Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Class: Make Meltable Transparent Soap ~with David Critchfield~

It has been 8 years since I took my first melt and pour soap making class. To tell you the truth it seems like it was only yesterday. But since taking that first class back in April 2002, I have purchased a lot of soap base and was wondering if it was possible to make my own soap base.

Earlier this year I saw this Meltable Transparent Soap class offered at The Nova Studio. I originally signed up for the class in February 2010, but unfortunately the class had to be canceled. So I put my name on the list for the next available date which was on June 13, 2010. After I signed up for the class, I was at my local used bookstore and found that they had a copy of Catherine Failor's Making Natural Liquid Soap. I had intended to read the book prior to the class, but I did not immediately read it.

So as the date was approaching I was getting a little apprehensive and not sure if I wanted to actually take the class because I took David's Liquid Soap Making class nearly two years ago and I felt making liquid soap was not my cup of tea. I found out that liquid soap was a lot more difficult than making an soap in bar form. I decided what the heck, what do I have to lose? I plunged ahead and read Catherine's book a day before the class and made the trek over to Point Richmond.

About midway through the class, I was extremely happy how things were going. And I am truly glad that I decide to make the class after all. I wound up learning a lot more than I thought. First thing, learned was that the recipes in Catherine's book were not meltable, which is major disadvantage for me. I really wanted to be able to make a soap base and be able to remelt the batch at a later date. Even though her process seemed simple enough, I really did not like how Catherine used alcohol in her batches. The way David taught the classes was like making hot process soap in a crockpot/slow cooker. This was great because I had taken the hot process soap making class at The Nova Studio and already had purchased a slow cooker so I was already halfway home. Second, I really liked learning about certain ingredients that appear in Life of the Party brand of soap base. Some of these ingredients were used as substitutes for other natural products and also were to insure shelf life. David also discussed about solvents. And one particular came up was glycerin. Glycerin is found in most "commercial" soap bases and has a purpose but it often makes a bar of soap sticky and sweat. David's recipe does not include glycerin and it will be interesting to see how a bar turns out. Third, the soap base that you buy at Michaels that has the olive oil etc in it only has a small amount in the soap base. And lastly, the recipe demonostrated in class makes a womping 7 3/4 pounds of soap which can be used immediately unlike Catherine's recipe you have to wait two weeks before you can use it. Just want to let you know if you make a batch of David's soap and you allow it to harden in a large mold to be used later, it will be an amber color. But if you slice it and remelt the soap, it will become clear.

This class will focus on creating a transparent soap that is as “natural” as possible, but which employs man made solvents to achieve transparency. This class will include a discussion about the use of both natural and man made ingredients in transparent soap and the trade-offs involved. The only thing that concerned me was being able to purchase sorbital. It maybe difficult to purchase in small amounts, but David graciously sold one pound increments and I took him up on his offer. Since David's recipe calls for 17 oz. I purchased two pounds. I guess I will worry about purchasing more when I get to making my second batch.

This demonstration style class covers a discussion and demonstration on how transparent soap is made. It is important to understand that by sticking with mostly "natural" or "naturally-sourced" ingredients, it's impossible to achieve a very clear, hard bar of soap. Natural-ingredient transparent soaps are always going to be more amber in color, slightly milky (as opposed to crystal clear), and a bit softer than their detergent-based, synthetic counterparts. What was really interesting is that the sample we received was pretty close to clear. David did show the class a batch that was cooled in a larger block and you could really see the amber coloring. But David did say that if you melted the bar down into smaller bars, the clarity would be more apparent.

Just to let you know that the making of transparent soap from start to finish takes longer that 3 hours, so parts of the process will be pre-made (where necessary). Each student will take home 1 full-sized bar of soap (in a to-go container) made in the class, to cure at home and handouts which include the recipe made in class, as well as instructions.

I would highly recommend this class for seasoned cold or hot process soap makers, but it is great for someone who makes their soap by the melt and pour method. It is truly worth taking. For those who are interested, three are some requirements in taking the class. This is an intermediate-level soap making class and is designed for students who have either taken our Cold Process 101 Class, the 2-day Soap Boot Camp, or who have experience making soap from scratch on their own. If you have never made soap from scratch before (cold process or hot process), you must first take our Cold Process 101 Soap Class which demonstrates soap making using a 4-pound batch and teaches all the basics (including lye safety) needed for all beginning soap makers.

Are you ready to take this class? Then check out The Nova Studio's website and see when the next time this class is offered.


Lori at The Nova Studio said...

HI Lori! Thanks so much for that thorough review of David's very first Transparent Soap Class. I'm glad you liked it and feel like you will tackle the project on your own. Let me know how your first batch comes out! I'm sure you'll blog about it. Happy Soaping to you!

Lori Stoia said...

I will let everyone know how my first batch turns out.

Anne-Marie said...

Looks like a lot of fun. I've heard that David is a phenomenal teacher - it sounds like you had a fantastic experience.