I know a lot of folks recommend Scientific Soapmaking. I haven't digested it yet - so I'm just repeating second-hand info.
Other than that, most books give outdated information or just a bunch of recipes without useful information. I'd say our forum is the best information source out there. If you're more visual, Soaping101 on youtube has excellent videos. Start with the last ones first as they build on one another. I don't love her recipes, but the techniques and ideas are really solid.
I don't "do" facebook, but I've only heard horror stories of misguided, possibly dangerous ideas on there. I'd take any information you find on those groups with a really big grain of salt.
If you're looking for B&B information, SwiftMonkey is awesome. She has some ebooks that compile the info on her blog that I cannot recommend enough.
To me, the best education can be found right here on the forum. I've read quite a few books and even bought a handful of them, but none of them can compare to the education I received just by reading on the forums, starting at back pages or archives and reading forward from there.
Having said that, though, there is one book that I've found to be very useful- Scientific Soapmaking by Dr. Kevin Dunn. It's not one of those pretty, frilly books with recipes and pictures that one can curl up with on the couch, but more of a 'nuts & bolts' book that Dr. Dunn wrote for his college students, and it reads like a science lab course.
The problem I find with reading most books on soap-making is that they are snapshots frozen in time, which means that they are only as good as the information that was available at the time they were written- and unfortunately, some of that info was faulty, incomplete or just downright bad, which is why I think there are so many misguided FB groups out there- they are probably relying on books with bad info.
I am going to second the suggestion to watch Soaping 101's videos. I don't love her recipes, either, but her methods and ideas are good, and well explained. Beware soapers on YouTube that say you can sell hot processed soap in a few days. They are full of bad practices and worse information.
I actually keep threads here bookmarked. In a soaping folder there are multiple folders titled "coloring", "troubleshooting", "suppliers", etcetera. You can rename the bookmark something like "ricing" so it's easier to know what each link will be about.
When I find something that might be useful to me I add it in one of the folders. The very basics of soapmaking are easy enough, but dang, things can turn complicated quite easily. Or so it seems to one that only made her first batch last year.
When I started off I kept up with the current threads here and also read back over about 15 pages in the cp and recipe sections (the beginner section is new) and I learnt that way. You see more sides of things than in a book and there is often the more important 'why?' here on the forum which is not so often in a book.
I got interested in soaping by seeing one recipe on a blog. It had coffee as part of the water and my wife doesn't like the smell of coffee (not that it would actually come through, I now know) but I wanted to learn what each part of the recipe did so I would know how to change it. Google brought me here. Here, I learnt why things work the way they do.
I also have the scientific soap making book. It's very good!
Thanks all! I'm a voracious reader--my inclination is always to turn to a book for learning and information. What a fascinating craft this is, that the best source of information is within the community of crafters themselves.
I'll look up the Scientific Soaping book, but also spend more time reading stickys on this site. I already go to the abbreviations sticky fairly often.
The book that I learned to make soap from is "Smart Soapmaking" by Anne Watson. I had read a lot online, but still wanted a book by my side when I made that first batch. I read tons of reviews of soapmaking books on Amazon, and hers is the one I chose. I'm glad I did. Anne has a very calm, down to earth approach to soapmaking that was just right for me. This book won't teach you how to do any fancy techniques, but if you want to get a good foundation of soapmaking under your belt, you can't go wrong with this book. If you have a Kindle, her books are occasionally free on Amazon.
Second Susie's statement about always, always re-checking the recipe/lye amount yourself. I think Soaping 101 is also generally a pretty good source for new soapmakers, but was looking for a specific recipe for something, ran her's through soapcalc several times, and it was just wrong. I'm sure it was just a typo, which is unavoidable for all of us over time, but you want to make sure that something like that does not end up in a lye heavy soap or failure to saponify b/c you didn't check.
Also, even some of the best writers on soap make mistakes/are not always clear. I came across a statement in one that did not make sense to me when I first started soaping and posted a question about it on another board. The author, who is one of the acknowledged experts and a good writer, is a member of that board and was nice enough to post and explain/clarify.
That is one of the reasons I like posting questions/researching here rather than reading books, you get more than one voice on a topic that is unclear, usually many if it is something that is dangerous. It just helps to have so much advice, some of it the most clear-headed and expert that you could expect to find anywhere.
Hi mandy318, I just finished a great soap making book: The soapmaker's companion by Susan Miller Cavitch. It has everything, from basic recipes to the chemical reactions that happen in soap. I hope you read it and enjoy it as much as I did.
I know this thread is a little old now, but I'd like to chime in on Scientific Soapmaking by Kevin Dunn.
It's a really great resource to get a better understanding of what is going on in the soapmaking process. Understanding the chemistry makes it easier to create your own recipes and be able to predict what the soap would turn out like.