Time from trace to thick

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gdawgs

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Hello. New guy here. I made my first ever batch of soap last week. As far as soap goes, I guess it's a success since I actually have soap! But it's a little on the ugly side.

Here's what happened. I bought a book, read through it, picked a recipe and went for it. The plan was to do a marbled look with colorant, and scent it with some lilac fragrance oil. Once I hit what I thought was trace, I added the FO to the batch (after testing it in a small amount to see if it would lock it up, it seemed fine). I then transferred maybe 1/4 of the batch to a different bowl, added colorant to that and mixed it in. Then transferred that to the uncolored stuff in my pot, and lightly mixed. But by that point, it was getting pretty thick. I'm thinking the time that passed from when I added the FO to when I started molding, was maybe 3-4 minutes. My plan was to ladle the solution into my molds but it was too thick for that, so I ended up packing it in. When I started putting it into the molds, it was the consistency of mashed potatoes. By the time I was done, it was like really thick mashed potatoes. It went into a nice gel stage and actually turned into soap, but like I said, it's kind of ugly, just because it didn't fill out the molds nicely, lots of air pockets.

So my question is, how long does it typically take for soap to setup after you hit trace? Did I 1) Take it to too thick of trace(looked like thin pudding). 2) Work too slowly. 3) Have seizing from the FO 4) Other????

I'm guessing maybe a combination of the 3.

Here's my recipe that I used. I got it out of a book that I bought.

928 grams lard
700 grams coconut oil
200 grams olive oil
600 grams canola oil
342 grams lye dissolved in 700 grams of distilled water
2 oz of lilac FO (Abbey & Sullivan-says it can be used for soap)

I had the oils at 130°F when I added the lye solution. I didn't measure the temp of the lye solution when I added it, but I believe it was slightly warmer than room temp.

I used a stick blender for emulsifying.

Thanks for any suggestions. I look forward to making another batch! I have some more scents on order from wholsale supplies plus, so I'm pretty confident those shouldn't cause problems, if that's what my problem is.
 
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The Efficacious Gentleman

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Welcome.

I would drop it down a little - smaller batches (1kg is plenty for starting out, you'll be tweeking a lot) and forget colours for now, especially swirling. That way you can see the tracing and setting up without the complications and get used to that. Then mix it up, once you know what the basic is.
 

Navaria

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If it had seized, you would know it. Your soap would set up like a block in your bowl before you even got a chance to start pouring lol. It does sound like your fragrance may have caused acceleration. I looked at their website, and it says "for soap making base" I'm wondering if it means melt and pour soap. It doesn't say anything about ricing, or acceleration or discoloration. All things you normally look at for a cold process fo. Florals can cause A. You may have stick blended a bit too long, or it could be your oils were a bit warm. All can speed up trace. And if you combine the 3, it may have been just enough to cause problems.
Did you run the recipe you got from the book through a lye calculator? If not, you really should. There can be typos or just bad information and you have no way of knowing without double checking the author's figures. I ran yours through, and the only way I could get close to your numbers was with a 6.5% superfat, which is odd. I never could get 700 grams of water. I got close, but not exact. Just a helpful hint for future reference. :)
 
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gdawgs

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Thanks for the info. I had the same thought on the batch size after I got into it. I didn't realize how much I was making until I was well into it. When I got done, my wife and I looked at it and said "what are we going to do with all that soap?" :)

I did not run it through a calculator. Honestly I haven't even looked at the calculators yet. I assumed the guy who wrote the book knows what he's doing, and they would have caught any errors before publishing. I guess I shouldn't assume that. I will look at the calculators. The recipe doesn't list a superfat number, just an INS of 150 and lye discount of 7%
 

DeeAnna

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Your recipe looks safe as far as the amount of lye goes, but Navaria is right -- never, never trust someone else's soap recipe to be correct, even a recipe in a book by an experienced soaper. Don't assume -- make sure. Edited to add -- 7% superfat is essentially the same thing as a 7% lye discount.

Your lye concentration is about 33%-34% which might be a bit high for a first time soap, but it's reasonable.

The size of the recipe is enormous -- that's a lot of supplies and expense for a first batch. Effy has the right of it -- cut that recipe size down to 1/2 to 1 kilogram. Better to make more batches, but smaller, so you get the hang of the process and so you don't commit so many resources to any one batch in case of trouble.

