What I found with my first try at Soap Making from scratch

To start with

Lye Soap is a misnomer.  The recipe for soap is Water plus Lye makes a liquid that is added to oil.  The chemical reaction is called Saponification.  Saponification converts the Oil (fat) to Soap.  No Lye should remain once the soap is cured.

Water + Lye + Fat = Soap. 


First off, no, I am not talking Melt and Pour.  That process is where you buy a big block of soap base, slice it down, melt it in a pot, add colors and scents, and pour into a mold.

May as well buy it at the store.

This is the actual “chemistry” side of things.  If you are good at Chemistry, Baking, Measuring precisely, you probably can do this.

Second, Lye.

There is always a warning about Lye, and a disclaimer.

By using this information, you acknowledge that your are voluntarily agreeing to not hold Ramblingmoose, and all people within free of any responsibilities and liabilities due to damage, injury, loss of bodily function or death.  This is to be interpreted in the broadest possible terms.

Wild huh?  Needs to be.  And it is by no means complete.  Both the disclaimer and these notes.  Do your research.

Lye, in the strengths you will be using, is a highly caustic chemical.  Lye can burn, and the fumes that result from the chemical reactions between Lye and Water, and the mixture of Lye and Water when added to oils and fats can be toxic.

When I mixed my Lye and Water, I used plastic containers, plastic utensils, and did it outdoors.  Some people say that you can do this indoors, I say no.  Mix your Lye by adding Lye to Water, and never the other way around.  Do so slowly and outdoors, even if you have a really great stove hood that is vented outside.  Use plastic or stainless steel to mix Lye.

Never Use Aluminum.

The chemical gasses that are given off are poisonous when you add Lye to Water.

All products are caustic until at least partial curing happens.  Keep White Vinegar nearby to neutralize anything then flush with a lot of water.

On the other hand, you probably can make this.   

Furthermore, Always use 100% Lye.  You can buy Food Grade Lye online for Soap Making and Baking.  Never use the drain cleaner from under the sink – it has probably aluminum in it and you don’t want.  You can use drain cleaner only if it is CLEARLY labeled 100% Lye.

Remember only use 100% Lye.  It comes in granules like grains of sand or flakes.  I found mine at an old school hardware store and it says that it is a drain cleaner.

Third – your choice of oils.

This started because we found a very large bottle of rather high grade olive oil.  It did not smell “off” but it was past the sell by date by a year and a half.

Being thrifty I remembered that Castile Soap was made from Olive Oil, Lye, and Water.

I began to look for videos on Youtube for them and frankly there are so many soap recipes there that I won’t bother including one.  A Three Ingredient Soap Recipe will make a great product.

Olive Oil, Lye, Water = Castile Soap.  You know, the stuff you pay five dollars minimum a bar at a posh market?  How does $.75 a bar sound?  Or less if you are using leftover oils like I am.

But I am writing this to remind myself in a couple months how I did this the first time and how to tweak things at that point.

And soaps cure at different speeds.  While pure Castile soap takes 4 to 6 MONTHS to fully cure, others take 4 to 6 WEEKS to cure.  I am expecting what I made this first time to be “weeks rather than months” and will check in six weeks by using it in the shower.

Then I went to the cupboard and discovered that I had some Cold Pressed Sesame Oil, and some Coconut Oil both of which were out of date.

I bought some Shea Nut Tree Oil for the project since I wanted a softer soap that would help with dry hands, and added that to my selection.

What I am getting at is that if it is a natural oil, it can probably be used to make soap.   Every single oil out there has their own chemical profile.  Some are silky soft like the Shea Butter and Shea Nut Oil.  Others build a firm soap to counteract the softer shea butter – like Coconut Oil.  The chemical profiles will change the way your soap will react with your skin.  If you have sensitive skin, consider adding oils that are commonly used in hand creams like Aloe, Shea Nut, and Jojoba.

Furthermore, all this fiddly stuff is basically an Algebra Equation.  That means that someone has already written a calculator that will tell you how much Water and Lye mixture you shall add to your oils.  You enter in your quantity of oils in ounces or grams, and tell the calculator that you want to have a solid or a liquid soap, and it spits out a recipe.  Easy huh?

My weird Kitchen Castoff Soap was a simple recipe –

7.4 Oz Coconut Oil

6 Oz Sesame Oil

2 Oz Shea Nut Oil

5.08 Oz Water

2.28 Oz Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)

Fragrance Essential Oils would be added, I used 1/2 Ounce or 14 grams of Rosemary Essence Oil.

