I thought some of you might be wondering what the finishing process and the finished product looks like! Here’s a little run-through of my process from rough just-unmoulded soap to finished soap ready for labelling.
This time around, I did this about a week after the soapmaking. It was cool weather, and a little humid, so this ended up being just about right. I judge the readiness of the soap by its feel – like a fairly hard cheddar cheese, just indenting on firm finger pressure, but springing straight back. This means it will be firm enough to trim and plane and stamp without smoodging and spreading, but not so hard that it will crack and crumble.
Here are my boxes of soap:
And here’s my equipment. Pyrex bowls and spoons/spatulas for rebatching the trimmings, a Nizzy soap planer, stamps, a rubber mallet for stamping, and a cutting board.
A closeup of my stamps: a dragon and a spiral-centred flower. These are Milky Way soap stamps.
Here’s one of the Neroli swirl soaps ready to plane. You can see the rough bottom where I peeled off the soap mould liner (I unmoulded just a touch too early).
Planing reveals the beauty of the swirl beneath! I also bevel the edges so that I don’t have scrapy sharp-edged soap the first time I use it in the shower. I’m really, really not a big fan of sharp soap. My first experience with a new soap should be sensuous and enjoyable, not “ouch ouch maybe that will be nice after two or three more showers”.
Some soaps I leave textured on the top; some I decide to plane. The texture and look of the top of this one wasn’t exactly as I wanted it:
So I planed it to reveal the swirl.
Same with this one; it’s just a little bit boring:
And here it is after planing.
And after stamping!
Here’s one with a dragon stamp.
The finished box of Neroli soaps!
And here are the trimmings.
There are often a few munted bars that just aren’t going to trim up prettily. These go into the Home Pile, for use just by us instead of as gifts, etc. Sometimes a particularly nice-smelling batch of soap might have quite a few munted bars, for some reason.
Here are my raw Sandalwood/Mandarin/Black Pepper bars, waiting to be trimmed and finished.
All trimmed up, and stamping away.
The Vanilla Oak bars don’t need any work: I’ll put them away just as they are.
The lavender/lemongrass soaps. I’m loving most of the top textures, so I’ll just plane the bottom and sides, and bevel the edges.
Here they are all done!
Another jug of trimmings…
And the second finished box!
Lastly, that little test batch of Fresh Snow fragrance. These hand soap sized bars are almost cubic, and rather cute. Stamped with the spiral flower stamp.
“What will happen with those jugs of trimmings?”, I hear you ask. I haven’t done a photo walkthrough of that with these particular soaps, because I’ve put one together before. Here it is.
Soap trimmings are the bane of the soapmaker’s life. Do you throw them out? What a waste! Rebatch in an oven or double boiler? What a pain! So I rebatch them in the microwave. I read a whole lot of different methods when I started out, and fiddled and improvised, and this is what works for me.
1. Lots of trimmings and curls from my Choconilla soap. Why yes, it will look less appetising once it’s rebatched. But it’ll be lovely soap. This is in a 3 litre Pyrex jug.
2. Splash a little milk over the top. More if the soap is very old and hard, only a capful or two if it’s fresh. Coconut milk can be substituted. If you use water, it will foam up a lot more. Traditional rebatch recipes use a lot more liquid, which leaves the soap goozy and unpleasant, and will take forever to dry.
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3. Put this in the microwave, on about 30% of full power, and buzz until it’s starting to melt. I’m not going to give you times, because it varies dramatically depending on the size of your soap batch and your microwave. Just watch it carefully. I started this batch on ten minutes, then added more time. Be careful that it doesn’t foam up and over!
4. While that’s cooking, prepare your moulds. I spray mine lightly with a little mineral oil (QV bath oil spray), which rinses off the finished product. You could use spray olive oil or canola oil if you like. Not using a mould release makes rebatch soap very difficult to unmould.
5. Check and squoodge around the soap. Don’t stir it vigorously; it will foam up.
6. When it was all melted, I added some curls and trimmings from an uncoloured soap batch, to give a white-chocolate-chip-like effect.
7. Out of focus! Once fully melted to “mashed potato” consistency, moosh the soap into your mould, and bang the mould gently a few times to remove air bubbles. Animal oil soaps may be pourable; vegetable oil soaps tend to be a bit firmer.
8. Just to show you that not all my rebatches look like poop! These are trimmings from a strawberry kiwi batch. Aren’t they pretty?
And that’s all she wrote! Thanks for joining me for this series.