Shaving Sticks

Dear Reader,

The last time I posted an article on this website (“Don’t call it Badger and Blade, call it Sissies and Stiffs“) was on October 31st, 2011. Do you realize that that’s almost three full years ago? I hope that the last three years of your life have been pleasant. If on the whole these last three years have been unpleasant, then I hope you’ve at least learned something- about yourself, about life, your career, something.

Anyway let’s get down to business.

Today’s business is hard shaving soaps. Now you’ve all probably heard of Tabac, the German shaving soap. This blog post will not be a review of Tabac, which is an absolutely wonderful product. However, I’m going to show you a picture of Tabac in order to bring to your mind the physical form that this Tabac shaving soap takes when you buy it in the store. Here’s a brand new jar of Tabac.

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This is a jar of the famous Tabac hard shaving soap from Germany.

When you take off the brown lid, you see that the Tabac shaving soap is shaped like a kind of hockey puck, sitting inside the jar. To create your lather, you’ve got to take your shaving brush, wet it with warm or hot water, and stroke it around on the surface of that hockey puck shaped piece of shaving soap. Before you know it, you’ll soon have yourself a rich thick creamy slippery lather.

By the way… are there any freaks out there who secretly go into the bathroom and create a lather, but for no reason at all, just because you feel like creating a lather? Like you’re not even going to shave, but you just want to create a lather? If there are little freaks like that out there, who actually do that- then can I please ask you something? What do you do with the lather after you’ve made the lather? Do you just throw it all away, rinse it off the brush, so that it literally goes right down the drain?

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You can see that the shaving soap looks kind of like a hockey puck, sitting inside of the container.

The thing about hard shaving soaps is that oftentimes, they don’t come in a hocky puck shaped piece. Instead, they come shaped like a stick- like a huge piece of lipstick. Here’s a shaving stick from Spain. The brand is La Toja.

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La Toja shaving stick.

What you’re supposed to do with a shaving stick is wet your face, rub the tip of that shaving stick all over your wet face, and then… and then you take your wet shaving brush, start brushing it all around on your face, and basically create the lather directly on your face.

I personally do not like to do this. I don’t like doing it at all. In fact I think it’s really quite wrong. I’m not trying to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, but I swear, I believe very strongly that lather should be created in a bowl. I believe you should create lather in a bowl. Once you have created the lather, and it’s in the bowl, you then apply that lather to your face.

So again, what I like to do is create the lather in a bowl, and then apply that lather onto my face. Is there a way for me to use this La Toja shaving stick soap, but change the form of it, so that it becomes like the Tabac hockey puck illustrated above? So that I can use my shaving brush, and create a La Toja lather in a bowl, and then apply the lather to my face?

Well, there is a way- and THAT’S what this blog post is all about. This blog post is called “Shaving Sticks”, but it’s really about taking a shaving stick and changing it so that you can use that same soap to create a lather in a bowl- the same way you would with the Tabac shaving soap, which comes in its own jar.

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I’ve taken off the cap of this La Toja shaving stick. How can we get this shaving soap into a bowl or jar?

What I’m going to do right now is give you a self-explanatory picture tour of the steps you have to follow to change the form of this La Toja shaving soap from shaving stick form to bowl form.

The first step is to disassemble the shaving stick, and remove that tin foil wrapping that’s on the bottom of the stick- so the shaving stick is now just like a small cylinder of shaving soap.

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The disassembled La Toja shaving stick.

Now you need to go and grab a very simple, basic cheese grater, like the one pictured below.

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Can you guess what I’m going to do with this cheese grater?

You’re also going to need a small container or jar. I would recommend something cheap, simple, and lightweight, like this one.

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A cheap plastic jar.

This small plastic jar holds around 150 ML.

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Do not spend a lot of money! A simple plastic jar will be fine.

Now I take the stick of shaving soap and I start to grate it.

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Grating the shaving stick.

Keep grating!

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Look at this high speed action shot. Notice the blurring of my right hand.

The grated La Toja shaving stick. The gratings look like pieces of grated Parmesan cheese, but you don’t want to throw this on top of your pizza.

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The La Toja shaving stick, completely grated.

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Another shot of the grated La Toja shaving stick.

