Monday, November 20, 2017

My Williams Verdict

My Williams brand shave-soap trial is over. The verdict is in. Others have sung its praises as being a well-functioning shave soap at a bargain-basement price, while others sing a different tune calling its lather inferior.

[The following link is an offer of three pucks of soap for those who can't get the product in their local stores:]

Williams shave soap is, therefore, in its own modest way, controversial. It is one of the most, if not THE most, readily available shave soaps at local retailers. It has a mild bouquet. It lathers easily enough in my locality's hard water.

It is also inexpensive. And there's the rub (perhaps). Williams is criticized for its lather, which will be discussed further below. But is its lather really deficient, or is it the well-known (by experts in marketing) bias by a percentage of the market against inexpensive products being perceived as being inferior simply because of their low price?

Here's my recent experience as I consciously put Williams soap through its paces in contrast to some other soaps:

For eight consecutive days I used the same razor, blade, brush and shaving process (which included loading soap onto my brush from its puck-storage cup, then face lathering). The only significant change was the shave soap -- alternating back and forth daily between Williams and other soaps. Then for two additional daily shaves I used a single different razor but kept the same blade, brush, and process, merely having the ninth shave with Williams and the tenth with a premium blend of non-Williams soap.

The Gear

For all the shaves I used the same SuperMax Titanium blade, allowing it to age shave by shave, which is why I returned to Williams soap every other day: to compare shave outcomes between the various soaps as the edge quality evolved. I also used the same Omega Syntex brush for all the shaves, which I rinsed clean after each day's use so that I didn't mingle the soaps.


As for the razors, for the first eight shaves I used my Rimei RM2003 razor. For the last two shaves I used my Parker Variant. I should note that though my shaves with the RM2003 were good, I did get slightly closer outcomes when I used the Variant and took advantage of adjusting its setting as I progressed through the shave.

Lather Richness

One of the comparison soaps was my Arko shave stick, which I've slightly melted into one of my many re-purposed Greek-yogurt cups, which means that one loads the soap onto the damp brush just like one would commonly use any puck of shave soap such as Williams. (I say commonly because pucks of hard shave soap can also be rubbed directly on wet beard stubble and then face lathered, which I have done in the past, but not for this ten-day trial.) Arko, too, is controversial -- not because of its lather, which most agree is quite good, but rather because of its fragrance. (I've also written many times that the fragrance of Arko diminishes to a pleasant, mild bouquet if left unwrapped in the open air for a time.)

To compare the richness of Williams' lather to that of Arko or some other more premium soaps (or soap combinations), the density of Williams' lather may be, on average, slightly lower -- but not much. If one loads sufficient Williams soap onto the brush, then the lather can be sufficiently rich. I really can't consider that as a serious defect, although it is a minor difference. It's not a defect because, in my experience, lather richness doesn't affect shave quality. It doesn't seem to significantly influence the rapidity of the lather drying out. It doesn't provide any additional cushion (despite many shaver's claims to the contrary -- but remember, lather isn't a pad like you'd find in a pole-vault pit, and we don't slam a razor onto our skin as though we've just completed a record-setting vault; in my opinion, the concept of lather cushion is a mental construct, not existing in physical reality).

Lather Slickness

No matter how I made lather with Williams' soap, I always found it adequately slick, when doing a normal pass -- that is, lathering and then removing the lather with my razor strokes. I did find that if I made Williams lather rather thin -- that is, skimping at the stage of loading my brush with soap from the puck -- then though the resulting lather was completely fine for the normal pass, but left little residual slickness for clean-up strokes with just added water. However, when I took a few extra seconds to ensure that my brush was well loaded with Williams soap, then the resulting lather was thicker -- and here's the key result: the thicker lather had all the usual (of other soaps) and necessary residual slickness to make clean-up strokes as necessary just by adding more water to my face and neck.

The Final Soap Combination

For my tenth (and final) shave of this trial, I combined a lather booster from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) with one of my hard soaps from Pyrate Cove Soap Works. I find the Pyrate Cove soaps (no longer in business?) to be adequate, but adding the PAA lather booster to any soap certainly bumps the thickness and richness of the lather (which I've already suggested may not be significant to the quality of the overall shave), and certainly does not diminish the slickness of the lather -- and probably enhances it.


My shave outcomes, that is, the closeness and amount of post-shave skin insult, were about the same no matter what shave soap I used. The only significant difference was when I skimped on loading my brush with Williams soap. The resulting lather was thinner and lacked the residual slickness for safe and comfortable clean-up strokes, when only adding water and not more lather.


Not surprisingly, my view remains consistent in that Williams is an adequate shave soap. You may find others with, to your nose, a more appealing bouquet. You may find soaps or lather enhancers that offer thicker, richer lather. Yet, bottom line, I do think that Williams doesn't provide an inferior shave outcome, when properly used. This means, of course, that you must load enough soap onto your brush.

I should also point out that my Syntex brush has a lot of backbone and a narrow, tight knot, which makes easier the loading soap from a hard puck. Perhaps those who use fatter, softer brushes struggle with Williams because these brushes may be too big and soft to load sufficient soap from the Williams puck.

I will continue to use Williams soap among others because I believe its a good value and is pretty much always available at local stores (especially pharmacies) if needed in a pinch.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Potential Williams Drawback, and Black Bot Hopes

After pulling my puck of Williams shave soap out of its long-term storage in a refrigerator (keeping it cool slows the chemical reaction that eventually, after a really long time, turns soap into something that looks like soap, but isn't), I've started to give this readily-available shaving product a closer look.

I've previously written that it's an adequate product and even given it some low-key compliments. After today's shave, I'm rethinking that.

Today I used my Rimei RM2003 razor with a second-use SuperMax Titanium blade, and, of course, Williams shave soap. What I've noticed about Williams, unlike some (most?) other shave soaps is that it doesn't seem to have the residual slickness when it becomes rather thin and in lower proportion to water.

Other shave soaps, for example, at the end of a shave, when touch-up strokes may be appropriate with just a little water added to the invisible soap layer left on the skin, provide good slickness, good glide, Williams, on the other hand, seems to be sticky rather than slick in those conditions.

So once again I'm in experiment mode. I'll be using the same razor and blade for a while, alternating between Williams soap and others in my soap drawer to see just how it compares for daily shaving.

Stay tuned as I post my impressions.


Also, I wrote an email this morning to Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA). At the Maggard Meet last spring, PAA reps were passing out sample packets of a mentolated after-shave jelly in the Black Bot fragrance. I really liked this product -- both the soothing, cooling feel of the mentholated jelly and the Black Bot scent, which is a modern nod to the old Hai Karate brand Black Belt bouquet. (I already have balm, shave soap, and deoderant in the Black Bot fragrance.)

So I'm waiting to hear back on the availability of the mentholated after-shave jelly in any scent but especially in the Black Bot version.

I'll keep you posted on that as well.
UPDATE: I received word that the jelly aftershave is available, and so I immediately ordered some!

Happy shaving!