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

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

Meh or Yeah?

As I was showering the other day, I noted how quickly my husband and I go through soap.   It’s a good thing I make it!  

 

You see, hubby likes that soap-to-body experience– no wash cloths or soap savers for him.  I’ve tried to convince him to use them, but to no avail.  He also tends to judge a soap by its lathering capability, the more lather, the better.  You can quite imagine how low he would rate castile soap.  Moreover, he isn’t particular about scent, as a general rule. If it’s in the shower, he’ll use it.  He also likes larger bars than I do, and prefers rectangles.

 

I confess that I like lather, too, but I also like soap savers, cloths, and other cleansing and holding devices.  Additionally, one of my criterion in soaping is to make a hard soap, except for facial use.  Not that I don’t engineer it to be moisturizing, but if my batch wasn’t hard, then I would consider a batch to improve upon.  I do enjoy a wide variety of scents,  whether essential oils or fragrance oils and yet, I am much more discriminating when it comes to scent than hubby is.  I like different shapes in soap as long as they fit in my hand, as well.

 

Of course, as a soapmaker, I am more attuned to colors and patterns in soap than most of the general public is, and admire those so skilled as to create them.  That same consideration ranks at the bottom of my husband’s checklist.

 

Thinking about our marked preferences caused me to wonder, what makes soap perfect in your book?  Do you insist on hard bars?  Do you search for the most conditioning oils and make them a large percentage of your soap?  Perhaps scent is your biggest concern or you prefer only essential oils or only fragrance oils.  Is a particular shape or size your favorite?  Does it have to be artistic or do you prefer Plain Jane?  Are soap savers and so on, a godsend or a hindrance?

 

Tell us about your perfect bar.  What changes  “meh” into  “yeah” for you?

 

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

Two Problems with Newbies

Have you ever heard or read something like this?  “I think a soap/candle/body products business would be a great idea, so I signed up for a show next month.  Please give me your best recipes.”  I have.

 

Equally disconcerting at an event:  “I make that product, too.  Where do you get your supplies from?  What is your best seller and how do you make it?”  I have been asked these questions.

 

I could go on, but you get the picture.  Is it a problem for people to ask?  Do you become offended?

 

Personally, I do try to keep things in perspective.  It’s likely that Newbie Ned doesn’t really understand what he’s asking.  He may think it’s as simple as answering the question, “Where do you shop for groceries?”  Those of us who have been in the business for awhile, however, know that nothing could be farther from the truth and we would do well to communicate that.

 

Molly Moocher may not get the concept of competition or research and development; so, when she asks where I get my supplies, ideas, and formulas, I try to keep that in mind.

 

Does that mean that I should feel compelled to answer their questions as forthrightly as they were asked?  Not a chance!  And it’s not that I am feeling selfish.  I have many reasons for thinking that spoonfeeding potential soap and candle makers is a poor idea, and here are two of them:

 

1.     Potential hazards to future customers are imminent in the situation where someone who doesn’t have a thorough understanding of their craft sells their goods.  Soap, body products and candles can hurt people when they are poorly made or when the maker doesn’t have a good understanding of what they’re creating.  Lye heavy soap damages the skin. Certain essential oils shouldn’t be used for skin care.  Candles with the wrong wick size can cause fires.

 

Those who have taken the laborious road of research and experimentation are more able to produce a good, safe product, and respecting that gives them a distinct edge over their inexperienced counterparts.  Skipping this process may have devastating consequences.

 

2.     Those whom see no problem in asking potential competitors questions whose honest answers would require the person answering to divulge proprietary information have little respect for the business or the person they’re asking.  We can hope the problem lies simply in naivety, but that is not always true.  Occasionally, they are simply ruthless.  Letting them run roughshod over you is not the answer.

 

Is it wrong then, to ask for help?  Not at all. Those who practice a craft have a wealth of experience to share, and I hope that they do.  However,  rookies should learn respect for the process and those who are experienced in it.  This alone goes a long way, both in their own development and in their relations with potential mentors.  It is, in fact, a fine line sometimes between asking for guidance and demanding, like petulant children, that others give us what we want, NOW.  Requesting guidelines or good books and websites to learn from shows an understanding of the rights of the other person to keep competitive information to themselves.  It also demonstrates personal ambition and motivation, a willingness to learn for one’s self.  That should be encouraged.

 

Not everything in life can be had handed to us without effort on that proverbial silver platter, and recognizing it is the sign of one who has true potential.  These are the people that most of us love to help.

 

How do you feel? Do you respond when you are asked questions by amateurs?  If you’re brand new, how do you ask for help?

 

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

 

Beth Byrne

 

Soap and Candle Spring Fling

If you’re like me, spring brings with its arrival a new excitement.

 

As the days lengthen and the sunshine warms, I too, come back to life.  That carries through to my soapmaking and body products.  I want to try new colors, scents, and techniques.  Admittedly, some work out better than others, but the not-so-good results do not discourage me too much because I keep at it.

 

On the other hand, how many times do we realize our mistakes could be better termed, serendipity?  That’s what I love about my craft.  I don’t always get in reality, what my optimistic mind imagines, but it’s almost always good, even if only for family use.  Sometimes, it’s even better than I imagined.  It’s at these times I’m most pleased.

 

It used to be that when a soapmaker made her first batch, or even when a more experienced soapmaker made an exceptionally good/beautiful batch, that we said we were doing a “Happy Soap Dance.”  I don’t see that often anymore, but it still exists!  I do the HSD after a good batch, if only in my head.  I’m quite sure I also wear a great big grin.

