A few questions before my first batch

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Nettle

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Good day!

I'm about to begin the process of whipping up my first batch.. I've been reading the forums, reading Soaping e-books, tutorials.... And I realize that I could put together a fair attempt, but I want my first to be a success. So here goes with the noob questions:

1) When water is measured, is it measured by weight in ounces, or liquid volume in ounces?

2) What are the pros and cons of loaf molds vs slab trays? Which one is recommended to produce a beautiful, rectangular bar of CP soap?

3) Can you recommend a quality vendor who would sell #2? Ideally I would want to produce a few dozen bars at a time.

4) When steaming a bar of CP soap to eliminate ash, when is the best time? After curing, or before packaging?

5) I've seen plenty of small hand mixers, but would a drill with a paint mixer attachment work well enough?

Five is a good start, I am certain I will have some more. I look forward to replies!
 

Obsidian

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1) by weight, everything in soap is measured by weight.

2) really depends on the design you want. Loaf molds are great for fancy/textured tops or bars with swirls running through the soap. Slab molds give you more area to make textured or swirls on the tops. If you are wanting single colored, perfect rectangles that a slab mold with dividers would probably be best. Brambleberry.com has a nice one, I think its for 18 bars.

Since you are new to soaping, you really should stick with 1lb batches until you get the hang of it and develop a good recipe. It would be a huge waste to make dozens of bars just to find out its a bad recipe.

3) check brambleberry.com

4) Never done it but I would wait until the soap is cured

5) Yes, a drill and paint mixer will work fine for large batches. For smaller ones, you really need a stick blender.

I need to add, if you are planning on selling which I think might be the case since you want to make crazy huge batches, be prepared for people to tell you why its a bad idea to sell when you are new to soaping. There is much more to making soap then just plucking a random recipe off the net.
If you are planning on mass producing, you really need custom molds, I've never seen any soap suppliers that sell molds that hold more then 5 lbs.
 

Susie

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If you would like to run a recipe by us to critique before you make that first batch, we will be happy to help.

You are about a year from being ready to sell. Be prepared to hear this over and over. Many things can happen to soap over the course of a year, and you need to learn how to deal with each one.
 

Dharlee

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I started with 3 pound batches and they were a bit large for a beginner. I really think you should start small. There's a big difference in reading and thinking you're ready and executing.
 

Nettle

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Ah nice! Replies!

Obsidian: In all honesty, the videos I'd been watching in YouTube showed either big slabs or big loaves, I just assumed that it was the norm. Course, I've seen videos with one pound loaf molds but it seemed small. I have three boys in soccer, the family an go through a bar of soap in a week. I do get the whole walk before you run thing.

Susie: I figured for my first bunch of batches, I would make tried-and-tested recipes which other people have posted on the net or from the books I've read. I'd like to get comfortable with the process before anything. We make beer in this house for years now, and nearly everything we've made has been a recipe someone has shared. I think I am still far from creating my own recipe.

Dharlee: What did you find to be the downside to the three pound batch size? With beer, we've found there's forgiveness in volume.

Thank you for the replies! Definitely food for thought...
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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I would still post recipes here - there is a lot of rubbish out there and in print, it's not uncommon for people to come here to troubleshoot a tried and test recipe from a book which is actually fundamentally flawed.

As for batch size, if you have a digital scale that can do 1g increments, you should be able to make 500g batches with no issues - with making large batches you have a lot of soap to use up even if there is about the recipe that you would change.
 

Susie

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I would make no more than 3 lb batches. There are many issues that come with making and using hand made soap. If you have a child that reacts with coconut oil, then you only have 9 bars to get rid of, or if one of your batches develop DOS, then you don't look at that huge pile of soap, and decide you have to use it anyway. Once you get some solid recipes you all like, and can replicate over and over, then you can make larger batches.

As Craig said above, PLEASE post the recipes you are interested in here. Typos happen, and with children using the soap, you need the extra step. Besides, one of us has bound to have made that soap, and we can tell you exactly what it is going to be like.

Also, remember that all hand made soap needs a 4-6 week cure. There is no getting around that. We often try newer soaps ourselves, after zap testing, but would never give it to a family member before at least 4 weeks cure time.
 

DeeAnna

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All very good tips!

