DIY Soap Molds

Do you like soap?  So do I.  Especially the ones that have a nice, creamy lather and smell fresh and clean.  You too?

Yes, I knew we would be friends! 😀

Every time I go to a craft faire or farmer’s market, I seek out the booths that have those wonderfully scented, beautifully decorated soaps.  I always go for the lavender, lemon verbena or any of the naturally scented soaps. I really enjoy talking with the soapmaker about what is actually in the soap, and have paid anywhere from 3 to 8 dollars for a bar of soap, and was glad to pay it!

So it was a natural progression that I would try to make some myself.  But first, I needed some basic equipment, including a soap mold!

Make your own wooden soap mold

You can use just about anything as a soap mold – old shoeboxes, food boxes, milk cartons and loaf pans. All that is needed is waxed paper or parchment paper to line the container!

Naturally, I did a lot of research in books and on the web, and found that I could use just about any bread loaf pan, shoebox or plastic food container to use as my soap mold, as long as it was carefully lined with waxed paper or parchment paper.

Then I found this website at Lowes:

It shows how to make a round soap mold out of PVC pipe and a loaf type mold out of wood.

The round soap mold is easy peasy – just buy a foot or two length of 3″ (inside diameter measurement) PVC pipe and two end caps.  In the picture, you see the white PVC pipe and end caps.  I bought my PVC at Home Depot because they have 2 foot lengths already cut – no need to buy an entire 10 foot long piece of pipe!  The pipe itself cost $7.75 and the end pieces were $6.21 each, and with tax it came to a little over $20.00.  I didn’t mind spending that much money because I knew I would be using the mold over and over again and it could make several pounds of soap at a time!

How to make a round soap mold

The hardware store made my round soap mold for me!

The wooden mold was a bit more involved.  The Lowe’s tutorial can be a bit tricky to understand, but basically you are just making a wooden box.

However, after looking at several retail websites for molds, I decided I wanted a mold that would be adjustable for larger or smaller batches of soap.  After a bit of thought, this is what my husband made for me:

soap mold

The finished product. Isn’t it a beauty?!

You can see that the end of the box is stationary and screwed into the sides.  The the opposite end is adjustable to four different sizes!  Just unscrew the wing nuts, pull out the screws (which go through all thicknesses of wood) move up or down the box depending on how large your batch of soap is, push the screw back through the holes, screw the wing nut back on, et voila!  I sized the box to handle batches of two, three, four and five pounds of soap.  The width is 3-1/2 inches wide and so is the height, so if I want to make a square soap, I just fill the mold up to the top.  Or, for a smaller soap, I can fill the mold to whatever desired height I want.

Isn’t my husband the greatest!

So, here is how he did it:

DIY wooden soap mold

First, we started out with two 1″x4″ poplar boards, one was 2 feet long and the other was 3 feet long.  You can buy these already cut.  Buy one 1″x6″ poplar board 2 feet long.  You will also need two 6″ long screws, 2 wing nuts and 2 hex bolts (the long screws).  We used 14 wood screws to put the box together, but the box is actually longer than what is needed to make a 5 pound batch of soap!  I’m thinking of having my dearest drill a few more holes into the sides, so I can make a couple of batches of soap at a time in the same mold!  Of course, I will also need another end piece for adjustment.

                                         ♫ Oh sweetheart…  

Back to the project 😀

Make your own wooden soap molds

Measure 3-1/2 inches, which is the inside measurement between the two sides of the box.

First, the 3 foot long 1″ x 4″  was cut to 2 feet long, to match the other 1″ x 4″.  The left over board is what makes the ends. We measured and marked the bottom board 3-1/2 inches apart, which is where the inside of the boards would be placed.  This was so that we would have a standard 3-1/2 inch bar of soap.

DIY adjustable soap mold

You should always pre-drill the holes so that the wood will not split when you insert the screws!

The sides were then screwed from the bottom into the 1 x 6 board.  Because we didn’t want the screw heads to scratch anything, Ray counter-sank the screws into the wood.

Next, with the 1 x 4 board that was cut off, measure two pieces to be 3-1/2 inches wide and carefully cut those as straight as possible.  These are your end pieces.  Screw one of the end pieces between the sides, flush with the end.  This is your stationary end.

