Product Review: Bath House Spanish Fig & Nutmeg Shave Soap

We all do it.  All of us find a soap, or a cream, or a car, or whatever that grabs our interest from the first moment and then we proceed to build up that thing in our minds until it is so amazing, so spectacular that it could not possibly live up to our expectations.  I’m more guilty of this than anyone I know.  I’ll find a review for a really good soap, or pen, or giraffe biscuit on line and I’ll do what I usually do, research it to death.  I’ll find out so much about the product that I could be called upon to act as an expert witness in a court case, and then I will, of course, buy the product only to find that the super duper giraffe biscuit may be pretty great at feeding your giraffe, but it’s still just a biscuit.  We all do it, but I’m more guilty of it than most.

Every once in a while I will find something that catches my eye and I will resist the urge to obsess over it.  Sadly, what usually ends up happening is that, in spite of my best intentions, this thing sticks with me and nags at my subconscious until I’m left a drooling fool with only one thing on my mind (rosebuuud…).  This was the case with Bath House Spanish Fig & Nutmeg shave soap.

I initially encountered Bath House on Connaught Shaving’s web site.  I was intrigued by the look, the interesting ingredients list, and the odd brand name.  Everything about it made me want to try it out, but at the time I had just encountered several creams and soaps that left my nose cringing with horror, so I was reluctant to try something new and unknown.  Months passed by and every now and then I would place this soap in my electronic shopping cart only to remove it later.  Eventually I broke down and decided to buy a bowl of the stuff, but by then no one in the UK seemed to have it in stock any more and everyone who had some in the USA wanted $10-$20 MORE than they were charging for it in the UK.  The refills were readily available, but the wooden bowl with the soap seemed to have disappeared.  I don’t know if the soap was discontinued or if the demand required to stock the soap just wasn’t there, but for whatever reason, it appeared as if my window of opportunity in regards to this soap had closed.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I was posting a B/S/T thread to see if I could eliminate some things from my “need to try” list.  For some reason I decided to throw the Bath House soap on almost as an afterthought.  I figured that if someone had a partially used bowl of the stuff that I might get lucky and be able to snag it for a decent price.  Luckily for me a fine member of The Shave Nook shaving forum, Oscar (A.K.A. ojinsa), just happened to have an unused bowl of the soap, just happened to see my post, and just happened to live a short distance away.  After a little logistical finagling we met up and I ended up with a nice, new wooden bowl of Bath House Spanish Fig & Nutmeg soap.

Let me just pause right here and say that Oscar is a great guy.  He’s easy to deal with and has some great insights into life, the universe, and everything.  If you ever get the chance to have any interaction with this bastion of traditional wet shaving goodness, then I highly recommend it.

So, now that I had the soap all that was left to do was to try it out.  This soap is, in a word, Spectacular.  The scent is amazing, it lathers easily, and it’s extremely slick.  It was everything that I was hoping for and more.  When I started on my preshave routine I noticed that I was still a little tender from yesterday’s shave, so to test this soap out I grabbed my ultra soft EMJ synthetic brush, some Shave Secret, and my cocobolo Schick G Type (with a Personna blade on its second shave).  I did a three pass wtg/atg/xtg shave followed by a cold water rinse and some SAL Alum.  The results were a DFS with zero nicks and zero irritation…and a new soap for my shelf-o-goodness.  The Bath House smells earthy and spicy, but mild and unobtrusive at the same time.  The scent lingers pleasantly for a while, but stays in the background where it belongs.  The lather is typical of a veggie based soap in that it is a bit thinner than many tallow soaps, but it is also super slick and provides plenty of protection.  Afterward my skin felt as if I hadn’t done anything to it.  The soap isn’t as moisturizing as PdP, but it also isn’t harsh or drying.  I wasn’t ultra soft, but I also wasn’t dried out.  In the end, even with slightly tender skin, I managed to have a very pleasant shave with an unfortunately overlooked product.  Bath House Spanish Fig & Nutmeg is an excellent soap and I would recommend that everyone stay as far away from it as possible…so that I can snatch up and hoard every puck still in stock.