I agree there is some benefit to a reasonable minimum size for a soap batch. Some people want to make very small batches -- say 1/4 lb or so. Unless they have a highly accurate scale, the normal measurement error in the usual types of scales can cause serious problems with a small batch. A batch of 1 lb is about right for learning and testing purposes.

I usually make 1500 g (about 3 lb) batches now that I have recipes I'm comfortable with and have more experience. I did 500-750 g (1 to 1 1/2 lb) batches in my first year of soaping. In hindsight that was the right thing to do. Like riding a bicycle, the physical process of soaping needs practice, especially when things are moving fast. Three 1-lb batches gave me three times more practice in the mechanics of making soap. Also, three 1-lb batches let me try three recipes so I gained more knowledge faster about what types of soap I liked best. And when I screwed up or things didn't turn out as expected, those smaller batches meant there was less not-so-good soap to deal with.
 

Cactuslily

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Hi Nettle, and welcome to soaping!
This is such a great group of people here. When i first started out, the guidance, information and unbelievable patience i received was amazing! I continue to learn things every time I am on here. If I could add anything to the above info, it would be to learn your oil properties, and make soapcalc your best friend. Get into the habit of running everything through the lye calculator, even if its a tried and true, from a reputable soaper etc..Typos happen, and its just a good habit to get into. Theres many lye calculators out there. Soapcalc, summerbeemeadow, the sage just to name a few. I use soapcalc, but summerbee is great for resizing.
Happy soaping!
 

Dorymae

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If you just want good basic soap try using 80% lard, 15% coconut oil, 5% castor oil. Run it through a lye calculator to get water and lye amounts for your batch size. Very good basic recipe that is well behaved with most scents and colors, non drying and easy to work with. Good luck to you.
 

IrishLass

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Welcome Nettle! :)

Good day!

1) When water is measured, is it measured by weight in ounces, or liquid volume in ounces?
Always by weight, and preferably in gram amounts.

2) What are the pros and cons of loaf molds vs slab trays? Which one is recommended to produce a beautiful, rectangular bar of CP soap?
You can get beautiful rectangular bars with either, depending how you pour and how you cut.

Loaf mold pro's: easier to get full-gel; allows for a slew of quite lovely swirling techniques such as hanger swirls, drop swirls, spoon swirls, hidden mantra swirls, penciled mica lines, etc...., and you can also make slab-type bars in a loaf mold by pouring shallow. Cons: I honestly can't think of any except that I can't do a good peacock swirl with my loaf molds. lol

Slab mold pros: allows for some lovely swirling techniques such as peacock swirls, column swirls, decorative surface swirls in the shape of flowers, etc.... Cons: Honestly, the only con I can think of is that it's more tricky to get full-gel in a slab mold, but that can easily be overcome with insulation.

As you can probably tell, I love both kinds of molds, and I am happy to have found a mold that is able to convert from slab mode into loaf mode by use of a handy divider (I own 2 of them).


3) Can you recommend a quality vendor who would sell #2? Ideally I would want to produce a few dozen bars at a time.
A 2 lb. mold will give you 8 or 9 bars depending on how you cut them, which if you ask me is the perfect size to use when staring out.

Also- if you get a 2 lb. loaf mold, you can make 1 lb. practice batches in it by pouring shallow, which will give you 4 bars of slab-style soap.

The Brambleberry company that Obsidian linked to is great for molds. Also- the following company sells the dual log/slab molds that I own: https://diannassundries.com/product/wood-soap-mold/

Starting out small is definitely wise. Enough good things just can't be said about that. Case in point- my first batch was a 3-pounder, and I actually had to toss it because I made a stupid weighing mistake and it ended up quite lye-heavy. It broke into hundreds of brittle shards when I went to cut it. I kicked myself royally over wasting all that oil and lye.

4) When steaming a bar of CP soap to eliminate ash, when is the best time? After curing, or before packaging?
It's rare that I get any ash on mine, but when I do- I just wipe it off with a damp cloth after cure/before storing, or if I have ash on a textured soap with nooks and crannies, I hold it under some running water while gently scrubbing with a soft toothbrush. Comes right off.

5) I've seen plenty of small hand mixers, but would a drill with a paint mixer attachment work well enough?
I know of several soapers who do this, but they usually are making huge 10 lb or bigger-size batches. It might be overkill for 2 lb. to 5 lb. batches, but then again, I suppose it all comes down to the size of the drill/mixer attachment.