DIY adjustable soap mold

The green tape is a guide to where the holes in the side walls will be. The stationary end has been screw into place

Now, as carefully as possible (this is where a drill press would come in handy), drill two holes through the length of the 3-1/2 end piece.  Ray was able to do this without a drill press or even a drill guide.  If you are drilling the holes free-hand, you really should have someone watch to make sure you are perfectly vertical with your drill bit.DIY adjustable soap mold

Now, measure your holes.  If you were successful in keeping your holes perpendicular, they should be about the same distance apart on both sides.  If not, you might need to adjust your holes a bit.  Now, with the adjustable piece laying as it will in the mold, measure from the bottom up to the center of each hole, then transfer these measurements onto the side board about six inches from inside the end.  The purpose is so that when you thread the hex bolt through one side, it will go through the adjustable end piece and through the other side.  Drill those holes.  Test to see that the screw goes through the side holes and through the end piece.  Now, do the same on the opposite side.  Test again to make sure the screws go through the entire run of wood.  You may need to ream the holes out a bit to get the screws to work through. That’s okay – nobody’s perfect!  Screw on the wing nut.  That’s the first set of holes.  Now, go onto the next set of holes in the sides, then the next.

DIY adjustable soap mold

All of the holes have been drilled and tested.

After reading about the sizes of the soap molds, we spaced the holes as follows:  From the inside of the stationary end, place the adjustable end at 6 inches.  This will make about a 2 pound loaf.  Then, space the holes on the sides every 3 inches to make 3 pound, 4 pound, or a 5 pound loaf of soap.  Of course, this is approximate and you will have to experiment with your recipes. The last set of holes for a 5 pound recipe of soap will be approximately 15 inches from inside the stationary end to inside the adjustable end.  DIY Wooden Soap Mold

So, all of you soapers out there, what do you think?  Isn’t this mold the coolest?

Now – on to making some soap!


Thank you for stopping by!  Please make my day and leave a comment, ask a question or just tell me how your day is going in the comment space below!



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Rendering Lard – Two Ways

Wendy, my daughter-in-law, has a dear friend, Spring, who is developing a sustainable farm that includes goats, chickens and pigs.  Spring is an RN who is interested in naturopathic remedies, especially essential oils, and is also busy with her four children.  She recently had her two hogs butchered and saved the fat.  When my daughter-in-law mentioned that I was rendering tallow to make soap, Spring wondered if I would like to have the pig fat to render into lard.  Yes Please!  🙂  Thanks, Spring!

When I got the hog fat, it was separated into two different bags, each hog’s fat in it’s own bag. Spring was nice enough to have it frozen for me, so all I had to do was pop it into my ice chest and take it home, where I could thaw it in our outside refrigerator just in case it got stinky. 😉  Then, just like when I rendered some beef fat into tallow, I did quite a bit of research on the internet to see how other people render their hog fat into lard and found quite a few different ways to do it!  I decided to try rendering the lard two different ways and see which method I liked to render lard

The first method involved using my crock pot.  Since the crock pot delivers an even but low heat, it was recommended that the fat be ground up first.  I took out my handy-dandy Kitchen Aid, and with the grinder attachment and began grinding hog fat pieces.  Almost   immediately the machine bogged down and balked, and I barely had a cup of the fat ground up when I had to turn the machine off so that it wouldn’t overheat!  Then I cleaned out the cutting plate and realized that the fat still had quite a bit of skin left on (not always easy to see), and this was clogging the machine.  I continued to grind the hog fat after cutting off the skin.  But the machine still balked, so I ended dicing up the last of the fat.

rendering lardBefore the ground up fat was placed in the crockpot, about 1/2 cup of water was put in first (this prevents scorching of the fat, but evaporates off as the lard is rendered) and the crockpot was allowed to heat up on the lowest setting.  After the water in the crockpot was hot, I poured the pig fat in, placed the lid on and left it for about 1/2 hour.  I then gave it a good stir, and left the fat to render another 1/2 hour.  After a hour, I could see that there was 1/2 liquid fat and 1/2 still clear white solid fat, so I let it go for another hour, checking on it and stirring about every 10-15 minutes.

