Ah, yes, the good ol' days, when one spooned grease and lye into a tub set over a woodfire. Eventually the whole mess hardened and one cut it out of the tub in chunks.
The thing we forget when we romanticize living 'close to the land' prior to modern manufacturing is that it involved hour upon hour of unpleasant, tedious and frequently dangerous work. There's a reason the people in so many of these photos look older than their years.
Photo taken by Russell Lee in New Mexico, 1939. [American Memory link]