Do you edit the lye concentration based on %age of lard in the recipe? Do you find 45% still gives you time to swirl/ layer, and enough wiggle room for misbehaving essential oils? Would maybe 40% be an easier water reduction for me to start with to get a feel?
With my first few lard bars (anywhere from 40 - 60% lard), I've used 33% to be safe as a new soaper, and they turn out lovely; I usually unmold and cut around 24h. I do like the idea of less soda ash, and the bars perhaps drying faster - although I do know that it is recommended to still cure 4-6 weeks minimum to allow the crystalline structure to form.
I masterbatch my oils, so my recipe always has ~60% lard in it, unless I'm making a special recipe for someone. For instance, one of my friends dislikes lard soaps and only likes a ZNSC variation with 20% CO, 5% castor, goat milk, and her favorite FO. On the other end of the spectrum, my husband's shower soap is usually 75-80% lard + neem oil, with his favorite FO.
No matter what recipe I'm making, I always use 45% lye concentration unless I'm trying to do a special design where extra fluidity really matters - like this month's SMF challenge
, for instance, where I used 33%. I start with a 50% MB lye solution; if I'm soaping with a 45% lye concentration, that leaves me with just enough additional liquid to pre-dissolve the sodium citrate (chelator to reduce soap scum) and the sorbitol (my favorite "sugar" for increasing bubbles) that are standard for my recipes.
Also, while a lye concentration from about 35% to about 42% will speed up my trace, for me and my recipe, trace slows down again above 42%. However, the batter is still thicker because there is less water. This is ideal for recipes that call for a medium trace and that don't require lots of colors or lots of little pours to make the design - which would be most of my soaps. I do a lot of drop swirls, ITP swirls, and a few hanger swirls. In addition, other components of my process slow down trace, like soaping at room temp, and barely stickblending to an emulsion (not even necessarily a stable one) before dividing the batter for colors.
The lower water really helps reduce soda ash, and allows me to unmold at 12-18 hours most of the time. I really noticed how much longer I had to wait to unmold my challenge soaps this month. After 24+ hours, they were still barely firm enough and still ended up with some bunged corners, because some of the soap stuck in the corners of the mold.
I do "CPOP" my soaps on a heating pad that is covered with an overturned styrofoam food delivery box, or an insulated cardboard food delivery box. Those two things take up a LOT of room in my soap cabinets but they work so well and were basically free.
Added heat to force/speed up gel also helps with decreasing the time to unmold. Can you tell I'm impatient??
I realize that's a lot of info, and I'm still on my first cup of coffee.
Hopefully it makes sense?