i've been lurking here for about a year, reading up on different techniques, shaving soaps/creams, and razors. i myself have a merkur hd with derby extra blades, crabtree brush, tabac soap, and pinaud-clubman for aftershave. i just registered to say thanks to all for sharing so much great info. thanks to you all i have found a new hobby and i can finally get a close shave without any irritation.
today i discovered something that changed my lather from being crappy to being something i could actually call quality. that something is a bigger mixing bowl. before i was using a small metallic cup. it would take ages to make lather and my hand would actually start hurting from mixnig. the quantity was also lacking. the quality was dry and needing water, but adding even the tiniest amount of water ruined it.
i decided to try using a HUGE coffee mug, and using the same basic technique that i used in the small cup, i made the greatest lather ever. it was so thick and there was so much of it that i could not only shave my face with several passes, but i'd also have plenty left for my head. the quality was JUST right, and it took like a minute less to prepare it! it was also incredibly easy to see the amount of water needed because of all the extra room.
so, if you're making bad lather like me, try using a huge coffee mug or even a rice bowl.