Few developments in the history of soap have made quite the difference that laboratory-made lye becoming available made. But lye wasn't made in large scale labs until the mid 1800s - soap has been around for thousands of years. What did people do before that? They made their lye the "old fashioned" way by leaching water through wood ashes. So if you're in a far corner of our globe and can't get lye locally...or are just curious how it's done, here is a collection of pages that will show you how.
A great article - makes it sound so easy - until you realize how much equipment and ingredients, and how involved the process is. But the instructions are very clear and easy to follow.
Published in 1972 (the same year Ann Bramson's SOAP
was published), this fascinating article shows how the author learned "to survive on less than $10 a month cash money by trapping, tanning, foraging food and dipping candles from our own tallow
and lard" and how they "quickly mastered the fine and easy art of recycling hardwood ashes and left-over kitchen fats into clean, all purpose soap." It almost
makes me want to go out in the wilderness and try it. Almost
This You Tube Video shows a lady (in appropriate pioneer garb) and her lye making box. Very cool to actually see the setup for real - not just a diagram. The audio is terrible, but the information is great.
A really interesting technique using modern items like buckets and plastic spouts - to make an "automatic lye machine" - including an interesting variation using a rain gutter and spout. It says that lye made from kelp (seaweed) ashes make the hardest soap. (My guess is that it's because of the high salt content. Who knew!?)
This article gives yet another perspective, this time, from a more biodiesel frame of reference.
If, in addition to information about survivalism, camping, food storage, cooking and grilling, and self reliance, you need to know how to make soap...this is your site. Even includes some pioneer saga!