How To Ruin Williams

Oh, man, life seems so good around here, right now. The heat is giving us a day off, and the storms have passed. The death of the GOP is being televised. All the kids' computers are fixed, and even better, none of the users are home at the moment. My lawn is going to hell, and the roadside is washed out pretty bad... BUT, I haven't had to water my garden for a long time, either. I ordered a new spindle for my lawnmower around midnight, and they shipped it before dawn; plus, I found out that Amazon beats TSC by about $25 on deck belts, essentially covering the cost of the part. Now, if only, I can just stop hitting rocks.

Despite putting in a fairly good day of "work" in yesterday's heat, between the tractor and a planning committee at the elementary school, I'm able to wear the same shirt today, because of my complete dominance over armpit flora. I think I actually improved the smell of the shirt by wearing it, because it was a bit musty when I put it on! :) My hair looked like hell all day yesterday, because I washed it, but is now compact and shiny again, with pumpkin juice. Even my teeth are harder and pearlier than they've been in a long time, after I gave them a deep cleaning loosely based on shaving prep: oil, glycerin toothpaste, then listerine. (That's not going to be a routine... I'm still mixing things up all the time in my mouth, too.)

God is probably about to strike me down with a thunderbolt. But before He does, let me tell you about a short experiment with only two commercial products, as part of my campaign to improve the world's understanding of glycerin. I hope to move beyond the debate (in my mind; no one would argue with me, of course) whether it is the devil, or shaving soap's only begotten son.

Turns out, I underestimated Humphreys' effect on lather. Yesterday, I squirted some on top of the skin of Williams remaining in my soap bowl and just incorporated it directly. The result was basically just another wonderful, glycerin soap. Super rich, skin-penetrating, easy to whip. And accordingly, my shave was shit. The hair wasn't softened enough, and the Shark dug into a chin sulcus, visibly abrading me. Sure, I could have used oil, and spared myself some of the damage... but I don't have to do that with pumpkin juice, and that's what I had in mind for comparison. But it wasn't like pumpkin juice. It was like "superlathering" or "uberlathering."

To make sure that the apparent hardening of hair wasn't attributable to the Shark lifespan, as one might expect of a sharp brand, today I returned the Humphreys to its intermediate role of the last post, between oil and Williams. The result was another perfect shave. Well, not quite: I didn't fight with the edge this time, and left some would-be pickups. But the hair was softened. The difference was obvious from WTG, and persisted through three passes.

So, what are we to conclude? Is this "Humphreys-lathering" folly? Since I omitted the oil from yesterday's test, I have to refer to previous experiments with actual glycerin soaps, and say, yes and no. Yes, one wishes to pull water into the hair, and to a lesser degree, the stratum corneum. Apply glycerin to the tissues in advance, and it establishes a favorable osmotic gradient between wet lather and the tissue. Furthermore, the hair-softening and skin-strengthening ingredients are present, where they are needed, in maximum concentration.

If the glycerin is already in the lather at large, it still penetrates. If water won't go to glycerin, glycerin will come to water. But I think what you get penetrating your tissues is much more dilute with respect to the hair-softening and skin-strengthening ingredients. (And furthermore, contaminated by any irritants in the soap, though I doubt that's an issue in this case.)

But, if I were a noob -- and remember, I completely failed at lathering Williams for an entire puck's worth of shaves, when I first started -- I might appreciate someone suggesting a way to make lathering it a bit easier. I don't see any evidence that the soap was permanently altered by the Humphreys application. Thus, with only one additional product, theoretically, anyone should be able to start with the best, and never use any other soap. ;-)


  1. The only way I could get Williams to lather was either beat it to death with a stiff brush or dribble a dab of Cremo Cream on top of the puck before I lathered it. This seemed to work better but defeated the challenge of conquering a tough foe!

    I've watched several youtube videos of people who were experts at lathering Williams and for the life of me I don't know how they do it.

    Oh the trials and tribulations of life!

    1. The first puck, I think I went at it with standing water on the puck, way too much, which at least served to dissolve the soap more quickly and end my misery. By the time I got around to it again, I had built my technique on Stirling, and also learned to have some faith in completely un-foamed, liquid protolather from working KMF that way. I think it's kind of a "use the Force" situation because you do need to completely dissolve the soap before adding any air...

      BUT, keep it a little drier than what it COULD accommodate in water by thoroughly working it before and after any incremental additions. What changed for me toward the end of this second puck is that I became a dedicated palm latherer, because I use what little sticks to my hand to presaturate my skin. By running my nylon brush between thumb and forefinger periodically, I disrupt any hydration gradients within the brush and lather, so there's none of the third-pass "crema" that I learned to look forward to with Stirling, squeezed from the core of the brush.

      That was glycerin's game. With Williams, YOU'VE got to handle that water.