Product Ratings (1-10, 1 being the absolute lowest and 10 being the absolute best):

Scent Quality: 9
Scent Strength: 6
Lather Quality: 8
Slickness: 8
Skin Care: 7
Overall: 8

image

image

image

image

image

Product Links:
http://www.bullgooseshaving.net/bahospfigand.html
http://www.bullgooseshaving.net/bahospfigand1.html

http://www.connaughtshaving.com/bhm9.html

Caveat Emptor

We have all had transaction that turned out to be less than stellar.  Maybe that used bike had a weak chain that busted off on the first use, or that amazing deal that you got on a computer turned out to be for the CPU only, or that cased Schick Injector that you bought off of eBay was pure junk…in the end, whenever we buy anything we should all keep in mind that Latin wisdom: caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware.

I consider myself a pretty good buyer.  I worked in sales for years, I have dealt with shady situations, and I am fairly good at recognizing when something is not all that it appears to be.  Unfortunately, even I end up on the wrong end of a bum deal every once in a while.  Sometimes I’m too impulsive or I make a purchase contrary to what my research and instincts are telling me and I end up with the shaft.  It happens and I can either deal with it and learn from the mistake or I can whine and go on the offensive in attempt to force the seller to rectify the situation.  More often than not the latter course of action ends up costing more in the long run, so I usually try to just suck it up and move on…after all, I should have known better.

Recently I was looking for a cased injector.  I found several on the B/S/T sections of various forums, but none of them really grabbed me.  A quick eBay search netted me several results, but only a few were priced reasonably well.  One such auction caught my eye.  The razor was being sold by a professional eBay seller who quite obviously had no real knowledge of vintage razors, there were only a couple of mediocre pictures, the case looked beat up on the outside, and the razor was described as having a crack in the handle.  Every instinct told me to walk away, but I kept thinking, “Eh, I can clean that up and a little epoxy should fix the handle well enough.”  So, in spite of my better judgement, I bought it.

At his point I can already imagine some of you folks shaking your heads.  I know, it was a poor choice and I regretted it almost instantly, but the story does have a somewhat happy ending, so stick with me.

The razor arrived rather quickly and was well packed, both of which struck me as good signs.  When I opened it up the case turned out to be in worse condition than I thought, but still looked salvageable.  The razor had some gunk and a small crack on the handle, but appeared to be in otherwise excellent condition.  All in all, I was fairly happy.  Then I began to clean.

The case’s fake leather lining came loose instantly, revealing a ton of corrosion and gunk.  I scrubbed everything with soap and water, sanded off the corrosion on the metal, let it all dry, treated the fake leather and the metal with some oil, and glued it back together.  It was more work than I expected, but it came out serviceable, even if it was still somewhat ugly.  The razor was another story.

I sprayed some scrubbing bubbles on the razor and then went at it with a cotton swab, but as soon as I applied a little pressure to the razor’s head the handle literally crumbled into pieces.  I blinked a few times before gathering up all of the pieces and sitting down at the computer to figure out a solution.  I considered returning the damn thing, but it only cost me about $9 and returning it would have been a huge headache.  I looked up custom injector handles, but apparently that is a mostly untapped market (although apparently a few people have done this).  My first instinct was to glue the handle back together, coat it all in epoxy, wrap tape around it, and then put a clear coat on top…but the thing was in about fifty tiny pieces and would have been way too labor intensive to be worth the effort.  That’s when I remembered a custom dip pen handle that I had.

About a year ago my wife bought me a nice, hand turned cocobolo dip pen handle as a present and while I Iiked the way it looked, it just didn’t perform well, so it sat in my desk mostly unused.  As I sat at my desk, staring at my dip pen and trying to come up with a solution, it occurred to me that the shaft of the razor head might fit nicely into the dip pen handle’s nib hole.  So, I pulled the last of the bakelite handle off of my useless Schick, and wedged the razor head into my dip pen handle…and it actually fit pretty well.  With a plan in mind I finished cleaning up the razor head, cut off about an inch from the end of the dip pen handle, rounded off the end, and epoxied the head into the handle. I would’ve used cement or something a little more secure, but two part epoxy was all that I had on hand and it’s pretty good stuff, so it’s what I used.  The razor ended up looking pretty decent and, after setting properly, the epoxy seems to have created a pretty secure bond between the metal and wood nib hole and the metal razor head.  Now all I had to do was shave with it…which I did this morning, but that is a story for the SOTD.

