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on August 16, 2016
A nice book with plenty of information and lots of pictures. Good for beginners, but not a the best standalone. Depending on the edition, there is quite a bit of misinformation. While I enjoy having it around, there are many other books that I would rather keep in my collection before this one.

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on April 4, 2001
I would suggest to anyone that they not buy this book. The instructions on adding water to lye are dangerous. The recipes when run through a lye calculator are either very lye heavy ( making a caustic soap that will take your skin off) or have so much exess fat that they'd go rancid very quickly. This was the first soapmaking book I ever read and it almost put me off soapmaking forever. The idea that you must rebatch soap to add herbs and fragrances is silly and not at all true. Very few soapmakers rebatch unless they have to do so to salvage a bad batch. She suggests using fabric dye to color soaps, this is a very unsafe practice. She suggests using potpouri oils as fragrance, another unsafe practice and illegal if you plan on selling your soaps to the public. This book is chock full of bad information and poor advice. The photographs are lovely and inspiring but that does not make up for bad and sometimes dangerous information. For your own health and safety avoid it at all costs.
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on February 27, 1999
The title of this book leads a reader to believe that it contains a wealth of information about cold process soapmaking. It does not. Almost all of this book is devoted to "hand milling" or rebatching, a technique that most cold process soapmakers will not use except as a last resort to reclaim a failed batch of cold process soap. The reason it's not used is that it takes twice as long, and the results are unpredictable and often unsatisfactory. The two-step process requires making a batch of soap, waiting for it to cure several days, then grating the soap, melting it, adding various ingredients, and pressing the mixture into molds. If you are interested in this process, however, you'll still have to learn the basics of cold process soap, and the book is seriously deficient in that regard, particularly in its lye-handling instructions (never add water to lye, contrary to this book's instructions). Also, it's hard to imagine a "complete" soapmaking book that doesn't discuss saponification values for oils. If you're interested in learning cold process soapmaking, this is NOT the book I'd recommend.
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on March 13, 2003
First, I want to mention that in my edition, she has corrected the instructions regarding adding lye to water. Mine clearly states to add the lye to the water, which is the correct (safe) way.
After running her recipes through an online calculator, I agree that they're a bit heavy on the lye. She has zero superfatting, which for a beginner seems a little risky - if you short your oils at all your soap might turn out too caustic. I also reduce the water in her recipes by about 20% unless I'm using a fragrance oil prone to siezing. So I recommend taking her recipes and running them through a good online lye calculator and deciding for yourself if you want to reduce these - I generally use a 5% lye discount and have had great results.
This book focuses rather heavily on rebatching. Personally I enjoy rebatching but many soapers consider it a nightmare and reserve it only for failed batches. So just be aware that this book is a little shy on base soap recipes, but great if you're looking for rebatching recipes.
I also have an aversion to using tallow or other animal products, and there are only 2 base soaps that are all veggie. I would have liked to see more all-veggie recipes.
Overall I think it's a pretty good book, and I'll be keeping my copy. I just write in my own water and lye amounts. :)
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on January 18, 2000
Having only made one small batch of soap before from a very basic handmilling recipe, I wanted more information on other ingredients besides Essential oil fragrancing.Although the basics of starting with making your own HUGE 'basic soap` blocks is covered as well; and I was not looking for this; this was by far the best collection of handmilling recipes I found. With all the information made available, the first recipe I put together was a bit of a mix-and- match (with a few additional creative twists of my own) of several different recipes including some measurement info taken from the 'basics` chapters. Perhaps not everyone would want to do the mathematics involved right off the get go; but my point is that she made available all the information I needed to do a giant leap my first try. And the batch came out absolutely deliciously! I was so surprised that they came out so smooth, and there was so much information about what to look for at different times in the melting process, and when to add your sinkable ingredients. I am so grateful for this book. I am; however, sorry that the bad advice of adding cold water to hot lye will make this book less attractive to even consider by someone such as myself. I am, as well, grateful to know about that bad advice just incase I decided to try that too.