While this is a “Cold Process Soap Recipe”, technically it is not a “Castile” soap because there is no Olive oil in it.  Won’t matter, I’m looking for something for sensitive skin first time out.

It made for a small batch of five smallish soap bars.  It is curing and will remain curing for six weeks to harden.  After four days, it is noticeably more firm than it was on day 2.

Fourth – Assembling Supplies.

No Aluminum – Ever.

Everything used should be either Plastic or Stainless Steel.

Silicone can be used for molds.

Parchment Paper worked best to line the molds.

Individual soap bars can be made in a loaf in a silicone bread pan, then sliced on day 2 by using a dough cutter that is typically stiff plastic or stainless steel.

Silicone individual soap bar molds are available.

Plastic handled Silicone Tipped Spatula to scrape the soap out of the mixing bowl.

Disposable container to mix Lye into Water (in that order).

Container to mix oils.

Measuring cups – glass or plastic.

Electrically powered stick mixer is pretty much a requirement.

You should take a trip to the kitchen and see what you can “sacrifice” to Soap Making.  You really don’t want your soap supplies to mix with your cooking supplies since you will never get all that residue off of things.  Take a Sharpie or Paint and write “Soap” on these supplies.

No, really, keep things separate.

Then go to the local thrift store, then the dollar store, then perhaps a Kitchen supply house in that order.

Why in that order?

Because of price.  I got my 4 Quart (3.8 Liter) stainless steel Farberware pot for $4, and a Stick Mixer for $6.   Also found silicone spatulas and plastic mixing spoons for $.50 each.  Soap Molds?  They were there for $.25 each.  Measuring Cup was a Dollar.

I made do with some old plastic Cottage Cheese containers for mixing Lye into Water.  It got recycled anyway!

The Thrift Stores are your friend.

The Dollar Stores sometimes also have Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter, but make sure that they are Pure and have nothing else listed in the ingredients.

I got my Lye at an Ace Hardware at 5.38 a pound.  It was clearly listed as 100% Lye, and was sold as Drain Cleaner.

White Vinegar for neutralizing any Lye, or Water/Lye, or Soap mix that gets on your hands.  All products are caustic until at least partial curing happens.

Finally Beauty Supply houses may be helpful.

Of course there is always online.  The Lye Calculator has affiliate links so that they can pay for that wonderful Lye Calculator page that they wrote.

Fifth – How I made my first batch.

I gathered all my gear together in the kitchen.

Measured out my Ice Water – the water should be as cold as possible without any chunks of ice.

I set the water in a plastic cottage cheese container inside my stainless steel mixing pot, then surrounded the cottage cheese container with ice.

The reason for all this cold water is that Lye reacts with water to create Heat, Noxious Poisonous Fumes, and the Water and Lye that you need to add to your oils.  The colder you have the water, the better.  It will become hot to the touch and you need the Water/Lye mix to be close to the same temperature as your Oils when you go to mix your soap.

Mix your Oils – All my oils were liquid.  Knowing that the Water/Lye mix was going to be hot, I heated my oils to 120F or about 50C.  Approximately.  My house is warm enough to keep Virgin Coconut Oil soft or even liquid in the winter months – this is South Florida after all.

I placed the oils in a plastic cottage cheese holding container and set aside.

Weighing out the precise amount of Lye, I walked it outside where I had previously set the ice water.  It was on a table next to my garden hose in case it splashed.  More importantly, a gallon of White Vinegar was sitting next to the table in case of emergency.

White Vinegar will neutralize Lye better than Water.

Getting a plastic teaspoon in one hand, I began to SLOWLY pour the lye into the ice water and stir it as I mixed things.  As it mixed, the water clouded up, and there was a production of gasses.

I continued slowly adding lye to the now warming water in the cup in the middle of the ice bath while stirring and making certain not to breath in the fumes.  Luckily I had a very light breeze that way off the ocean blowing the fumes off.

Once the Water/Lye mix was complete, I left it there to cool.  Removing it from the ice bath when it got roughly room temperature, I dumped out the ice water and dried out my pot thoroughly.

Next, I added the Oils Mixture to the mixing pot.

Adding the Water/Lye mixture to the Oils Mixture is done slowly.  Using the long plastic mixing spoon I had, I poured the lye into the Oils seeing an immediate clouding of the oils signifying the beginning of the Saponification Reaction that converts fats, water and lye into soap.