In the end, I managed to find a solution for a bad situation and came out from it alright, but it could have gone in an entirely different direction if I had not had just the right tools and parts to create a solution.  I have no one to blame for making a poor purchase but myself.  It’s my own fault for forgetting: caveat emptor.

image

image

image

The More The Marrier

One of the things that many of the folks involved in the traditional wet shaving community have in common is their desire to try new and different things.  Sometimes what starts off as a simple shave can spiral into an orgy of products, experiments, and outright excess.  It can be difficult to say, “OK, I don’t need anything other than some soap, a brush, and a good razor with a fresh blade.”  What it usually turns into is, “Hmm, I’ll add some of this cream…and try this new blade…ooh, I better use some preshave too…”

I started out today with a fairly straight forward set up: the restored Made-Rite brush with a pure badger knot, my 1912 with a Gem stainless steel blade, and some Kell’s Ultra Aloe Energy soap, but then I added on.  I pulled out the Shave Secret for a preshave oil and decided to make a superlather using the Kell’s and some AoS Ocean Kelp.  I also decided to use some of my trusty SAL Alum and a dash of AoS Ocean Kelp after shave lotion.  I also made the decision to change out the Gem stainless steel blade for a Gem carbon steel just to see how the carbon blade would compare.  The stainless steel still has some life in it, so it gets to live in the Clog Pruf for a while. In the end, what started out as a simple lather and rinse sort of shave ended up being a product extravaganza.  The picture of today’s set up does not reflect all of these changes because all of that stuff is a pain to photograph together and because I already took the picture and did not feel like redoing it.

I did a three pass wtg/atg/xtg shave followed by a cold water rinse and my post shave add-ons.  The results were a BBS shave with zero nicks and zero irritation.  The superlather worked up into a nice creamy result, but the scent of the Kell’s Energy overpowered the AoS Ocean Kelp.  Next time I’ll use some Karo Classic or Local Pig instead.  The carbon blade was nice and smooth, but was not significantly different than the stainless steel blade.  Overall, this was a good shave.  My abilities with SE razors continue to improve and with that improvement my comfort level also increases.

Pre: Hot shower, warm water splash, and Shave Secret
Razor: Gem 1912
Blade: Gem carbon steel
Brush: Made-Rite pure badger
Soap: Superlather of Kell’s Ultra Aloe Energy and AoS Ocean Kelp
Post: Cold water rinse, SAL Alum, and AoS Ocean Kelp After Shave Lotion

image

Part Four, or How To Shave Hairs And Influence People

Part Four, or How To Shave Hairs And Influence People

18 AUG 2013

This is my final day of testing out the various SE razors that I recently acquired before deciding on which one I will be using to improve my SE technique. The las razor is a Gem Contour II. It is actually the razor that I have been looking forward to using the most. This razor has a nicely contoured handle (hence the name) with fine grooves for grip and most of the weight in the head. It snaps open and closed very easily and smoothly, which makes loading a blade a breeze. The guard bar should also make this razor a bit less aggressive than the other Gems that I have used so far. It has kind of a drab 80s design, but it seems to work on this razor.

I have been working on the Made-Rite brush over the last couple of days (sanding down the rough spots, buffing out the dings, removing the few spots of excess epoxy, and applying some turtle wax), so I am taking this brush out for a little spin. The knot isn’t my favorite, but it’s fairly soft and has good backbone, so it does well with soaps that need a little extra force to get them to cooperate.
The Stirling Costal soap will round out the shave. I have test lathered this soap a few times and really like the way it whips up, so I’m looking forward to seeing how well it performs. The Costal scent is no longer listed on Stirling’s web site, so I have to assume that it has been discontinued. I’m not too sad about this because as well as the soap seems to perform, the scent just is not all that great.

Following my usual prep I loaded my Gem stainless steel blade up and did a three pass wtg/atg/xtg shave followed by a cold water rinse and some SAL Alum. I managed a DFS with mild irritation and no nicks.