Once the solid pieces began to turn just a slight shade of beige-orange, I knew the lard had been rendered enough and it was time to separate the liquid lard from the solids. Apparently if you let the little solid pieces brown with the fat, the lard will be darker and take on a “piggy” to render lard in a crockpot  Since I eventually want to make soap and pastries with the lard, this would not be acceptable. Again, after roaming around on Google, I found that there are quite a few ways to strain the impurities out, and I decided to use the coffee filter method for this batch.  As you can see from the picture (click on any picture to make it bigger), I laid an unbleached coffee filter in a large strainer, and placed that over a funnel in a canning jar. The fat strained easily through the filter and was crystal clear with a light yellow tinge to it in the jar!  I ended up with  about 1-1/2 pints of lard from that batch.  Once the lard had cooled in the refrigerator, it was as white as snow!rendering lard

The second method was much quicker.  The fat was diced into fairly small pieces, placed into a pot with about 1/2 cup of water, then set over a medium low flame.  I could hear the fat start to crackle almost immediately, and I realized this method was going to involve a bit rendering lard how to more tending to than the crock pot method required, with constant stirring to prevent scorching.  With this method, the fat was rendered to about the same stage as the crock pot method in just 20-ish minutes! In fact, it happened so fast I forgot to look at the clock! One thing that I forgot to mention is the salt.  I read in a few books and a couple of blogs that it’s important to add some salt while the rendering is taking place, so that the resulting lard will be more solid and make harder soaps.  Therefore, I added one teaspoon of sea salt to each batch before I started to render lard in a crockpot I brought the rendering pot inside to separate the fat from the impurities, and decided to use the hot water method for this batch.  With the hot water method, a strainer is placed over a bowl of almost boiling hot water, and the rendered fat is poured into the strainer.  The impurities in the fat that go through the strainer simply fall down into the water while the clean fat floats on top. After a night in the refrigerator, the lard had solidified into a solid white disc, which I froze for future use.crockpot rendering


First:  It stinks.  Seriously.  Don’t render fat in your house if you can help it.  If you do render in the house, use your exhaust fan on high.

Second:  Rendered fat is hot.  Boiling hot!  Be careful around children, dogs, bare legs and feet!

Third:  DON”T clean your pots and pans in the sink without wiping them out first! Lard and/or tallow will clog your pipes!

Fourth:  It’s fun and you will get hooked.  Your friends and family will look at you strangely when you ask them to save all their beef or hog fat for you.

freshly rendered lard strained through an unbleached coffee filter - light pale yellow yet clear!

Freshly rendered lard strained through an unbleached coffee filter.  It starts out light pale yellow, yet clear, then cools to snow white creamy lard!

My verdict?  I prefer the quick method of rendering.  It just took too long to grind the fat and the clean-up was much more involved!  It was simple enough to just dice the cold fat up (skin and all), throw it into the pot and render on medium low heat for 20-30 minutes.  I may try dicing up the fat like I did for the pot, yet rendering it in the crockpot.  We’ll see.

My choice for getting the impurities out of the fat was the method using the coffee filter and strainer.  It just seemed a lot easier because the filtered fat went straight into jars, ready for the fridge, without much trouble.  The other method of pouring the fat through hot water took more time and effort because it was necessary for the fat to form a solid disc before it could be taken out of the bowl with the water.  Also, there was still a thin layer of those “impurities” that stuck to the underside of the fat disc and I had to scrape them off.

how to render lardWhat will I do with the lard?  First, I would like to make soap.  I have sensitive skin and get “the itchies” quite often after a bath or shower if I don’t get every trace of chemical off my body.  Chemical?  Yes.  Most soaps purchased in retail stores include substances such as  polyquaternium-6, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, pentasolium pentetate…., well, just look at the label in the picture above!  Now, go ahead and read what’s in yours.  You will probably be shocked. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather use soap made with just four or five ingredients:  lard (or tallow), olive oil, sodium hydroxide, and essential oils! Since I am trying (really hard) to be a locavore, I prefer not to use coconut or palm kernel oil.  Though those are wonderful, silky, lather producing oils, they are not produced locally, which raises their carbon footprint which renders them non-sustainable.

The other use for lard is, of course, in cooking.  I am going to make a pie crust for my first cooking experiment with the lard. I must admit that I have never cooked with lard before because I was afraid of it.  Cholesterol!  Hardening of the arteries!  Triglycerides!  All that stuff.  Now we find out that the alternatives (margarine, canola oil and partially hydrogenated anything) are worse than the good old fashioned lard!  It’s time to get back to basics, folks, and eat real food.

