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cathyn: (Johnny!)
Having followed the method described in my previous post, I am pleased, very very pleased with the results.

Lots of text, and photos, too. Should be behind a cut, for politeness sake. )
cathyn: (Bacon)
Today I started (and, as of this writing, am currently working on) my second batch of Hot Process soap. I couldn't be happier so far.

Having made the observation last time that adding the lye solution while the oil temperature is above the boiling point of water was a recoverable yet painful mistake, I put the lesson into action with this batch. I Decided on an all-vegetable-oil recipe, and almost every ingredient was a liquid, so I figured I was safe. Olive oil, almond oil, castor oil, coconut oil (oops, solid at room temperature, but low melting point), and beeswax (double oops, solid at room temperature, and with a much higher melting point than coconut oil). Weighed each carefully, and melted both the coconut oil and beeswax in the microwave. Problematically, when I poured the liquid beeswax into the only slightly warm oils, it hardened on contact. Looked pretty, but a problem nonetheless. Turn on the flame, heat up a bit, beeswax melting, I mixed up the (once again, very carefully weighed) lye solution, remembering that you ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS NO NAY NEVER NO EXCEPTIONS ALWAYS add the dry lye to the water. I then checked the temperature of the oil, which was 190*F, so, looking at my blistered hand, I went and got my welding gloves, put them on and poured the very hot lye solution (almost boiling, certainly steaming, DO NOT BREATHE THE STEAM!!!) into the likewise almost boiling oil. Temperatures matched this time, and I had no caustic water flashing to boiling, and it was a beautiful thing.

If you've ever made Cold Process soap, you know it can take a good long time for the soap to "trace". Not so with the Hot Process. Mixing 190 degree lye solution with 190 degree oil guarantees almost instant "trace", which is super cool! Also, while the first batch looked at each point kinda like the pictures on the webpage from which I learned this method, this second time around, the pictures look EXACTLY like what's going on in my pot.

Also, if you're reading these, and you've never made soap before, but you're getting excited about checking it out, DO! Soap making is fun, rewarding, and kinda magical. Keep one thing in mind, though. No matter which Process you use, no matter what recipe you're making, prepare your molds first! Ensure that you have molds enough to hold the soap you're going to make, then get them ready to accept the product. There is little worse in this hobby than getting to the end of a batch, your soap is lovely, ropey, perfectly colored and scented, and then you have to put your molds together, grease them, and otherwise get them ready, meanwhile, your soap has set up in your mixing vessel or your pot, and instead of a bunch of lovely bars, you have one big one. (Insert huge frowny face here). It's not a disaster, it's even recoverable (just re-melt the soap, and pour it), but it's just so much better to be prepared.

Anyway, it's time to give this batch a stir and add heat again, so I'll let you know later how it turned out!
cathyn: (Johnny!)
So, Beloved Readers, I mentioned there still being plenty of room for Mr. Cockup in my latest soapmaking adventure, and more prophetic words are rarely spoken. I had a brief conversation via Messaging on Facebook with Max, another veteran soapmaker, who asked when I planned to remove my new soap from the molds, that being one of the big benefits of the Hot Process, the soap is essentially "done" right before you pour it into the molds. I mentioned I'd probably wait a week, which is what I have always done when using the Cold Process.

His comments however aroused my curiosity, and so I unmolded one of my two molds the same day, and he was right, it came out so nicely that I decided to immediately unmold the second one. I then grabbed my trusty burgundy bottle (it turns out that the 3" ID PVC pipes I use for my molds almost perfectly fit a burgundy bottle, so I always use one to force the soap out) Set it neck-first on the floor, put the mold over it so I could apply my body weight to the mold and extract the soap, and just before beginning to push, I lost my grip slightly, and the mold, which was very full of soap, came out of contact with the bottle, which fell over and broke most spectacularly, 750ml of red wine all over the kitchen floor, and, of course, me. Bugger.

The good news is that I have been snooping the hell out of Pinterest for craft ideas I can pick up with little additional initial investment (read "start doing with the tools I already own"), and maybe make a little money while saving my sanity by working with my hands making art. I saw a fantastically cool tool for cutting soap into uniform bars, so I built one, and tested it on the first pipe full of soap. It's a simple open top box, roughly the same size across as my soap mold, and just about as long, with a deep notch cut in the walls at 3/4" from the positive stop screwed onto the end of the tool (probably should properly be called a soap cutting jig), With a length of 28ga Stainless Steel wire screwed into it to make the cuts, and it works like gang-busters!

soapcutter
(Like this, only, as one would expect, mine is twice as long.)

The success of this tool gives rise to the next tool I will build, as soon as I find a local friend with a lathe. I will build a 3" dowel, screwed to a set of crossed boards which will act as feet, to make getting soap out of the molds easier, and far less likely to spill delicious wine all over my kitchen. Seems I might be getting into production levels of soap making! I even have secured my first vendor!
cathyn: (Johnny!)
I've been making soap since 1996 or thereabouts, when I bought a book on soapmaking at Pensic. Since that day, I have not purchased a bar of soap, and have been very very happy with the soap I make. Always wanting to expand my art, and the knowledge thereof, today I made soap using the "Hot Method". The cold method is simpler, by far. Get your oils melted, whatever, and get them to 90-100 degrees. Mix your lye into your water, and let this cool to somewhere under 120 degrees. Mix these, stir until they "trace", stir some more until it thickens, pour into molds. Let sit for a while (a week or so), remove from molds, cut (if necessary), and cure the bars by letting them sit loosely stacked for a couple of weeks. The longer it sits, the better. Use to your heart's content.

The hot method is similar. Make your lye-water solution. Melt your fats in a stainless steel pan over a low heat. Add the lye water to the warmed fats and stir until boiling. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and stir constantly. Remove from heat, let sit ten minutes, return to heat, and stir. Lather, rinse, repeat for several iterations, until the stuff in the pan goes from looking like a nice foamy beer, to something looking like a giant pan of oatmeal, until quite suddenly, the "oats" will seem to melt into each other and form a goop. Goop into molds, and prepare for the easiest clean-up of your soap-making equipment you've ever had. I followed the instructions found on this brilliantly illustrated page.

The author leaves out at least one serious point. MAKE SURE YOUR OIL IS NOT HEATED ABOVE 212 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. Unless you greatly enjoy having your VERY CAUSTIC lye-water solution flash instantly to boiling, and in addition to making your pan almost overflow with proto-soap, and big volcano like glops of liquid roughly 250-300 degrees, which are both very hot, and very caustic, and when they burst forth from the surface of your very hot oil which is scaling the inside of the pot looking for the escape hatch, the boiling, chemically active, and somewhat sticky liquid might very well go BLOP, directly onto your hand, where it *will* stick, and *will* linger, until you've gotten your hand into the sink and under cold running water.

All turned out well, especially once I went to the garage and got my welding gloves, so I could pour the rest of the lye-water solution into the pan. Followed the rest of the directions, the stuff in my pan did what the stuff in his pictures did, and I feel I have won a major success. At least I have until I have removed the soap from the molds, anyway. There's still plenty of room for Mr. Cockup...

March 2017

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