How long does it take to set up after reaching trace? Anywhere from 1 minute to 20 minutes or even more. It depends on many variables -- the recipe, the person's soaping technique, how much stick blending is done, and the phase of the moon. :)

What happened? Possibilities --

Beginners usually stick blend way too much. Hand stir more and SB less. A high lard recipe should have a long working time if you don't overdo the SB'ing.

Floral fragrances tend to accelerate trace -- you used lilac. Navaria is right that it didn't seize because you didn't get "soap on a stick" -- the scent just accelerated the rate of saponification and you weren't ready for it.

You probably blended a little too far into a medium trace (you said "thin pudding") before deciding to add the scent. As a beginner, you will need to learn how to look for very light trace -- this is when the barest hint of trace shows on the surface of the soap. As you get more experience, you will eventually learn what "emulsion" looks like -- where the soap batter is at a stable emulsion, but doesn't yet show visible signs of trace. You will want to stop mixing at very light trace or emulsion and then do your coloring and scenting.

And once you added the scent, you may have unknowingly worked a little too slowly, given the tendency of florals to make things move faster.

Your fats were rather warm (130 F) if you want more working time. Melt your lard and coconut oil (solid fats) until these fats are melted and look transparent, and then add your room temp liquid oils. The fats should be just warm to the touch when you put your bare hand on the side of your soap pot. Ditto with your lye -- but it sounds like you had that cool enough. Don't need to get fussy about the exact temp, by the way, unless you want to be.

***

Before soap can be poured into the mold, the batter needs to be at a stable emulsion, meaning it won't separate back into separate water and fat layers if you stop stirring. Beginning soapers are taught to look for visual clues of "trace" by seeing whether your spatula or spoon leaves some visual evidence of its path in the batter.

First, the batter changes from a wet-looking shine to a slightly duller and more waxy sheen. This is "emulsion" meaning the point at which the batter has just become a stable emulsion, but I don't think most people would say it has quite reached trace yet. Some people will stop stirring at this point and start to color their batter and do their fancy work. With some practice, this is pretty safe, but there is some risk of the batter separating in the mold if you stop mixing a wee bit too soon. It's probably better if beginning soapers go a bit further and look for signs of very light to light trace.

Very light trace is when the batter has started to thicken ever so slightly. A very light trace would be when you can see only a hint of the spatula's path on the surface if you look at the batter with the light reflecting brightly off the surface -- it's more of a change in the shine of the soap than an actual trail.

A light trace is when the spatula leaves a a hint of a trail on the soap -- the groove or mounding of the soap will be faint, but obvious to anyone who looks at the batter especially in bright reflecting light. The batter is still fluid and flowable.

Medium to heavy trace is when the batter reaches more of a thick gravy to pudding texture. Stirring with a spoon or spatula will cut a clear groove through the soap. A spoonful of soap will make a mound when dropped onto the surface of the batter.

At very heavy trace, the batter may not be pourable, but it is still "glop-able" -- you will have to spoon or spread it into the mold.

More:
http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/co...glosstrace.htm
http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-bo...-tricks/trace/
 
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Navaria

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I started off with a recipe from a book too. No matter how I played with it, I couldn't make the numbers work in a lye calculator. Would it have been a good soap if I made it the way it was written? Probably. Was I willing to run the risk and ruin my first batch? Nope! LOL. I used the basic idea from the book but scaled it to fit my mold and used the lye Soapcalc told me to use lol. Most are really easy to use, and pretty much dummy proof if you use some sense when you key in your info.

To add to what DeeAnna said, I find it more reliable now to judge trace based on how it sticks to my SB than looking for trails. Sometimes, I can't see the trails my spatula leaves, but I can tell by how much sticks to the SB when I pull it out that it's where I want it. That will come with time and experience. Trace was SOOO hard for me to understand/recognize at first. Just keep at it hun, and it will get easier with time I promise :)
 

gdawgs

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Thanks again for the info/tips. I may play around with a couple small batches this weekend just to do more observing of trace. I won't worry about scent/color.
 

cmzaha

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It is easiest to depend on all floral fragrance oils to either seize or accelerate then have a plan to work with it. Lavender EO can also accelerate. No swirls in the beginning is the easiest with accelerators or use to your advantage and pour in layers adding the fo the the layers soap batter as you are ready to pour. Cutting castor to around 3% will add in a little pour time to batter. It is best in the beginning to avoid florals and spicy fo's. Both can accelerate
 

DeeAnna

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And don't be too hard on yourself -- you really did very well even though things didn't turn out as beautiful and smooth as you probably had hoped. There's a lot to learn especially at first, and it's very easy to get all tangled up in the process. I don't know of anyone who does things perfectly right off the bat! And when we get cocky enough to think we have it all figured out, the soap gremlins usually sneak in to teach us a lesson. :)
 

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Hitting the right texture with enough time for pretty swirls has actually been the steepest learning curve for me in soaps - it's waaay too easy to just zap it one or two times with the stick blender "just to be sure" and overdo it. What helps me is to stop when I've hit emulsion (homogenous mixture, no oily sheen on top), and split up for colors from there. You can always blend the fractions more if needed.

