Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Soap Tools and Contests!

I wanted to try to answer a bunch of email in this post...so I want to share some of my favorite soap "tools" with you. I get lots of questions from ya'll about making soap - I will try to address these periodically in this blog.  Several of you have asked me to write an e-book on soapmaking...I'm working on it Smile  It is great that so many of you are wanting to try soapmaking.  It is a very easy thing to do and if you will make soap for your family it will be one more step towards self-sufficiency and healthy living. 

Buying the proper equipement for soapmaking is not expensive. In this picture you will see a 4 cup glass 

measuring cup, two stainless steel spoons, spatula, thermometer, gloves and a stainless steel pan.  You probably already have the measuring cup and gloves.  I use this pan for soapmaking only - I think I bought it at a Carolina Pottery for about $10.  The spoons probably came from the same place at $2 or $3 each.  The thermometer is also used only for soapmaking.  Sorry, don't remember how much it was.  I use a stainless steel bowl for the lye and water mix and I actually have two thermometers - one for the oil mix and one for the lye mix.

Next comes my favorite soap making tool - the stick blender.  Before I became enlightened about stick blenders, I did all of my stirring by hand - hours and hours of stirring, especially if I was making Castille.  It took FOREVER to trace and my shoulder always ached something awful for days (old injury!).  The stick blender must be one of the greatest inventions of all time - and I have never used it for food!  I am sure it has a food use but I couldn't begin to tell you what to do with it outside of soapmaking!  You can pick up a stick blender at garage sales for about $5.

As far as I am concerned, I wouldn't want to make soap without it...it turns soapmaking into a delight (instead of a chore!)

My next favorite tool is my cutter.  I used to make my soap in a 10 lb. block.  I then needed to cut that block into 3 logs and then cut the logs into bars.  Let me tell you, I am a lousy cutter.  I want them to look handcut and all, since they are, but my  bars came out so catty-wampus that many of them were not marketable.  So.... a short time ago I purchased a log mold - this thing is huge - 35 inches long - and holds about 10 lbs. of soap, perhaps a little more.

Once the soap has gone through the initial saponification process it is ready to turn out of the mold to be cut and cured.  I turn the soap out of my  mold and I slide the log into the cutter and cut to the desired thickness - much more uniform bars - still hand cut and still not completely uniform but definitely marketable!  Here is a picture of my new cutter.  It has streamlined the cutting process!

You can see the cutter resting on the top of the mold.  There is a place to slide the blade into the mold for cutting. My soaps may vary slightly in thickness but at least they aren't catty-wampus anymore.

My last favorite tool is my curing rack.  My rack is just a set of shelves available at Sams, Lowes, etc.  There is nothing special about it at all.  I think the reason that I like it so much is that it represents completed work - something Moms see little of at times.  Goes back to that saying that cleaning house with youngsters underfoot is akin to shoveling snow in the middle of a blizzard - you don't get much accomplished although you work very hard.

I can look at this rack and see much accomplishment - and I enjoy the colors, the order and of course the wonderful smells!  It scents the entire room!  I am particularly excited about some of these batches of soap because they are new recipes.  I am in the middle of doubling my line of soaps.  I have made the same 10 soaps for years now. I probably started out with 2 or 3 varieties and then occasionally added one here and there.  I added my shampoo bar after a few years and then a couple of other soaps and got so busy with other aspects of life that I just stopped being creative with my craft.  I have been inspired lately by new needs in my own family.  Jeremy has reached the age where he needs to shave - it has bothered me to see him using shaving cream....read the ingredients and if you are familiar with my blog at all you will understand!  So, I want to make him an old fashioned shaving soap.  I actually want to offer him 2 scents - Bay Rum (made with real Bay essential Oil and real rum - no fragrance oils chemicals), and a comfrey based shaving soap that is scented with lavender essential oil....I plan on adding bentonite clay to these to help the razor glide easily over the skin.

I have also wanted to make a soap that would compliment my Aches Away Salve - and I wanted to add emu oil to it.  Emu oil is wonderful for arthritic pains, sore muscles and tendons etc.  I will be adding it to my salve in the future.  I also wanted to create some scents just for men and their needs....a scent for those who love to fish (anise is attractive to fish) and another for those who like to hunt...something to mask the human scent.  And then some soaps for the working man....something to help those hands get clean at the end of the day and yet have a masculine smell....and then of course I wanted to make some soaps just for fun!