I was told that I could get the soap to change into a stiff pudding consistency in about 45 minutes max.  That was wrong.  I made the mistake of stirring this by hand for 50 minutes.  I saw a very slight thickening from a watery oil to a semi thick motor oil consistency.

I could have poured this all into molds and stopped however I had more to do.  Liquid Castile Soap made with the right recipe will firm up in a day if placed in the mold in the right conditions.

At this point I added in the one half ounce of Rosemary Essence and stirred this by hand before using the stick blender.   It was still quite liquid.

Then I brought it into the kitchen and mixed it with pulses from the Stick Blender.

It immediately thickened into something that looked like soft peaks in a meringue, or a not completely set pudding.

Next time I make soap, I will stir with the big plastic spoon for “A Couple Minutes” (arbitrary amount of time) then immediately come in and use the stick blender.

There’s a reason why electric tools are made!

Finally I scooped the soap into the molds that were lined with Baker’s Parchment Paper.  One was lined with plastic wrap and a third was unlined.  Stick with the Parchment Paper, it was absolutely the easiest to remove the bars from the molds.

Once removed from the molds, I placed the soap into a large cardboard box to cure.  Covering the soap with a towel helps to keep the curing bars from getting dusty.

Curing takes between 4 and 6 weeks.  It allows the Saponification Reaction to finish converting the fats in the oil and the Lye to Soap.  The longer you allow it to cure the less caustic the soap will be.

Be Patient.  A longer Cure is better than a shorter one.

Now I wait.  Some time around May 2, my soap will be ready to use.


Watching all those videos put a scare in to me that I am glad I had.  Adding Lye to Water I got a sniff of the fumes they were talking about.  Dilute and a small accidental sniff, it was an evil acrid, smell.

Like I said, add Lye to Water and do so outdoors.

When I de-molded the soap, it left a little on the outside of the mold.  By the time I got around to cleaning the molds, the soap was strong but I was able to get a first “test”.  Not bad.  The Shea Butter helped to leave my hands silky smooth.

Looking forward to May to try this out safely.


Why dont you ever see rhinos hiding in trees? They’re good at it!

A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds.

Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair.

He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not.

He went back and begged the friars to close.
They ignored him.

So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to “persuade” them to close.

Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he’d be back if they didn’t close up shop.
Terrified, they did so thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

I’m not bragging, but I made six figures this year so they named me the year’s worst employee at the toy factory…

The Thumb King

Once upon a time, there was a Land of Fingers.

Everyone who lived in the Land of Fingers was, appropriately enough, a Finger.

All the Fingers, from mighty Index to cute little Pinky lived together in peace and harmony.

Then one day came Thumb. Thumb was like the Fingers, but different. Shorter, sturdier. Turns out, Thumb worked quite well with the individual Fingers, and everyone found that they could perform better and do more with Thumb’s help.

Thumb became so useful to the Fingers that soon they found they could not live without his help.

Thumb began to make demands of the Fingers; first it was just more pay, but then he wanted more and more. A diamond-studded glove, a luxury car, the list of demands became longer and longer.

But what could the Fingers do? They resented Thumb’s demands, but needed his help far too much to risk alienating him.

Eventually, Thumb was elected King. And if you think regular Thumb was demanding, King Thumb was worse.

Soon, all the Fingers began to resent King Thumb, for his rulings were tyrannical, and he never, ever trimmed his nail.

The Fingers began to despair, for they feared they would never be able to stand up to King Thumb.

Until one day, when Pinky realized that the Fingers could indeed stand up to the tyranny of King Thumb.


Until then, everyone thought that it was impossible to stand up to Thumb, but Pinky remembered that all Thumbs are, in fact, opposable.

Installing a Software Defined Radio on Debian Linux 9 using RTL-SDR

So this one is so simple that it’s only three steps (as root)

  • Get the radio – and a GOOD antenna.  The one that came with the thing is crap.  www.rtl-sdr.com is a good first resource to learn about this stuff, but you should be able to get one online from $10 to $20.
  • Install the driver software – It’s in the Repository.  apt install rtl-sdr librtlsdr-dev
  • Install the tuner of your choice – gqrx is in the Repo.  apt install gqrx-sdr

Then have fun.  This was GQRX and the RTL-SDR tuned into Radio Martí En Español from my South Florida home.  Your Income Tax Dollars At Work.  I clearly need a better antenna for Shortwave.