+1 to learning to love the soap calculators because 1) you have no idea of the properties of the soap without doing that, 2) you will almost always want to scale the recipe to your mold and supplies, and 3) typos happen and you could waste a whole batch.
 

penelopejane

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If you want to chane your recipe at all you need to learn how to use soap calc. It isn't difficult.

What the others say is right. Identifying emulsion is difficult. When you pull the SB out of unmixed oil scrape the cowl with a knife and the oil will just flow back into the scrape mark. At emulsion the line that you make on the top of the SB cowl will hold a tiny bit.

From then on only hand mix (unless you want different layers at different consistencies).
I add Fragrance with the hot and cold oils and additives and SB before adding the lye. This reduces the chance of having unmixed stuff before emulsion.
I'd swap the amount of OO with the coconut oil as it will be quite drying on your skin. But that's just me.

There are instructions in the stickies that help you work out the size of your batch for the size of your mold.
 

RobertBarnett

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One tip for you. Always run any untested recipe through a good lye calculator even if the recipe comes from a book, a friend, off the net, etc. you would be surprised at how often they are off.
 
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Gini

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First, CONGRATULATIONS on your first soap! :clap: Your post took me back to my first batch. I'd read about trace, emulsion etc., but had no idea about FO acceleration. It was a sad and homely looking batch, but still soap and still wonderful. That was before I discovered SMF, and other helpful sites, YouTube videos, which were very helpful in that I could see emulsion and trace. It's been years now, and things have improved immensely. Heed the advice above, watch more videos, carry on. I've been making soap for many years now, and still find new and helpful advice here and elsewhere. Usually I don't even have to ask a question, as someone has a post about it already. Also, it's just fun to come here with the other addicts, most of whom have terrific senses of humor.
 

Susie

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If your lighting where you stick blend the soap is not the best, use a flashlight to see the changes to the soap as you go. I added a flashlight to my soaping supplies on about my third batch, and it has made all the difference. I can grab it in my non-dominant hand and check my trace right before my next stick blend burst. You do know that you need to hand stir between 15-30 second bursts of stick blending, right?

I am going to repeat the suggestion on using a lye calculator. My new favorite is Soapee.com. It is a cleaner page to learn on, and the changes to the numbers are live, so as you increase your oil percentages and change things you can see right on that page the lye amount changing and the numbers for the qualities changing. It is easier for me. It will also save your recipes.

Speaking of saving your recipes, get into the habit of making lots of notes on your recipes, and saving them. As a matter of fact, go print the recipe for this batch right now! You will forever compare all other soaps to this one, don't fail to make notes on it so you can replicate it!

Oh, and congratulations on the soap! Welcome to the addiction! *ahem* I mean, welcome to the adventure!
 

PerthMobility

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Great post, thanks Susie. Just as a matter of interest I have my SS Calculator set at 6% of FO per kg of oils. I see your favourite calculator says 3%. Although FO's are normally not very expensive using half the amount is a worthwhile saving.
 

gdawgs

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I can see how this could be addicting. I can imagine how a person could end up with several lifetime supplies of soap sitting in the storage room. :)

Susie, good tip on the lighting. For the stick mixing, yes, I'd mix for 20-30 seconds. Then stir by hand for a while(a minute or two). Staring at it trying to figure out if I hit trace yet. Then I'd give it a little more mixing, repeat, etc.

I've been playing around with some different calculators. I kind of like the MMS one. So just to make sure I have this right, I enter in the recipe, and the things I'm checking are basically the amount of lye, water, and superfat, right?? So MMS recommends being in the 5-8% superfat range, and they list a range of water to use. As long as all my input weights are correct, and the lye, water, superfat range are good, the recipe should be ok to use, correct?

