Okay doke, Sarah had PMed me last night about this, and I wrote a bunch of stuff, so I suggested she start a thread since I ended up writing a book, so here it is, with a few modifications
First off, I guess, what kind of soap do you want to make? All with goats milk, or just regular soap, essential oils, fragrance oils, etc.? There's a few different methods for making it: cold process, where you have to have your oils at specific temperatures, when you add the lye, and hot process, where you bring the soap to a boil, thereby eliminating some of the cure time once it's finished.
The basic procedure with soap -the bare basics- is that you're pretty much mixing lye (sodium hydroxide) with water and oils for your base.
This usually consists of stuff like olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, lard, Shea butter, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, stuff like that, just to name a few.
If course, you don't have to have lots of fancy oils to make soap with- you could make it with simply olive oil, or even just lard. It would still be soap, but adding several different kinds of oils will help you have better results. Say, coconut and lard to add lather and hardness, and olive for moisturizing, butters for skin protection and so on. You can even add beeswax, that is very good for making a harder bar, and it has other properties I can't remember right off.
Cold process soap is usually cured on trays or grates where the surface is exposed to as much air as possible for 4 to 6 weeks or more. This creates a much harder bar as the moisture evaporates, which will help it to last longer once it's in use. It also give the soap time to "saponify" -the reaction of the lye to the oils as it turns into soap. The lye rearranges the molecules or something, and turns it into soap, so the end product does NOT have active lye in it anymore.
Hot process soap does not need to cure, as the saponifying happens mostly when the soap is hot. Cold process soap doesn't get hot, so instead it has to cure of weeks while the lye does it's work more slowly.
Hot process sounds easier, but the end result isn't as pretty. The bars usually look kind of like hard mashed potatoes, whereas cold process generally comes out beautifully smooth.
I myself actually do a kind of "in-between" method, which I read about online called the "room temperature method". I think it's easier than either of the traditional methods; it comes out pretty like the cold process, but doesn't have to cure as long, so it's kind of the best of both worlds.
The way it works is you weigh out all your base oils in a pot (ex. olive oil, coconut, lard, just as a simple recipe).
Then in another pot, you weigh out your water and add your pre-measured lye to it.
It will heat up very quickly and start fuming. You do NOT want to breath these fumes, though it is pretty difficult too, since you'll start coughing the second any of it gets near your nose.
I always take the lye water solution outside at this point and stir it till it stops fuming. This usually only takes a couple of minutes. If there's even a slight breeze you won't be breathing it in.
Once it's stopped fuming, I take it back in and pour it over my oils.
The oils will melt, though I usually use my stick blender to speed up the process.
Once the oils are melted, you just continue to stir with the stick blender until it "traces"- thickens to a pudding-like consistency.
Then you're ready to add your essential oils, fragrance oil, and/or whatever botanicals you may like to add.
Phew! This is taking too long!
I have to go right now, but I'll be happy to write more later!