Great Cakes Soap Challenge Club Wood Grain Challenge

Wood You Be Mine?




I’m back again, just in time for Amy Warden’s October Soap Challenge Club. The objective of this month’s challenge was to create a soap that looks like wood, specifically focusing on the grain of the wood itself. This month, we again had two categories in which to enter – Natural or Synthetic, and while the end result of the design was clearly defined, how we achieved the result had very few restrictions. As long as the focus was on the grain of the wood itself, we were free soap with abandon! Sometimes these open-ended challenges really get my creative juices flowing, especially after taking a month off. Boy, my juices were in overdrive this month! 

The Plan

I decided to enter the Natural category because I really want to continue to build up my knowledge of natural colorants. I also had a few techniques I have been mulling over the past few months and thought this challenge might provide the perfect opportunity to break them out!

I wanted something that looked like authentic wood, both the outside and inside grain. I decided to create round soaps with the bark outside forming a rimmed soap of sorts. I also wanted the rings of the tree to look as authentic as possible. In the end, I used several different techniques to create my idea.


Carve My Heart

I have long admired the beauty and creativity of stamped soaps and I have been trying to conceptualize ideas and ways to create personalized stamps. I learned from previous attempts that carving rubber was not exactly my forté. On a recent trip to my library, I discovered they now had a 3-D printer. After staring at some of the miraculous creations the printer had made, it hit me – design a stamp and print it in 3-D! Not only could I make a stamp that I could use to give the appearance of the rings inside of a tree, but I could also create a stamp to add some additional flair. I was also excited for the fact that I could add a little more flair by making a heart carving and initials. I chose to separate the heart from the initials leaving me the option of using the stamp again by itself or getting other people’s initials printed for a customized soap!

The library’s website had tons of resources showing me how it all works. I have never worked with 3-D software so it took a bit of learning to get it all right. The process was truly amazing. I went from these…

tree_rings initials_stamp_mirror initials_stamp_reg

to these!


Thankfully, I remembered at the last-minute to mirror the heart and initial stamps so that they would be faced correctly when I used them. 

I am extremely lucky to have a 3-D printing resource at my local library. Not only were they able to print these in under a week, but the cost was a fraction of what it would have cost to either have a custom stamp designed or even what it would have cost at local 3-D printing companies. I paid $6 total for all three stamps. The two local companies quoted me $64 and $84 for the exact same project! This has now opened up a world of opportunities! Anything I can design, I can print. You wouldn’t believe how many ideas for future projects are spinning in my head right now!


Bark, bark!

I love the wood grain soaps that I have seen, especially Amy’s example:

Amy Warden's Wood Grain Soap

Lately though, I’ve been tinkering with ideas of soap designs that have a bark texture on them and this challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to try some of them out. After an unsuccessful search for inexpensive bark texture mats, I decided to make my own with real bark. I tapped into my experience of making silicone texture mats (Texture Mat Challenge – December 2015) and created a mat using some of the bark stripped from fallen tree limbs in my yard. 

I began by gluing pieces of bark onto a sheet of acrylic, and created a frame to hold the silicone.


Bark glued onto an acrylic sheet and framed with Popsicle sticks

Using my favorite silicone rubber, OOMOO-30, I mixed the two parts and poured it into my mold.


Pouring silicone

The mat turned out pretty well, but even though the makers of OOMOO-30 say a release agent is not usually necessary, I wish I coated the bark with something to help the mat release better. Some of the bark ended up sticking.


I knew I wanted round soaps with the bark outside forming a rimmed soap of sorts. I didn’t feel comfortable using this mat in a tube so I opted to cut the mat into strips and use individual round molds. I ended up using 3″ PVC drain caps for the molds.



Down to the Nitty Gritty

Initially, I had thought it would look more authentic if the outermost part of the bark was a lighter color with a darker background behind it and in the crevices. I made a very small batch of lighter colored soap, colored it with a little black walnut hull, and then used a paintbrush to paint the outer bark layer. I wanted to ensure it remained as thin as possible and also to get into the crevices.


With my original plan, I was thinking I could pour a layer of the darker wood color over the painted strips and place them in each individual mold once it all had hardened up a little bit. I laid all the strips in a box and poured the darker layer over the top.


