Cold Process Question

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monique

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Sometimes when I soap, it only takes about two minutes to bring the soap to trace, is this normal?

I stir with the stick blender for about 40 seconds then turn the power on in 30 second bursts, then stir again...I repeat this til it comes to trace. Unless I do a pure olive oil soap, of course. That takes a little longer. It happens with recipes that have olive, coconut, palm, and castor oils...and even just olive and coconut.

I just want to make sure I am doing it right.
Thank you
 

DeeAnna

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"..I stir with the stick blender for about 40 seconds then turn the power on in 30 second bursts, then stir again..."

Yes, coming to trace in just a few minutes can be quite typical, but it all depends on your technique. You're actually using your SB quite a bit more than I do nowadays. I used my SB more like you are when I was a beginner, and I only got a few minutes at most before my soap was at a clear trace. Nowadays I get 5 to 10 minutes of open working time, sometimes even more, even using similar recipes, just by using my SB with restraint.

If you want to have a longer working time, stick blend for shorter bursts (5-10 seconds at a time) and hand stir longer between bursts. Stop stick blending when you get to emulsion (the stage before obvious trace). Switch to hand stirring only until your soap reaches the consistency you want for swirling, pouring into the mold, or whatever. All other things being equal, that should give you more working time until your soap batter reaches trace. There are other things you can do, as Steve mentioned, to make your recipes move slower if good SB technique is not enough.
 
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Steve85569

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I'm going to have to start timing my sb. It seems to take me less than a minute to trace with some fo's!
Some FO's seize at different water contents or with certain recipes in my limited experience. Make sure that your FO is intended for lye soap too. Some are made specifically for M&P and will do strange things when mixed with lye.
 

DeeAnna

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If I know a given scent (FO or EO or a blend) is easy to work with or if reviews suggest the scent is well behaved, I will usually add the scent to my oils, add the lye, and stick blend and hand stir as usual to emulsion. What I do from then on depends on my plan for that soap -- sometimes I choose to continue to stick blend part or all of the batter to visible trace. Sometimes I work with the very thin batter directly.

If I have any reason to be suspicious of the scent, then the good folks here have taught me to first make the batter and bring it to emulsion as usual without the scent. After I get everything else set up and ready to go -- coloring part or all of the batter, adding other ingredients, etc -- then I put the scent into the batter and mix it in, generally stirring only by hand.

I don't want to deal with scents that are hard to work with -- soaping is my hobby and difficult scents add an element of anxiety that I'd just as soon avoid. :) I'd rather work with ones that don't rice or accelerate, even though I know that rules out some nice scents. But sometimes it happens even though I read the reviews and buy carefully.
 

IrishLass

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As the others have said, there are a handful of different factors that can add to a fast trace, but the one thing that sure has the ability to greatly amplify those factors is the stick-blender and how you use it. lol

I stick-blend much like DeeAnna does- in between hand-stirring, I just use quick, 1-second to 10-second bursts here and there every once in a while as needed....nothing anywhere as long as 30-seconds at a stretch by any means. I think my stick-blender would end up hating me and refuse to work for me anymore. lol

I've pretty much worked things out so that each of my formulas doesn't take too much longer or too much shorter than 5-10 minutes or so to come to a medium-thick trace with my intermittent stirring/SBing technique mentioned above, or just by hand-stirring alone (about 5-10 minutes of work-time is my happy place).

Besides my mixing technique, the 3 other things I manipulate in order to achieve my 5-10 minute window of opportunity is my water amount, soaping temperature, and/or my choice of FO. Those same 3 things also come into play when I want more playing time than 10 minutes because I'm doing a really fancy swirl. By adjusting either one or both or all 3 of them (along with just hand-stirring), I can get up to 45 - 60 minutes of play/swirl time if I need to.


IrishLass :)
 

DeeAnna

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Santa brought me a GoPro camera this past Christmas, so I videoed making a gardener's soap. Just for grins, I counted the seconds I stick blended from the time I added the lye to the fats to the time the batter was at a stable emulsion -- I SB'ed a total of 10 seconds, mostly in 1 or 2 second bursts. After that, I separated out the batter and did my design. There was more stick blending involved, but only because I needed to push the soap batter to heavier trace so I could do the design I had in mind. My open working time was 21 minutes from adding the lye to putting the finishing touches on the top of the soap. I wouldn't have thought it was nearly that long if you would have asked me for a guess ... but the video is proof.
 

cmzaha

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I have one very slow trace recipe I use and it takes forever to trace. Just ask SeaWolfe how long it can take. It is high in lard, avocado, coconut, olive sometimes I add 3% castor to it sometimes not, depending on amount of colors I want to use
 

jodym

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As the others have said, there are a handful of different factors that can add to a fast trace, but the one thing that sure has the ability to greatly amplify those factors is the stick-blender and how you use it. lol

I stick-blend much like DeeAnna does- in between hand-stirring, I just use quick, 1-second to 10-second bursts here and there every once in a while as needed....nothing anywhere as long as 30-seconds at a stretch by any means. I think my stick-blender would end up hating me and refuse to work for me anymore. lol

I've pretty much worked things out so that each of my formulas doesn't take too much longer or too much shorter than 5-10 minutes or so to come to a medium-thick trace with my intermittent stirring/SBing technique mentioned above, or just by hand-stirring alone (about 5-10 minutes of work-time is my happy place).

