on December 13, 2015
Rather a challenge for a first-time soaper, but very informative and a good overview for anyone hungry to try this (and willing to slog through a bit of dense reading). Recipe book this is not; you have to read it and understand the contents before you use it (at least I did!). That said, there's an awful lot of really, really good information in here. The explanations are detailed and helpful, and give you the information you need to either just do what it says (successfully) or play around and have some fun with the ideas in there. You do need to read it through to make sense of it, but then as someone who's learning a fun new skill, that was definitely not a problem for me! My bit of chemistry background (from a very VERY long time ago!) - helped a lot, in spite of having forgotten most of it. I found the book understandable with a bit of focus, and very much worth the mental exercise.
The reviewers who say it can be confusing have a point: the book goes through the "basics" and then into the details and specific issues (sequestering, neutralizing, additives, troubleshooting) while referring back to previous parts of the book. And in some instances there are things you need to know "right now", which are not covered until quite a bit farther along in the book. So you have to be familiar enough to jump around. But once you get the hang of the overall layout of the book, it's definitely workable. And when you get the highlighting, jot notes, and post-it flags in there, it becomes really, really good.
A few caveats: first, I started with the Kindle edition. Well, every reference to "see page 42" is perfectly useless on Kindle... there are no page numbers and only maybe-links, so I have to rely on bookmarking and my familiarity with the book (and I just got it a week ago... "familiarity" is being used very loosely here) to find the relevant bits.
Second, all the recipes are for about 6 lb of soap... not exactly experimenting-size quantities (unless you keep a lot of very dirty kiddies around the house). And because the book uses almost exclusively actual measurements rather than percentages (and imperial to boot), it's difficult to scale the formulas. My solution was to convert each recipe to percentages before I started, and then use the percentages as grams... . This way amounts become small enough to use for testing, and are much more scaleable. I did some of them as percentages of total oils and some as percentages of the total recipe... both worked. I did run everything through a lye calculator before I started though, just in case it lost something in the conversion!
There are a few recipes for shampoos in there and while they look really nice, I have read that soap as shampoo can be very hard on your hair. I would be cautious about using any of these formulas as shampoo. It may be just fine but personally I"m not jumping on that wagon just yet.
I could have used more photos about less-than-perfect results, too, to know what I'm trying to avoid. The photos are lovely: there are lots of beautiful pictures of perfect soaps, fancy bottles and perfect bathrooms, and that's nice, but what I really needed for my first try was the pictures of what to expect if I'm doing it right, and what has "oops!" written all over it. The beginning of the book includes pictures of what the soap stock should look like at every step, which I found VERY helpful. But - there's so often a "but" - there are no pictures of what you DON'T want to see: cloudy soap, separated soap stock, that sort of thing. So when I tried my first recipe I really didn't know if that swirly stuff in there was "cloudy" or just normal non-neutralized soap.
Also, it would be nice to know what other sort of things you can do and alternative methods to deal with less-than-perfect results. For example, I absolutely love the pearly shimmer of some of the commercial soaps and would love to reproduce that at home... does "cloudy" lend itself to that? What kind of colourings and shimmer stuff can be used in liquid soaps? (never mind the transparency... what's safe?) The book doesn't cover how to get anything other than crystal-clear liquid soap. I'll experiment and figure it out (that first batch ended up being just fine so I know that THAT sort of cloudiness is okay)
So the bottom line: I liked it enough to have ordered a hard copy after Igot the Kindle... It's a great basic reference and gives you all the information you need to get started. Whether it's the BEST book out there, I don't know. As some of the other reviewers have indicated, the web is definitely enough of a resource that it fills a lot of gaps. Between this book and the soaping blogs, I've been very satisfied with the results.
on November 10, 2000
I have been making cold process soap for years and was very excited to see this book that teaches you (finally) to make liquid soap through hot process. It is, however, very difficult to follow and there are several sections where the author trips up the reader and confuses the intructions. She also tells us to add color and scent and bottle your product immediately. This made my soap change weird colors and lose it's scent so I do not recommend this from my experience. Store it in a huge sealed tub, leave out the color, scent when it cools and bottle it when you are ready to give it to someone. I was able to turn out a nice batch this way but never felt as though I followed the directions properly. Also, unlike cold process, you cannot find all of your ingredients at the grocery store. You must find a chemical supplier which makes the process a little harder. On a whole, the book is great and unlike anything else on the market. This author continues to publish books that push the soapmaker one step further which I like. Be prepared for a good lesson in patience. This is not quick stuff as it took me a whole day to make my first batch. But like cold process, it gets easier and quicker the more you do it.
on February 5, 2014
I have had this book for several years. It is full off great recepies, my first book on liquid pottasium soaps. It is very informative, has 2 methods of the process, and explained very well. I also have experience with cold process soap making which I'm sure helps. I would recomend this book to anyone wanting to get into liquid soaps. Though I think if you would no nothing about soap making you might want to try somp cold process bar soap recepies first to understand the art a bit more. I didn't give a 5 star scince I find someone could get confused between the 2 methods, but it's unlikely if you follow it carefully. I was able to successfully formulate from scratch wonderful shampoo with nothing but the steps and recepies from this book. When attempting soap making a an accurate digital scale in small increments lbs, grams, oz, and kg is the. Ost necessary investment for this type of work to be successfull.
on October 18, 2000
Don't let the Editorial Review fool you into believing that this book is an easy to follow instruction book. READ ALL THE CUSTOMER COMMENTS BELOW the Editorial Review. Trust me, the book is not for beginners, unless you're already making soaps from complete scratch.
Don't get me wrong, the book is very well written with excellent verbage and illustrations. Catherine Failor knows her stuff and it shows, but this is book was definitely written for the "Professional" soapmakers in mind. There are a lot of chemicals listed and not refered to in "English" for the beginner.
If you're a beginner, I would highly recommend that you head for Catherine Bardey's Making Soaps & Scents book instead. It's well-laid out and its easy to follow format won't leave your mind gasping and spinning with chemical names and equations.
on August 27, 2001
I haven't tried any of the recipes in this book. However, they all look like they are doable and that they should turn out wonderful. I liked the introduction that explained what you need, why and where to get it. Easy to read and understand.