You've come to the right place! You can learn a lot by just perusing through the Beginners section and the Lye-based section of our forum.
Here is a list of essential equipment you will need:
-Protective gloves (I myself use 9-mil nitrile gloves)
-Goggles (I actually use 'onion' goggles)
-Digital scale for weighing ingredients (never
use volume measurements when measuring oils and lye)
-Soap pot for mixing soap batter (good choices are quality stainless steel, HDPE#5 or PP#2 plastic buckets or bowls
-PP#2 or HDPE#5 plastic pitcher or measuring cup for mixing lye solution
-Stick blender for mixing soap batter (you can get by with a whisk or spoon, but a stickblender will shave off a lot of time and effort)
-Plastic or stainless steel spoons or whisks
- Soap Mold: silicone, wood or heavy duty/heat resistant plastic
-Freezer paper for lining mold if not using a silicone mold
-Stay away from using anything aluminum, i.e., pots, pitchers, utensils, etc... when soapmaking. Lye and aluminum are mortal enemies.
-Avoid using glass or Pyrex to mix lye solution. Lye etches glass over time and will cause it to break/shatter when you least expect it. Use plastic (either HDPE #5 or PP #2) or quality stainless steel instead to mix up your lye solution.
-Avoid using wooden spoons with lye as they will break down from the lye and get dry/splintery.
-Always add the lye to your water, not the other way around
-Lye is not poisonous, but it is very caustic and needs to be respected. Never soap without eye protection in case of accidental splashing, and when mixing up your lye solution do not breathe in the fumes as they will irritate the lungs. Some folks mix it outside downwind, some mix it inside with fan blowing the fumes away from the face out an open window or with wearing an appropriately rated mask. I myself stack 3 tightly woven, triple-ply cotton diapers and fold them over onto themselves 3 times and hold that over my mouth and nose with one hand while mixing the lye solution with the other hand out in my garage. Once the lye solution has cooled down, there is no longer any danger from fumes and you may breathe normally.
-Soap near a water source (I soap in the kitchen sink), in case you get any lye or raw soap batter on yourself. A quick rinse under water will take care of it in a jiffy and prevent any burns from occurring.