First, let me say that I really liked the Stirling soap. It performed well, was extremely slick, and was fairly protective. I can understand why these soaps get so much attention.
The semi-restored Made-Rite had no trouble creating lather, but it did not hold much and had to be refreshed after each pass. I don’t know if this is due to its small size (I believe the knot is about 18mm) or because the hair is of poor quality. I may end up reknotting it, but I’ll give it another chance or two first.

With that out of the way let me move on to the initial evaluation of the razor. I was disappointed. The Contour II is so mild that I found myself applying unnecessary pressure to get clean passes, which resulted in some discomfort and irritation. While this can be dealt with in the future using proper technique and patience, what can not be dealt with was the ho-hum factor. I found the Contour II to be a boring razor. It did its job, and I have no doubt that I will be able to use it effectively in the relatively near future, but it was so middle of the road that I felt like I was shaving with a generic store brand cartridge razor. It did not impress me or offer up anything that I could not get from another razor. I was just there. I think the main problem that I had with this razor is that with so many options out there, using a middle of the road razor (even a well made and well designed middle of the road razor) holds very little appeal. This would be a good travel razor or a good razor to use when in a hurry, but I doubt hat I would ever want to include it in my regular rotation.

In spite of my apathy toward the Contour II, this was a successful shave and I can see my technique improving a little bit each day. I don’t know that I will become a full fledged L.O.S.E.R., but I can absolutely see adding some SE razors into the regular rotation. As for which razor I will be using to work on my technique, I think that the Gem 1912 will get the honor. It is a big, intimidating razor, but it also holds the most appeal for me. I figure that if I can manage with the 1912, then I will be able to handle any SE with ease. We will see how it goes.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Gem Contour II
Blade: Gem stainless steel
Brush: Made-Rite Pure Badger
Soap: Stirling Costal
Post: Cold water rinse and SAL Alum

Image

Part Three, or How I Found The Edge And What I Did With It Once I Found It

It’s true that to get truly comfortable with a particular thing, any particular thing, that you should eliminate as many variables as possible. So, it should hardly be surprising that I am having some issues with my technique and tenderness. I do plan on settling down, I just want to try all of my newly acquired SE razors first. It’s not necessarily a recipe for success, but I can live with a little tenderness while I play.

Today I decided to try easing up a bit. I’ll be using the Schick Type G Injector. This razor is, by most accounts, a relatively mild razor and it’s similarity in style to older cartridge razors should make using it a somewhat easier task. I have avoided injector razors mostly because I thought they looked kind of boring, but also because their blades are fairly expensive when compared to DE blades and are also harder to come by. In spite of this, my curiosity got the better of me and I grabbed one up when the opportunity presented its self (thank you, Nation Wide Box Tour). I have two sets of blades for this razor, a seven pack of Schick Platinum blades and an eleven pack of Exchange Select Platinum Chrome blades. The Schick blades come in a blister pack and are dispensed from a nice metal container. The Exchange Select blades also come in a blister pack, but are dispensed by a plastic bottomed/metal topped container. I have no idea who made the Exchange Select blades, so I am going to be using the Schick blades to start with.

The injector has an old school feel to me, so I am going to do a sort of old school shave. I’m using some Colgate Mug Soap along with my scuttle and a partially restored Made-Rite brush with a pure badger knot. This set up really has a cool retro look and I rather like it.

I really liked the look of the Made-Rite brush and was looking forward to restoring it, but too much enthusiasm and not enough forethought often make for poor outcomes. I had a little bit of tragedy occur with this brush when I, without thinking about the fact that steam makes plastic unhappy, placed this brush in a steam bath to remove the old knot. I realized my mistake relatively early, but the steam and heat still warped part of the lower half of the handle…a stupid mistake, but one that did not make this brush unusable. a drill finished up the knot removal, some careful heating and shaping partially restored its shape, and a sterilized pure badger knot from another brush easily fit in (secured by two part epoxy). I still have to polish this guy up and redo the lettering on the bottom, but for now I am happy.

