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The "One Recipe" Theory - Question

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Wendy90292

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I've made about 25 batches over 2 years. I've collected recipes from various books and websites, some by AnnMarie. There are a few I like well enough, although many of them seem to have one problem or another: they distort the mica colors when added; they dissolve too quickly (less than 2 weeks) in the shower; they last for years; they don't hold the scent for very much past the curing weeks, etc.) Finally, I'm interested in advancing my artistic pouring skills, so I've been watching a lot of videos. It seems to me that most of you (and people with videos) have ONE recipe you love and make over and over, and then spend your focus on making a pretty pour. Is that true? Do most of you experienced soapers have one favorite recipe and you just switch it up with colors and fragrances?

I've really got no interest in using lye calculators. I spent far too much money already on extremely rare oils like "Left-handed Emus Who Prefer Dom Perignon Oil" and "Seeds of a Plant You've Never Heard Of - that grows only at the top of Mt. Everest and has to be picked by Sherpas on a Thursday Oil". You wouldn't believe how much time I spent on a recent trip to London trying to find "woad"!!! (Or in an Indian market in Chicago trying to find "Alkanet" - which doesn't translate in Gujarati OR Hindi, apparently!)

Summary: Do most of you have just one recipe you do most of the time?
 

Obsidian

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yes, I have one main recipe that I make the most. I do tweak it on occasion, depending on who its for. Hubbys version has a tad bit more coconut while mine has less coconut.

not sure what using a lye calculator has to do with buying expensive oils. Two of the most popular calculators are free and its always a good idea to run recipes through a calc in case of typos or just plain bad recipes.
 

shermluge

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From the soaps I've made, no. BUT I've been making different recipes for soap with different purposes. Even when I find one that works, I tend to tweak it (always using a lye calculator). Then I might continue to use that recipe for one particular style/type. Even then I tend to at least try to improve it. I'ts all just preference. I love working over what I create.
 
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TheGecko

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Yes. Kind of, sort of. I have two main recipes...one for Regular Soap and one for Goat Milk Soap; I don’t use colorants in my GMS. Then I have some ‘specialty’ soaps; ‘Trades’ soap, a Salt Soap and a Kidz Soap. I’m still working on a ‘luxury’ soap...not so much recipe, but the design.
 

dibbles

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My lard recipe stays pretty much the same, I just change up the soft oils. I do vary liquids and additives. I am still trying to find a palm free, vegan recipe that I like and is slow tracing. Like Obsidian, I am really confused by your statement about not using a lye calculator. You can enter whatever oils you want to create a recipe. It's really not difficult to learn to use one, and it is something everyone should know how to do, IMHO.
 

artemis

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I have about 4, each for a different person's taste.

One reason to learn a lye calculator is BECAUSE you have all those special oils. With a lye calculator, you can easily and safely sub in your fancy oils in place of others in an existing recipe and then see what the characteristics of the soap will be.
 

cerelife

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I have 2 main recipes that I use (one lard and one vegan) in most of my soaps. Then I have specialty recipes like salt bars, castile, etc. None of my recipes require crazy, hard-to-find ingredients. Just basic stuff. You can literally buy every single ingredient in my recipes from WSP, Brambleberry, Soaper's Choice - you get my drift. Some of them I just get at the grocery store or Wal-mart/Sam's Club.
As for your micas morphing and your scent fading, that may have more to do with the micas and scent than the recipe you used.
You mentioned that you had recipes that you "liked well enough", but for me to be satisfied I needed to LOVE my recipes. And using a lye calculator was absolutely vital in creating those recipes!! It took me almost 3 years of playing around with oils and percentages to get my recipes exactly as I wanted them to create a consistently great batch of soap that fit my personal ideal. At that point I could work on my 'artistic skills' with colors and designs because I knew how my recipe behaved and had the knowledge to plan ahead for fast-moving or discoloring fragrances as well as using additives like GM/honey/eggs/etc. to change things up a bit.
Summary: Using a lye calculator is essential in creating a great soap recipe; it has nothing to do with using expensive and unusual ingredients. No matter how artistic your soap may be - if your recipe is "just OK" - why even bother?
 