This step is not necessary, but I suggest that you use your fingers to break up the little shredded pieces of shaving soap into slightly smaller pieces.

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Breaking up the buds of the shaving soap into smaller pieces.

Now start putting it into the bowl!!!

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Transferring the shreds into the bowl.

This is actually important. What you have to do now is compress the shreds together, into the bottom of the bowl.

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Compressing the shredded soap into the bowl.

After compressing the little pieces together, they stick! It’s interesting how this happens. At this point, you can turn the bowl upside down, and those little shredded pieces just stick together.

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The little shredded pieces stick together in the bowl.

Here I’m just adding the rest of the pieces into the bowl. You may notice in the photo below that my left pinky is sticking out. You might conclude from this that I come from one of the higher social classes, like the English aristocrats, who, when they hold their tea cups, stick out their pinky finger. This would be a wrong conclusion on your part, because I come from a low class background. But is it even true that those English fops stick out their pinky fingers when they drink tea? And if it is true, then how do we know that they’re not really just a bunch of gays? I’ve even heard that the English aristocracy is not even English at all- they’re really just a bunch of sexual degenerates that got booted out of Germany, and then settled in England, so that they could start doing their monkey business over there. I really mean this- this is what an actual English guy told me. Well, that guy’s not really 100% English- he was born in England, but then when he was around seven years old he and his family moved to a ghetto in Brooklyn.

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Adding in the rest of the pieces.

Almost done adding in the pieces. Once again notice the left pinky finger sticking out.

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The jar is slowly filling up.

Pressing in the remaining shreds, nice and tight, so that they all stick together, like a solid piece of shaving soap.

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Press the shreds firmly into the bowl.

Don’t waste any!

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Brushing together the last pieces from the cutting board.

OK, maybe I’m going overboard here. Notice the shaving paraphernalia on my bed in the background of the photograph.

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Funneling in the dust of the shredded up shaving sitck.

Now I’m just going to mark the top of the jar, in order to identify which shaving soap is contained in this particular jar.

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Identifying this jar as a jar of Ta Toja.

It’s done- a jar of La Toja shaving soap- whereas before you had a La Toja shaving stick. Now, you can wet your shaving brush, brush it around in this La Toja shaving bowl, and whip up a thick rich Spanish lather, which you can then apply to your face.

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The fully labelled jar of La Toja.

Here are a couple of jars I’ve created, which originally came in the form of shaving sticks.

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From left to right: La Toja (Spanish), Lea (Spanish), Camelot (Turkish), and Arko (Turkish)

Here’s the La Toja, which I just created.

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La Toja.

Here’s the Lea.

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Lea shaving soap, from Spain.

Camelot shaving soap, from Turkey. Actually, this shaving soap is so soft, you can press it directly into your bowl! That is, you don’t have to grate it up. This is a very nice shaving soap.

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Camelot. A very soft soap, no cheese grater required.

This is the Arko shaving soap from Turkey. Arko is not as soft as Camelot, but it’s still soft enough that you can press it directly into a jar or bowl, without grating it up first.

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Arko shaving soap.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time on Baby Butt Smooth dot com.

16 replies
  1. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    You can load the brush directly from the soap stick, just grip it in your fist leaving about 1/2 cm protruding and lather.
    I recommend Palmolive. I haven’t tried Camelot, what scent is it? Nicer than Arko I hope.

    Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear Kevin,

      First of all, thank you very much for your feedback- on this article, and on the “Intro and Buying Guide”. I appreciate it.

      I completely agree with you on the Palmolive. I think that the Palmolive stick, which appears to be manufactured in Germany, represents an absolutely outstanding value- maybe the best value that exists in the world of hard shaving soaps. When I was living in London, I could score a Palmolive stick in ASDA for 49 pence. It was simply unreal. The Palmolive stick has an interesting greenish color, and it produces a great, fresh smelling, slippery lather. My own preference continues to be to lather in a bowl, not directly from the stick- so as I do with all of my shaving sticks, I grated my Palmolive stick and pressed the shavings into a tiny plastic jar/bowl, as shown in the pictures above.

