So I looked at the oils I had on hand, and made the (foolhardy, for a beginner) decision to formulate my own soap recipe. I actually remembered to take pictures to document the process, and this is how it all went down.
I’ve been using Miller’s Homemade Soap Pages for all my information up to this point. It’s an old HTML website, but I think the owner still periodically updates it. Lots of good resources there, including a lye chart. Different oils take different amounts of lye for saponification, so you have to do a little math (See, daughter? Told you you’d need it. Do your homework.) to come up with the correct amount of lye according to your recipe.
I did the math, then found an automatic lye calculator on the soap guild site, which confirmed my numbers. (Okay, daughter, maybe you don’t need it. On the Internet, somebody else has always done it already.) Now that I found the calculator, I won’t be calculating the lye myself anymore.
One thing I have to work to overcome is the fear of wasting ingredients. I put off making this soap for several days because I was afraid to use the last of my shea butter in case I messed up the batch. I’m learning how to waste usefully, as in research and development, but it still gives me the willies.
On the previous batch, the oatmeal soap, I used a wooden spoon and stirred the old fashioned way. I hadn’t paid good attention to the temperatures and I ended up stirring for 40 minutes trying to get to trace (the indicator it’s ready to pour, about the consistency of thick cake batter) before I finally threw it in the molds and hoped for the best. This time I used my stick blender, and it got to trace so fast it was gloppy by the time I got it all scraped out of the pot into the mold. So the oatmeal was too thin and the shae butter was too thick. I’ll be able to tell where the middle is on the next batch.
I had to wait a month for the soaps to cure before I could use them. The week before they were ready, I sent a bar of each to the DarcKnyt and Falcon (So whaddya think, guys?) I found the oatmeal recipe to be sort of icky in its slipperiness, and it doesn’t lather well. It also smells verrrrry faintly of lard. The shae recipe of my own devising turned out much nicer, smelling quite neutral and lathering nicely. Gives me a little more confidence in my soap-making ability.
The irony? Soap and detergent bars like Dove just dry out my skin too much, so I’ve started using another technique to clean my face with a homemade coconut oil concoction.
I’ve been told I should write a tutorial on how to make a batch of soap. Not sure how much interest there is in my circle, but I might do that sometime in the future, when I’m a bit more experienced.