A short description.  RTL-SDR is a Software Defined Radio built on specific set of chips including the RTL tuner as well as others.  They are thumb drive sized and work out of the box from 24MHz give or take and as high as 5GHz on some specialized models.

Some of them using a “Direct Sample” mode or an “Upconverter” will receive from 0 cycles to 29 MHz.

They receive in AM, FM (narrow, wide, and stereo), and Single Side Band.  With companion software you can receive all sorts of things like Baby Monitors, Pagers, Weather Radar, FM Broadcast, and more static and pops and clicks than you will ever figure out what to do with.

In Debian 9 Stretch, everything is found in your software repository.  It is accessible with many of the Debian Derived Distributions such as Ubuntu and Q4OS as well as others.  It’s available for Fedora, although I could not tell you a thing about that other than “I read something about that somewhere”.

With Debian 8 and earlier you had to compile some of the software.  I never got it working on Debian 7.  There were also distributions of Debian that would have a complete environment set up for you to boot from USB or DVD Rom, and they would work if a bit slow due to DVD I/O speeds.

But this way if you have a Debian Derived computer, you are almost there.

  • One thing to consider.  The Direct Sample Mode is accessed via an entry in gqrx.
  • Select “Other” for your RTL-SDR stick
  • Enter rtl=0,direct_samp=2 in “Configure I/O Devices” or File I/O devices
  • Bandwidth should be 2MHz

However to use it with gqrx

  • Start your stick by Plugging the stick in the port
  • Start gqrx, although SDRSharp works via WINE
  • Select the Device in the Configure I/O Devices prompt, and click OK.
  • Click the Play icon in the toolbar.
  • Change your frequency to test by either hitting the (WFM Stereo) FM band and scanning or in the US weather radio is at Narrow FM 162.45-162.65 MHz

When does a dad joke become a dad joke? When it’s fully groan.

Now that we’re all bleary eyed and half awake after the time change here in Florida, and the rest of the world is still pointing and laughing… I have a Dad Joke. Or rather, this is the kind of Dad Joke my Dad would tell.


Happy Groaning


Do The Wrong Thing

An American soldier, serving in World War II, had just returned from several weeks of intense action on the German front lines. He had finally been granted R&R and was on a train bound for London. The train was very crowded, so the soldier walked the length of the train, looking for an empty seat. The only unoccupied seat was directly adjacent to a well dressed middle aged lady and was being used by her little dog.

The war weary soldier asked, “Please, ma’am, may I sit in that seat?” The English woman looked down her nose at the soldier, sniffed and said, “You Americans. You are such a rude class of people. Can’t you see my Little Fifi is using that seat?”


The soldier walked away, determined to find a place to rest, but after another” trip down to the end of the train, found himself again facing the woman with the dog. Again he asked, “Please, lady. May I sit there? I’m very tired.”

The English woman wrinkled her nose and snorted, “You Americans! Not only are you rude, you are also arrogant. Imagine!”

The soldier didn’t say anything else; he leaned over, picked up the little dog, tossed it out the window of the train and sat down in the empty seat. The woman shrieked and railed, and demanded that someone defend her and chastise the soldier.

An English gentleman sitting across the aisle spoke up, “You know, sir, you Americans do seem to have a penchant for doing the wrong thing. You eat holding the fork in the wrong hand. You drive your autos on the wrong side of the road. And now, sir, you’ve thrown the wrong bitch out the window.”

Time Change Day Will Take All Day, But Maybe Not Again

Having a weird attachment for Time Pieces, clocks, watches, computers, and loud ticky things that are starting to get on my nerves takes days to find them all.

Twice a year we set our clocks forward or backwards – Spring Ahead, Fall back.

Tomorrow is the official day, but I generally start well before the time change day because over the years I have been given, bought, collected a bunch of clocks.

Like forty-leven-and-a-half of them.

Since I tend to fix anything of my own that breaks, they all work.  Or maybe not.  There’s one or two with a broken mainspring somewhere.

That and there’s this one clock I have on a wall above my right shoulder that annoys the daylights out of me.  It ticks loud enough to be heard in the bedroom at night and it’s in the dining room.  It also has a weird quirk that if it stops, you can’t set the correct time since it will drift to about 20 minutes slow. or more.  Then you remove the pendulum and let it run in super-fast mode until it “catches up”.

Now you know what I am doing this weekend.  Setting clocks.  Each time I use one.


However, finally, someone is going to do what I have been saying all these years.

