Our Soapers business will include a line of men’s soap products, including bar soap, liquid soap, and shaving soap.
Our Soapers business will start small and simple, as with the others. When we say that these soaps will be made “from scratch,” we mean it. We will even be producing our own lye.
The traditional soaps will be naturally scent-friendly, which the hunters among us will enjoy. Of the three businesses, this one is expected to be the least capital intensive, and frankly, is the least well-defined at this point. We took a course in soapmaking at Tillers International, which by the way, is a real gift to homesteaders and DIYers. Tillers is also an organization that does good; I highly recommend exploring what they have to offer, especially if you live within a few hours of Scotts, MI, which is just southeast of Kalamazoo. Accommodations are available onsite, so you can stay overnight, as we did for the Blacksmithing I course. In what may be a sign of things to come, John also participated in the Draft Animal Logging course in February 2016.
Experiments in Traditional Soap-Making
As of late summer 2017, we are still in the experimenting phase of our soap product development process. The first step is to make the lye, which is made by leaching potassium hydroxide lye from hardwood ashes. (We use the hardwood ashes that are otherwise a waste product from our Sugarers‘ maple syrup operation. The wood to fire the Sugarers‘ maple syrup operation is in part, waste from the Sawyers’ milling operations.) The resulting lye-water includes a concentration of potassium hydroxide. The settlers in North America would establish the lye concentration by floating an egg in the lye-water. If a nickle to quarter-sized surface of the egg was exposed at the surface, they reckoned it was strong enough to make soap. The subsequent traditional soap-making process was very hit and miss, and by some accounts failed as often as it succeeded.
The problem is the soap-making is something of an exact science. Precisely the right amount of fat must be mixed with a given amount of lye, to achieve complete saponification of the lye and fat. Too little fat, and there is left-over lye, which can burn the skin. Too little lye, and there will be left-over unsaponified fat.
Modern technology to the rescue! Well, maybe not, at least not so far. In our earliest experiments we used a hydrometer to measure the concentration of lye, and the result was a lot of left-over fat. Okay, how about a fancy, albeit relatively low-end pH meter? Same result. Finally, we measured, weighed, the amount of left-over fat, adjusted our recipe according, and eureka, success was had; we made what is referred to as “soap paste,” which is then diluted to make liquid soap.
Unfortunatley, the trial-and-error method with which we made soap paste is not repeatable, nor scalable. The concentration of lye in the lye-water varies with each batch. We soldier on in search of a solution!
Coming Soon; As Soon as We Can Make it Happen!
We will be selling our soaps online soon. Contact us and we will notify you when it is available.