the amount of lather in the bowl which I prefer, those loads seem to barely dent the container.  If you want to enjoy a wet shave with a good quality soap that will last a long time and not empty your wallet, Proraso Red has to be one of your considerations.

Conclusion

Proraso Red is a good soap.  Perhaps the lather is not on the same level as many of the well known artisan brands but it is good enough for daily use and I have yet to find a sandalwood scented shaving soap that is as natural and having the essence of sandalwood that Proraso Red has.  And for the price it is difficult to find something better.

Misc.

Gondolier by PAA

gondolierI managed to pick this up at a discounted price on black Friday and I’ve been using it quite a bit since then.  I love Phoenix Artisan Accouterments (PAA) soaps!  This is the second PAA shaving soap that I have used so I have gotten some good experience and familiarity with them.

The scent of Gondolier is a nice cologne type smell.  It reminds me a bit of rose water.  It is moderate in strength and not overpowering.  My wife acquired the AS for me as a Christmas gift.  The AS sent is identical with just a bit more strength.  I really like the scent, so much so that I’ve been using this soap almost daily.

Lather

The PAA soap base is one of the most thirsty soaps I have ever encountered.  There are some definite benefits to this.  For one, I can create enough lather in my bowl for 3 passes by loading the brush just once for 30 seconds.  The soap just seems to love water.  Even the bloom water, after applying to my face, creates lather enough to almost shave with.  What I have found is that initially, when I have lather in the bowl, it looks pretty much like any other soap.  But after about a minute, the soap seems to gain density.  Adding some water and whipping will create the most wonderful yogurt like lather.  The soap has a property which I call an anti-newtonian property of absorbing water without thinning.  You add water, whip it up and it just grows fuller.  It’s the strangest thing to lather your face and do a pass with the razor and then see that the remaining soap is a bit dry so you add water and the bowl is almost as full as before! Well I’m exaggerating a bit but the effect is there.

With the soap being on the more dense side, you might think that it does an excellent job of cushioning.  And you would be right.  This soap is as slick as any I’ve tried but it really excels at cushioning.  And with this it seems to cause the hairs of my beard to stand up well so they can be easily cut by the razor. This means a safer shave due to using a lighter touch with the razor. The soap just encourages you to use good technique.

Economy

Because of the properties I described above, I would say the economy of PAA soaps is quite good.  It may take you a while to figure out how to work with the great thirst of the soap and get the most out of it but once you do, I believe you can make the tin last quite a long time.

Post Shave and AS

The post shave feel of my face after using this soap is very good.  And this is not surprising when you look at the many ingredients of the soap, the various butters and other things really leave my face feeling good.  The AS also has a few ingredients not typical of the average AS (like aloe) and offers a very soothing finish along with a longer lasting scent.  And although it lists menthol as an ingredient, I did not feel hardly any sting when applied.

Conclusion

This soap goes to the top of my list.  There are other soaps out there that come close but none will surpass it, at least none that I have tried so far.  This particular scent is a good entry point for PAA.  I can’t imagine that anyone would not be instantly enamored of this beautiful rose like scent.

Details

Soap PAA Gondolier
Brush Semogue 2000
Razor Rockwell 6c, plate 4
Blade Racer Platinum Class
After Shave PAA Gondolier After Shave Cologne

 

Finding Cape Verde

SOTD with Mickey Lee Cape VerdeEarlier this year I ordered a tin of Mickey Lee Soap Works Cape Verde shaving soap. This was my first experience with a Mickey Lee shaving soap and I can tell you for sure it will not be my last.

First let’s talk about this interesting scent. The description mentions lavender, orange, and tangerine (among others).  So I was thinking lavender and citrus orange which are scents that I really enjoy.  But this is not the way I would describe what I actually discovered when I tried it.  Taken all together this concoction reminds me more of the Asian star anise spice.  If you’ve ever had a good Vietnamese Pho (a type of soup) in a Vietnamese restaurant, that’s kind of how it strikes me.  Chalk this up to my very novice olfactory sensor and maybe you who are more discerning would be able to relate the smell much better with the description than me. At any rate, I am not complaining in any way about the scent of this soap, I quite enjoy it.  To complement this scent I have been using Stirling’s Sandpiper AS.  Sandpiper is more of a versatile cologne for me and it seems to work well in this case.

