Molds: Not Just a Tool, but a Passion!

Soap molds.  They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials.  Some need to be lined; others don’t.  You’ll find fancy molds and plain jane log or slab molds built with scrap wood in just a few hours.  Molds aren’t just a tool, but a passion!

 

We soapmakers love our molds.  For some of us, a walk through the grocery or hardware store is more of a mold-finding expedition than it is securing food for our families or tackling our next diy project.  Every empty container is eyed as a potential soap mold.  We even have our families trained to save containers that appear to be suitable for soap.  This was especially true for me as a beginner making melt and pour soaps.  I used empty juice cans, plastic packaging and bottoms of soda bottles, to name a few.  In doing so, I also learned what didn’t work.  The plastic packaging had to hold up to hot soap being poured into it and a rigid plastic would be next to impossible to remove soap from.  Yes, every soapmaking session was an adventure in resourcefulness and creativity, and it was fun.

 

This kind of behavior isn’t conducive to production soapmaking, yet many of even the most seasoned soapmakers engage in the practice at least once in awhile.  And why not?  It keeps us on our toes and renews our creativity.  It might even lead to the Next Big Thing in our product lineup!  If you think about it, we might not have round soaps had it not been for some clever person  in the hardware store who took a gander at pvc piping, or upon emptying his cylindrical can of potato chips wondered, “Hmm. . . can this be used for soap?”  What’s even better is how soapers share their discoveries so that all might benefit from both their successes and their failures.

 

What about you?  What is the most unique container you’ve ever used for soap?

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

New Column–Savoir Faire!

We at the Saponifier are delighted to announce that we have added a new column and author

Many of you are quite familiar with the author of soapmaking books, Melinda Coss. Melinda is the author of 27 books on various crafting topics, three of them featuring soapmaking. They include: The Handmade Soap Book, Gourmet Soaps Made Easy and Natural Soap.

What you may not know about Melinda is that she is widely credited as the pioneer of modern cold process soap making in Europe. She began a soap making company in the 1990?s in the UK, which subsequently became the largest company of its kind, supplying UK stores and hotels with soap and other toiletry products. She sold her company in 2004 and moved to France, where she began teaching classes there and in England, which she continues to conduct. She also acts as a consultant to soap making companies. Melinda additionally works with social concerns in Africa.

And now, Melinda will be writing a column for the Saponifier, Savoir Faire.

Join me in welcoming Melinda to the Saponifier!

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

Beth Byrne

Suited Up and Suitable for Soaping (and Candlemaking)

How do you dress to make soap or candles?  Are you covered head to toe in protective gear or are you be found in a t-shirt, shorts, and bare feet?

 

If it’s the former, you’ll want to read on to feel good about yourself or to make sure you’re doing things the right way.  If the latter, well, consider this a lecture.

 

Making soap and candles comes with inherent dangers, mainly pertaining to heat and caustic substances.  We’ve all heard stories about people being burned by lye, caustic soap getting in the eye, burns from a forgotten pan of wax.  To be sure, things happen.  Soap gets spilled on the floor, unnoticed.  A pot volcanoes, sending soap lava out of the pot and all over the surface it’s sitting on.  The candle wax heated up faster than you thought it would and flames appear.  A properly suited up person is in a better position to react quickly and safely than one who isn’t.

 

If it seems like overkill, think about it as if you were an employee of a company or that one of your loved ones was.  What if that company allowed its workers to be barefoot, making soap?  What if your child or other loved one were put to work in that environment without access to safety gear?  I can predict that you would rightfully expect that both you and your loved ones would be properly protected, so offer the same to yourself.

 

Chandlers, think you’re off the hook?  Not so fast!.  Hot wax is dangerous and cannot be removed easily, so as with soapmaking, shoes and socks and a heavy apron are essential equipment for protecting from splashes.  Long sleeves and eyewear are also important.

 

Even in creating bath and body products, certainly safety rules must be obeyed.  The first one that comes to mind is a mask to filter out particulates from powders such as cornstarch and powdered herbs.  The second is to protect the skin from scent by wearing gloves.

 

Finally, wearing a respirator mask when working with scent, whether fragrance oils or essential oils, is just plain smart.  We often worry about scent in regards to our customers, but tend to forget that we are exposed to much stronger scents, more frequently and for longer time periods than  the average user and thus, are more likely to develop problems with scent than the general public.

 

My advice:  get yourself suited up so you can safely pursue your craft!

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles &  wax.

 

Beth Byrne

Are You a Mad Scientist or Tried and True?

Oil.  I never thought in my life that I would care so much about oil.  Animal or vegetable, organic or refined, it captures my interest.  And for what reason?  Making soap, of course!  Now, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of oils and enjoy using many of them and experimenting with them in soap and other products.  Do you?

