DE Shaving Bowls and Skuttles- Just Say No

I want to beg men everywhere who are involved in DE shaving to please consider the following simple fact: if/when you buy yourself, and use, a fancy, expensive and mysterious looking shaving bowl, or an ancient looking shaving skuttle like the kind Charles Dickens used when nobody had sinks with running water- then this is what will happen. Your wife, girlfriend, female companion, male lover, partner- will then be able to go on wasting money on clothing and shoes and there won’t be a thing you can say to stop them…

If you get that fancy shaving bowl or skuttle- for the love of God a skuttle, the name itself is telling you it’s not something you or anyone should be using today- when you get stuff like that you forever lose the right to say “don’t you have enough shoes already?” or “do you really need another pair of boots, what about that last pair you bought, I’ve never seen you wearing that pair…” You lose your right to say that forever. Don’t even try to say it, if you get yourself that fancy shaving bowl.

Keep things simple and use a regular old mug. You’ve probably already got one in the house. If you don’t, buy a cheap one, preferably a nice thick heavy one- the thicker the mug, the more heat it will retain, helping you to keep your lather luscious and warm. In fact, a nice thick mug will actually retain heat much longer and better than those expensive, metal shaving bowls that are making the rounds. What’s really nice too are those jumbo mugs, which are almost like small soup bowls with a handle on them. You know, a regular jumbo mug. Those are ideal, and inexpensive.

On this subject of shaving bowls, I would like to propose the following shaving sequence, which is the system I’ve been using lately. This routine requires:

  • a DE razor
  • a brush
  • a REGULAR mug (not some crazy bowl or skuttle)
  • shaving cream or shaving soap, whichever you prefer
  • also, Proraso’s excellent Pre Shave Cream, which I think is fantastic. You need so little of it for each shave, so a tiny jar goes a long way. It’s not overly expensive, it really improves my shave, and I’ve just become a big fan of it lately.

OK, so here’s the routine, which I believe should be followed in this exact order, in this sequence:

  1. run hot water into your thick heavy tea/coffee mug
  2. while the hot water is running into your mug and making it warm, apply the Proraso pre-shave cream to your face, and really work it into your beard; use your hand, not the brush; while you’re doing this, the mug is getting hot
  3. now dump the hot water out of the mug
  4. now squeeze some Proraso shaving cream into the mug, and with your brush, work up a nice silky lather (or use your hard shaving soap to work up a lather)
  5. while you’re busy creating the lather, the Proraso pre-shave cream has the opportunity to absorb into your skin and soften your beard, prepping you for the shave; should this really count as an action step in this sequence, since it’s happening all by itself, without your involvement?
  6. when you’re done mixing up the lather, apply the lather and start your first pass.

I’m getting excited just thinking about it. I know that the above steps seem ridiculously obvious, but I like how stuff is happening while other stuff is happening. The mug is getting warm while you rub the Proraso pre-shave cream in; the Proraso pre-shave cream is absorbing while you’re creating the lather; it makes sense, you know- it’s all logical.

11 replies
  1. U-Troll
    U-Troll says:

    Why not say no to all mugs, bowls, & scuttles by actually lathering on your face? You put down those who choose to use nicer kit, while you could just as easily be ridiculed for bowl lathering at all.

    Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear U-Troll,

      I am not putting anyone down. I am trying to give people a heads up. Fellow DE shavers, you don’t need to spend big bucks for a fancy shaving bowl, that’s all I’m saying. A jumbo coffee mug with a wide mouth will work even BETTER than a fancy metal or frosted glass bowl. U-Troll, I think you may have read my message the wrong way. If you’ve already spent a lot of money for a fancy shaving bowl, and you regret it, and you’re upset, I am sorry, but it’s not my fault. I did not force you to buy that fancy over-priced shaving bowl. I am a value shopper and I encourage others to be value shoppers too. The Western world is sinking fast and we Westerners need to save money wherever we can.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply
      • Phil
        Phil says:

        Dear U-Troll,

        Months have passed since I posted the “DE Shaving Bowls and Skuttles- Just Say No” blog entry. I’ve just re-read the blog entry. I then re-read your comment. I then re-read my response to your comment. And the whole thing makes me feel bad.

        First of all, please understand that when I was a little boy, my father was absent, and my mother was barely around, she was working like a dog trying to earn some money to feed her two boys and pay the rent. So I didn’t get much attention at home. I’m not saying this to get sympathy – rather, I’m trying to explain what this situation led to. At school, I became a class clown. I made an ongoing and conscientiousness effort to entertain and provoke both children and teachers, in order to get attention – in order to compensate for the attention I wasn’t getting at home. This developed into a bad habit, and unfortunately I still fall into this bad habit today. I believe that I do actually have interesting and intelligent things to say, but for my own personal reasons, I often say those things in a silly or provocative way. Some people may find my tone amusing, others may be put off by it, but the sad thing is that the message itself often gets lost, because the tone itself takes center stage.

        The message I was trying to communicate with the “DE Shaving Bowls and Skuttles- Just Say No” blog entry was just this: a jumbo coffee mug with a wide mouth will work better than a fancy bowl or skuttle, and it will cost substantially less. I communicated that message in a silly and provocative way, which was bound to make some readers feel as though I was criticizing or attacking them, especially if they’ve already gone in for expensive bowls or skuttles. I apologize, I don’t want to criticize or attack anyone. I’m finally becoming man enough to admit that I myself am very, very far from perfect. So please accept my apologies for clowning around. It’s a bad habit that goes back many years. In 2012 I’m going to make an effort to cut back on it.

