Mitchell’s Wool Fat (MWF) is probably the most talked about and recommended hard shaving soaps within the wet shaving community, not only because of its unique moisturizing properties (it contains lanolin, hence the name), but because there are so many different experiences in getting it to lather properly. Some have no problems and consider it to be the gold standard of shaving soaps; others say it just won’t lather. This article will introduce you to MWF if you haven’t tried it, give you advice on lathering and loading the brush, and let you know my thoughts on this exceptional soap. Plus, its still made with tallow!
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If you decide to splurge on this soap, it comes in a beautiful ceramic dish. A great picture of it is found on Shaving 101’s blog. Now, I personally did not splurge on the ceramic dish for two reasons: 1) I’m not flush with income from this website or income in general; and more importantly, 2) every single tallow soap combination bowl/soap package contains a bowl that is non-functional. Now, don’t get me wrong, the wooden bowls look amazing. So does the MWF ceramic bowl. The Tabac bowl could use a little design work, but seeing as it costs much less, I’ll give it a break. Glycerin soaps on the other hand, come in very functional water and air tight plastic containers. They look cheap, are cheap, but work! Now, they are able to come in these containers because glycerin soaps are simply poured into the container. Tallow soaps are triple milled and rolled. So, now that you’ve read all that, here is my simple solution I published in an earlier post. Use pyrex cups to store your soap.
Using this simple solution not only saves you money, but it prevents this problem outlined by Bruce, from Bruce on Shaving:
“The thing about MWF is that it doesn’t do what other soaps do, it acts almost as if it is a living thing. Use it on consecutive days and it gets better and better, as if it appreciates the attention. Leave it for a week and it will have a sulk and try and give you a bad time. Left for a while it becomes a loner, forming a hard skin round itself. Too long and cracks appear in the surface as it displays its displeasure.”
The smell of MWF is interesting. At first scent, I really wanted to say it smelled like Tabac. When I put the Tabac puck up to my nose to check however, the difference was strong. The better description would be traditional smelling. It smells very “old school.” One person described it as “typically traditional….perhaps hints of Lavender,Geranium, and of course the Lanolin. It’s non seasonal….you can use it all year round.” A better description is by Russel Chozik, “It has a great powdery, fresh scent that is very natural and pleasant smelling.” After spending more time with the soap, I would say it smells like tallow, if tallow had a scent that is. It has all the base notes found in D R Harris & Tabac soaps. Now, I’m no scent expert, so I really can’t tell you what exactly the base note is, but its common in all tallow soaps I’ve tried unless masked by lavender or other strong scent.
Either case, other than the passing resemblance, MWF smells nothing like Tabac. It is crisp, clean, and subtle.
The loading process is not as easy as I would like. I must be spoiled off of Tabac, GFT, & DRH. Here’s the trick to loading it: use a dense brush. No, really, it really really helps. My Semogue really hates the stuff. It won’t stick to the loosely packed bristles that well. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a good lather in the end, I just have to work harder at it. On the other hand, my Shavemac & Simpson loaded right up. Very easy, although it took a little longer than the other soaps mentioned above. Must admit, a few times I was afraid I overloaded the brush. But alas, not so. This stuff just does not want to load easily. So minus a star for that (okay I don’t use stars in my reviews, but if I did…)
There is only one easy way to lather this soap; face lathering. Bowl lathering makes it finicky. You can bowl lather and get good results, but you must realize that most of the glowing reviews are based off of face lathering and/or soft water. Many people have problems lathering this soap. The biggest culprit is of course, hard water. This is where using filtered/distilled/RO water for lathering really shines.
For my regular readers, you already know I face lather. I just feel it’s the best way to lather. It is also the preferred method of lathering this very famous soap. Now, if you want to lather it in a bowl, Shaving 101 has a suggestion:
“Use a very well wrung-out brush. First load the soap into the brush then add water very slowly while building the lather in a bowl. This works well, but can take a while.”
Now, I haven’t tried this method. I didn’t have to, but its there if you have trouble bowl lathering. MWF face lathered well for me. Like the loading process, MWF did not lather quite as easily as my other soaps. Maybe I’m spoiled, or maybe they’re better, I don’t know. Either case, it took a while to face lather to a good consistency.
MWF does not like a lot of water. Use too much water and unlike other soaps, MWF will dry out on you faster than you can shave. Okay, not that fast, but faster than it took me to shave 3/4 of my face. It was pretty picky about lather consistency. Build it fairly thick so that its not too transparent and it will stay wet and slick for you.
I had to spend considerable time building a good lather compared to Tabac or GFT. Usually I only have to dip the brush once before I start face lathering to get the correct consistency. With MWF I found it better to dip very very lightly the first time, lather, dip lightly again, and lather more. Repeat until you get the consistency you want.
While MWF works fine if you leave it a little more watery, it also works great when extremely thick and rich. I’ve tried it from pretty darn transparent to Santa Claus thick. The performance was great no matter how thick or thin the lather was. That said, if you try to shave with a thin MWF lather, you had best shave ultra quick because it will dry out really quickly. Its almost like shaving with water. So, I recommend building up a moderate lather with MWF for best results.
Check out the photos below.
Left shows a nice and thick lather, right shows a little less thick lather; good for the final pass.
You may think I was going to give this soap a bad rating after reading all that talk about how much more time it takes to lather with MWF. I’m not. While MWF may have its faults, they are mild and it is an excellent performer. The lanolin and tallow moisturize the skin well. If you leave the lather on your face for an extended period of time you will be either rewarded, surprised, or both by a unique cooling sensation. It reminded me of menthol. The sensation is subdued if you shave quickly. The cooling sensation continued for a good while after the shave, leaving my face feeling refreshed and moisturized. I don’t think my face has felt so clean and fresh after a shave! That said, I still recommend an SPF facial moisturizer after you shave. The sun being evil and all.
Now, lets talk about MWF and slickness. I like my lathers to be slick. I also like my lather to provide cushioning. I want the razor to feel like a hovercraft shaving my face. Hence, my preference for tallow based soaps. Let’s talk about the slickness first. MWF is slick. I was surprised at how slick this lather is when it is thick. See picture 1 above. The soap really retains a lot of water in the lather. Shaving with MWF is a joy. The cushioning can be hit or miss however. If you lather MWF thick, the cushioning will be there, but if you don’t you’ll find that the lather can be pretty similar to shaving with water. Really slick, but unforgiving.
All in all, I love Mitchell’s Wool Fat shaving soap. It is staying in my shave den/kit. I definitely recommend this soap to anyone looking for a tallow based soap or an excellent performer. I wouldn’t recommend this soap to those who bowl lather using hard water.
If your interested in this soap, you can purchase a puck below.
|Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap Refill
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