Set It And Forget It.

I personally don’t care if it is Daylight Savings Time.

I personally don’t care if it is Standard Time.

Just stop setting the clocks forward or backwards.

Set it and forget it!

They are considering that here for Florida.  If the law passes, I will cheer.  Why?  It will be Daylight Savings Time all year until someone gets annoyed and repeals the law.

It could as easily be Standard Time for me, I simply don’t care.   I just don’t want to set that damn wall clock.

It will annoy the rest of the country for the three or so months that we drift out of sync from the rest of the Eastern Time Zone, but everyone outside of Florida thinks we’re weird anyway.

From what I see, we might be.  We have iguanas that shred our plants, alerts because pythons are seen eating cats, and sharks in the tidal water about 5 miles from the intracoastal from time to time.

Yep, it’s a weird state, but abolishing Daylight Savings Time is a step in the right direction.

So if you will excuse me, that nail that sticks up the highest is about to get hit with a sledge hammer.

Yes, I have my wall clock to remove a pendulum from.

Training Rack at Lowes or Lost in Hardware

To train a Herding dog you have to keep their minds busy.  Physical exercise and mental exercise.  You know, like a Greek Athlete.

I don’t think that my little McNab SuperDog (TM), Rack will ever throw a discus or take a philosophy course but he’s an amazing creature.

He just wants to help.  He wants to be involved.

He wants to come along.

But we have a long term project.  Low voltage lighting.

You know that weird stuff that can run off of a car battery.  Since it runs at low voltage it doesn’t need quite as much protection and anyone can do it.

We figure that we have about 40 watts of the stuff and you can read on my front porch at midnight due to them.

I have a couple of those three AAA battery lights that are basically a flashlight, and they can be converted over to this system.  I have done that already to a coach lamp that is on my fence.

The rest come piece after piece.

This weekend was a Big Project though.  Run 20 feet of conduit, sink a lamppost in the front of the house, and rehang the mailbox.

Don’t think it’s much?  Stand outside in the front yard holding a post for a solid hour when reinforcements are sent off to the store to get some quick drying concrete.

Since it is winter, do it in full sun, on a cloudless day at 80F/26C.  Give or take a C.

All this activity had Rack confused.  He wanted to come along.  Anywhere.  When he thinks he’s taking a ride in the CAR!!! he starts to burble and basically speak in tongues.  Its comical.  He starts running wind sprints back and forth from the front to the back door whining and making weird coffee-percolator sounds.

Sometimes he is right.

We stopped work so we could take him to the Vet.  That’s fine because it’s one of his favorite places to go.  We went, he got fussed over and we came home.

But there was a stop first.  We needed another piece of conduit to glue to the first pieces laid in the trench I had dug that morning with Rack sitting at the front door looking hopeful.

We took Rack.

You see, Lowes Hardware has a policy of allowing dogs into the store.  This seems to be as official as can be, and it isn’t like some idiot taking a dog into a supermarket, this is a hardware store.

Securing a cart, I picked Rack up off the ground and placed him in the blue plastic apparatus.

He didn’t like that.  Immediately tried to get out.  I did because I didn’t want to be asked to leave because my dog decided to water the plants.

We walked into the store with a 47 pound black and white dog being disrupted by the rattling of the cart across the asphalt.   Getting into the store, he wanted no more of that.

When I say SuperDog (TM) I mean it.  He is a McNab Dog.  One of the most intelligent dogs on the face of the Earth.  But he is fearful.  Fearful means to run.

Or in this case, to leap.

From a sitting position.

Inside of a cart.

Right in front of the orchids.

When he landed on the concrete floor, he was flat, legs pointing to the cardinal points on the compass.  Confused.  Looking very surprised that It Worked.

I put him back in the cart and looped a thumb under his harness and we went about our business.

He was thinking “Hmmm.  To attempt this again or not?  Not completely sure.”

But, by the time we left, he was enjoying himself.  Not acting quite so crazed.  He actually smiled at a kid walking past.

Yes, certain dogs smile.  Others grimace.  I can tell the difference.

But this was a training expedition.  Rack got about a C+ grade.  A little better than average.   Form on the High Dive was a solid 9.

Not olympic form, but a good solid performance.

That’s what training dogs is about.  Taking steps and keeping their minds engaged.

Sometimes all it takes is two sections of PVC Conduit, and a couple bell end 90 degree sections.

(You, British people!  Stop giggling, that’s what they’re called here!)