Lather

This is a tallow based lather and I found that it is one of the more thirsty soaps. But I also found that with the right amount of water added, I was able to produce a very nice cool whip density lather without much effort at all.  In fact, I was easily able to create a sufficient amount of lather in my bowl with 2 or 3 loads of the brush.

I would rate this lather as providing a good cushion and nice post shave feel.  All in all, I really enjoy the lather and look forward to trying other scents in this line.

Economy

I would rate this soap as average in economy.  It loads and lathers up easily but seems to use a fair amount of soap in doing so.  But this is not a hard knock.  You will get very many good shaves out of the plastic tin.

Conclusion

Mickey Lee is an excellent shaving soap.  Cape Verde is a very unique scent.  You might prefer it more in summer but I am enjoying it now even in the winter as well as summer.  They do not have nearly as many scents as some of the other artisan soap makers but with a killer tallow based lather, it’s clear that Mickey Lee has a solid soap to expand upon.  But I’m definitely going to try anther one of their scents and I’ve got my sites set on The Kraken to try next!

Details

Soap Mickey Lee Soap Works, Cape Verde
Brush Semogue 2000
Razor Rockwell 6c, plate 4
Blade Supermax Super Platinum
After Shave Stirling Sandpiper

Creamo Cream as Pre Shave

Creamo Cream as pre-shave.Creamo Cream is a very different kind of shave cream.  It is in a class of creams known as non-brush based shaving creams.  You don’t use a shaving brush to lather it or apply it.  In fact, it doesn’t really lather at all.  The cream that is produced is more like what you would get from lathering up a bath soap.  The thing to remember when using Creamo is that it requires a lot of water.  And what it really excels at is slickness.  You can use it to shave without anything else and in fact I do use it for a full shave some times when I am in a hurry and will be satisfied with a one or two pass shave.  But I don’t find this nearly as enjoyable of an experience as using a more traditional brush based soap or cream.

But the other way that I frequently use it is as a pre shave.  Applying Creamo Cream as a pre shave really makes that first pass very smooth.  The scent of the original classic Creamo is a fairly strong orange scent which I also enjoy.  And since Creamo is very thirsty, applying a layer of soap over it will keep it from drying out.  All in all using Creamo as a pre-shave for one of your favorite shaving soaps that you have lathered up will give a very nice shaving experience.  Try it and see what you think.

Review

In this particular instance I have used Creamo as a pre-shave for Barrister and Mann’s Sandalwood Latha.  This soap is unfortunately out of production.  But I have used it quite a bit and really enjoy it.  The scent is a somewhat sweet and very rich sandalwood based soap.  It is more like a cologne I think and I kind of believe that it is the smell I would get if I were inside the Taj Mahal.  The Latha soap itself lathers up fairly easily and is not thirsty.  It can become a bit thin if you get too much water in it.  It is fairly slick and generally good in all aspects.

I purchased another tin when I heard they were going out of production with it. In this case I also purchased the AS splash with it. This splash is a non-alcohol based splash and I have found it to be extremely soothing.  And unfortunately I don’t see that B & M makes another AS splash like this either.  For what it’s worth I really enjoyed using the Latha series Sandalwood.  It has been an incredible daily shaver.  I wish I could find something similar.

Blade

This blade, Ladas Super Stainless, was a new choice for me.  It is quite sharp but a bit harsh.  I tend to like the platinum coated blades more than the stainless ones.

Details

Soap Barrister and Mann Latha Sandalwood
Brush Semogue 630
Razor Rockwell 6c, plate 4
Blade Ladas Super Stainless

 

A Session With The Pirate Lady

SOTD with Anne Bonny by Doctor Jons.

