I know lather bowls aren't 100% necessary to the shaving experience and one can just build lather on the face but I love the idea of the ritual of building lather, the convenience and the aesthetics of a porcelain/horn/marble/wood bowl sitting on your counter.

Several questions:

What are the pros and cons to consider of various materials when choosing a lather bowl? I know denser materials hold heat better for a more comfortable shave longer, and of course there is durability to impact and heat to think about (Horn is pretty but apparently delaminates quite easily)

Do the ridges at the bottom of a dedicated lathering bowl really make that much of a difference when it comes to building lather?

I've always wondered if a mortar could perform double duty as a lather bowl, but some stone mortars have quite rough surfaces. Would the rough surface damage bristle tips?
(This post was last modified: 03-18-2024, 03:11 PM by ewk. Edited 1 time in total.)
I think it mostly comes down to aesthetics; your preference should be your primary consideration. I do not pay much attention to heat transfer/retention. If clumsy like me, a ceramic bowl might be more important on the decision factors; stainless steel and copper are fine looking and durable.

Unless, like me, you love the colors and pattern on a ceramic Captain's Choice bowl (and I have never dropped it).

If the mortar bowl is porous, like marble, I would avoid that. If concerned about damaging brush tips from rough surface, that is actually a benefit if you use a boar brush Smile. I cannot address the fragility/durability of other brush tips.

As to the ridges aiding lather development, it probably does contribute, but to me not enough to determine whether to purchase a bowl that I admire the looks of. One thing about the ridges, if you press the soap in the ridges, sometimes it can be difficult to rinse out. Not a problem if you are a one-soap guy, or if you do not mind a hint of Tabac in your eucalyptus Proraso. Also not a problem if you load from the tub with a very wet brush with the tub up side down over the bowl gathering the protolather.
I finally landed on a CaYuen Shaving Bowl as my favorite bowl for two main reasons: It has a nice depth to diameter ratio that suits me, along with an undercut rim that keeps the lather inside the bowl. And, it is made from the same material as most brush handles, Urethane composite. I like the urethane because it is light, will not break if dropped, and will not scratch the surface of my granite countertop. I also believe the ridges inside the bowl do enhance the lathering process. I have a number of other bowls that are natural stone and hand crafted pottery. They feel great and I love the look, but I continue to revert back to my CaYuen shaving bowl for the reasons stated.

Herm2502 likes this post
For me, the only purpose of a lather bowl is to get hot lather for at least the first two passes. Otherwise, building a lather on my face is more efficient, prevents product waste and does a better job of preparing my beard for the blade. However, on some very cold winter days, a nice hot lather is great. For that, I use a ceramic shave bowl full of hot water with my boar brush soaking in it while I shower. I load enough to build a proto-lather in the soap tub (about 20 seconds), then move over to the bowl to finish.

I still really prefer face lathering, and for this I find the boar brush to far exceed any synthetic I have used. My Omega badger is pretty good, but doesn't scrub as well as the boar, and is difficult to load from hard pucks. I have always had some synthetic on hand, but it is strictly for travel.

As for the bowl itself, the Fine Accoutrements ceramic bowl is wide enough to prevent the brush handle from clanking against the sides, is easy to hold, and it has a nice place to rest the brush in between passes. It looks nice enough that you can leave it out on the counter or hang it on the wall.

Chicago Suburbs
I have very sensitive skin. If I try to face lather, I get irritation from the brush on my skin. Thus, I bowl lather and paint the lather on my face.

The lather bowl I use is the mortar bowl from a 4.5 " mortar and pestle set. It is not the most beautiful lather bowl I have seen, but it is quite efficient. Since a mortar and pestle is designed for grinding, the interior surface is slightly rough. This provides a superb surface against which the brush can work to develop a lather. The ceramic material is excellent for holding heat. I love a warm lather on my face. Thus, I place the bowl on top of an electric warmer for candles and wax melts. It keeps the lather at approximately 120F, which is wonderful.

Using this setup, I heat the bowl using hot tap water. Then I soak my brush in slightly cooler water. I add 1 TBSP (15 ml) of hot water to my tub of soap and swirl it around for about 10-15 seconds depending upon how hard the soap is. I do not do this with very soft soaps and it might take a couple of minutes of blooming for hard pucks, but for most artisan soaps, 10-15 seconds works well. I pour the bloom water from the tub into the lather bowl. I then squeeze and shake out as much water as possible from the brush and then start loading directly from the tub. For a 24-26mm brush, load time is about 8-12 seconds depending upon the hardness of the soap. This loading procedure works for most artisan soap, but not with very soft creams and croaps, nor hard soap pucks. I then take the loaded brush directly to the shave bowl. I start swirling slowly at first until the soap and water are blended. Then I swirl vigorously until the lather is smooth, free of any large bubbles. For my best artisan soaps, it will take less than 35 seconds of agitation to develop a lather ready to be painted on my face. Including the bloom time, load time and lather time, it take me about 1 minute to produce a lather suitable for shaving. That is how efficient my process is using the mortar bowl.

Mortar and Pestle


This is not exactly the wax warmer I use, but it is similar. My Glade model is no longer available.


If you do use a wax warmer, be sure the electrical outlet is GFCI protected. I even use a countdown timer switch with mine so it turns off automatically after 20 minutes.

Tedolph likes this post
Do you think it would be unwise to place a copper bowl on the candle warmer?

Chicago Suburbs
(03-19-2024, 04:42 PM)Zantetsuken Wrote: Do you think it would be unwise to place a copper bowl on the candle warmer?

Most candle warmers have a sealed top, so a copper bowl should not be an issue AS LONG AS it has a flat bottom that will fit on the  warmer. The mortar bowl I use has a flat bottom that is slightly smaller than my warmer. Many bowls have a ring around the edge of the base which would prevent full contact between the warmer and the bowl. Some copper bowls might be too large to fit on the heated plate of the candle warmer.

Zantetsuken likes this post
I'm not so sure the construction of the bowl matters all that much. I use a small ceramic bowl that my wife found at a dollar store. Nothing special, just a bowl.

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Oregon and Tedolph like this post
I need to make a correction to my "lather bowls are only for making hot lather" statement up thread. They are also needed (by me) if I am using a shave creme like Gillette Pure or Proraso. I have seen people put the creme directly in the brush and then face lather but I don't like to do that. So, if I am using a creme from a tube, the lather bowl comes out.

But, since I like to face lather, I don't use tube cremes very often.

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