Before I sign off, I just want to second the advice to run every recipe through a good lye calculator no matter where you found the recipe, even if it was here. Typos happen to us all, not to mention that there are many recipes lurking out there on the net or in books that just aren't well-formulated.


IrishLass :)
 

dixiedragon

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Welcome!

1) When water is measured, is it measured by weight in ounces, or liquid volume in ounces?

We usually advocate weighing everything. However, 1 ounce of water (by volume) also weighs 1 ounce. So I have on occasion measured by volume and never had a problem. IMO, if you need 8 oz of liquid and your cup has an 8 oz line, you're fine. However, if you need 10 oz of liquid and your cup doesn't have a 10 oz line, then you are having to guess, which I don't recommend.

2) What are the pros and cons of loaf molds vs slab trays? Which one is recommended to produce a beautiful, rectangular bar of CP soap?

They are both good. Many soapers have both b/c they each have their strengths. I use my loaf mold more, b/c it has a small surface area that is the top of the soap. So if my soap gets a bit thick and I have a rough, bumpy top, it's easy to trim off. So IMO the log mold is the better mold for a beginner and also better for mass production.

3) Can you recommend a quality vendor who would sell #2? Ideally I would want to produce a few dozen bars at a time.

Brambleberry has one with dividers. Wholesale supplies plus has one that does 12 bars and has score marks in the mold, so you need to cut it with a knife. If I had it to do over, I'd invest in a Soap Hutch mold that converts to do logs, individual bars, etc.

4) When steaming a bar of CP soap to eliminate ash, when is the best time? After curing, or before packaging?

5) I've seen plenty of small hand mixers, but would a drill with a paint mixer attachment work well enough?

I have never tried it, but I have heard of people doing that with no problem.
 

BrewerGeorge

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Thought I'd comment from the perspective of someone who just started as well (3 months) with some of the mistakes I made or just things I would do differently.

Primarily, I wanted to comment on the paint mixer idea. I had that one too, but didn't end up going that route because I couldn't find a mixer that I was convinced was NOT galvanized and I was unsure if zinc and lye played well together. In retrospect, I'm very glad I went with a stick blender instead. The paint mixer and drill would have been just too big and bulky. I'm also finding out that one needs to actually use the blender quite a bit less than the impression given by the videos. It IS required (or at least very, very helpful) but it's not really the focus of the process that videos make it seem. For example, if I spend an hour making a recipe from start to finish, the stick blender is only maybe 3 minutes of that time. Quite often it takes me more time to clean the thing than I actually used it. So with something that has ended up being a minor (if vital) part of the process, I'm glad I don't have the added bother of dealing with the drill or the loss of more valuable counter space.

If you're thinking of the drill, then I'm guessing you're like me and trying to minimize initial expenses. I've already found a few things where my attempts at frugality have come back to bite me. The first of those is PPE. Get good, reusable gloves and comfortable eye protection from the start. Cheap nitrile gloves seem fine until the first time you pour water down inside them during cleanup, and goggles that fog get taken off. I've already upgraded mine from the cheapy, starter stuff so I've paid twice compared to getting decent stuff from the start. Also, the mold. I made mine from wood which means it has to be lined every time. I didn't think that would be a problem, but now I'm finding it an irksome chore when I just want to make soap. If I were starting again, I would get one of the 10" silicone loaf molds and be done with it.

It's hard to argue with the experts about batch size. I started with 40oz of oil because that's what I sized my mold for (long before finding this place) when I thought I'd be measuring in ounces and the fact that 40oz made 5% an even two ounces was helpful. Now I measure everything in grams and it's meaningless. I will say, though, that haven't had trouble using up my experiments or giving them away. But my recipe experiments have been quite modest and I haven't had any hard failures (as in unusable) yet either. I would defer to the experts on this one, although I don't think I'd go below one pound if only because it begins to get difficult to work with the stick blender if volume is too low.
 

doriettefarm

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I'm with BrewerGeorge in regard to lining molds. I HATE HATE HATE it.
Yep, my go-to molds are all silicone because I hate lining! I only have one HDPE mold that came from Michaels or Hobby Lobby and I hate that thing with a passion. Everything sticks like the dickens and I never get it to release cleanly . . . even when I'm patient and wait for days. Now I only use it for test batches when I don't care how pretty it looks or how long it takes to extract.
 

