Rolling My Own

What is your opinion on fine shaving creams and hard soaps? Do you like Trumpers, Coates, Taylors, Truefitt & Hill? Post your reviews and opinions here!
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drmoss_ca
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Post by drmoss_ca » Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:38 am

I'm picking up my jaw from the floor. I do enjoy being schooled by someone who really knows the ins and outs of a topic. Thank you very much, Tim, for taking the time to give us all that detail.
I was intending to simply buy 100% lye (NaOH) at the local hardware store, and a bucket of hydrogenated lard at the supermarket, and then seeing what came out of it. Later, I would try some KOH and/or some coconut oil. I know from my sailing days that coconut oil soaps will lather in salt water. I suspect that for shaving lather we want more creaminess than bubbliness, so I would guess the coconut oil should be kept to a small proportion - you mention 20%.
A question about something simpler - how long do find you need to cure these soaps so that they don't have unreacted alkali in them? Does the time depend on the size of the cut soaps?

Chris
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Post by Thalay Sagar » Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:05 am

Wow, Tim. Just, Wow. Exceptionally cool stuff that helps to explain a lot of questions.
Best,
Chris

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Post by TRBeck » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:03 pm

It was my pleasure to write that up, and I do hope it's helpful to any gents here looking to craft their own shave soaps. The coconut oil portion is the variable I am manipulating at present. I don't know how high one can push that number before it starts interfering with the creaminess of the lather. I have a batch in which I used 20% coconut oil that seems promising, but I do wonder if it that can or should be increased.

As far as curing time, there really is none with hot process soap. Cold process soap is made by mixing alkali water and lipids that are at approximately the same temperature (usually 110-130 degrees) and then allowing the mixture to cool and saponify over a period of weeks. Heat accelerates saponification. Using a double-boiler or crock pot, you simply gets all of the lipids to a liquid state (no easy task with stearic acid, which melts at about 157F, adds the appropriate amount of lye water, emulsify the mixture, and then allow it to cook undisturbed. Initially, when emulsified, the soap will look like vanilla pudding. As it cooks, the outer edges will gel first, becoming translucent or glossy depending on how much saturated fat is in the formula. The first picture in my initial post shows the mixture just before I shut off the heat; it has a sheen to it, having "gelled" or saponified completely. You can check this with pH paper or simply by putting a cooled piece of the soap on your tongue. If you get "zapped," you need to let it cook further. Otherwise, the alkali has been neutralized. At this point, the only cure really needed is the wait for the soap to cool off in whatever mold you are using. I used a soap this morning that finished cooking at 10:30 last night. Over the next few days, though, that soap will become harder, its lather tighter and a bit creamier as some of its moisture evaporates.

I mentioned that I don't believe a good cold process shave soap is possible. This is because stearic acid seizes immediately upon the addition of lye, and a fair bit of heat is required just to make it liquid enough to emulsify, or "trace," with the alkali. If you don't have enough stearic acid for your cold process soap to seize, it won't be worth shaving with.

I recommend checking out some videos of hot process soap being made on Youtube, and later I'll dig out the list of good ones I found while researching. These are helpful for seeing the process, but it will be different when you make shave soap as you're using almost 100% saturated fat and, as I said, you will have a semi-solid, gloppy mess before you can stir enough to get an emulsification.

One more thing. The crummy palmate shave soaps being produced right now generally have ingredients that read as follows:

potassium palmate, sodium palmate, potassium palm kernelate, sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, etc.

Palm kernel oil is virtually interchangeable with coconut oil. The problem is substituting palm oil for stearic acid. Palm oil is a suitable substitute for tallow, assuming one has no problem with it for other reasons, containing an average of 53% palmitic and stearic acids (44/9 respectively) and over a third oleic acid. But as I mentioned, tallowate isn't really the main ingredient in great shave soaps, even if it is the best natural source of stearic acid.

In fact, a simple palmate and palm kernelate formulation resembles nothing so much as the basic tallow/coconut soap base it replaces in a world where palm oil is king. Add some extra stearates to this base and you might be in business, but as it stands, you get lather that looks okay initially but fizzes out quickly and doesn't shave well, which is essentially what you get when you try to shave with a good bath soap. I suspect this is the problem with Williams, too: not enough stearate on top of the tallow-coconut base.

I'm guessing if you push the coconut percentage too high, you'll get fluff and crisp and no cream, but I haven't found a ceiling on it yet.
Last edited by TRBeck on Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Regards,
Tim

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Post by drmoss_ca » Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:55 pm

OK. NaOH, KOH, lanolin and coconut oil ordered from Canwax. I just need to buy some lard or render down a couple of raccoons from under the back deck. Think I'll go with the lard.
I think the first try will be lard 80, coconut 15, lanolin 5. If I mix NaOH and KOH to get a soap that is a bit softer than using NaOH alone, can I simply apportion the amount of lye between the two alkalis? Soapcalc.net says this about the proposed recipe:

Image

So if 62g of lye is required, might I dissolve, say 50g of NaOH and 10g of KOH together in the 172ml of water, or do I have to use the saponification factor of KOH versus NaOH - I have read that one divides the saponification number of the fat by 1.4 if using KOH. The same fats using KOH alone require 87g of alkali. So I'm guessing that 50g of NaOH with around 15g of KOH will be about right in that case. Am I in the ballpark?