Wendy90292

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yes, I have one main recipe that I make the most. I do tweak it on occasion, depending on who its for. Hubbys version has a tad bit more coconut while mine has less coconut.

not sure what using a lye calculator has to do with buying expensive oils. Two of the most popular calculators are free and its always a good idea to run recipes through a calc in case of typos or just plain bad recipes.
Well, what I mean is that it is obviously NOT the oils that are affecting my different outcomes with different recipes, I don't think. And it's not the lye amounts, I don't think, although maybe I need to learn more about the calculators. Thanks for your answer.

My lard recipe stays pretty much the same, I just change up the soft oils. I do vary liquids and additives. I am still trying to find a palm free, vegan recipe that I like and is slow tracing. Like Obsidian, I am really confused by your statement about not using a lye calculator. You can enter whatever oils you want to create a recipe. It's really not difficult to learn to use one, and it is something everyone should know how to do, IMHO.
Well, I was/am trying to use "proven" recipes, but Ann Marie's have all these super exotic oils in them; and so do some of the others. I am not really clear on why I would need to use a lye calculator if I am working from a recipe. When I'm making food, I never try to figure out if the recipe is "good", I just make it and then taste it and then I know.

I have 2 main recipes that I use (one lard and one vegan) in most of my soaps. Then I have specialty recipes like salt bars, castile, etc. None of my recipes require crazy, hard-to-find ingredients. Just basic stuff. You can literally buy every single ingredient in my recipes from WSP, Brambleberry, Soaper's Choice - you get my drift. Some of them I just get at the grocery store or Wal-mart/Sam's Club.
As for your micas morphing and your scent fading, that may have more to do with the micas and scent than the recipe you used.
You mentioned that you had recipes that you "liked well enough", but for me to be satisfied I needed to LOVE my recipes. And using a lye calculator was absolutely vital in creating those recipes!! It took me almost 3 years of playing around with oils and percentages to get my recipes exactly as I wanted them to create a consistently great batch of soap that fit my personal ideal. At that point I could work on my 'artistic skills' with colors and designs because I knew how my recipe behaved and had the knowledge to plan ahead for fast-moving or discoloring fragrances as well as using additives like GM/honey/eggs/etc. to change things up a bit.
Summary: Using a lye calculator is essential in creating a great soap recipe; it has nothing to do with using expensive and unusual ingredients. No matter how artistic your soap may be - if your recipe is "just OK" - why even bother?
THIS makes perfect sense to me, Cerelife. I get it now. I hadn't thought about using the lye calculator to CHANGE recipes that other people had apparently already perfected/published. That is quite logical. Thank you for this invaluable perspective.

Yes. Kind of, sort of. I have two main recipes...one for Regular Soap and one for Goat Milk Soap; I don’t use colorants in my GMS. Then I have some ‘specialty’ soaps; ‘Trades’ soap, a Salt Soap and a Kidz Soap. I’m still working on a ‘luxury’ soap...not so much recipe, but the design.
So @TheGecko, are you a professional soap maker or a hobbyist?
 

moodymama

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You can't just trust everyone recipes online. I agree with others about using the lye calc. My recipes have become my own and I can change oils in and out as I like to accommodate how I want the end soap to be. Each oil require a different amount of lye. It seems to me your problems (soap not lasing long) outside of fragrance fade can be fixed by knowing how to use a calc.

Also alkanet and woad easily found on amazon and some other soap suppliers sites. Be aware tho that natural colorants don't hold color like micas do. Also micas need to be cp soap stable or the color won't hold either.
 

rdc1978

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I've made about 25 batches over 2 years. I've collected recipes from various books and websites, some by AnnMarie. There are a few I like well enough, although many of them seem to have one problem or another: they distort the mica colors when added; they dissolve too quickly (less than 2 weeks) in the shower; they last for years; they don't hold the scent for very much past the curing weeks, etc.) Finally, I'm interested in advancing my artistic pouring skills, so I've been watching a lot of videos. It seems to me that most of you (and people with videos) have ONE recipe you love and make over and over, and then spend your focus on making a pretty pour. Is that true? Do most of you experienced soapers have one favorite recipe and you just switch it up with colors and fragrances?