        Kind regards,

        Phil

        Reply
  2. John O.
    John O. says:

    Phil,

    I first got interested in using a shaving brush from watching old western movies where guys got shaved in the barber shop with a straight razor, first the barber would apply hot lather with a brush, I thought that looked much better than using cold shaving cream from a can so I found a shaving brush in a thrift store, bought a cake of Williams shaving soap at the drug store ( the only kind available ) and started shaving with a brush, I used a coffee mug because that’s what I had and it looked similar to what I saw in the movies. Back in the day there was a shelf in the barbershop where each man kept his own personal shaving mug because using a common mug would have been considered unsanitary. Every so often my mug falls on the floor and breaks, no problem I have lots of mugs in the kitchen. I got that first shaving brush back in the early 70s, and used it until recently when I discovered shaving could be a hobby and an excuse to buy lots of hardware. I was too stupid to realize I was doing it all wrong and was supposed to be using a special “shaving bowl” or “skuttle”.

    I’m with you the shaving bowls offered for sale seem unpractical for the intended job, mostly being too large and having no sort of handle, as far as the skuttle for warming the lather, I use an electric mug warmer, also acquired at a thrift store which I’m sure is more effective than a skuttle and cheaper to boot.

    Regards,

    John O.
    Berkeley CA

    Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear John,

      Thank you very much for your comment, I appreciate it. I did not know what an electric mug warmer was. I found this on the US Amazon website, for $7.99, Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer. I could not find a similar device on Amazon’s UK website. I do not have such a device but it does seem to be both practical and inexpensive. And if I were in a cold climate, I imagine I’d use it not just to keep my lather warm but also to keep my coffee warm! Thank you again John for your comment, and for sharing this tip. I appreciate it.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply
  3. James
    James says:

    Hello Phil,

    Just read your initial comment reference fancy bowls, scuttles etc, and the “permission” it implies for the better half to hit the mall. LOL! You do make a somewhat valid point to be sure. I’d like to suggest, however, by countering with the fact that, unlike shoes and clothing, the purchase of a shaving bowl/scuttle, a seemingly extravagant expense is, generally, a one time only purchase. In my mind, this would justify the expense, at most $50, as opposed to ongoing shopping sprees in the $100’s. Of course, we all know, that men and women are not always of the same mind. LOL! For my part, as a bit of a traditionalist, I love going “old school” when it comes to shaving. My intent is to slowly purchase high end shaving items, starting with a silver tip badger brush. Again, these things last years, I’ve got a cheap one I purchased at The Body Shop over 10 years ago which still works, but it woud be nice to have the top end brush. LOL! Would love to use a straight razor, but that’s pretty time consuming and, being in the military, can’t do that everyday. But, like I said, the brush, a bowl maybe a nicer handle and stand, then it would be complete. Like your suggestion about the pre-shave cream, I’ll give it a try.

    James

    Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear James,

      Thank you very much for your reply. You bought your current shaving brush 10 years ago! So you’ve been on to DE shaving for a long time. That’s great. Compared to you I’m a newbie.

      I see what you’re saying about purchasing high quality items. It’s expensive, but it lasts forever. That’s a good point. It’s not like getting an expensive car, which begins to lose value the day you start driving it. A good piece of shaving kit will last forever- and if it’s a high quality piece of kit, you’ll enjoy that piece of kit, and benefit from the high quality, every time you use it. So it does make sense. All of us should, and all of us have the right, to treat ourselves from time to time. Life is short, and if we’re working hard, we deserve to indulge ourselves every now and then.

      Thank you again for your comment.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply
  4. Richard
    Richard says:

    Hi Phil,

    I have been wet shaving for many years and until a year or so ago used the can or tube shaving foams and gels.

    I can across the badger and blade website and dug out an old brush and shaving bowl I got as a ‘free’ gift with some Aramis After shave about 30 years ago.

    The Shaving bowl is ceramic and about mug sized and has a built in stand and a lid but no handle. It has a few chips in it now but still works really well, and I see no reason to change it. And in view of your comments about the fancy mugs and scuttles I am even less inclined to change.

    Thanks for your interesting posts.

    Regards

    Richard

    Reply
  5. ScottySatan
    ScottySatan says:

    The two main blog posts here are kind of vitriol against skuttles. But they have got to be the single cheapest item in a shaving hobyist’s gear. The ones recommended in badger and blade are $10 and often some ceramic that’s thicker than a coffee mug.

    If you want to talk about expensive extravagance, let’s talk about their goddamned soap collections!

    Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear Scotty,

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it.

      Soap collections can cost a lot. One good thing about the hard soaps however is that one hard soap- for instance, a bowl of Tabac- lasts a really long time. The problem is when you keep buying one hard soap after another, always applying the same logic- “well, this soap is expensive, but it’ll last a LONG time!” You can end up spending a fortune, and end up with a collection of hard shaving soaps that could theoretically carry you through 100 years of shaving.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Kind regards,

      Phil

      Reply

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