How (not) to make Christmas Tree soap!

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Todd_in_Minnesota

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Being the too-long accounts and discoveries of an intrepid saponificer.

The idea seemed so simple; "Why not make a Christmas Tree soap bar?"
After all, how hard can it be? I've seen a similar idea on the Interwebs. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-MZEPOKYUECw/UUBMSro8MFI/AAAAAAAAGYs/lcT3EMW77oQ/s1600/CIMG8299a.jpg

So - I set out to achieve creative greatness.

Step One: The Master Plan
Deep thought, advanced engineering, design documentation.
What I need is triangles to define the treetop, rectangles to define the trunk, cylinders to be the ornaments, and all the rest will be the tree.
ChristmasTreePlan.jpg

1. Build a scrap-wood mold for three triangles and a rectangle. Line it with freezer paper.
2. Create cylindrical molds out of rolled-up freezer paper. Find a tiny funnel.
20151127_202943.jpg

Step Two: Fabrication
Trial One - "Who needs math? Why does this look funny?"

  1. Realize I need to pour the triangle/rectangle mold twice, each time using a mini-batch recipe. Realize my scale (and my nature) isn't precise enough to do mini-batches accurately. Math works! I fill the triangle mold to the brim each time.
  2. Color part of my mini-batch garish red for the ornaments. Pour it all over my workspace. Realize the tiny funnel is not tiny enough.
  3. After the triangles and cylinder have had a couple days to firm up, mix the 'tree', and put it all together. Remember to color it green. Ignore the math and mix up waaaaay too much tree. Assemble it all. Mold seems suspiciously over-full. Ornament-cylinders are dropped into wherever seems right.
  4. Two days later, un-mold and cut. Find the Christmas tree is actually a boabab tree - with ornaments.
Trial_1.jpg
Trial One Conclusion - I need to fix the math and fix the colors and fix that funnel. Also - lining the mold takes an hour! Also, now I've used up the essential oils that say "Christmas" to me.... need different scents.
But - The ornaments are placed sort-of right.
On to Trial Two...

Trial Two - "Bold colors! Bold scents! Instant trace."

  1. Make another triangle/rectangle mold, so I don't have to wait two days for the first batch to be done before I can pour the second. Now I can pour an entire tree's-worth at once.
  2. Again, mix the triangle/rectangle batch, this time using a normal-size batch recipe. I have enough to fill both triangle/rectangle molds and use the excess to make a partial-recipe of 3" round bars. But in a stroke of creativity I decide the original boring background color should be clearer, so I use black! Also, I use some bolder essential oils... which trace the triangle/rectangle mix immediately. I have press it into the mold with a spatula.
  3. Color another part of the batch garish red (again) for the ornaments. Pour it all over my workspace again. Realize the tiny funnel is not tiny enough again.
  4. After the triangles and cylinder have had a couple days to firm up, mix the 'tree', and put it all together. Remember (again) to color it green. DO NOT ignore the math. Mix up exactly the right amount to make the tree. Assemble it all. Ornaments' placement is more troublesome this time.
  5. Two days later, un-mold and cut. Find the Christmas tree is recognizable, but...
Trial_2.jpg
Trial Two Conclusion - Black soap makes black suds. Black suds are not Christmas-y. Also, the ornaments are too large and placed wrong, and the funnel still doesn't work. Also, the insty-trace mix meant the triangles aren't all complete, and they don't all lie where they should.
But - the green & red colors are OK
On to Trail Three..


Trial Three - "Let's change everything. What could go wrong?"

  1. Again, mix the triangle/rectangle batch, this time using a normal-size batch recipe. This time I back off the black, and instead color the base mix with turmeric, which should give a nice rich organic brown background. Trace behaves normally (whew).
  2. Make new cylinder molds at smaller diameter by rolling the freezer paper tighter. Abandon the funnel, and pour the garish red by mixing it in a ziplock baggie, and cutting off the tiniest corner of the baggie to allow it to flow into the cylindrical mold (Thanks to this Forum for that tip!) Ignore the math, and mix up waaaay too much garish red.
  3. After the triangles and cylinder have had a couple days to firm up, mix the 'tree', and put it all together. Remember (again) to color it green. DO NOT ignore the math. Mix up exactly the right amount to make the tree. Assemble it all. With the narrower tree-body, placement of the ornaments is much tougher. Also, they wander around in the mold after they're placed because the tree mix is at too-soft trace.
  4. Two days later, un-mold and cut. Find the Christmas tree is recognizable, but...
Trial_3.jpg
Trial Three Conclusion - Something (turmeric?) seems to make my triangles/rectangles crumbly. They fall apart when I un-mold them. Also, mixing up exactly the right amount for the tree, minus waste loss, means my tree is a bit too thin. And - The trace is different this time when I assemble it. Placing inclusions into a soft-trace mix allows them to wander around. The ornaments float down to the trunk of the tree, and the triangles seem to have shrunk, so they don't adjoin as I'd like.

