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Soap Challenge Club June 2022: Wood Grain Technique

The Soap Challenge Club, hosted by Amy Warden, is a group of soap makers who come together to learn new techniques and engage in a little healthy competition each month. Amy shares a tutorial and soap makers have the month to practice the technique, ask questions, share tips, and finally enter a soap for competition. For June, the challenge was the wood grain technique where soap makers were asked to create a soap that resembles wood grain. The soap did not have to actually resemble wood, but the color pattern should resemble those seen in wood grain.

For my wood grain soap I brought my soap batter to just barely an emulsion then added an essential oil mix of lavender, sweet orange, and cedar wood for scent. I then divided the batter evenly into 5 different containers for the 5 colors I was using: gray, brown, black, white, and blue. I obviously wasn't going for a realistic wood color with the addition of blue, just letting the pattern of wood grain inspire me. I used cosmetic grade micas to color all the portions of batter except for titanium dioxide to color the white batter. By the time I divided and colored my soap batter, it was at the perfect consistency- light trace. This meant that the colors were fluid, but not so fluid that they would muddy and mix. (For more information on trace and controlling soap batter consistency, check out my previous blog post here.)

Now it is time to pour the soap. I layered my colors together into a pouring pitcher with a long spout. The gray batter went in first then I poured the brown, black, white, and blue batter in separate circular areas on top of the gray soap batter. I tried to layer the colors on top of the gray, not let them penetrate into the gray. My soap mold was held at an angle with a folded towel while I poured the batter down the long side of the mold in sweeping back and forth motions. These sweeping back and forth motions created "lines" of color that would resemble the lines in a wood grain when the soap was cut. As I poured, the different batters came together in the spout of the pouring pitcher creating the tight layers of color mimicking a wood grain. Periodically, I paused the sweeping motions and "zigzagged" in one spot to create the impression of "knots" in the wood grain.

The next day the soap was unmolded and was ready to cut. This soap needed to be cut horizontally in order to best see the wood grain pattern. Normally, soap is cut vertically (think of how you slice a loaf of bread). After careful measuring, I cut my soap horizontally into individual bars. These are my wood grain bars.

wood grain soap


I had so much fun with this technique that I decided to try again. I also wanted to see if I could get my wood grain pattern a little tighter with smaller layers. I felt that I could do this by working with batter that was a little thinner. Although I started with batter that was at a light trace, it thickened faster than I liked. In my second attempt, I changed up the colors a bit substituting the blue with a rusty red color and using less black. I experienced that same issue of the batter thickening faster than I'd liked. I was soaping at "room temp", but during June in south Louisiana, room temperature is a lot warmer than it is in February! Here is my second attempt. 

wood grain soap
I like both of the soaps and was a little torn on which one to enter into the soap challenge, but ultimately selected the first attempt. I'm partial to the color blue and thought that soap had somewhat finer lines in the bars. This technique is not hard at all. The only trick is knowing how to control the trace of the soap so that you get thin lines with fluid batter.
Once again, I am grateful to the Soap Challenge Club for encouraging me to step out of my routine and try new designs. The community of soap makers is very supportive and creative. We love our craft! Happy soaping!

1 comment

  • Oh, these are both amazing, Lori!! Love the fancy colors you chose. You definitely have a great handle on the pouring technique as well. Lovely wood grains!

    Amy Warden

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