Dark bark layer poured over all the painted strips

That was a disaster! Separating them and trying to fit them into each mold pretty much destroyed them! Back to the drawing board.

I liked the idea of painting a lighter color on the outside of the bark but tried to figure out a way to fill the inside with the darker color. Placing the painted strips in the molds then pouring the darker color in the center would definitely give me the darker inner bark I was going for. That wouldn’t work for the tops and bottoms, however. since the entire center would be filled with darker brown, how could I create the inner part of the tree, the part that had the rings? Another idea struck!

Lately, I have been playing around with a new soapy discovery – soap dough! I have been having an absolute ball creating some really fun designs and I thought I could use soap dough to solve my inner tree dilemma.

In case you have missed it, the incredibly talented Bee Iyata of Sorcery Soap has recently been storming the soaping world with some of the amazing designs she has created using her soap dough.

Soap dough is basically cold process soap that is put into an airtight container after it is made. After it has fully saponified, about 24-48 hours later, it is then safe to be taken out and molded into anything your mind can think of! Soap dough can be kept in the sealed container for quite a while and still remain pliable. Bee has a posted a basic soap dough recipe on her site and has also just released a wonderful e-book giving a more in-depth look at the technique.

Having recently used up all the soap dough I had on hand, I now had a perfect excuse to make some more! My thinking was to carve out a shallow indent into the tops and bottoms of each piece of soap. I would then roll out some soap dough into the thickness of the indentations and cut it into circles, filling in each one. 

Again, I painted each strip with a light coating of soap. Once they had hardened, I placed each strip into the mold. I also dribbled a thin coating of melted cocoa butter on the bottom of each mold to keep the strips in place and to prevent any of the darker brown from seeping under each strip.


Adding cocoa butter to seal


Placing silicone strip in mold


Once the cocoa butter had hardened, I poured in the dark batter. This part was colored with cocoa powder.


After the set up, I carved out a shallow indentation into both sides of the soaps (sorry, no photo). I then rolled out the soap dough, which had been colored with black walnut hull and a little cocoa powder. dough

I then used a cookie cutter to cut circles for each indentation. I also stamped each piece with the tree ring stamp before placing them.


After each piece was in place, I began paining each side to give them a little definition. I used cocoa powder, French pink clay, yellow kaolin clay, and black walnut hull powder for my paints. After each was painted, I used my heart and initial stamps for the final touch. It kind of made my heart flutter seeing my dear hubby’s and my initials carved in the tree!



Final Results

The lighter bark did not want to stick to the darker bark and came off in pieces. I ended up scraping some of it off for the final shots, which unfortunately took away a lot of the bark detail I was going for in the first place! This is what they looked like before I scraped it off:


I really liked this one because it looked so authentic, but we were trying for the grain effect not just trying to make it look like wood!



My Entry!


Although the end result was not exactly what I was going for, I am still pretty happy with the results. I really love the look that the heart and initials gave to the final soap. I can’t wait to see what creative doors will be opened with this new technique!


Soap Specs:

Lately, I have been making tons of home-made Greek yogurt. I use two gallons of milk for each batch and we like our yogurt pretty thick so I have to drain off a lot of whey to get it to the right consistency. I usually end up with about a gallon of whey and I hate to throw out such a perfect source of protein and other beneficial nutrients. I have been getting very creative finding ways to use it! One of my ideas was to use it in soap. 

A while back, I found an awesome recipe on Modern Soap Making that had yogurt and cucumber in it. I had planned on making it over the summer but never got around to it. I decided to put it to use in this recipe as well as subbing whey for the water.


Main Soap Ingredients:

41.18 % olive oil
19.61% rice bran oil
19.61% coconut oil
14.85% sunflower oil
4.76 % castor oil

I also added yogurt, cucumber puree and tussah silk

Bark Ingredients:

25 % palm oil
20% canola oil
15%  palm kernel oil flakes
15% coconut oil
15% avocado oil
15% castor oil


Cocoa powder, French pink clay, walnut hull powder, and yellow kaolin clay

Essential Oils: A blend of cedarwood, lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil, and lime


Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time…




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