      The Camelot, which, like the Arko, is Turkish, is alright. It’s a strange stick, because it’s so soft, you can press it directly into a cup or bowl, without grating it. It’s the only stick I can do that with. It’s like handling plastic explosives. The Camelot produces a good lather, and smells better than the bizarre smelling Arko, but as an example, if I had to choose between the Camelot, and the Palmolive stick from Germany, I would totally choose the Palmolive stick any day of the week.

      Thank you again for your feedback. I appreciate it.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply
      • Kevin
        Kevin says:

        I have enjoyed reading your blog, thank you. The price of Palmolive never ceases to amaze me as it out performs and equals some soaps ten times its price.
        I have recently acquired a La Toja stick but am yet to use it. Many people speak very highly of it so I look forward to the experience.
        I’ve searched on line for the Camelot stick but drew a blank.
        Please keep up the good work.

        Reply
  2. Supermangs
    Supermangs says:

    I take your point that you don’t like face lathering. Your face is yours, your shave is yours. I battled with bowl lathering for a long time, and eventually returned to face lathering. One of the key reasons was that with face lathering, you are applying the lather on your face right from the beginning of the process. The softening and “lathering” effects of the soap or cream commence from the moment you first put cream/soap and brush to face.

    With a bowl lather, you spend a few minutes creating a lather, and then have to spend a few minutes adding the lather to your face and allowing it to take effect. It seems like it doubles the time spent. Obviously, if you have the time and prefer the bowl, so be it.

    One other minor pleasure I have is the magic of watching such a small amount of shave stick applied to my face and then watching it bloom into a mass of lather. Just a small thing, but it helps make my day.

    Reply
  3. Martin
    Martin says:

    Dear sir

    It was whilst I was having my four o’clock cup of tea, from my fine porcelain cup, that I noticed that my little finger, what you in the Colonies call a ‘pinky, was pointing out! I should say, that I normally take coffee or tea from a mug, which doubles up as a shaving bowl.
    Actually it was a serendipitous occurrence to read your blog, as my Turkish barber had just given me a stick of Arko soap and I didn’t know how to use it. As you say, there was no need for the Parmesan grater as it is semi-soft. I placed a small amount in a round Tupperware bowl and was really surprised at the amount of lather and the quality of the shave, the best to date.

    I have returned to DE shaving after an absence of 30 years; this is week one and I was about to give up. My fist blade was a ‘Flight’ and after the scrape looked like Norman Gunston. An Astra blade and changing from Palmolive shaving cream to the Arko has made a big difference. I have very sensitive skin, in the true sense -dry, eczema and psoriasis!- so have to be very careful.

    I have to say that I really enjoyed reading your erudite, concise and informative introduction to DE shaving.

    Kind regards

    Martin

    Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear Martin,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to comment.

      Arko is nice but I really have to say, the German product, Tabac, which is a hard soap, is really wonderful. I used it this morning. Believe me, I have a good collection of hard shaving soaps and semi-hard shaving soaps (like Arko, and another less well known Turkish product, Camelot). And in spite of all of this variety, I find that I keep returning to Tabac. Tabac is wonderful. I am not sure how well it would interact with your sensitive skin, but somehow I think it might be appropriate- because at least to me, Tabac seems less medicinal than Arko. Arko strikes me as having a really soapy, super clean, almost antiseptic smell. Tabac just has this strange kind of retro 1970’s style woodsy or musk like smell. But Tabac really performs- it produces a super rich, slippery, dense thick lather. The downside of Tabac is that it is more expensive than Arko- but based on how long Tabac lasts- either the Tabac jar with the hockey puck, or the Tabac stick- it really isn’t expensive at all, in absolute terms.

      Thank you again Martin for reading the intro, and for taking the time to comment.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply
      • Martin
        Martin says:

        Hi Phil

        As there are so many system variables, razor, blade, brush, soap and of course pre/post shave lotions, I will change one variable at a time. When my current soap is finished, I will take up your recommendation and try the Tabac- I used to use their after-shave in the 70’s, so it will be a rejuvenating experience.

        I have been amused by comments made about the UK; look I am a regular, non- Gentleman shaver, so will not be buying the finest badger and Gentleman’s shaving paraphernalia from the Burlington Arcade!
        Regards

        Martin

        Reply
  4. Edward
    Edward says:

    “I personally do not like to do this. I don’t like doing it at all. In fact I think it’s really quite wrong.”