I've really got no interest in using lye calculators. I spent far too much money already on extremely rare oils like "Left-handed Emus Who Prefer Dom Perignon Oil" and "Seeds of a Plant You've Never Heard Of - that grows only at the top of Mt. Everest and has to be picked by Sherpas on a Thursday Oil". You wouldn't believe how much time I spent on a recent trip to London trying to find "woad"!!! (Or in an Indian market in Chicago trying to find "Alkanet" - which doesn't translate in Gujarati OR Hindi, apparently!)

Summary: Do most of you have just one recipe you do most of the time?
LOL, I'm dying at the names of the oils. Some of it feels very, very exotic!

I think everyone has good points about the soap calculators, but I think the coolest thing for you would be that you could create a recipe to use these exotic oils!

I'd love to buy a soap with the oil of a left handed emu who only drank Dom Perignon. He sounds like a fancy bird!

And the cool thing about soap calc is that it would tell you the properties of your emu soap!

I don't know what emu oil brings to a soap, but whatever it is, if the emu in question only drank Dom, that soap is going to be fantastic!

I'm personally fine with okay soap, but that's just me and I'm pretty new to soaping. I'm just happy when it doesn't all end in disaster and mottled colors!!
 
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Arimara

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You can't just trust everyone recipes online. I agree with others about using the lye calc. My recipes have become my own and I can change oils in and out as I like to accommodate how I want the end soap to be. Each oil require a different amount of lye. It seems to me your problems (soap not lasing long) outside of fragrance fade can be fixed by knowing how to use a calc.

Also alkanet and woad easily found on amazon and some other soap suppliers sites. Be aware tho that natural colorants don't hold color like micas do. Also micas need to be cp soap stable or the color won't hold either.
Building, there are plenty of soapmakers who sell that have made it a point to tell people they should use a lye calculator. As far as Ann Marie is concerned, however, you should take her advice with a salt lick. She has some decent advise for beginners but she also wants to sell things to you. If you had at least learned oil properties of each the most used oils for soapmaking, you probably would have saved some money on the more expensive oils, many of those are best used as body oil or in a whipped butter. Shea, Cocoa, and Mango butters are a few exceptions.
 

shunt2011

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I agree with much of what has been said above. I have 3-4 recipes two I use most frequently. You do need to learn how to use a lye calculator and take the time to learn the properties of the oils. You don't need expensive oils. Awesome soap can be made with a few oils that will last.

Never trust a recipe in print. Always run it through a calculator. Errors can be made. I also have never used a recipe from a suppliers site. As stated, they are out to sell ingredients as a business and don't have your best interest in mind many times.

If you go through the 10 or so pages here you'll find that many of us have shared our recipes. I have been selling for 8-9 years now. But, it's taken a lot of time and testing to get to where I am today. But again, I use basic oils. I have 1 vegan and my favorite with lard. The others are speciality soaps like Salt bars, etc...
 

atiz

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I'm not selling -- but yes, you should use a lye calculator.
When I started making soap I got all my ingredients in the grocery store and walmart. You really don't need exotic oils to make a decent bar of soap. Just because a recipe is published, it doesn't mean it's "perfect"; everyone's skin is different, and people also have different preferences even when it comes to little things. (E.g., I can't stand not rectangle-shaped soap... or any slime... and don't like overly vivid colors. I can use soap on my face and do not find it drying. Etc. etc., a lot of people here would disagree with all of these, but that's the fun part, you can make a soap that YOU like!)
 

SoapSisters

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I've been soaping for a little over a year, and one of the most enjoyable parts is playing around with my recipes. I'm always thinking to myself . . . "Hmm, that soap with 10% shea butter is good. Would 20% feel substantially better/different?" Or: "Which liquid oils do I like best? Olive? Sunflower? Grapeseed? Almond?" Or: "X% of coconut oil in soap makes my skin feel dry. Would 5% less make a difference?" You get the point.

It gives you so much control over your soap to be able to experiment in that way. And you end up with a soap that works for you and uses the ingredients you can afford, have access to and enjoy working with.
 