The recipe I made seems to check out just fine in MMS, but it seems like everyone(well not everyone, but several) had recommended changes to it, so I'm a little confused. I'm guessing soap making is like just about everything else in life. There are many ways of doing it, and everyone has their own preferences.
 

Susie

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I've been playing around with some different calculators. I kind of like the MMS one. So just to make sure I have this right, I enter in the recipe, and the things I'm checking are basically the amount of lye, water, and superfat, right??
You use a lye calculator to tell you the correct/safe amount of lye to use for those particular oils. This ensures that you do not have errors in figuring out all the SAP values and such. I hate math, so I would never make soap if I had to do it the long way by hand. It also allows you to enter percentages of each oil, then the total amount of oil you want to use, so it will figure out how much by weight of each oil to use.

So MMS recommends being in the 5-8% superfat range, and they list a range of water to use. As long as all my input weights are correct, and the lye, water, superfat range are good, the recipe should be ok to use, correct?
Yep. You will probably want to do some venturing out of that superfat range as you do more experimenting, but for now, that is a good, safe range.

The recipe I made seems to check out just fine in MMS, but it seems like everyone(well not everyone, but several) had recommended changes to it, so I'm a little confused. I'm guessing soap making is like just about everything else in life. There are many ways of doing it, and everyone has their own preferences.
While your soap was apparently safe, which is what you are checking on the lye calculator, it would not have been everyone's preference.

Soapmaking is both a science and an art. You start off with the hard numbers, it takes X amount of lye to saponify Y amount of "these" oils. Period. Everything else is choice, and therefore, an art. You have to remember that we have some super experienced soapers here who can read a recipe and KNOW what that soap will feel like. How? They have been there and done that. You will get there some day also, if you just keep on making soap and experimenting.
 

DeeAnna

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I'd drop the SB time to bursts of just 2-5 seconds, separated by a time of hand stirring -- or even by a time of just letting the batter sit. Remember we're trying to work with a chemical reaction here, so it's nice to give the chemistry enough time to respond. To give you a mental picture of what I mean --

Doing a lot of stick blending is like bicycling furiously up a hill. When we get to the top of the hill (aka reach trace), we humans want to relax and coast down the other side of the hill. Unfortunately, the saponification reaction doesn't know that -- we've got it all revved up and of course it responds by thickening too fast.

I think things work better if you can think of mixing your soap batter as more like a pleasant walk along a flat path -- start gentle to get the muscles loosened, and then step along briskly but calmly for the main part of the walk. No furious charging up a hill or mad dashing down.

I've mentioned this a time or two before (so my apologies to those who've read this already), but I made a video of a soap I made with 80% lard, 15% CO, 5% castor. I counted the seconds of stick blending from the time I added the lye until the soap was at a stable emulsion. I used the SB for a total of about 10 seconds in 2 minutes elapsed time. If you bring your soap to an obvious trace, it would perhaps take a minute or two more, but you might only have 15 seconds of total SB time.

If for some reason the soap batter doesn't thicken enough for your needs, you can always SB more later on to thicken the batter. My point is if you start slow, you have options. If you start fast 'n furious, you don't.
 
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Seawolfe

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I can see how this could be addicting. I can imagine how a person could end up with several lifetime supplies of soap sitting in the storage room. :)
Thats why you want to make smaller batches - so you can test ALL THE THINGS!

I've been playing around with some different calculators. I kind of like the MMS one. So just to make sure I have this right, I enter in the recipe, and the things I'm checking are basically the amount of lye, water, and superfat, right?? So MMS recommends being in the 5-8% superfat range, and they list a range of water to use. As long as all my input weights are correct, and the lye, water, superfat range are good, the recipe should be ok to use, correct?
Yes exactly - it will tell you how much lye to add to make that soap safe. Not necessarily good, just safe.

A friend of mine really likes MMS for that SF range - its a nice option on that calculator. It is giving you the range of LYE amounts for those superfats on the right hand side. In the top pane it gives you the recommended liquid amounts - ie: "For the size of fat batch that you are using, we recommend that you use approximately 4 to 6 fluid ounces of liquid."
But on the first calculating page it also lets you pick a lye solution: "Using Lye Solution __ % w/w" which is a godsend for people who premix (master batch) their lye.

HOWEVER

What that MMS calculator does not doe and others will, is tell you what each of the oils will bring to your soap. While the concepts of hardness, cleansing etc are not fool proof, they give you a valuable idea of what your soap will be like. Try a few of them and see what I mean.
 
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