    Here I do not agree with you
    I think face lathering can deliver a proper good lather – and you may end up using less cream in the end.
    It aids in beard preparation and softening.
    It is my preferred method to lather and I get very good results with it.

    Otherwise a good read
    Thanks for the handy tips

    Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear Edward,

      It is me who should thank you. Thank you Edward.

      On the other hand I don’t know if we will ever see eye-to-eye on face lathering.

      However, there was a time- not a time, it was actually my entire life, up until about three months ago- that I never would have imagined being able to drink a cup of black coffee- strong black coffee- without cream and without sugar. And guess what- now, every single day, I drink black coffee- no cream, no sugar! And I mean that! One day I simply decided that I would become a black coffee drinking man. And so I did it. No cream, no sugar, cold turkey. At first it was difficult, and strange. But I stuck to it. And now I really love it.

      “C’était d’ailleurs une idée de maman, et elle le répétait souvent, qu’on finissait par s’habituer à tout.”

      “I remembered it had been one of Mother’s pet ideas- she was always voicing it- that in the long run one can get used to anything.”

      This is what happened to me with black coffee. I got used to it. Now I like it! Maybe some day I will become a ferociously outspoken supporter of face lathering. Thank you Edward.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply
      • nomex
        nomex says:

        Phil, I was once a staunch advocate of using only a bowl until a co-worker gave me a stick of Arko. I gave it a shot, and I must admit I’ve been a face lathered since March this year. It is dead easy for me to create a lather this way. Two passes over a wet face and I’m ready to shave. My razors (R41 2011, Fatip, CJB, and Feather AC ss) seem to prefer the lather. I too went the black coffee route. I feel one should be able to find many ways of doing things.

        Regards,

        nomex

        Reply
  5. Edward
    Edward says:

    “By the way… are there any freaks out there who secretly go into the bathroom and create a lather, but for no reason at all, just because you feel like creating a lather?”

    Here is a few reasons
    1) Breaking in a brush and help getting rid of the animal scent
    2) Testing out a soap – amount of water? Palm/face/bowl lather giving better results?
    3) Testing out a brush
    4) Testing a soap brush combination – comparing lathers to each other within minutes – instead of waiting 24h to compare
    5) And finally – i wash my face with the lather – skin is soft and ends up hydrated and smelling fresh

    Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear Edward,

      This is one of the best comments I think I have ever read on this website. Thank you. I sincerely appreciate the thought that you put into this.

      I believe that I am going to try out Reason #5. I am going to make some lather, and wash my face with it. The honest truth is that I am frugal… but by necessity. I am actually struggling to manage a huge MasterCard debt with a 22.9% APR- I mean I can barely make the interest payments each month- and this, my financial situation, has something to do with the reason I asked the question in the first place (the question being, does anyone out there lather, but then not use the lather for shaving). Because secretly, deep down inside, I would LOVE to test out different shaving soaps, to see which of these goddamn soaps, in the final analysis, creates the best lather- however, because I’m broke, I would never for a second consider whipping up a lather if I didn’t intend to use it for shaving, and if I didn’t have to shave. That is, I feel, at this time in my life, that I simply can’t afford to engage in waste. However, since face washing seems like an entirely reasonable way to use shaving soap lather, I am now on board. I am going to use my brush and hard shaving soaps to create lather, different lathers, a whole diverse range of lathers- with absolutely no intention of shaving- and I’m going to wash my face with those lathers. And then, maybe some day, I will get closer to finding out the answer to that question, of which shaving soap, and which shaving soap lather, really is the best. Thank you Edward.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear Marc Jackson,

      I try to never censor or block the honest feedback coming out of the DE shaving community, no matter how strident or critical it may be. Even when people attack me personally, I try to publish the comments- it’s a way of showing appreciation for the time that that person took to communicate- I guess it’s a way of showing respect. But what you have written is pushing the limits. Please do not do that again. Instead, please try to say something interesting that reflects somehow on the subject at hand. Thank you.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply
  6. Charlie Moore
    Charlie Moore says:

    I grated my La Toja and put it in an old wooden bowl that was too small for any of my other soap pucks. Great idea! Thanks.
    Charlie

    Reply

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