 This is how my curing rack looks at this moment.  The bowls on top hold the bits of soap that are cut off when cleaning up the mold.  I mash them together and make soap balls to be used around our home or to give as samples.  The boxes hold batches of soap ready to be added to the shelves where we have soap ready to sell or mail to customers.  The first batch on the top left is a batch of Baby's Breath...pure castille soap....no scent and made only with olive oil.  The second shelf holds my Tangerine moisturizing soap on the left and on the right is a new creation...chocolate and mint...think Peppermint Patty - made with peppermint essential oil and real chocolate!

On the third shelf left is a batch of my wonderful shampoo bar and on the right is a new recipe that is a mixture of essential oils from various flowers - truly smells like a bouquet!

Continuing on is a batch of my Rosemary and Mint on the left - definitely my favorite and my best selling soap.  On the right is a new batch of Double Mint - made with both peppermint and spearmint essential oils - invigorating!

Next shelf contains a  batch of Patchouli Soap.  I will make this as long as I have children in the teen years...it is a wonderful treatment for acne - and great for those of us with oily skin.

The last shelf contains a mix of delight and horror!  The batch on the left is a coffee scented batch made with real coffee.  I am not a coffee drinker but I love the smell of coffee grounds.  This soap was made because I have had so many customers request it! 

The batch on the right is my worst failure ever!  I have had batches lightly seize in the pan - only if I use Rose Geranium essential oil.  I have had some come out funny looking, have had ash develop etc.  But I have never had a true seize like this - when I added the fine oils and essential oils at light trace, the soap turned almost solid in the pan - I stirred as best I could and went ahead and placed it in the mold  but when I took it out the next day I had lye pockets - something I have never had before!  What a mess!  That is why you see butcher paper and paper towells under the rack - to catch the drips....yuck!!!  I am looking into what I can do to salvage this mess - laundry soap is one solution.

So...now on to the contests!  I am looking for help in naming some of these soaps!  I would like anyone interested to submit their suggestions of names for the coffee batch and the chocolate/mint batch.  My boys and I will pick our favorite out of all the names submitted (although we will not be obligated to use that name when we market the soap). Each winner will receive a bar of the soap they named and one other bar of their choice

I hope that you creative people will be able to help us pick names and I hope this will also bring some of you lurkers out of "lurk" mode.  The contest will run till the end of this month and the winners will be announced shortly after the first of the year.  You can leave your suggestions in the comment area or you may email them to tnfarmgirl@adelphia.net!

Have fun!


  1. Cheri,

    The picture of your shelf full of soap is wonderful. You have been busy!

  2. My comment didn't post.:( sooo I'll try again....Koffee Klatch and After Dinner Mint

  3. Hi Julie, Thanks - they smell so good!

    Patti - sorry you had trouble...the first one never arrived on this end!
    Those are both great names...keep tuned in January to find out who the winner is :)

  4. Hi! Are we allowed to suggest more than one name per bar, or would you prefer just one name each? :)

  5. Michelle,
    You may suggest as many names as you would like!

  6. Hi Cheri! Thank you for sharing all the great soapmaking tips. I hope to someday make our own. The new soaps sound fun!

    Coffee Bean?
    Coffee Break?
    Java Delight?
    Wake Up and Smell the Coffee? :)

    Creme de Menthe?
    Chocolate Ice?
    Cocoa Refreshmint?

    I do like your Peppermint Patty! Maybe you should stick with that and give yourself a prize. :)

  7. Great names Emily! We'll add them to the list :)

  8. For the coffee scented batch...

    Whole Latte Suds
    With the slogan: Good to the last drop (of water) :-)

    Coffee Bar

    Thanks for sharing the equipment you use for soap making. The pictures were quite helpful!

  9. Debbie,
    Thanks for the great names...its is going to be really hard to choose a winner!

  10. Java Jolt
    (Emily beat me to the "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee! haha :) )

    Sweet Refreshment
    Cocoa Ice
    Chocolate Freeze
    Cocoa Freeze

  11. How about Cafe au Lait? :-)

  12. And here's another: mint julep, though I have no idea what is in the drink. :-)

  13. Yet another: mint brownies :-)

  14. I like that soap mold! Would you mind sharing where you found it?

  15. Christine,
    I got it at Brambleberry...www.brambleberry.com....I think :)
    It holds about 10 lbs. of soap.

  16. I don't have names, but I did have a batch seize like your batch. It can be saved. Shred it or chop it and cook it until the lye is totally saponified. The best test is to touch the thick cooked soap to you tongue. If it zaps you then there is still lye in it. It will end up thick like mashed potatoes and you will have to smush it into the mold. My hubby sort of swirled with with his gloved hands so the top was textured. It looked lovely with a cardstock sleeve. It has been my best seller. My problem was that the addition of goat milk caused overheating. If I had not insulated it, it probably would have been fine. Hope this helps you for future batches.


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