Illustrated Step-by-Step Cold Process Soap

This is a description of the process I use when I'm making cold process soap. The pictures are kind of so-so quality, I'm afraid, we didn't have very good lighting when we were taking them. I'm going to try to get another set taken under better lights. Also, at the time we made this batch, I had misplaced the screws to hold the base of my mold on, so we were using a dumbbell to hold the mold down. Never let it be said that I let a small thing like having some screws loose (ha, ha) keep me from my soap!

Step One:
Measure each of your ingredients carefully. Always use an accurate scale to measure your lye, oils, and additives. Water is typically measured by volume (which means using a measuring cup instead of a scale), but recipes can vary on that point so check your recipe before starting.
Pictures: Measuring the oils, Measuring the water, Measuring Essential/Fragrance oils and Measuring herbs.
Step Two:
Measure your lye very carefully. Then, carefully pour your lye into your water (or other liquid). NEVER, EVER pour the liquid into the lye! This can cause an explosive "volcano" of extremely caustic liquid that can burn or blind you. Please, please, PLEASE BE ULTRA CAREFUL WITH SODIUM HYDROXIDE AND POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE! Wear latex gloves, protective eye goggles, and an apron whenever you handle caustic materials.
Pictures: Measuring the lye, Adding the lye to the water, Cooling the lye-water in a cold water bath in the sink.
Step Three:
Combine your oils in a pot over the stove and heat them until they're the desired temperature. Generally, soapmaking recipes call for a temperature between 100° and 140° Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures can seize, lower temperatures take longer to trace.
Pictures: Melting the oils.
Step Four:
Get ready to mix your soap! Gather all your tools and materials and have them handy.
Pictures: Preparing bowls and additives.
Step Five:
If you choose, decant your oils from your melting pot into a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl.
Pictures: Decanting the oils.
Step Six:
Once you have reached your desired temperatures, slowly pour the lye-water into the oils. Your mixture will turn cloudy as you combine the oils and lye. Eventually it'll turn into a milky, pudding color. When it is a pudding texture, and your spoon leaves "trails" when you stir (imagine making instant pudding; when the pudding is "set" your spoon leaves trails through the pudding), you have reached trace. Sometimes, you can use a stick blender to held speed things along.
Pictures: Mixing the lye-water into the oils, Waiting patiently (book in hand) for trace, Using the stick blender, and Trace at Last!
Step Seven:
Once you are at a light trace, add your superfatting oils (if you choose to keep them separate until trace), fragrance or essential oils, and any herbs or other additives. Mix everything together until it's well combined and homogenous.
Pictures: Adding the EOs and FOs, Combining into a homogenous mixture.
Step Eight:
Once you've completed mixing your additives, immediately pour your soap into your mold or molds.
Pictures: Pouring into the mold, Finishing up the pour, and All done!