Soap making – origins of an addiction

One of the hobbies that I picked up in learning “real” skills was making my own soap.  I’m not sure if I want to bore all of everyone not actually reading this blog (as of yet) by going into a full description of how that is done, so I may do that on parts later but not yet.

I have made enough soap at this point to have gotten good feedback by giving a lot of it to friends and family, so I’m starting to get to the point that I think I can say I know what I’m doing.  I have made many batches of what is called cold process soap, and I am getting to the place that many people who dabble in this hobby to start to see the serious signs of addiction in themselves… The first step is admitting you have a problem?

Truthfully, I am slowing down my playing around with batches at the moment until I can find a venue to get my production of soap into a useful place in the world.  I am at the tipping point of having too much soap made to supply the people that I know with soap, and do love making soap, but my criteria for any of my new skill learning hobbies is that they are both satisfying (check) and useful to either myself or others (hmmm…).    I cannot use up the supply I have, and I think the same could be said for my close friends.  So… My next step is finding other people who can find happiness in having handmade soap around rather than mass produced commerical soap.

I am not really out to make a profit at this point in the venture, but just out to make sure my costs are covered and people can truly use it.  I’m looking into some of the small craft fairs in the area, and hope to set a target for getting out into the public with the soap I make, but also don’t want to rush into doing something silly that either costs me more money or is harmful to me in the process.  I struggle with the silliness of our country and it’s legal system at the moment.  I have no desire to carry liability insurance, but also don’t want to lose my plans for the future to someone getting silly and seeing me as a legal paycheck that they can ruin me with a lawsuit.   Somewhere in the middle there should be an answer to this delima, and I am researching how to deal with this concern.  If anyone has firsthand dealings with this side of small-time business, please drop me an e-mail or a comment on the blog.  I know there is “cheap” liability insurance, but I must have a differing reality of what “cheap” is by the information that I have found thusfar, as $400 annually is going to make my concept of covering my costs difficult.

For those of you interested in seeing some of my results, feel free to pop over to the link for Handmade Soap at the top of the page, and there are some pretty pictures as well as ingredient lists.  Again, maybe at some point I’ll do some more writing about how I make particular soaps and why I use the ingredients that I do, but at the moment everything I have to say on that particular message can be better learned from other websites.  The main resource I started with that seems to make a fairly good place to start would be the About.com website and their short soap making video.   I would warn that many of the things that the person in this video does are brushed over very lightly and there is a lot more to learn to make soap with specific good qualities, but for entertainment or beginning understanding, it gives a good quick overview.  Also – as every person warns – LYE is DANGEROUS*.

* Okay… in my experience, lye isn’t as scary as it is made out to be, but I also treat it and all other dangerous chemicals and tools with intense respect.  I tend to be fairly flippant with safety in my personal life, but I also seem to be blessed with extreme luck when it comes to doing incredibly stupid things and getting by without physical harm.  The older I get, the more I think that my luck thusfar may eventually hit double zero; plus, I find that I am healing more slowly as I get older, so the guy that unthinkingly tried to “clean” a powerplug that wasn’t working by licking it now double-checks all things “scary” before diving in.

Anyway – I am happy to say that making soap from scratch has been a really rewarding experience that I am going to continue to play with.  I just recently made a revision to my most basic recipe that has no pigments for colors or fragrances and added in some Shea Butter for what I hope will be a really cool, really moisturizing soap.  All of the soaps that I have made thus far beat any soaps I have bought from “big box” stores in the past 30 years, but winter is coming, and around here that means that I battle dry skin for the next 4 months, so hopefully this soap will make this winter a no-brainer when it comes to dry skin.

More later on soaps – and, for anybody that needs any more soap… Let me know, and I’m sure I can happen to send you some more.  🙂

Joel

Categories: Soapmaking

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