Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Batch of Patch.

I made a big batch of Patchouli soap as I have quite a few customers who love it and buy multiple bars of it. I thought I'd take a few shots of the soap as I made it. I forgot to take a shot of the patchouli oil but it is a thick tan syrupy oil that smells the whole house out when I have it open.

Patchouli essential oil is distilled form the patchouli plant which is a herbaceous plant from the tropics which grows a bit like mint. For more see here.

Oil and caustic just mixed
First I weigh out the oils including the patchouli into a large pot (8kg in this batch). I mix caustic soda with water very carefully and stir until clear. The caustic is added to the oils. This is then mixed with a stick blender until it starts to react and gets very thick like a thick custard. Saponification is an exothermic reaction so once it starts it produces enough heat to keep the reaction going until finished.

Freshly poured logs of soap

At this stage I spilt a little of the batch into another bowl and add some cocoa for colour. These are poured into lined wooden moulds and the tops textured with a spoon.

Insulated soap in the moulds

These moulds are then covered to keep in the heat and left to react for about 6 hours. My soap I let gel which basically means it gets hot enough to melt the soap. After the reaction finishes the soap gradually cools down on sets hard.

Cooling soap
Then I take out the logs of soap and allow them to cool down further. The lining material is then removed and the soap cut.

Cutting soap

I use a cutter I imported from the USA to cut my soap AKA the "tank". It basically uses strained stainless steel guitar strings to slice through the soap rather like a cheese slicer. The soap is then lifted out of the cutter.

Soap produced from 8kg of oils
The soap is then carried downstairs to shelves where it cured for a number of weeks. This cure allows extra water to evaporate out and produces a harder bar of soap that will last longer in use.

And yes I do have genuine bright yellow laminex from the 70's on my benches.

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