Besides, I hear lard makes a delectable, flaky, golden brown crust, and when it comes to pie, I’m all about the crust!


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Rendering Tallow

A few weeks ago I bought about 15 pounds of untrimmed tri-tip roasts.  My plan was to trim the fat off the meat and make Beef In Red Wine Sauce – which was fantastic! Now, what to do with all the fat trimmings?  Render it down into tallow!  I used to do this years ago, when I was learning a few homesteading skills.  My purpose for rendering the tallow at that time was to use it in deep fat frying. Unfortunately, that’s when we started hearing more and more about how bad it was to fry food in animal fats, so I stopped doing it. What a shame. Of course, the trend is sliding the other way, and now it apparently isn’t so bad after all! 🙂 However, I hear that tallow also makes a wonderful soap, and since I have always wanted to learn how to make soap from scratch, my first step into soap making will be to render a nice batch of tallow!

Here we go!

How to render tallowI started out with a big bowl of fat that I had kept cold in the refrigerator, which makes it easier to work with. The first step is to cut most of the meat off the fat.  You don’t have to get every single piece, but I understand that too much meat left on the fat will give your tallow just a tad bit of an odor. If you are cooking with your tallow, this isn’t such a big deal, but since I want to make soap from this tallow, it was essential that I get most of the meat off.  Of course, I guess if I wanted meat scented soap…

Don’t laugh!  I hear bacon scented anything is the rage now! 😉

Once the fat is clean of the last bits of meat,How to render tallow to make soap you can either cut it up with a knife into small chunks, or use your food processor to get smaller chunks, or do as I did and grind the fat in a meat grinder.  For me, this was the easiest and quickest way.  Whichever method you choose to get small pieces of fat – keep your fat cold or even frozen!  If the fat gets warm, it is really hard to work with, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, the smaller your pieces of fat are, the faster it is rendered, which means the less energy you will use to render it!


As you can see, I started with 3 pounds, 5-3/4 ounces of ground beef fat.tallow for soap making Warning:  rendering tallow or lard can be a stinky enterprise!  If you want a sweet smelling house, render outside! 🙂  I love canning and cooking outside, so rendering the fat outside is fun for me anyway. How to render tallowPlace the pot over medium low heat – not too hot, but warm enough to melt the fat.  You also don’t want it bubbling so rapidly that it will make a terrible mess.  Trust me.  Keep it down to a happy simmer.  Once you start to see some fat separating, give it a good stir, then stir it about every 5 minutes or so. How to render beef fat The whole process takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on how big (or small) your fat pieces were to begin with and how much fat you are rendering.  What you want to see is that the pieces in the pot are starting to look crispy when you lift them out with a spoon, and the fat in the pot is an amber color. Pull the pan off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare your jars.  I like to wash my jars out, fill them with water and pop them in the microwave for a few minutes.  I then take out the very hot jars (careful), pour out the boiling hot water and dry them quickly.  Not only does this sterilize the jars, but now I have hot jars to pour a hot liquid into!  Never pour a hot liquid into a cold jar or, worse, cold liquid into a hot jar!How to get pure beef fat Next, just pour the melted fat through a strainer into your jar or bowl.  Be very careful while doing this, because we are talking about molten lava  very hot melted fat at this point!how to render beef fat  Not a time to have kids and dogs running through the kitchen!  You can see that I got almost exactly one quart (four cups) of beef tallow.  Since I am going to use this tallow in soapmaking, I wanted to get out as many impurities as I could.  When you look at the bottom of your bowl or jar, you may see a thin layer of “sludge” at the bottom.  Since I didn’t want any sludge impurities in my soap, I poured about a cup of hot water into the hot fat, stirred it a bit, then let it set.  Since fat floats, and the impurities fall to the bottom due to gravity, once the fat solidifies all you have to do is lift it off the water and pour the water and impurities down the drain.  rendering beef fatWipe off the bottom of the now creamy white solidified pure tallow with a paper towel to get the water off, pop into a freezer bag, and throw it into your freezer.

Done! Getting pure beef tallow from fat

Perfect for soapmaking!

Now I need to find a good recipe to make soap.  Hmmm…. I’m thinking one with goat’s milk and/or olive oil would be fun to start with!  Do you have any good, easy (remember, I’m a first timer) soapmaking recipes you think I should start with?

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