Chris
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Post by TRBeck » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:45 pm

Chris, it takes more KOH than NaOH to saponify a given amount of lipids. The way I work these recipes is to figure two separate batches of soap but soap them together. For instance, if I'm using 250g of fat (which is what I generally do for these test batches) and I want to split my lye, say, 70:30 between KOH and NaOH, I will set up the recipe in SoapCalc as a 175g formulation, run the numbers for KOH, then set it up as a 75g formulation and run the numbers for NaOH. It's no problem to use the two types of lye together nor to add them to water together (though the water will heat up significantly more from KOH than NaOH), but there's not a direct correlation between KOH and NaOH in terms of their capacity to saponify lipids.
Regards,
Tim

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Post by drmoss_ca » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:24 pm

Got it!

Chris
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Post by Esoteric83 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 6:27 pm

Forget raccoons, get some badger fat rendered. Talk about going full circle!

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Post by CMur12 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:49 pm

Wow, Tim! I'm even more impressed now. You have not just started with someone else's recipe and tweaked it. You have clearly gotten deep into the science of soap and are building your shaving soap from the ground up. (Then again, I should have expected nothing less from you!) As always, very well organized and clearly written, too.

We have often talked here about what makes a good shaving soap, but now I really get it. Thanks, Tim.

- Murray
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Post by TRBeck » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:59 pm

Murray, et al: you guys are too kind. I've poked around on Google Books, the other SMF (Soap Making Forum), and a few other corners of the web, but mostly, I've just compiled a lot of information from the archive here and the soap boxes around the house. Information that members of SMF posted, some of them years ago. I'm thankful for the repository of soap data and lore alike that have been preserved here.

As for formulating, yes, I'm building a soap, but I do know those x factors I mentioned are going to be the real trick. This is where the art of soapmaking enters the picture, and where I imagine things become much tougher. Proportions of the base ingredients aside, there are a million little tweaks (e.g., how much water to use in the formula, whether to superfat the soap and how much, etc.), such that I will likely never find one formula that is "the one," any more than I've found one brush or one razor, despite my best efforts. Nevertheless, I'm looking to get to something as good as the stuff I wish I could afford to stockpile, and that, I think, is well within reach.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Post by brothers » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:59 am

Having these resources newly available and assembled at one location are invaluable. Obviously a lot of time and passion have been poured into the project. Thank you.
Gary

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Post by drmoss_ca » Wed May 01, 2013 12:24 pm

I have all supplies in hand except for the lard. I'm planning to use lard 75%, coconut oil (76º) 25%, lanolin 5%, along with 50:50 KOH and NaOH. I will hot process and add a little mandarin oil at the end for scent. SoapCalc has given me the necessary quantities and this weekend I'll be convincing my wife that I've gone completely off the rails.

Chris
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Post by Gene » Wed May 01, 2013 12:42 pm

Tim, PM coming at you...
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Post by TRBeck » Wed May 01, 2013 1:42 pm

drmoss_ca wrote:I have all supplies in hand except for the lard. I'm planning to use lard 75%, coconut oil (76º) 25%, lanolin 5%, along with 50:50 KOH and NaOH. I will hot process and add a little mandarin oil at the end for scent. SoapCalc has given me the necessary quantities and this weekend I'll be convincing my wife that I've gone completely off the rails.

Chris
Excellent!

I look forward to reading about the results.

My wife has long believed I'm completely off the rails. She's probably right.

Just wait until you start messing with numbers on SoapCalc and find yourself wondering what 100% ghee soap would shave like (it's high in palmitic and stearic acid, and it has a good lauric and myristic content. I think it would be a shade lacking in creaminess, and the oleic acid is a bit high, but...).

Anything for a good shave.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Post by drmoss_ca » Wed May 01, 2013 2:10 pm

Mmmm.....curry powder for scent and colouring!

My wife already thinks I'm cracked. I cook and bake from basic ingredients, make soy milk from beans, make cheese and yoghurt, cast lead slugs for muzzle loading firearms (not yet made blackpowder but would be willing to try), got myself certified for crossbow hunting and listen to vinyl through tubes. I'm threatening to build a rocket mass heater and she seems to be yielding. I just prefer to be in control of what goes into things. I must have inherited it from my father, who made working model steam locomotives, built his own sailboats and kayaks, and even drilled and rifled his own barrels. I don't see why we shouldn't have some fun while learning needful skills.