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I typically have a template for each type of soap I'm making: face bar, shower bar for winter, shower bar for summer, swirls, salt bars, etc. I usually will swap around one ot two oils (usually the soft oils like swtiching olive to rice bran+avocado) according to the theme but generally the percentages stay the same. Since I'm still rather new, being less than a year into soap making, it also really helped me understanding what different oils brought to the table, like this one with olive didn't lather much but swapped for sunflower and almond then it really lathered, etc.
 

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Regarding working from a "perfected" recipe:

No recipe is perfect for everyone. If one of the Soap Queen recipes is "well enough," by using a calculator, you can make it perfect for you. Changing the oil percentages, adding in one of the specialty oils, or changing the superfat, can make a big difference.

Also, I make very small batches so being able to resize even a trusted recipe is important.
 

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I worked out my formula using a lye calc over 20 years ago. I looked for how much of each property the formula offered, such as conditioning bar, bubbles, creamy lather, etc. and came to ratios that sounded good to me. I have stayed with that formula for the whole 20+ years! If I want goat's milk, I sub that for the water, if I want salt, I throw some in. This may not be the best, but it is what I have done. In the place I live, there is a following of people who literally stand in line to get this soap at monthly markets, so I must be doing at least partly right.

Now I am going through a Renaissance and changing up my formula, giving up palm and for the first time, using the animal fats, smaller molds for experimentation. It will be months before all these new soaps are fully cured and stacked by the sinks and bathtub and well used enough that I will truly come to conclusions about them. What fun.

The point being, you will know your formulas inside and out, taking a recipe off the shelf doesn't give you the depth of experience required to make all this your own.
 

Savonette

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Love those oils! I know what you mean about the calculators-it’s as if you’re taking on the role of mad scientist and possibly coming up with a monster instead of building a tried and true masterpiece. The calculator just gives the opportunity to pick apart a formula and tweak it to your liking SAFELY. I’ve been looking for my perfect formula for 5 years. And every “tweaked” calculation ends up with the same fats and oils. I just started looking at Soap Makers Friend calculator here and found the indicator for “longevity “. I also just found the info about high lard content making a great swirling soap. So maybe just keep reading, tweaking, and learning how to substitute safely through your calculator and make sure your freebie friends know the cost of the bar is an unfettered critique. Happy Soaping!
 

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Using someone else's recipe is like using a box mix to make a cake. That's not nearly as interesting to me as designing a recipe from scratch and tweaking it to suit my personal preferences.

Even if you are perfectly okay using someone else's recipe, what happens if you run out of oil X and wonder if you could make up the difference with oil Y? If you know how to use a soap recipe calc, you can make this substitution easily and safely.

Or if you want to make a batch that is a little larger or smaller to exactly fit a new mold? Or if you want to use less or more water in a batch to reduce overheating and cracking or to make the soap easier to unmold? A calc is very handy for making these adjustments.
 

Quilter99755

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I started soaping with someone else's recipe. Luckily it was a tried and true website so I didn't have any disasters. I thought I had died and gone to heaven with my first batches of soap. They were so much better than what I was using from any store. Over time I realized that I still had days with flakey skin or itching, I also wanted a soap that lasted longer, especially for my kids in Hawaii. So in searching I found SMF and learned so much. Listening to others here and spending a lot of time with the basics, I have started to venture out of my old recipe into new ones that I am creating. I realized that there are people who hate olive oil, or lard or can't stand the smell of one oil over another, so I am trying new oils to find what I like and what my family like by using the soap calc. The article from @DeeAnna on what the soap calc numbers mean was my biggest step in right direction. And if I run out of one oil, I can find a substitute for it through the calculator. I think I'm nearer now to a few tried and true recipes...one for me, one for hubby (he hates bubbles and I love them), one for family here and another for my Hawaii family. With this site and the soap calc I wouldn't be even halfway there.

There are a lot of people experimenting with various oils on this site, along with numerous additives. I haven't tried them all but have soaked up the knowledge and may try them in the future...once I get my recipes down to basics. Hopefully I can find the same oils in different proportions so that I don't have the problem of oils going bad because I don't use them often enough. But I am closer to that goal by all of the knowledge and help I've received here.
 

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