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They were out of patchouli and I didn't have a way to grind sandalwood so I got some frankincense, vegetable glycerin, Shae butter glycerin soap base, and some skin clay. The soap is made and hardening overnight in cupcake trays. I might go with essential oil instead of resin for the next batch.
Doug, welcome to the world of better living through caustic chemistry. You didn't mention which method of soaping you are using, melt and pour (MP), cold process (CP), or hot process (HP). If you don't mind, I have some thoughts and tips for you.
Glycerin is natural by-product of soap making, be careful adding too much. It can cause your finished soaps to sweat. The soap will look like it has little beads of water on the surfaces. They're still usable but get very sticky.
I tried using powdered sandlewoods (red and white), frankincense and myrhh for both colorants and scents. I found the powdered woods do not stay powdered, they swell into small splinters and feel like you're washing with glass shards. Try a good quality essential oil (EO) or fragrance oil (FO). Avoid any FO's that have propyl glycol or you suspect has it in the FO. It will cause your soap to seize.
I add clay to all of my soaps, either bentonite or kaolin. It helps to hold the scent during the curing time, and adds some slip to the soap. I use about 1 teaspoon per pound of oil. In my shaving soap, I use 1 tablespoon per pound of oil.
For colorants, I tend to stick with natural colors, alkanet root, madder, turmeric, paprika, annatto. For these, I put 2 tablespoons of herb in an 8 oz canning jar, add a light oil (grapeseed, sweet almond are good) and fill to about 1/4 -1/2 inch from the top. Put on the ring and lid. Put in a crock pot, cover with water and cook on high all day, about 6-8 hours, allow to cool in the water overnight. The herbs will settle to the bottom of the jar and you use the oil for coloring. These colorants can shift so you may not get the exact shade you were trying for. Alkanet starts off kind of grey-blue but becomes more purple as curing time goes on. I also use oxides, nice deep, intense colors but if you use too much, they can color the lathers.
A stick blender (immersion blender) is your best friend. They are pretty cheap. Keep one designated for soaping only.
Get to know your oils really well and the qualities. I use, castor oil, olive oil pomace, coconut 76 deg, and palm oils as my base oils. I use other oils for superfatting. Castor oil for great lather and moisturizing, olive oil pomace for moisturizing, coconut has great lather and adds hardness, palm oil for hardness.
Always use a lye calculator. Every oil uses a different amount of lye, even in the same oil family like extra virgin olive oil and olive oil pomace.
Weigh everything, oil, water, oils, fragrances. Get a good scale that will weigh to 0.00 oz or measure in grams.
Only use distilled water.
The YouTube channel, Soaping 101, is excellent. I think of it as the Alton Brown "Good Eats" version. It's no nonsense, straight-up information and demo, one topic per episode. It demonstrates a technique or quality and leaves it at that.
There are a lot of lye calculators on the net. I like this one the best:
This is my favorite soap supply:
Making soap becomes an addiction. Your family and friends will not be able to use up all the soaps you make and give them to try...mine are still using soaps I made over a year ago. Nope it doesn't really go bad, but the oils from superfatting may go rancid.
Wow, thank you for all the info. I have kaolin clay. I purchased some soap from a farmers market and kept the label for ingredient ideas and went with it. I used melt and pour. I got a brick of Shae butter soap base from Michael's, melted it down, added clay, vegetable glycerine, powdered frankincense. I think I'll go with essential oils instead of powdered frankincense next time because its sticky and not too fragrant. I like smelling like an incense shop lol. Again, thank you.
I would definitely go with EOs when possible and avoid resins, wood powders etc. The EO's will have the scent you're looking for.
I've never used the melt and pour. I like the control I have using cold or hot process.
Oops, forgot about the turmeric for color, so I used food coloring. This batch is scented with Bergamot.
Thank you for keeping us updated. Did the soap turn out cleanly from the paper cups? Did the use of food colouring in the soap stain your hands when you used the soap?
I used four drops of coloring for this batch and it doesn't stain. The soap pops right out from the paper. Last time I didn't use paper and couldn't get the soap out lol.
Michael's carries silcone cupcake molds and other shapes as well.
I saw a bar box that unscrews leaving you a brick of soap to cut as desired, so I may get that eventually. I'd love to find an interlocking pentacle mold.
If you have any wood working skills or know someone who has, you can make a wooden box mold in any size you want. I have several, 12x12x3, 6x16x6. I've also made some molds out of the plastic stucture that looks exactly like corrigated cardboard. Really, just about anything can be used for soap molds (including pizza boxes) as long as you like them. I use Reynolds brand freezing paper.
If you can't find a pentacle mold, but you have one that is the right size, shape, depth that you like, you can make a mold from it by using 2 part silicone. It comes in 2 parts like expoxy, but it's liquid and you can pour it over the object to be molded. you'll need to use a form around the object and secure good to a base in order to make the mold. I think this sounds more confusing than it really is.
i've used Pringle cans for round soaps, as well as small potatoe stick cans (works better than the Pringle can).
I wouldn't soak too much money in to molds because you'll rack up a lot in soap, scents, colorants etc.
I'm not sure how much EO to use in MP soap, but I use 1/2 oz per pound of oil. My usual batch of soap uses 2 ozs EO.