Continuing with my journey into wet shaving, not long after I had started enjoying my wet shaves with TOBS Sandalwood, I began looking around at other soap makers to try.  I soon discovered Dr. Jons and their soaps looked appealing so I first tried Hydra.  I found Hydra to be an enjoyable soap to use.  The original Dr. Jons formula was quite soft (although not like a cream) and I quickly found the best way to lather it was to scoop out a small amount and press it into my bowl.

Hydra is a very mild citrus scent which I enjoyed.  But, after finishing a sample tin, I decided to try another Dr. Jon flavor and the most obvious choice was Anne Bonny.  I was intrigued by what I had read about the tradition of bay rum as a shaving scent and Anne Bonny had taken it a step farther by adding black tea.  The first time I opened the tin and took a whiff I was quite stunned at the incredible aroma.  It is truly intoxicating!  Sweet but with that black tea added in to tone down the sweetness.  If you enjoy a good cup of tea you will no doubt love this scent as well.

Review

I think this is the third tin of Anne Bonny I have used.  The first two were in the half size which Dr. Jons has since discontinued.  That’s too bad because I enjoyed purchasing those sizes as a first attempt to sample one of their scents.  But no problem here as I am a huge fan of Anne Bonny.  Another thing I like about Dr. Jons is that their soaps come in a metal container (a real tin) and not plastic.  In my opinion there’s too much plastic being used by the artisan shave soap makers.  This latest version of Dr. Jons even comes with a threaded top so it’s a bit easier to get open.

Lather

All of Dr. Jons soaps are a vegan formula and do not use animal products (such as tallow).  But don’t let this put you off.  The lather of Dr. Jons is quite excellent and in my experience it is as good as or better than any tallow based soap.   The volume 2 version of their soaps are quite a bit harder than the original.  I quite like this and I have found it actually easier to work with.  I am able to bloom the soap with a bit of water right in the tin and then use that water on my face after finishing a shower.  Some reviews I’ve seen say the soap is thirsty but I have not found this to be the case.  In fact, I try to dry out my brush as much as possible before the first load as well as empty all the bloom water from the tin.  And if you use too much water I have found that the lather will thin out rather suddenly so add water very cautiously at first until you get a feel for the optimum amount.  It does take me about three or four thirty second brush loads to get the amount of lather I prefer.

Performance

I have found the soap once lathered on to be quite nice and slick. Cushioning is good as long as you get the water right.  One point where this soap excels is the post shave.  The feel after a good three pass shave with touch up is exceptional and one of the best I have experienced.

Another outstanding point is what I refer to as economy.  The soap just seems to last forever.  Even with my practice of loading and creating more lather than is typically needed, it lasts a long time and this is especially true of the Volume 2 version.

I should also add that the artwork on Dr. Jons products is really well done and very cool, especially Anne Bonny.

I have not tried Dr. Jons AS and this is something that is on my list.  For this week’s shave I tried using Clubman Virgin Island Bay Rum and this works to a fair degree although it is much milder than the Anne Bonny scent.

So in summery, great soap and lather with outstanding post shave feel, good economy for an average cost and an incredible scent which is without equal.

Details
Soap Dr. Jons Anne Bonny
Brush Semoge 1250
Razor Rockwell 6c, Plate 4
Blade Laser Ultra Triple Coat
AS Clubman Pinaud Virgin Island Bay Rum
Bowl Doug Smith Pottery

To Bowl or Not to Bowl

jsbowlI prefer lathering in a bowl.  I think I initially started with a bowl because I didn’t know you could lather on your face.  And, using Taylor of Old Bond Street (TOBS for short) cream which I started out with was very easy to use in a bowl.  In fact, if you are in a hurry, using a cream like TOBS is a very fast way to get a good lather going quickly.

But there are other reasons which lead me to recommend using a bowl over lathering on the face.  Ultimately I believe lathering in a bowl gives you better control over forming the best and most optimum lather.  It is easier to control the amount of water that you add and it is visually more accurate.  You can see right there in the bowl how good the lather is.  You don’t have any feel for it on your skin but you can feel how the brush moves and in that way also determine how thick or thin the lather is.  As well as just lifting the brush up and out of the lather to see how it peaks.

