To make soap you need Lye, which is an alkaline made from filtering water through ashes. Wear gloves- lye is strong and will burn skin and clothing.

Ingredients: Small wooden barrel ,glass container or a smaller wooden barrel  ,old iron pot or steel pan  , extra containers ,wooden molds  ,cloth , waterproof gloves

Making the L

Drill a number of holes in the bottom of a small wooden barrel- make sure its waterproof before you drill the holes! Stand the barrel on blocks, leaving space beneath the barrel for a container. Use a waterproof wood or glass container. Lye can burn through some metals. Put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the barrel over the holes, then put a layer of straw over the gravel. Fill the rest of the barrel with hardwood ash (NOTE: hardwood – NOT softwood), leaving a couple of inches at the top clear. Then pour rainwater into the barrel. After a long time the water in the barrel will start to drip into the container. Leave it ’till it stops, then replace the container with another in case of odd drips. Use an old iron pot, or a steel pan (One you will not be using for anything else!). Boil the liquid until it is so concentrated that a fresh egg (still in it’s shell) will float on top. Then destroy the egg. Remember to take all precautions to not let the liquid touch your skin or clothing.

To test the strength of the lye you need a saturated solution of salt. Dissolve chemical free salt in a pint of water until no more salt will dissolve. Take a stick and put a small weight on the end of it and float it in a pint of the salty water. The weight will sink to the bottom, while the top of the stick will float. Make a mark on the stick where it reaches the water line. Then float the stick and weight in a pint of lye. The mark on the stick will probably be above the water mark of the lye. If so, stir in some more rainwater until the mark on the stick is in exactly the same place it was in the salt water. You now have the correct distillation of lye for making soap. Fat can be taken from beef, sheep or pig. Beef fat is best. If you are a vegetarian, you can use vegetable oil, or better still olive oil. The fat must not be rancid. Render the fat by adding it to an equal quantity of water by weight. In other words weigh the fat, then the water- their weights should be equal. Boil the fat until it is in a liquid state. Leave to cool. The solid fat will float to the top of the water. Remove the fat carefully. You need about one pint of lye to two pounds of fat. Mix well, adding any fresh herbs finely cut, or a tisane of the herb boiled down and concentrated and add a small amount. Perfume or colour can be added also, but they must be alcohol free. Alcohol will ruin the soap. You can get natural colouring from many plants. Boil the plant in water until highly concentrated, then swirl and mix into the still warm soap mix. Carrot, beetroot, grass, woad, spinach, and many more plants can be used for coloring and scenting.

Now you need moulds to cast the soap in. Either several’soap-size’, or a large one from which you can cut the soap into pieces. Wooden moulds are best; glass will also make fine moulds. Line the mould with fabric. The fabric should be damp, as should the container, then pour the soap mix into it to set. After twenty four hours the soap should be reasonably hard. Turn it out gently onto a lined tray, steel, iron, glass or wood and remove the fabric from the soap. Cut the soap with a cheese wire or sharp knife into the size you need your cakes of soap to be. Store soap in a draught and frost free place for two weeks. The soap can then be used. If you keep the soap for six months, it will be even better, and will equal, if not surpass, any soap bought in a shop.

Do take note of all the warnings. It is your responsibility to make sure that the lye is carefully and safely handled, and that it cannot be touched by young children or other people in your home.

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