1. Take out all the soapmaking utensils, premeasure any herbs or additives and place near the soapmaking area
2. Dissolve the can of lye by stirring it into the determined amount of cold water. Do this in a heat resistant container of some kind. Do This Out Side If Posible! (This will heat up a lot in a matter of seconds... be aware that it will get really hot.) It will produce fumes during the first minute or two. After that... the solution turns clear from its original milky appearance and there will no longer be fumes present. When you stir in the lye, be sure to keep the crystals moving around during the first 30 seconds or so, in order to prevent them from forming hard clumps in the bottom of the mixing container. While I often use heat resistant glass, you can also mix your lye solution in a stainless steel pan or a really stout, heat tolerant plastic container. Remember... start with COLD WATER! :-) DO NOT leave your lye solution unattended outside after mixing it up. As soon as the fumes have dissipated... bring it carefully into the house. NEVER USE ALUMINUM TO STURE OR HOLD YOUR LYE SOLUTION!!!
All recipes are based on weight not volume. You will need to weigh oils and lye with a good scale. Water can be measured with a liquid measuring cup with no problems.
3. Weigh out the liquid fats (palm, coconut, etc.) and melt in the soapmaking pan. I leave part of the liquid oils out to be added after melting the harder fats. Any wax candle color, crayon or beeswax goes in at this point also.
4. While the fats are melting I line the mold with freezer paper, if I haven't done it already. Use two overlapping sheets of freezer paper, arranged perpendicular to one another and creased into the corners of the mold. These sheets are cut slightly wider than the width of the box to that they will overlap and cover the corners to reduce leaking.
5. Melt the hard fats on a low setting on the stove, stirring periodically. After they have melted, put the pot back on the scale and measure in the remaining room temperature oil (usually between 24 and 32 ounces). This cools it off faster.
6. When the temperature of the fats is close to 110 degrees, speed the cooling of the lye solution if necessary by setting the cuntainer in a sink of cold water halfway up the side. Stir the water around and watch the thermometer until it drops to the temperature you want. The thermometer and stirring spoon are rinsed of lye water and placed in the sink to await washing.
7. It's time to start up the blending. Turn on the stick blender and pour the lye solution quickly into the fat. The soap is mixed for about a minute until it starts to smooth out and glisten. Turn on the burner under the pot for just a minute to warm the soap slightly if it's looking grainy to start. You are striving for a good mix, but not little globs of fat in the mix. The soap ideally should look smooth and develop a "satin" finish as you blend and stop to check it.
8. During the above process, periodically turn OFF the stick blender and use it as if it were a spoon to stir the soap. Alternate blending with it ON and stirring with it OFF until it starts to thicken slightly (the surface appearance will change and develop some dullness...patterns can be seen in the wake of the blender). If you don't give the motor rest periods during blending, you can burn out your blender. Also, you want to make sure you have true trace... not just something that has emulsified and appears thicker than it really is. Stirring for a minute with the blender off will "stir down" a false trace, but not a true one. lift the blender (in the OFF position) out of the soap to check how well the soap coats the guard. It should be like thin to medium pudding before pouring. Some fragrance oils will really speed up this thickening process, but most essential oils do not. The whole process doesn't normally take more than 3 to 10 minutes, depending on the recipe. How thick you want the soap before putting in the additives will depend on what kind of fragrance you will be using. Most essential oils behave pretty well... many fragrance oils can cause rapid thickening or other problems.
9. Stir in the additives, fragrance or essential oils. This is better done with the blender off, but turn it on briefly after stirring to make sure the fragrance/essential oils are smooth and completely incorporated. Sometimes they will clump slightly and you want to break those up. Any other ingredients can be added at light trace also, like superfatting oils that weren't put in at the start, natural colorants like paprika, herbs, etc. Save the fragrance for last* in case you get one of those fragrance oils that accelerates trace and forces you to pour quickly!