My wife Stephanie and I are the kinds of people who enjoy vintage and antique items. Everything from tintype photos to art deco jewelry, vintage furniture and so on.
It''s not a big leap from collecting antiques to using some that are serviceable and in good condition. For instance, I make my coffee in a 1960's era percolator. I also rehab old woodworking tools and I even use them now and again. Over the summer of 2015, I rebuilt our privacy fence using only hand tools.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into that April morning in 2015. I had recently acquired a 1930's Gillette double edge safety razor. I was motivated to buy the razor by the obscene prices attached to short-lived cartridges and a real dissatisfaction with disposables.
Both my dad and granddad used a safety razor their entire lives. What did they know that I didn't?
Once I started researching the topic I discovered that wet shaving, as it is called, is still a thing and has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, driven by a combination of sticker shock and a desire for a better shave. Not to mention, what exactly is in those pressurized cans of shaving cream?
I purchased a shaving brush and an artisan shaving soap to go with my safety razor. Frankly, I was very nervous. I was worried that I was going to cut myself because I had no real idea what I was doing. I watched a few online videos and had at least a basic understanding of the process, but that razor blade is SHARP!
I wet and then loaded the brush with soap the way I had seen in the videos and applied it to my face. That's not bad, it feels good and smells nice too.
Then the moment of truth.
I put razor to face and very gently took a stroke down my cheek. OK, no blood, that's good. Did it even do anything? I didn't feel much. I ran a finger over the area. Wow! It really worked.
I worked my way around my face then re-lathered and completed a second pass against the grain. After rinsing and drying my face I could hardly get over how awesome my skin felt. It really was baby butt smooth.
My god! Do other people know about this? Someone has to tell them!
After that fateful morning in the bathroom mirror, I transformed from a twice a week shaver (sometimes not even that often if I could get away with it) to a daily shaver. No longer a chore to be avoided, it is now one of the highlights of my day.
By the spring of 2016, I had started mulling the idea of creating my own shaving soap. I had tried several soaps and found a fair degree of difference between them in both formulation and performance. Most worked well enough, but I was always looking for something better.
Information about traditional cold process soap making with Sodium Hydroxide Lye is readily available. However, shaving soap is a different animal. It is created via hot process soap making and requires a mix of Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide. Information is scant at best.
I started with a basic recipe I found online and created my first test batch in May. It lathered alright and the performance was OK, but nothing to write home about.
Before long I was somewhat obsessed about it. I started making small test batches a couple of nights a week. I researched the properties of oils, techniques, even plowed through a 19th-century tome about professional soap making to gain insights about processes utilized "back in the day".
It's been an interesting journey from that first batch to now. We think our soaps are something special and hope you will too.