Beeswax Citrus Soap

 I am experimenting with different varieties of handmade soap and I love orange flavor, and recently made some citrus soap bars. They turned out great, so wanted to share this variation using a base of olive oil soap.  I call it Beeswax Citrus Soap. Think how good this soap is for your skin with all this olive oil and beeswax! Beeswax softens and protects skin from environmental elements and is naturally nourishing and antibacterial and anti-allergenic. the addition of orange peel adds to the exfoliant properties. Orange Citrus Soap

Orange Citrus SoapI love handmade, preferring it to the commercially overly scented variety, picking it up at local craft fairs and boutique stores.  The cost was adding up, plunking down $5 or $6 for a small bar, and I looked into making it at home. I have always hesitated to make soap due to the use of caustic lye in creating the chemical of making soap, which is called saponification.

In the old days, when people had to make their own soap, they made lye with wood ashes. They would take the white ash left over from a hardwood fire and boil it with rain water, and liquid lye would float to the top.

Commercial lye which is also used as a drain cleaner- very toxic!!!!
Commercial lye which is also used as a drain cleaner- very toxic!!!!


Beeswax cakes from my hives
Beeswax cakes from my hives

Gather Materials

Immersion blender, scale, large saucepan, large juice jug, plastic disposable cup, wooden spoon- I don't have the thermometer here but you need a good digital instant read one
Immersion blender, scale, large saucepan, large juice jug, plastic disposable cup, wooden spoon- I don’t have the thermometer here but you need a good digital instant read one

First off, make sure that you have the containers and equipment needed.  They are:

  • Immersion blender
  • Digital cooking thermometer
  • Kitchen scale
  • Variety of containers and cook pots that you will only use for soap making; a heavy saucepan, plastic 2  quart beverage container, and wooden spoon
  • Soap mold-You can use a small kitty litter pan; I used a milk container for my soap
  • Old clothes and apron
  • Goggles
  • Rubber Gloves
Safety items- apron, goggles, white vinegar, rubber gloves
Safety items- apron, goggles, white vinegar, rubber gloves

Safety Precautions

I recommend making soap in your kitchen or basement laundry tub where curious kids and pets cannot get into it. A caustic substance, lye has to be handled very carefully. If you use common sense, and pay attention to directions, you will be fine. Keep a bottle of white vinegar handy, if you spill any caustic lye on your skin.

Assemble all your ingredients and equipment in advance and put on old clothes and an apron, though I have never damaged any of my clothes in the process. Put on your safety goggles and rubber gloves and you are ready to go. The following is your basic procedure and ingredients. The final step is adding your flavoring/scent and you can add any scent at all that you like.

Recipe for Olive Oil Beeswax Soap

36 ounces olive oil

6 ounces coconut oil

3 ounces castor oil

2 ounces of grated beeswax

12 ounces distilled water

6 ounces lye

2 ounces essential oil of your choice ( I used Vitamin E, but the possibilities are endless)

Olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil
Olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil
  1. Measure 12 ounces of water into the plastic pitcher. Your kitchen scale should subtract the weight of the pitcher from the weight of the water.  Everything has to be measured precisely. Set your pitcher in the sink.
  2. Weigh out 6 ounces of lye. I used a plastic disposable cup.
  3. Pour the lye from the cup into the water in the pitcher NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!! And gently stir it in with the wooden spoon.
Pour the lye into the pitcher of water and stir
Pour the lye into the pitcher of water and stir

A thermal reaction will occur and the solution will get very hot and give off some fumes. It stinks!! At this point, I set the pitcher outside to cool off –  away from animals. I hate the smell of the fumes.

Measuring out your oils on the scale
Measuring out your oils on the scale

4. Weigh your oils and beeswax and put them into the wide saucepan and heat on a low heat until everything dissolves. Remove from the heat to cool slightly. You will measuring the temperature of this mixture to be around 98 to 110 degrees F.

Heating the oils- the beeswax melts the last
Heating the oils- the beeswax melts the last

5. Test the heat of the lye solution by touching the outside of the pitcher to see if it is cooling down a bit. It should feel tepid to the touch, not hot.

6. Take the temperature with your digital thermometer of both the oil solution and the lye solution, making sure that you wipe off the probe with a paper towel between each use. The trick is to get the two solutions around the same temperature, around 98 degrees to 110 F which is called equalizing. This is the most difficult part of the whole process.  The lye solution will take about an hour to come down from a high of around 160 degrees to the lower temperature that you need. The following is a useful video on how to do this:

7. Plug in your immersion blender so it is ready to use.

8. Combine the two solutions once they have reached the right temperatures (see above), pouring the lye solution into the pan of oils and stirring with the wooden spoon a couple of times.

10. Without turning on the blender, immerse it into the mixture down to the bottom of the pan. Make sure that your gloves and goggles are on because you could get splattered a bit.  I also like to put the saucepan in the sink for this step. You can do this by hand without a blender, but it will take much longer with a lot of stirring!

11. Turn on the blender and slowly circulate it around the circumference of the pan. Keep blending, watching the consistency.  Within a few minutes, the mixture will start turning opaque and thicken. Keep blending until the mixture starts forming a ‘trace’, which is just part of the mix leaving a visible swirl on top.  The mixture should be the consistency of runny pudding.