To start this shave off I microwaved some water and poured it over the puck of Colgate Mug soap and into the scuttle to get everything nice and warm. I soaked my brush with hot water from the sink and let it rest on top of the scuttle rather than in the reservoir because I felt that the water inside was too hot for the badger hair. After my shower, and as I was loading up a fresh blade and wetting my face, I did settle the brush into the scuttle’s brush soaker. Loading up the injector was an interesting, but simple, process and I finally understand the point of the “key” on the blade dispenser. Lathering up the Colgate Mug soap was easier than I expected it to be. I was afraid that this stuff would act like William’s Mug soap, but I got a quick and easy lather out of it. It did start off a bit thin, but a return to the puck solved this issue. With everything set I was ready to begin my first shave with the Schick Type G Injector razor.

I did a three pass wtg/xtg/atg shave (normally I go wtg/atg/xtg, but I felt like trying a more conventional approach) followed by a cold water rinse and some SAL Alum. The results were a BBS shave with zero irritation and zero nicks. The alum barely caused a tingle after my shave, which is always nice.

My first impression of this razor is that it is very mild and very easy to use. After the first pass I was concerned that it might be too mild for me, but I kept going and found that its mildness comes, at least partly, form its ability to cut smoothly and easily. The small head design made maneuvering a piece of cake and made it obvious as to why this razor design is so popular.The Schick is a forgiving, but effective razor that I really enjoyed using. It may not be the flashiest thing in the world and the blades may be a bit pricey, but it is a razor that deserves respect.

The Colgate Mug soap was a snap to lather and did the job, but it does not strike me as anything special. If it were still made I would call it a good workhorse type soap, but since it is not I think of it as a nice novelty that works well. It had a slight scent that I could not quite place, but was very subdued and could easily be paired with just about any cream for an excellent superlather.

The Made-Rite Brush did a good job and will probably make regular appearances in my rotation once it is fully restored. I really like the red coloring and might even see if I can snag one or two more on eBay.

In the end, my Injector experience was a very positive one and I will absolutely be working this razor into a regular rotation. It’s unfortunate that the blades are not more readily available, but they are far from rare and if they last a week then they will still be far less expensive than cartridges. I really feel that injectors and Gem type razors belong in separate categories, but I’m glad that their lumping together lead me to pick this razor up in the first place.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash

Razor: Schick Type G Injector

Blade: Schick Platinum Injector blade

Brush: Made-Rite reknotted with a pure badger knot

Soap: Colgate Mug soap

Post: Cold water rinse and SAL Alum

Image

My Life With The SE Kult

This is day two of the great single edge safety razor experiment.  I have discovered a few tid-bits and tips in regards to properly using SE razors which should make for a better experience.  I’m also moving on to the next SE razor in my arsenal, the Gem Micromatic Clog Pruf with the same Gem stainless steel blade that I used yesterday. I’ll also be trying out the TSD Lemons and Figs lanolin soap with my EMJ synthetic brush. I’m a little hesitant about this soap because the few TSD soaps that I have used in the past have not worked well for me, but none of them have been of the lanolin variety. The Lemons and Figs feels completely different from the the other TSD soaps I have tried and it smells great, so I have high hopes.

For this shave, because my skin is still a little tender from yesterday I only did a two pass with the grain/against the grain shave followed by a cold water rinse and some SAL Alum.

This shave was an improvement over yesterday, but it was still not quite where I need it to be quality wise.As my technique improves I hope to be able to pull of shaves with SE razors as effortlessly as I do with DE razors.  As of right now using an SE takes me almost as long as using a disposable blade straight razor and results in irritation and some slight frustration.

Even after loading my brush up fairly heavily, the TSD Lemons and Figs soap lathered up a bit thin, but it did the job and smelled nice through out the shave. I will experiment with it and see if I can’t get it to come out properly in the future.

