I recommend getting The Soapmakers Companion by Susan Miller Cavitch
Her book is awesome for newbie's and has step by step instructions on how to start.
Use stainless steel pots
--do not use aluminum or tin, or iron or Teflon - the lye will eat right through it and you'll have to throw your soaps out.
Use Pyrex (heat resistance glass bowls for your lye/water)
Digital Weigh Scale
Molds (you can use plastic soap molds, wooden soap molds (lined with freezer paper, or saran wrap, or a plastic bag), an old shoe box with plastic liner in it, a cleaned out Pringles can....)
Safety goggles (I use my reading glasses or sunglasses - but make sure you protect your eyes when you're pouring the lye into the water....trust me, if lye gets into your eye - it's EXTREME pain).
Plastic Kitchen Gloves - the longer the better.
Hand mixer or wooden spoon (I recommend the hand mixer or you'll be stirring till the cows come home)
This is a nice 4/lb recipe to start you off - it makes a nice hard bar of soap with plenty of bubbles - and since it's a simple recipe, you won't be spending big bucks on ingredients to start you off.
Palm Oil 520 grams
Olive Oil 440 grams
Coconut Oil 400 grams
Lye 210 grams
Distilled Water 500 grams
--use approx. 3-4 ounces of fragrance or essential oils
Heat Oils together....then set aside and let cool down.
While your oils cool down add Lye to Water very slowly - wear protective eye ware and plastic gloves.[/
b] and stir until all the lye is dissolved in the water.
Using your thermometer, keep checking both oils and lye/water until they both reach approx. 120 deg. F.
Pour lye water into the oils - and stir immediately (by hand or with a hand mixer - at low)
Scrape side of the bowl to insure that all oils are mixed properly in with the lye water.
Once your mixer hits it's "trace" level (trace is when you take your spat Chula and dip it in the oils, and when it drips from the spat Chula it leaves and faint pattern on top of the oils - almost like pudding would).
When "trace" happens it's safe to pour in your fragrance/essential oils.
Make sure you stir this well in order to incorporate the fragrance in with the other oils (if you don't stir it enough, when the soap is "curing" it will "sweat" out the fragrance).
Once the oils have all been mixed properly, you're ready to pour into molds.
Pour soap, level out so that it's nice and smooth on top.
You can cover the mold with a towel or plastic wrap and then set it aside for 24 to 48 hrs.
Uncover the mold, and remove soap from the mold. Cut soap into bar size if you used a log type mold.
Put soaps on a rack, or in a box, and put in a ventilated room for 3-4 weeks.
Half way though the soaps "curing" time, flip the soaps over so that every side can dry out evenly.
After the curing time has passed, you're all set to use the soaps
Hopefully I didn't miss a step -
And good luck with the soaping! It's supppppppppper addictive.