How we made the perfect shaving soap

Gray Duck Soap’s The Master Series of shaving soap (Sail Master, Grand Master, Brew Master) took an enormous amount of trial-and-error and testing to develop. No other of Gray Duck Soap’s more than 50 soaps has gone through this much research and development. We believe we have produced the perfect traditional men’s shaving soap.

How did we do it? Like most beginners, we first looked at existing recipes in books and online. What we found were normal cold process soap recipes except for the addition of bentonite clay. We tried several of these and sent them to our grizzled old duck tester Don who has been lathering shaving brushes from pucks for 50 years. We tried six different recipes and he rejected each one as no more lathering than any other body soap. “My $2 puck from CVS is better than this stuff,” said Tester Don.

What we found is that the good recipes are not available online or in books, they are made through much experimenting and held tightly to the vest. Turns out shaving soap is not about bentonite clay, as the available recipes would have you believe, it’s about lather, specifically tight small-bubble lather that holds for at least two minutes.

We threw out all the recipes and started from scratch. We listened to complaints about shaving soap on the forum at Many men were distrusting of handmade shaving soap because it wasn’t any better than regular body soap. We learned that men thought soft Italian shaving soap was the best in the world. So we studied how high-level tight-bubble lather is made using a balance of potassium hydroxide (the lye used to make liquid soap) and sodium hydroxide (the lye used to make hard soap). We studied which oils impeded lather vs. which allowed lather but still moisturized, which additives complemented lather and which detracted, and we experimented with several more batches until we hit on the perfect recipe. After grumbling remarks for months about one inferior soap after another, Tester Don said, “This is superb. Best shaving soap I’ve ever used. Put this recipe in a safe deposit box.” And The Master Series was born.

Tester Don was thrilled to write detailed instructions on how to work with a brush How To Use Shaving Soap in exchange for a lifetime supply of Gray Duck Soap’s shaving soap.

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