Epic. That is what this stuff is. This is one of the classic tallow-based shaving soaps that piqued my interest when I first started wetshaving. I mean, yeah I had heard of Barbasol, Schick, and Edge shaving creams and gels, but Wool Fat?!? This stuff had earned my curiosity and I quickly ordered some.
I ordered a refill puck, shredded it with a cheese grater, and packed about half of the shreds into a 3″ plastic tub. I have used this tub to shave maybe 20-30 times, and I still have more than half of that tub left (with the other half of the original puck still waiting in a plastic ziplock!), so you know this stuff will last a long time.
Ok, first things first, if you know the back story of Mitchell’s Wool Fat, you can skip down a little. Mitchell’s Wool Fat was first discovered in the 1930’s by a British chemist named Fred Mitchell, who noticed that sheep shearers always had super soft hands after shearing their sheep. It was lanolin, a protective wax exuded by the sheep’s skin, that kept the sheep’s wool, and the shearers’ hands, very soft and supple. Using that noggin of his, he put two and two together and formulated a soap with lanolin in it. Soon after, he used that noggin again and thought “this would make a fantastic shave soap too!”. And thanks to that wonderful noggin of his, we have the gift of one of the best shave soaps in existence. One with a very understandable cult following.
The lather. Mitchell’s Wool Fat has this little bit of baggage attached to it that it is hard to lather. I will admit that I found this true the first couple of times I tried lathering with it. The lather seemed a bit thin and didn’t last for three full passes. But I think I have mastered the art of lathering Mitchell’s Wool Fat.
Note #1: I will soon post a video or two showing how I lather up the fat.
Note #2: There is a lot of talk about what type of water works for lathering the fat. I personally think that the water in my area (NewYorkCity area) is not very hard, for what it’s worth.
Here is how I get an amazing lather:
- While I shower I soak the brush and mug in hot water, which ends up being warm by the time I am out of the shower. Sometimes I wet the soap too, but I get a great lather whether or not I wet the puck, so I don’t really do that anymore.
- Shake most of the water out of the brush. You want the bristles to be soaked through, but you do not want too much extraneous water in the brush as a whole. Don’t shake the brush too hard. It’s hard to describe in words, but you want to shake maybe 80%-90% of the water out of the brush, without being too aggressive.
- Load the brush on the puck. I hold the puck sideways while loading the brush. Some soap may bubble out the sides of your container, and I just let that fall into the sink. You don’t want it in the mix because the key at this stage is very little water. Load the brush for about a minute or so until you feel that your brush is thickening up with soap pretty good. You will hit a point where you will feel like its enough. You’ll get it with practice.
- Empty all water from your mug and start swirling the brush in the mug. After about 15 seconds it will feel a bit dry. Use your fingertips to add a few drops (5-8) of water into the mug. Continue to swirl for another 20 or so seconds. There are three ways to lather that you should alternate between: Swirl, back and forth, and pressing. Pressing means to push the brush into the lather to get it deep into the bristles. But please, for the sake of your brush, do not push down too hard. Just a little dipping motion.
- Keep repeating adding a few drops of water and lathering until you get a meringue-type foam that sticks to your brush even when you shake the brush lightly in the air. It should be between 1-2 minutes of lathering, probably closer to 2 minutes.
- Rinse your face with hot water, dry your hands, load your brush with lather, and start face lathering. Start by swirling the brush until your entire shaving surface is covered. The swirling motion will lift all the hairs and insert lather underneath them and also exfoliate and excite the skin underneath. This will increase blood flow to the skin, expanding it, and causing the hairs to stand up slightly more.
- Once your face is lathered up, start a fast-paced back-and-forth motion with the brush. Like you’re lightly slapping yourself with the brush fairly quickly. Then start slowing down. The slower you go with the slap motion, the thicker the lather will be on your face. Within seconds you will have the most amazing thick cushioning layer of Mitchell’s Wool Fat on your face.
One thing you will notice when you are rinsing the fat off your face is how amazingly slick your face feels. This stuff provides an amazingly slick cushion for your razor, and really softens your whiskers. Your razor will glide over your skin like an ice skater but remove your whiskers like a hot knife through butter.
The smell is absolutely wonderful. It’s a clean scent, with very little fragrance, so it’s an excellent soap for sensitive skin like mine. Any time one of these products starts irritating my skin, the next few days I reach for the Mitchell’s Wool Fat tin to shave with.
Also, one amazing thing about this stuff is that the lather gets thicker and better with each pass. So you lather up and shave the first pass. Then you rinse your face. Then you grab the mug and whip up the lather again for a few seconds and re-apply the lather. It’s going to feel even better, thicker, and more protective than the first pass, which is exactly what you want. The third pass (if you go that far) will be even better.
This stuff is of legend, and I am a Mitchell’s Wool Fat cultist. Your shave den is incomplete without it.