Once the lather is formed, you don’t have to spend much time painting it on your face, it’s already formed so just spread it around and get on with the shave.  I also like to use my brush like a painter uses a brush with a paint can and scrape lather off the brush on the side of the bowl.  This also allows me to control where the lather is on the brush which in turn allows me to optimize the lather on my face.

Ok, now that I have convinced you to use a bowl (probably not), you have to decide upon a bowl to use.  At first, if you don’t want to spend any money, just find a cup or small bowl from your kitchen and use it.  If this works for you and you are happy, that’s good.  If you want a mug that has been specifically designed for lathering there are lots of good choices.  I see many people using the Captain’s Choice mugs which seem to fit nicely in the palm of your hand.  I like the Doug Smith Pottery bowl in the photo above because it adds to this idea a thumb hold.  So you can have the bowl in the palm of your hand and an added bit of security to prevent dropping it.

The Wet Shaving Podcast (a great resource by the way) did a discussion of bowl vs face lathering in a recent episode and Joe suggested that it is inconvenient to take a nice bowl when you are traveling.  This is true but it’s easy to take an inexpensive metal bowl which will work fine.

So, have I convinced you to lather in a bowl yet?  Maybe not.  But whatever the case, it’s part of the shaving ritual and whatever floats your boat is certainly good and fine.  Feel free to ask questions about this or offer your thoughts on your favorite form of lathering. But whatever the case, enjoy the shave!

How I Got Started

I started wet shaving about two years ago.  I’m not sure why.  I remember a friend asking me several years before if I had ever considered wet shaving saying that a lot of men were resorting to this old fashioned method of shaving.  I didn’t think much of it at the time but I was a bit intrigued.  After I discovered some of the early youtube shaving channels, I become more interested.  The idea of low cost and a better shave was somewhat appealing.  My shaving method at the time consisted of using an electric foil type shaver for every day shaves but using a cartridge razor for a good close shave on special occasions.

Finally I decided to jump in and give it a try.  I purchased an inexpensive Chinese made razor off of Amazon and the most inexpensive cream I could find on Amazon which was Cremo Cream along with an inexpensive badger brush and small metal shaving bowl.  Now most of these choices were a mistake.  I found out later that this razor was quite poor and not a good choice for beginners as well as that Creamo Cream is a brushless type shave cream.  After discovering that Creamo was not a good choice for use with a brush and bowl, I stumbled upon Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood.  This I was able to lather up easily and it worked well with my bowl and brush, not to mention the incredible scent and the soothing feel.  At last I was able to do an old fashioned shave the way the guys were doing it on Youtube.  But my razor with Feather blades was quite lethal.  To this day I do not have any desire to use feather blades although I see many people who enjoy them.  I just feel that a razor with a feather blade is more like a weapon than a shaving instrument!

Several months later, after discovering some of the better Youtube channels (like Nick Shaves), I was ready to upgrade.  There are a couple of razors that people recommend for beginners such as the Jagger DE 89 or the Merkur 34c but these were a little too expensive and I discovered the Maggard MR5 which also received positive reviews.  So I went with the Maggard.  I still use this razor and especially like the handle which is scalloped and has some good heft to it.

Now I was improving my shaving skill and beginning to enjoy it.  After several months of daily shaving I have begun to find a group of soaps, blades, and brushes that I prefer.  In future entries I will review my top soap choices as well as blades and brushes.  I have always shaved with a bowl and one of the most excellent tools I have acquired is a Douglas Smith shaving bowl.  I can’t recommend these enough as they are beautifully made and quite functional.

So why would I recommend wet shaving?  It can be less expensive although there is a bit of an up front cost to purchase the basic tools.  Once these are obtained, the razor and soap is quite inexpensive and the soaps will last for several months even if you shave daily.  Doing a 3 pass shave can take longer than the basic 1 pass with a cartridge or electric razor but the result is better.  I think it’s also better to learn to take your time.  Get up early enough in the morning to have enough time and don’t rush it.  Having a good shave gets you ready for the day and perhaps makes you eager to be productive and ready to get to work on the goals that are ahead.

Stay tuned for more to come and thanks for reading.