Nettle

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I sincerely appreciate the detailed replies, it definitely changes the way I had been planning things.

George, you are right, I have a really nice drill that will not likely burn out in the next decade or two, and a nice stainless steel wand.. So I figured I could try to use what I already have. Can you recommend a good quality stick blender?

In regards to silicone molds, do they tend to warp out along the longer face? I have seen some that come in some wooden frame, which I suppose is to prevent this bulging.. Is that correct?

Oh, another question..How does one determine whether an FO or an EO will speed up trace? Is it trial and error, and subject to type, vendor, etc?

Thanks again to all, I appreciate the input!!
 

IrishLass

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Speaking only for myself, my favorite stick-blender to use for soaping is my trusty (and inexpensive) Hamilton Beach. This model here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000R8NBOM/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

I like it because the bell on it is designed in such a way that it doesn't introduce any air into my soap batter...and I can use it without 'burping' it (i.e., releasing air bubbles...... because there are no air bubbles to release). I've been soaping with the very same one for 10 years now. It hasn't burnt out and the wand is still doing great...although I do have a back-up just in case.

My other favorite stick-blender that I have is made by Cuisinart. I like it for it's stainless steel wand which comes in handy for glycerin liquid soap-making when I'm adding the KOH to boiling glycerin which boils at a much hotter temp than boiling water. If I used my Hamilton Beach for that, the plastic wand would warp for sure.

The bell on the Cuisinart is shaped pretty good, too.....not as good as my Hamilton Beach, but pretty darn close and much better than my KA stick-blender which I found out the hard way has a poorly-shaped bell on it (it's too concave to be able to mix as efficiently as my Hamilton Beach or Cuisinart.....and it introduces air for me).


Regarding silicone molds- if you can find the type with a form-fitting box/enclosure, those are great. I've got 3 of that type and it's really nice to soap in them because I don't have fear of the sides bowing out.

The best way to determine whether or not an EO or FO will speed trace is to ride on the coat-tails of other's trial and error experiences. LOL And the best way to do that is to read the different FO/EO review boards. Two of the best are these:

http://soapscentreview.obisoap.ca/

and

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet...uh-yaTdRf1M/edit?authkey=CMTEtswL&pli=1#gid=0


IrishLass :)
 
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penelopejane

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I sincerely appreciate the detailed replies, it definitely changes the way I had been planning things.

George, you are right, I have a really nice drill that will not likely burn out in the next decade or two, and a nice stainless steel wand.. So I figured I could try to use what I already have. Can you recommend a good quality stick blender?

In regards to silicone molds, do they tend to warp out along the longer face? I have seen some that come in some wooden frame, which I suppose is to prevent this bulging.. Is that correct?

Oh, another question..How does one determine whether an FO or an EO will speed up trace? Is it trial and error, and subject to type, vendor, etc?

Thanks again to all, I appreciate the input!!
The vendor will have a description of what the FO or ED does in Cold process soap whether it accelerates or causes ricing. Some have a sample colour so you know what it will do in a finished soap. Read their descriptions and reviews as well. I bought only 5 star rated FO's with great reviews and some I still don't like. It's a personal choice that you will just have to try to see if you like them.

Get a stickblender that has a Stainless steel cowl (cover over the blade part) and stick. Aluminium will react to lye and plastic will wear out sooner rather than later. You should keep it for soap making and not use it for food as well. Other than that it doesn't matter what type you buy. Some have said that it is the expensive ones that have created bubbles in their mix.
 

dixiedragon

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I've got one with a plastic end that has worked great for years. If they cost the same, get the stainless steel, but if you see a plastic one for a steal, go for it.

Also, put your scale in a plastic bag. If you have a spill, your scale is safe.
 

dixiedragon

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Silicone molds - I have the 10" one from BB. It does bulge out just a bit in the middle of the long sides. Probably nobody but a soapmaker would notice it, but it bugs me. So I put a soup can on either side of mine for support. I had a cardboard box I'd saved that worked great as well, but it got oily and messy. You don't need a fancy wooden mold.

That being said, Nurture Soap Supplies makes wooden molds with silicone liners. I've heard rave reviews.
 

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