 

What about you?  Do you still get excitement and immense satisfaction from each (or nearly each) batch?  Chandlers, do you look forward to trying new things?  Or has soapmaking and candlemaking become routine, a chore that needs to be finished?   Tell us how you feel.

 

Until next time, Happy bubbles and wax!

Beth Byrne

Remember When? A Request of the Experienced

Remember back to the days when you first began to make soap or candles.  For some of you, it’s a distant memory.  For others, it’s easily recaptured.  Regardless of the time and path traveled from then until now, try to remember how “green” you were– maybe far enough back that “green” only meant the color or that you were new to the craft!  Are you remembering how confusing everything was, how many terms you had to learn, how to procure the equipment and supplies?  Remember carefully studying the safety tips others gave you?  I want you to put yourself in that place again for a moment.

 

 

Why?  I have a couple of reasons in mind;  one of them is empathy.  If you can remember how much there was to learn and the trepidation that you felt at the beginning, you can feel empathy for the newbies you run across.  Yes, it may feel as if you’ve answered a certain question a hundred times and yes, it might seem obvious what the answer is to another.  Nevertheless, you can answer that question or help the person figure out the answer, paying back what has been given to you.

 

I don’t have to tell you that soap and candlemaking have been serious industries and crafts for centuries, their secrets closely protected and passed on to future generations.  Just as in the past, this vital information must be passed on to others now, so the crafts will be preserved for the future, which is my second reason for asking you to think about where you began.  I personally remember many teachers I had–Rita Scheu of  TLC Soaps and many others I “met” online who taught and encouraged me along the way.  Indeed, I’m not finished learning.  Just a few days ago, I asked a question which other soap makers helped me with, and that knowledge will make me a better soapmaker.

 

Potential and beginning soap and candle makers these days face a different challenge than many of us faced.  Before the explosion of the internet,  instruction was difficult to find.  Today, they are barraged with information, much of it inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.  If you can lend some encouragement along the way and show newbies where they can find good information (Saponifier), you’ll be doing them, the craft, and you, a world of good!

Until next time, bubbles up!

 

Beth Byrne

Soapmakers Love Oils!

We soapmakers love our oils, do we not?

 

 

Many of us like to try a wide variety of oils and become connoisseurs, learning the color, viscosity, and nutrients found in each of them.  Those of us who make other bath and body products, even more so.  We want the best oils for a balanced bar of soap, for the perfect consistency of lotion, for massage, and a host of other products.  They are, indeed, a mainstay of our businesses or hobbies.

 

One of my favorite oils for soap and for other body products is sunflower seed oil.  When we visited my city’s farmers’ market this summer, I gazed lovingly at the bottles of golden liquid sunshine offered there and had an interesting discussion with the vendors about how nice it was for soapmaking, as well as for cooking.

 

Why do I like it so much?  One reason is because it has a nice skin feel, being light and not too greasy.   It contains tocopherols, vitamin B, and trace minerals.  Sunflower oil is a beautiful color and creates an almost-white soap used alone.  The imagery of fields of golden sunflowers lifting their face up to the sun is warm and inviting, and cheerful, at the same time.  What’s not to like?  The fact that it is readily available and cost-effective helps, as well.

 

What about you?  Tell us about one of your favorite oils.

Moroccan Gold and Wholesale for You?

Have you finished reading  your Sept./Oct. edition of the Saponifier yet?  I confess that I haven’t either.  Not from lack of interest, mind you, simply from a lack of time!  What I have read, however,  has been fantastic.

Having recently purchased argan oil, the Miracle from Morocco, I couldn’t wait to read Marla Bosworth’s, Moroccan Gold:  The Beauty of Incorporating Argan Oil in Soaps and Skincare Products.  She reminded me why I wanted this oil so badly, given its high vitamin content and polyphenols, not to mention its cachet in high-end cosmetics!  You too, will enjoy learning about this amazing oil and trying out the formulas she provides.

I was actually excited reading, Growing as a Soapmaker, by Jean Broughton.  It’s a little sappy, I guess, but when I read of another soaper’s success, whether a good first batch of soap or a big account like Joan’s, it just makes me smile.  Joan’s frank account of her experience, from first phone call to delivery, was thrilling to read.  It was instructive too, you’ll find, as she recounts the steps involved and doesn’t hesitate to inform us of just how hard she worked and how much help she needed to pull it off.

Have you read these articles?  Tell us what you think!

Coming Up: Argan and Larry

Authors and editors are working hard on the next issue of the Saponifier!  It’s due to be released on September first, but here’s a sneak preview:

Have you been hearing about Argan Oil recently?  It’s one of the trendy oils, but for good reason.  Read Marla Bosworth’s article, Moroccan Gold:  the Beauty of Incorporating Argan Oil in Soaps and Skincare Products, to find out what’s behind this newly re-discovered, yet ancient oil. It’s use in the Middle East continues, but is fast becoming popular in the US.  You’ll even find formulas for face, body, hair, scalp and soapmaking.

Start your own product line with this goldmine!

You might remember guest author Larry Strattner, and his humorous article involving learning to make soap.  You’ll be happy to note that he is back again with yet another article, My Soap Went Up in Smoke.  A title like that will lead your imagination everywhere!  I can’t wait to hear about his latest episode in soapmaking with his mentor, Liz.

Stay tune for more previews!

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