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 about 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 won’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 and 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 several books – e-books and print versions books 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 setup, 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 painting 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 homemade 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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Cheryl @ Saponaceous
Cheryl @ Saponaceous
October 20, 2016 9:14 pm

Great tutorial! 3D printing–what a great idea!! I love the bark mat. I took this month off from the challenge, but I really love your entry! Thanks for sharing!

October 18, 2016 9:45 am

These look awesome Debi! And what a wonderful blog post too – thanks for sharing your ideas!

October 18, 2016 9:24 am

I need to take a trip to my library,!

October 18, 2016 9:22 am

Wow, you go girl! Outstanding

Ceil Shissler
Ceil Shissler
October 17, 2016 9:33 pm

These are awesome Debi! Love them. Wow what a log of creative to use the 3 D printer! Great job!

October 17, 2016 9:10 pm

Debi! Wow!!! You are so talented and creative! This is just amazing. The detail and work you put into every aspect is incredible. I just love seeing what you come up with for these soap challenges. 🙂

October 17, 2016 9:02 pm

Wow Debi, to say that I am blown completely away by the creativity and tenacity of your entry would be a terrible understatement. It’s so wonderful. I am very envious of your access to a 3D printer, what an absolute ball you will have working with that in future projects. Bravo!!!!!

October 17, 2016 5:49 pm

Everyone has already said it before 🙂 but I just want to add you are so creative!! Using 3D printer was such a cool idea ❤️ Just brilliant.

October 17, 2016 4:57 pm

Debi, my friend!!!! You are terribly creative)))) At the moment I hate you))))))))))))))))) because I am tired to death by my baby girl, it is 1 a.m and I just want to read your post till the end))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) because it is so very interesting! Thank you for your creation and studing things about soap and sharing them with others!!! You wood is very wood! Congratulations and have a good luck this month!

Michelle Rogerson
October 17, 2016 3:49 pm

I am just blown away by the amount of work you put into this – talk about creative! You used so many different techniques and tools, and you came up with a beautiful unique batch of soap. Seriously impressed. 🙂

October 17, 2016 12:56 pm

Very Cool – I love how you made your own stamps & how you used all natural clays and colorants to make it look like wood 🙂

lisa maw
lisa maw
October 17, 2016 7:19 am

Holy crap Debi! Wow, I love your soaps. You are so creative, making your impression mat with real bark and those soap stamps too. You are truly an amazing and talented individual. Way to really put your whole self into your passion. Excellent!

October 17, 2016 3:54 am


This is by far the most interesting blog I’ve read in a long time. Your creativity and resourcefulness just shine through. It has inspired me. You gave me so many ideas, I had to get out my notebook and start writing. When I looked at your soap again, even more ideas came through. Your soap is absolutely beautiful, but your ideas and creative process, along with your persistence have me itching to stop doing the same things and try some new things. Great job

October 16, 2016 4:11 pm

Debi, these are amazing. Again you show so much patience and commitment to the art! These would make beautiful wedding favors! Love.

Amy Warden
October 16, 2016 8:47 am

Of course!! Why didn’t I think of that? 3-D printer! Such an involved process, but really spectacular results! Very cute soaps! I hope your hubby thinks so too! 🙂

October 16, 2016 8:35 am

Debi, I’ve read some of your earlier soap challenge blog posts too and have enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed this how you like to do everything from scratch..I’m a little like that too..but wow, you are truly really industrious and resourceful! Your soap is so cute! Good luck!
Thanks for sharing your detailed tutorial…loved reading every word!

October 16, 2016 6:27 am

I very much enjoyed reading about your creative process! I learnt so much! Now I have to add «making stamps» to my list 🙂 Wonderful job creating this unique soap.. and the initials in the wood are such a personal and sweet touch! Congratulations!!

Bee Iyata
October 15, 2016 11:32 pm

Debi! This truly fantastic! I’m so impressed. You have created an amazing design. And thank you SO MUCH for the mention. I think this is so outstanding I posted a link of this post on my page and told everyone I could. I’m just so amazed. It’s obvious you answered the call of your Muse. Best of luck with the challenge. 🙂 – Bee

October 15, 2016 8:32 pm

Debi, such a fun soap! I had thought of making a bark mold but just didn’t have time. I’m am inspired to try it (someday! ) I enjoy your wit & whimsy of your posts too! excellent wood pieces : )

October 15, 2016 3:22 pm

Congratulations and good luck for the challenge. I love the name of your soap and the heart !

October 15, 2016 2:56 pm

These are so lovely, Debi! Really well done. Congrats on a great submission and thank you for sharing your process. All the best!

carolyn newton
carolyn newton
October 15, 2016 2:55 pm

Debi, you go above and beyond for your challenges. So much detail in your soap and blog post. I loved reading about your technique. Your soap is fab and so cute! My stamp would have to say C + B which is me and Brad Pitt but don’t think my hubby would approve lol. A great job, well done on blog and soap. Love them both x

October 15, 2016 2:32 pm

You never cease to amaze me, Debi!!! This soap is priceless, not just because of the amount of work you put into it but the realistic look as well. I’m in awe of your work ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

October 15, 2016 2:25 pm

I’ve been waiting and waiting for your post – and now it’s finally here! Yay!!
I love your detailed explanation of your process and all that you did. (I stop by my Library once a week, so I’m excited to check out the 3D stuff too!)

Your soaps turned out fabulous!
I don’t know where you get the time and patience to do so much with one batch of soap! You are so artistic and gifted…what a visionary! I’m blown away.

October 15, 2016 2:22 pm

Wow, Debi, you are amazing! I cannot believe that you laser printed soap stamps and made a bark impression mat from scratch.

You really do like to do everything yourself! 😀

What do the yogurt and the cucumber puree do?

October 15, 2016 2:10 pm

Oh I love the rustic look of these! And your process of making them was just amazing, wow all those different parts coming together! Having a 3d printer at your library is a great resource! And soap dough.. never heard of that, will have to try that some time! Thanks for sharing your process, it was very interesting! And the soaps turned out awesome!

Sara Golding
October 15, 2016 2:00 pm

Amazing how technology marries so well with the “ancient art of soap making”! What a great way to use a 3-D printer. The soaps are adorable too! SO nicely put together!!!

October 15, 2016 1:57 pm

Oh my gosh, this is sooo cute! Thanks for the great tutorial, we’ll done!!!

SoapChic Rhonda
October 15, 2016 1:32 pm

You are very talented and creative , they look so real !

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