The use of braiding soap, an emulsion of fat in a soap-and-water solution, allows the leather strands to slip into place during braiding. The water in the solution conditions the lace to allow greater stretch and to permit the finished braid to be rolled to a smoother surface.
The following recipe for braiding soap has been used here at David Morgan for years. We usually make the braiding soap in a recycled 2 pound coffee can where the mixture can be prepared and stored in the same can.
1 3.5 ounce bar of Ivory soap
12 ounces (1½ cups) water
1 pound (2 cups) lard
1. Coarsely grate soap into a coffee can or pot suitable for stovetop use.
2. Add water and mix.
3. Heat the mixture almost to boiling, stirring occasionally. Take care not to overheat causing the mixture to boil over.
4. Add the lard to the hot soap mixture, continuing to heat until the lard is melted. Again, take care not to overheat causing the mixture to boil over.
5. Remove the mixture from the heat. Beat at high speed with an electric hand mixer to emulsify the fat. Take care not to splatter or spill the hot mixture.
6. Allow the mixture to cool, then mix thoroughly once more with the mixer. Transfer the mixture to a storage container at this time if you are not storing in the container used during preparation.
7. Cool completely. Store, covered, at room temperature.
Makes about 2 pounds. The braiding soap will have a light, creamy consistency.
Note: Ivory soap is recommended as a commonly available pure soap. Do not use a facial soap or detergent.
This braiding soap recipe has been adapted from the recipe in David W. Morgan’s book Braiding Fine Leather. We recommend this book to anyone interested in learning how to braid with leather, or to improve their leather braiding techniques.
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