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I did not set out to make soap, but when I saw this beautiful book and looked through it, I was very inspired to make soap. Each soap is pictured beautifully and she tells about the characteristics and benefits of each specialty soap. This is a good book for beginners, she explains each step and there are color photo illustrations. Her specialty soaps have a few ingredients, not a lot of complicated ingredients that I have never heard of. I am also using other books that I got from the library. I made my first batch of a white basic soap from another book. I was very pleased that it turned out. I followed Norma Coney's instructions for hand milling. I measured the amount of water that is called for but I did not mix it into the soap. I poured a little bit of it on the bottom of the pan, added my soap and when the bottom of the pan got dry again I added some more water. I did this until all my soap was melted and I did not necessarily use up all the water. I was very pleased about the way may soap turned out. Her book is truly inspirational and beautifully done!
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on July 11, 1998
If you have never made soap before, this is an education in the history and mechanics of soap making. There is interesting information on different types of additives, i.e. fruits, vegetables, spices, and their benefits to the skin. I made the Castile Olive Oil Soap as my basic soap and found it to be easy. Remelting was a disaster, although I was able to get it into the mold. It won't ever leave the house....we will enjoy it at home. Coney's answer to every failure in the hand-milling process is to either make floating soap or Soap Balls. Had I wanted those....I would have made those. There are few answers in the troubleshooting section so the beginner (like me) is at a loss for answers. Coney frequently tells you that when you become experienced as a soap will realize what looks right. Too bad for me! The pictures are beautiful and there are plenty of ideas for molds, packaging and displaying. There were no references for product/supply distributors although there are several references to getting supplies from mail-order catalogs. Where are these catalogs? It will be a good idea book for developing your own special the future. This book was the only book about soap making on the shelf at my local bookstore. I have since ordered the Cavitch books and anxiously await their arrival.
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on January 30, 1999
I think what makes this book unique is its emphasis on hand-milling. Most other soap books I've looked at don't cover this process. Hand-milling is a second stage process where you grate up the basic soap you've made and then incorporate other additives to make elegant specialty bars. Because half of the book is devoted to this technique, I would call this an "advanced" book rather than a beginner's book. However, another nice thing about this book is the photography of the whole basic process. This helps you see what the steps are supposed to look like. So it probably isn't a bad beginner book. It's an approachable, well presented book. I'd recommend it for those who want to make animal fat based soaps. For people wanting to make vegetable oil based soaps I'd recommend buying Susan Cavitch's Natural Soap Book in addition to this one.
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on February 17, 2003
One of many soapmaking books I purchased when beginning soapmaking. Thankfully, it isn't the first one I actually used. She warns on page 34-- "don't make the mistake of adding the lye to the water" when the correct method is EXACTLY the opposite --or a SERIOUS explosion/reaction can happen. The recipes are also very "lye heavy" and she confuses "handmilling" with what soapmakers term "rebatching". I'm very concerned that this book comes highly recommended on many web sites for beginners to soapmaking. There are many better books out there that are much more informative AND accurate!! Hot and cold process soapmaking isn't teribly difficult and very rewarding, but when working with caustic chemicals, one should be well-informed. This book could seriously mislead someone.
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on May 8, 2000
It's cheaper to make soap from The Complete Soapmaker than other books because the ingredients you need (chicken grease, beef lard, olive oil, for example) are readily available and fairly inexpensive. I've been silently appalled at the cost of ingredients for recipes in The Soapmaker's Companion -- you can't find cocoanut oil or palm oil at the grocery store. The ingredients tend toward the exotic and have to be ordered via mail order. I guess I have a pioneer mentality -- I like the idea of using waste grease for something useful. I've been happy with the quality of the soaps I've made from both books, though I tend to favor The Complete Soapmaker because the recipes are more completely saponified. I don't like the slightly greasy feel of superfat soap from Soapmaker's Companion.
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