Chris
Diagnosis quite clear!
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Post by TRBeck » Wed May 01, 2013 2:25 pm

Chris, I'll have to post some links later from one of the soap forums. A gentleman did some experimentation using washing soda and potash as his alkalis attempting to replicate the soapmaking processes used before sodium and potassium hydroxide were available. The alkalis are weak enough that multiple cooking and curing procedures are carried out over a period of weeks to complete saponification. Perhaps not needful but the thought of having recourse to make soap from lard and wood ashes is at least tempting.

EDIT: I'd have sworn I bookmarked the thread, but I can't find it now, and I'm actually quite annoyed: there were all sorts of links to old soapmaking books, homesteading resources, etc. I will hunt it down eventually. :x
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Post by dosco » Fri May 03, 2013 6:14 am

TRBeck wrote:Chris, I'll have to post some links later from one of the soap forums. A gentleman did some experimentation using washing soda and potash as his alkalis attempting to replicate the soapmaking processes used before sodium and potassium hydroxide were available. The alkalis are weak enough that multiple cooking and curing procedures are carried out over a period of weeks to complete saponification. Perhaps not needful but the thought of having recourse to make soap from lard and wood ashes is at least tempting.

EDIT: I'd have sworn I bookmarked the thread, but I can't find it now, and I'm actually quite annoyed: there were all sorts of links to old soapmaking books, homesteading resources, etc. I will hunt it down eventually. :x
Interesting. Washing soda is generally available at supermarkets.

I learned about it recently with helping my kids tie-dye T-shirts ... evidently modern reactive dyes need the cotton to be pre-treated with a base.

I now buy washing soda at the supermarket (Arm and Hammer brand) and use it for laundry, the dishwasher, etc.

EDIT: Tim, if I understand you correctly, if I were to formulate my own shave soap I would order from a supplier stearic acid, potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, and perhaps some essential oils for scent. I might buy coconut oil from the supplier, or if I could find it at the local grocery store I could get it there. I could optionally use lard as "tallow," also sourced from the grocery store.

Did I understand that properly?

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Post by TRBeck » Fri May 03, 2013 7:13 am

Yeah, that's about the size of it. I recommend buying coconut oil online as it's a trendy food item and expensive at grocery stores. BTW, I'm not saying one shouldn't use any other ingredients when formulating at home. Soap manufacturing on a large scale may indicate use of as few ingredients and suppliers as possible while we can play with things at home. Castor oil is in most artisan formulae for instance, and it is virtually the only source of ricinoleic acid, which adds creaminess and bubbly volume both while conditioning rather than further cleansing the skin. I have played with castor oil a bit but don't yet understand its contribution fully. Also, some unsaturated fat can make lather a bit more stable and condition the skin but too much can shorten shelf life of a soap or inhibit lather from forming. Corn oil is in Valobra but in tiny amounts. And having something other than stearic acid and coconut oil in there will almost certainly help avoid the problems of your soap seizing before it traces or setting up before you get it in your soap mold.

Finally, I encourage any of you guys who are going to do this to check out a proper soapmaking text or tutorial first. It's a pretty easy process but there are a few potential pitfalls to be aware of, particularly w/r/t caustics. No scarier than boiling wort, though, and I think you're familiar with that process, dosco.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Post by dosco » Fri May 03, 2013 11:52 am

TRBeck wrote: Finally, I encourage any of you guys who are going to do this to check out a proper soapmaking text or tutorial first. It's a pretty easy process but there are a few potential pitfalls to be aware of, particularly w/r/t caustics. No scarier than boiling wort, though, and I think you're familiar with that process, dosco.
Tim:
Yes, haha.

Any recommendations for reference texts?

Cheers-
Dave

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Post by TRBeck » Fri May 03, 2013 12:15 pm

Alicia Grosso's The Everything Soapmaking Book was recommended to me and worth the read. It's introductory and, like many soapmaking books, reads like a (good) cookbook.

I have on order Scientific Soapmaking by Kevin Dunn, which sounds right up my alley in terms of its approach but (I'm told) has little in the way of helpful hints for beginning soapers.

Also, poke around TeachSoap and SoapMakingForum and you'll find more than you ever wanted to know. Lots of it is about cold process, but much of it is still applicable.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Post by drmoss_ca » Sat May 04, 2013 8:12 am

Going OK so far, using the recipe above (70% lard, 25% coconut, 5% lanolin, and 50:50 KOH and NaOH). It's been cooking for an hour, and I took the lid off for a pH test (12 - yikes!):

Image

The knives are too stop the bubbling jam pot from rocking the inner pan so that one handle falls inside. I have the wooden soap mold carefully lined with cut and folded waxed paper, and the mandarin oil is ready to mix in once it has finished cooking and cooled down a little. This is fun.

Chris
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
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