 

Oil choices and percentages play a major part in making good soap and a soapmaker who wants to be knowledgeable simply cannot remain ignorant of each oil they use and its properties.  Certainly, it’s possible to make soap out of 100% coconut oil or 100% olive oil, and it is common.  In fact, some of the world’s most famous soaps are 100% olive oil.  Yet, to my way of thinking, a truly wonderful bar comes from a mix of oils, each with properties that contribute to a bar that is moisturizing, cleans well without stripping the skin, lathers up well, and is hard enough to last in the tub or shower.

 

How do we find out which oils do what for soap?  Research and experimentation is the answer.  Begin with an established formula and tweak the oils until you reach what for you, is the perfect soap.  It’s part of the process for becoming a confident soapmaker.  Hint:  recipes that you run across calling for a can of this and a cup of that are best ignored.  Can sizes may change over time, so if it doesn’t state what that can size is by weight, move on.  Cup and other types of non-weighed  measurements are also potential problems. Why?  Because even cup measurements from cup to cup can vary, so a cup of shortening might not weigh eight ounces, and lye calculations are based on the weight of each oil.  You could potentially end up with either a very soft batch or a lye-heavy one.  Soap isn’t as forgiving as cooking and the ingredients were meant to be weighed out.

 

But what about you?  Perhaps you have a formula that you have used for years and you’re very happy with it, so you see no need to waste time or money on changing it.  You admit that you know just so much about each oil that goes into your soap, but you do know how to produce a consistent product from batch to batch.

 

Where product production is concerned, I understand the need for a consistent formula, but couldn’t exist without my r&d (research and development) time, but that may not be true for all.

 

Weigh in (no pun intended).  Are you an experimenter (mad scientist) type or a tried-and-true soap/bath and body maker?

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne

Whipped Soapmaking

 Have you made whipped soap?

 

I’ve been perusing sites recently, and thought I’d share a few with you:

http://nizzymoulds.com/Whipped/WhippedSoapGallery.htm (this one is classic)

http://www.soap-making-essentials.com/how-to-make-soap-whipped-cream.html

http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/coldprocesssoapmaking/ss/whippedsoap.htm

Ooh, look at that beautiful soap!  I get excited about trying it just looking at the pictures.  Although I should admit to myself that it won’t happen until after the holidays, I have a tiny glimmer of hope that I’ll sneak in a batch somewhere here soon.  It keeps me going.  For you, is it the fact that the soap floats or the creative possibilities that intrigue you?  I am definitely part of the creative possibilities camp.

LaShonda Tyree did a demo in July at the NY Bubbles & Blazes Gathering and it looked easy enough, so I don’t have any qualms about trying it, I just haven’t.  I love the possibilities with color and the impressive confection-like soaps that can be made with whipped soap, and am betting that anyone with cake decorating experience would go wild with the possibilities.  If you do decide to try it, be sure to read the instructions carefully to be safe.  Careless mixing or not paying attention to the length of time the soap needs to saponify and cure could be your undoing–but then, we soapmakers are used to exercising caution!

What about you?  Have you tried it, are you interested, is it on your soapmaking bucket list?  If you have tried it, what do you think of the technique?  Any drawbacks or special cautions you’d like to share?  Tell us.

A Soap For Every Soaper

Most of us, I believe, would consider cold process soap to be the standard, or most common method of soapmaking among those who are creating soap using lye and oils.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few variations on this theme, not to mention other types of soap altogether.

I recently watched whipped soap being made and soap being felted.  The whipped soap we worked with was simply done, but I have seen on the internet, soaps that look like bakery creations  using whipped soap.  The felted bars are like having the washcloth on the soap, and can be done mixing colors and patterns.  Some theorized that these would be particularly helpful for the elderly as they make holding on to the soap easier than a plain, slick bar.

My favorite soapmaking method is CPOP (cold process, oven process).  Some love the instantaneous results of HP (hot process).  Still others, though few it seems, rebatch or handmill each of their batches, noting with confidence that their additives are not being destroyed by the lye.

As if that’s not enough, we have liquid soap, made with potassium hydroxide (KOH) rather than sodium hydroxide (NaOH).  Naturally, then, why not a combination of KOH soap and NaOH soap, and call it cream soap?

So, you’re afraid to work with lye or your work is very artistic.  In this case,  melt & pour, sometimes known as glycerin soap, is your soap of choice.  Not that I haven’t seen amazing works of art with lye soaps, but it’s a different kind of artistry that is created with m&p, and many use it for special effects, like the adorable soap I just received.  It has a solid base, a cow embed in the middle, which is clear, and then a solid top.  Who wouldn’t love that?

What types have I missed?  What’s your favorite?  What haven’t you tried that you would like to?

 

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