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Easy Braiding Soap Recipe

February 15, 2010

BraidingSoapIvory

Braiding soap (or something that serves the same purpose) is a necessary part of leather whipmaking.  It conditions and strengthens the leather, and serves as a lubricant so that when you pull a strand tight, it slides over and under the other strands and pulls tight clear up into what you’ve already braided.

This is one of the simplest and most basic recipes, and all of the ingredients are either already in your kitchen or can be easily and inexpensively purchased at your local supermarket.  For more recipes (often requiring specialty fats you’d need to request from a kind local butcher), check out the forum on the Australian Plaiters and Whipmakers Association site.

You will need:

  1. A pot, a spoon, and your stove
  2. A cheese grater
  3. One (standard size) 4.5oz bar of pure Ivory soap
  4. One and a half cups of water
  5. One pound of lard
  6. A sturdy container with a lid that seals (to store your braiding soap in after you’ve made it)

1. Grate the bar of soap into the pot with the water slowly, over medium to medium low heat, while stirring often.  Bring the water to a low boil then back down again several times while stirring in order to dissolve the soap as completely as possible into the water.

2. Add the lard and stir it in until it is creamy and there are no lumps left.  Be careful at this step to not let the solution boil.

3. Carefully pour the mixture into your storage container.  Continue stirring your plaiting soap about once every half hour until it starts to cool enough that it becomes difficult to stir.  Then seal the lid on, and wait overnight for the mixture to become firm.  When you are not using your braiding soap, always keep the lid on.

Again, this is just one of the simpler recipes, but it does work quite well and the ingredients are readily available, so it’s a good one to start with.  Some whipmakers use these same ingredients but in slightly different quantities, some use a similar formula but with different animal fats or soaps, some add other ingredients to achieve a particular scent, and some even have completely unique recipes.  Check out the Australian Plaiters and Whipmakers Association site for a few examples of other braiding soap formulas too.  Feel free to experiment with some ideas of your own as well, and leave us a comment if you have any questions or make any interesting discoveries!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Aldo permalink
    March 1, 2010 2:35 pm

    Hey guys! A thing I do which helps a bit is to leave the soap in warm water (the same amount you’ll use in the recipe) overnight to allow it to disolve thoroughly. It may congeal in a thick paste, but that disolves readily over the stove. When it is already fluid, you can just add the fat and you’re ready to go.

    Another good thing is the use of tallow soap. I think it gives a creamier texture and you can just grab chunks of it out of the container instead of “crumbs”, as the neutral soap I’ve been using lately. The only bad thing about tallow soap is that it seems to darken leather more than neutral soap.

    ATB

    • Lauren & Paul permalink*
      March 5, 2010 8:49 pm

      Letting the soap sit in warm water overnight sounds a lot easier than laboring over a cheese grater. I’ll give that a try the next time we make a batch of braiding soap – thanks!

      The soap in this recipe – pure Ivory soap – is a tallow soap and creates a nice and creamy braiding soap. We’ve tried using Castile soap before, which doesn’t contain tallow and I think is a neutral soap, but it didn’t work out well for us either.

  2. May 5, 2015 5:02 pm

    Reblogged this on Madidos Leather and commented:
    Might have to try this one at some point!

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