Besides my mixing technique, the 3 other things I manipulate in order to achieve my 5-10 minute window of opportunity is my water amount, soaping temperature, and/or my choice of FO. Those same 3 things also come into play when I want more playing time than 10 minutes because I'm doing a really fancy swirl. By adjusting either one or both or all 3 of them (along with just hand-stirring), I can get up to 45 - 60 minutes of play/swirl time if I need to.


IrishLass :)
What do you mean by water content? Dont you use the amount of water called for in the recipe? I use what it says in the soap calculator at a 5% discount if i used more or less wouldnt that screw things up? I thought we had to pretty much follow the rules when it comes to the water? Thank you in advance!
 

Steve85569

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jodym,
Water content: full water by default ( in Soapcalc) is 38% to the weight of oils.
Water content: as a water : lye ratio is usually less than " full water".
When you look at the recipe page it will show you : water as a percent of oil ( default), Super fat, Lye concentration and Water : Lye ratio .
The default setting renders a water : lye ratio of 2.7855 : 1 which for me can cause a very rapid trace.

Water is needed in soap making to allow the lye to "do it's thing" and the lye needs the water as a catalyst and carrier.

The reason that I as a soap maker use the water : lye ration is that it allows me to see that there is enough water in the lye ( at least 1:1) so that it can be liquid and blended in to the oils. Also a lower amount of water than the 38% to oils allows me a slower trace and more time to play with the batter ie colors,patterns etc. A water : lye ratio of 1.5 :1 allows me lots of time to wait on a thick trace.

Hope that helps some. I know there's lots to learn here and I am still learning.
 
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topofmurrayhill

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What do you mean by water content? Dont you use the amount of water called for in the recipe? I use what it says in the soap calculator at a 5% discount if i used more or less wouldnt that screw things up? I thought we had to pretty much follow the rules when it comes to the water? Thank you in advance!
No, the water amount is the most flexible part. We don't really consider it part of the recipe, at least with bar soap. You can use the amount you prefer.

Water amount doesn't affect the chemistry of the soap, but it does affect the initial properties and curing process. The water goes through the soaping process unchanged and eventually evaporates until the soap is about 15% water, at which point it lasts much longer in use. Since getting the water out of the soap is part of the process, putting in less at the outset can be helpful. It can easily take a few weeks off the drying time, shorten the time until the soap is ready to come out of the mold and be cut, etc.

Soap calculators let you adjust the amount of water. Initially they are sometimes set to a higher amount of water, which is considered to be better for beginners. To use less water, you can decrease the "oils as a percent of water setting." Better yet, most calculators let you simply set the concentration of your lye. Higher concentration means less water. 33% concentration is a popular amount.

If you happen to use Soapcalc, the most popular calculator, you will see this in the Step 3 part. The water is initially set at 38% of oils. You can change that, or click the lye concentration part and enter a percentage like I described above.
 

monique

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Wow!! Thank you all for these responses...being new to this forum I thought there would be a notification when a message was posted...every day since I asked the question I have looked at the forum and up near my name, is always a zero...so I assumed there was no responses. Today I noticed in my email that there were 12 or so responses and I figured they were answered today till I looked at the dates. Now I understand how it works and I apologize for not responding when everyone answered. Thank you all and I will SB less and see how that works.
I'm not great at swirls yet. Not as good as I wish myself to be...I keep it simple. So, this brings up another question, if the batter is at a really light trace when you pour it in the mold, does it take much longer to set up?
 

DeeAnna

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Yes, it can take longer to set up. If possible, let the freshly molded soap just sit quietly until it gets more pudding-y before moving, insulating or CPOP'ing the soap. Some reasons for letting the soap sit a bit at first -- One is so you don't slop liquidy caustic soap batter on yourself while moving it. Another is insurance against separation. At very light trace, the emulsified soap may "break" and separate into fat and water layers if you warm it too soon. I get my work area cleaned up first and then move my soap -- the time might be a half hour or a little longer -- and that seems to work well.
 

likeablelady

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I have one very slow trace recipe I use and it takes forever to trace. Just ask SeaWolfe how long it can take. It is high in lard, avocado, coconut, olive sometimes I add 3% castor to it sometimes not, depending on amount of colors I want to use
Do you use this recipe for more time to design soap ... swirling or soap painting?
 
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