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12. Add your essential oils ( I used 1/4 ounce each of lemon and orange oil). Grate 2 oranges to get about 1/4 cup of grated skin and add to mixture. I also sprinkled some turmeric on top to increase the intensity of the orange color.  This is for color only, not for any flavor. Mix in and I liked the swirls of turmeric so didn’t mix that in completely.

Grated orange peel, oils, turmeric, and mold with immersion blender
Grated orange peel, oils, turmeric, and mold with immersion blender
Adding the oils and grated orange peel
Adding the oils and grated orange peel
Turmeric sprinkled on top
Turmeric sprinkled on top
Swirl the colors and oil in
Swirl the colors and oil in
Pour into a milk carton mold and cover with a towel for 24 hours
Pour into a milk carton mold and cover with a towel for 24 hours

13. Pour your soap into your mold (here I used a wax covered milk container with the top cut out).

14.  Wrap the container in an old towel and set aside for 24 hours.

15. The next day, the soap is still soft enough to be cut into blocks with a sharp knife. I peel off the container and chop it up with a warmed knife.

Peeling off the milk carton
Peeling off the milk carton

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Out of this one batch, I made 20 blocks of soap which should last me a long time for my personal use and lots of gifts.

Clean up

To clean up your mess, I take bunches of paper towels and wipe everything off thoroughly and throw the towels into a garbage bag to go outside. Remember, this stuff is very caustic and can still burn you. The immersion blender I treat the same way, and then take off the blender stick and thoroughly clean it in hot soapy water –  same with the digital thermometer.


You have to let the soap age about a month before using as it will retain some of its caustic nature immediately after you make it. I leave it out in a sunny window to age it for a few months before using or giving it as gifts.

A Cut Above – Creating Sculptures from Wood

Play area at Oregon Ridge Nature Center

It doesn’t seem possible to be able to use the words ‘chainsaw‘ and ‘art’ in the same sentence.  The chainsaw is such a workmanlike and crude tool that it is always surprising to me what beautiful carvings can be made within a couple of hours with the right kind of wood and a noisy, sawdust spitting, dangerous chainsaw. But when I visited Oregon Ridge Nature Center recently, my eyes were opened to the possibilities, as soon as I saw the new play area that was designed with all chain saw creations by Pat Hundley, a local chainsaw artist.

Creations from Logs

These chainsaw creations are perfect to decorate your garden or outdoor space and will last for years. You can get one to hold up your mailbox, embrace a sign, use as a play set for kids, or just for decoration.

Bear emerging from log by Pat Hundley

Chainsaw art has become very popular, especially in timber heavy areas of the country. In western Maryland, Deep Creek  Lake is chock full of chainsaw artists on every corner, advertising their masterpieces. There is even a new TV show called Chainsaw Gang, which features premier chainsaw artists from around the country who battle each other to deliver incredible works of art.

Fox sculpture by Pat Hundley

I talked with Pat Hundley, who has a day job as a teacher for Baltimore County Schools, about how he got started in this unusual hobby. He said that he got started after Baltimore Gas & Electric did some tree trimming at his house and left some logs behind. Pat got the idea of carving a bear out of one as a surprise for his wife. An hour later, he created a bear coming out of a log and he hasn’t stopped since.

One of Pat Hundley’s creations

Pat says it takes about an hour to do a bear and he will charge around $100 for the piece, depending on the complexity. The carving can last for years if you seal it at least twice a year with deck sealant and/or polyurethane. He paints some of the pieces also to make the details pop. Pine is the primary wood that he carves in as it is readily accessible in MD, but he uses anything that becomes available. Pat is friendly with some tree removal professionals to obtain the materials that he needs.

Painted Bald Eagle on log by Pat Hundley

The most popular design that Pat does is the bear emerging from a log and I can see how that one would fit right into my garden! Pat sells his creations at local craft shows and by word of mouth.

There are special tools of the trade to make the detailed carvings come to life. Pat uses guide bars or carving bars called ‘quarter tip’ and ‘dime tip’, that have very small ‘noses’ that allow finer cuts for details such as fur and feathers.  The important advantage of these special bars is that they do not produce ‘kickback’ when using them, and are much safer than the standard bars.

Pat in action

In order to reach the high levels of skill required to be a “chainsaw carver“, a good amount of instruction and practice is required in the safe operation of a chainsaw. This is then followed by plenty of study and practice in carving basic shapes which then ultimately leads on to more ambitious projects. It is extremely important that anyone using a chainsaw wear the proper protective clothing, like leather chaps and ear protection. A cut from a chainsaw is not just a cut, it  can actually remove a chunk of flesh and bone.

Chainsaw Women

Chainsaw art is a relative recent art form dating back to the 1950’s. Not only is it seen as a sculpture, but also as performance art or spectacle –  with the noise, flying sawdust, and very fast carving results. It is stunning how fast the carving comes to life, as opposed to old-fashioned carving using mallets and gouges that can take much longer. Also, the detail that you can achieve with chainsaws amazes me.

Turtles by Cherie Currie

I was also delighted at the number of women who make a living out of chainsaw art. There is even a group called ‘Chainsaw Chix’ which is the first group of all-female sculptors. Go Girls! Chainsaw art is not limited to the United States either. There are international artists all over and competitions all around the world.  There is even a chainsaw carving school in Toei, Japan.

World's tallest Virgin Mary carving at Schochw...
World’s tallest Virgin Mary carving at Schochwitz, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, I just need to find that perfect spot in my garden to showcase one of these pieces of art!