I made sure to keep the Clog Pruf’s head flat against my skin, rather than using the guard as a land mark, and kept a closer eye on my angle, but I still got some moderate irritation and a small nick. My technique with SE razors still needs work, but I’m improving and I look forward to mastering these beasts.  I would not quite call this a damn fine shave, but it’s close.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Gem Micromatic Clog Pruf
Blade: Gem stainless steel
Brush: Every Man Jack synthetic
Soap: The Shave Den Lemons and Figs lanolin
Post: Cold water rinse and SAL Alum

Image

Livin’ On The Edge, My Indoctrination Into The Single Edge Cult

Single Edge razors, or SE razors, are one of the many oddities of traditional wet shaving.  They are a group of razors that linger in relative obscurity, even within the traditional wet shaving community.  SE razors first popped up in the 1890s and were widely produced until their decline in the 70s.  Poor marketing, less variety, and Gillette cornering the safety razor market via returning WWI and WWII veterans (who were given the Gillette Old Type as a part of their standard issue field gear) are all listed as reasons for the decline and eventual demise of the SE razor.  Whatever the reasons, time has marched on and away from the poor single edge safety razor.  In spite of this SE razors are still regarded as excellent shaving tools.  SE razors can be purchased for relatively little money and while there are relatively few options the blades are still available in most on-line shaving stores and can even be found in many drug stores such as CVS, Walgreen’s Pharmacy, and Rite Aid.  For someone interested in trying something a little different, the SE is an excellent choice.

Generally speaking, there are two different types of SE razors, the Gem type (which encompasses a number of different razors made mostly by Star, Gem, and Ever-Ready) and the Injector type (which is more or less entirely represented by the various Schick injector razors).  These two razor types are very different and use completely different designs, blades, and mechanics and are only lumped together because they both happen to be outdated razor designs which use a ridgid single edged blade.  The Cobra razor is another, currently produced SE razor that does not quite fit into either category (it is closest to an injector), but is usually kept in its own special category in spite of the fact that it too is a single edge safety razor.  For my purposes when I am referring to SE razors I am talking about the Gem and injector style razors, but excluding the Cobra.

Recently I have become interested in SE razors.  It has come about partly from a desire to try something different and partly because I have been seeing an increase in the number of folks posting SOTDs featuring SE razors.  Thanks to an event called The Nation Wide Box Tour (hosted by one of my favorite shaving forums, The Shave Den) I have managed to pick up a few Gem SE razors, a Schick Injector and several blades for both razor types.  Over the next couple of weeks I will dedicate my time to learning about the history, proper techniques, and peculiarities of each of these odd razors.  I hope to come out with a better understanding of SE razors and traditional wet shaving in general.

For my first go with a single edge razor I decided to use my largest and most intimidating SE razor. Last night, after picking out some SE razors, I boiled some water and sterilized the razors that I snagged from The Nation Wide Box Tour. This morning while looking over my freshly cleaned razors I debated heavily with myself about which razor to try first. The large headed Gem 1912 won out, so I loaded a stainless steel Gem blade (making sure to slide the blade into, rather than over, the two prongs that stabilize the blade), grabbed some Musgo Real Lime Basil shave cream and my Vulfix 376S Super Badger brush and set up for my shave.

Following my usual preparation I did a three pass with the grain/against the grain/across the grain shave and finished up with a cold water rinse and some T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel.

The first thing I noticed about using a Gem type SE razor was that the large head and rigid straight blade make this razor a lot like a disposable blade Rolls Razor. Unfortunately I had a hard time figuring out how to position the thing so as to get the proper angle and found myself constantly changing my angle with out realizing it…which resulted in an overly aggressive shave. Luckily for me the 1912 is fairly forgiving and the Musgo Real shave cream is ultra slick. I managed a damn fine shave with a couple of tiny nicks (which required no styptic) and mild irritation. I’ll have to work on my technique with this giant headed razor, but I see lots of potential.

On a positive note, the Musgo Real Lime Basil is awesome! It’s an amazing lime scent with spicy, woody notes and none of the sweetness that usually accompanies a lime scent. It lathered easily and provided an extremely slick surface.

Overall I would say that this was a good first attempt at SE shaving and with some technique improvement I predict that I will be getting some great shaves from my newly acquired SE razors.

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Gem 1912
Blade: Gem Stainless Steel
Brush: Vulfix 376S Super Badger
Soap: Musgo Real Lime Basil
Post: Cold water rinse and T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel

Image