Four Types of Homemade Cold Process Soap

I dare to say that I am desperately waiting for the maple syrup season to begin.  I have a new maple syrup evaporator arriving for this season and I’m super excited to get going making maple syrup.  In the meantime, while waiting for the right conditions for maple syrup, I have been entertaining myself with making some soaps.  I started making cold process soap over 15 years ago.  I retired all my equipment about ten years ago, so I got it all out and started looking over my notes.

Well, I got started with a Clementine Buttermilk soap.  This is an old favourite recipe of mine – it never lets me down, although the scent is new for me.  This Clementine buttermilk will be ready in about six weeks.

Clementine Buttermilk Cold Process Soap Winter 2014

Clementine Buttermilk Cold Process Soap Winter 2014

Then I made a Vanilla/Amber and used my homemade vanilla ice cream as the liquid.

The next night, I made a buttermilk recipe again and scented it with Lily of the Valley.   This turned into a very pretty white soap.

Next came a whipping cream base scented with peach, I layered this one so that the bottom half was white, the next layer was gold/yellow and the top was a pink peach tone.  This picture is right out of the mold, first slice, before any trimming is done.  I like to smooth the edges of my soaps – when the soap dries, the edge can be sharp and unpleasant, when trimmed, it rolls in your hands.  Sometimes I cut these down into travel size bars, that way you can take your favourite soap with you when you travel and not feel bad about leaving a bit behind.  The travel size is also wonderful in a guest bathroom – you can change it out after your company leaves!  And use it seasonally, Christmas Soaps at Christmas etc. – this Springtime Peach is wonderful….when?  Springtime, of course!

Cold Process Springtime Peach Soap

Cold Process Springtime Peach Soap


Nanaimo bar soap was next and I scented this with Creme Brulee, Nanaimo bars have kind of custard smell, so I thought Creme Brulee worked well. I think Nanaimo bars, a favourite dessert, might be known as a Canadian treat.  I’ve never seen it in my travels outside of Canada.  Because of the layering and scenting, it was a fun soap to challenge!

This week, Dara Howell proved herself to be the best in the world when she won the Gold Medal at the Olympics in Slopestyle Skiing.  It was an amazing accomplishment and one would have a better chance of winning a lottery than to win a gold medal at the Olympics!  Our whole town is proud of Dara Howell and her accomplishment.  Personally, it made me want to do something very “Canadian”, so I made a Maple and Honey soap!  I used honey from my own farm and maple syrup that I processed last year here on the farm.  It’s layered soap – honey on the bottom and maple on the top.  This picture shows what a cold process soap looks like in the mold.  I’m pretty excited about this one and expect it to do very well at the Farmers’ Markets this summer!

Maple and Honey Cold Process Soap

Maple and Honey Cold Process Soap

So, I know I titled this four types of cold process soap, but included six.  If you would like the recipes I used, comment below, if you would like a custom soap made, comment below and I will work with you on that.  And if you would just like to share your story, comment below!

Refinishing An Old Oak Staircase

Owning an old farmhouse brings a lot or restoring, refurbishing, and refinishing. It seems that there is never a shortage of things that need attention.
This summer, I decided that it was time to refinish the staircase in my home.  Years ago, I refinished the floors in my home – the most recent owner, before me, worked for the highway department – he had some leftover paint and painted the floors with highway sign paint.  That was the first job I had to take care of.  Stripping and refinishing floors is a job I have done many times – with hard work and perseverance, my floors are beautiful.  BUT, I’ve never done the staircase, I believe that the only finish my stairs have ever seen is the Johnson and Johnson Paste Wax that was hand applied back in the 60’s and 70’s.  Unfortunately, I’ve never done anything for these stairs and the wax finished has worn away – I’m now down to bare wood.   I’ve been procrastinating for weeks on this job – anything I can do distract myself from getting this job done, I’ve been doing!  But I woke up on Saturday and decided, “TODAY’S THE DAY!!!”  So, I took some pictures of the job before I started – I donned the mask, and fired up the palm sander.

I need to wear the mask because the dust is fierce and bothers my lungs, I think it’s just smart to protect yourself that way.  These stairs are oak, so I started with a 80 grit sandpaper.  I think anything stiffer than that would have been overkill and damaging to the integrity of the wood.  It was really important to work into the corners and edges to remove all the old wax.  If I left traces of the wax, the new finish wouldn’t stick, so I worked hard to get into the corners without pressing too hard.  I thought about using a dremel to get in the corners, but it wasn’t that hard with the palm sander.

My mother was a french polisher, so I’ve had experience with refinishing and the first rule is that you always have to sand with the grain – NEVER go across the grain.  Sanding properly take patience, and it’s better to go over the surface multiple times rather than make one pass that’s too aggressive that might scratch into the grain of the wood.  It took most of the day, but I sanded patiently until I got the surface I was looking for.  Vacuum the surface and wipe with a damp cloth several times until you feel the dust is COMPLETELY gone – make sure you get right into the corners.  Get the first coat down before anyone or anything walks on the bare surface.  Let’s talk about the coating.

I chose to darken the staircase a little, I’m just tired of looking at the honey coloured oak.  I chose a dark gel stain and mixed it with a polyurethane satin finish.  I blended a quarter cup stain with one cup of polyurethane.  And I brushed it on with a natural bristle brush.  I wanted to apply the stain slowly and would rather apply two coats than one coat that was too dark.  After the second coat, I was happy with the darkness so I switched to clear coat polyurethane for the last two coats.  Between each layer of polyurethane, I waited a full 24 hours before applying the next coat.  After the drying time of 24 hours, I sanded lightly with a 400 grit and then a another pass with steel wool and another wipe with a damp cloth.  Coat the polyurethane with a thin coat, if you try to layer too much polyurethane on, you will slow the drying time enormously – better to put two thin coats.  Also, I have chosen to finish my steps in a satin finish, my choices would be high gloss or satin, in this old house, I felt satin was the best choice, that being said, with satin you must stir while you are applying to keep the particles that give the satin look suspended in the polyurethane, otherwise you will end up with the high gloss finish.  Never shake polyurethane because you will put air bubbles in the gel that are just about impossible to sand out, only stir before and during use.

Now your floors are finished!