By now I've run out of time for this Christmas season.
It's a never-boring procession of discoveries, but I still don't understand all the factors I need to manage and I'm still making new mistakes.
I'll try again next year.

Cheers!
Todd

"Nothing ventured, nothing learned."
 

annalee2003

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Wow, what a process!

I really admire your determination throughout the whole project. You were very dedicated. I'm sorry that it didn't come out the way you wanted, but you seemed to have had fun experimenting at least. And experimenting equals learning!

I kinda like how the last soap Christmas tree came out. It has a cool "frozen" look to it. Almost like a frozen, snow covered tree. :)
 

Todd_in_Minnesota

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Wow, what a process!

I really admire your determination throughout the whole project. You were very dedicated. I'm sorry that it didn't come out the way you wanted, but you seemed to have had fun experimenting at least. And experimenting equals learning!

I kinda like how the last soap Christmas tree came out. It has a cool "frozen" look to it. Almost like a frozen, snow covered tree. :)
Thanks Annalee!
I would love to claim it was intentional... but the truth is out.
 

mazimazi

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Wow, you really put a lot of effort in this, didn't you? It looks nice and interesting. If I decided to ever make christmas tree soap, i would just make embedds from silicone mold :).
Oh, for the ornaments, what about just stamping them on the surface of finished bars? With some mica they can be nice and shiny and placed all over the tree.
 

Todd_in_Minnesota

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Wow, you really put a lot of effort in this, didn't you? It looks nice and interesting. If I decided to ever make christmas tree soap, i would just make embedds from silicone mold :).
Oh, for the ornaments, what about just stamping them on the surface of finished bars? With some mica they can be nice and shiny and placed all over the tree.
I never even thought about stamping the ornaments in - that's a great idea! I've seen pics of very detailed and eye-catching mica stamps, but I've never tried it myself. Can you recommend a good resource to get me started?
 

Wildcraft_Garden

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I always use turmeric for colouring my soaps and haven't had the crumble before. Someone asked me to make inukshuk soap, your method is inspiring me!
 

snappyllama

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Wow, that's a really neat idea! I like the colors on the last one - it's sort of a mod Christmas.

I haven't tried this, but I've seen folks doing multi-stage pours. If you have a slab mold, you could do a green batch for your trees. Then cut them out while still fairly soft and place them back in your slab mold, then do white pour for the negative space. I think you could even hollow out your trees for the ornaments (perhaps using a melon baller). I think the pours will adhere if you get a full gel. Actually, i might have to file away that idea for other holidays... hearts and arrows maybe... or a big egg... hrmmm :think:
 

Todd_in_Minnesota

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I always use turmeric for colouring my soaps and haven't had the crumble before. Someone asked me to make inukshuk soap, your method is inspiring me!
Hi Wildcraft.
Thanks for the note about Turmeric. I've used it in the past too with no problems, so I'm mystified about why that particular mix came out crumbly. It might have been too wet, and I just didn't give it time to dry.
I just googled 'Inukshuk'. That project should be so much fun. Please post your results for us to see.
 

Todd_in_Minnesota

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Wow, that's a really neat idea! I like the colors on the last one - it's sort of a mod Christmas.

I haven't tried this, but I've seen folks doing multi-stage pours. If you have a slab mold, you could do a green batch for your trees. Then cut them out while still fairly soft and place them back in your slab mold, then do white pour for the negative space. I think you could even hollow out your trees for the ornaments (perhaps using a melon baller). I think the pours will adhere if you get a full gel. Actually, i might have to file away that idea for other holidays... hearts and arrows maybe... or a big egg... hrmmm :think:
Hey Llama,
That's another fabrication approach that I hadn't thought of. Thanks!.
My primary mold is a silicon 4"x 6"x11" loaf, but I might be able to pour&carve like you're thinking. The challenge with the ornaments was that proportions required them to be small relative to the tree, like 1/4" diameter (6mm). I thought about pouring the entire block (tree + background) then drilling out the ornaments to be re-filled with red, but a 12" long small-diameter drill is hard to come by.
MaziMazi suggested mica stamps. That sounds pretty appealing just now :>
I did worry about adhesion of the different pours, but it seems to have taken care of itself. The only special thing I did to enhance adhesion is to do the final combination pour as soon as I could after the original pieces were poured, so they didn't have too long to dry out.
Thanks for your thoughts.
I'll be back at it next year, I'm sure.
 

nsmar4211

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I like the first and last trees :) Awesome of you to write this up!!

Just think, now you have a whole year to perfect it!
 

sugar_soap

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Yep, lots of interesting and 'simple' ideas out there. Until you try them out...:)

Really like your experiments and the write-up cracked me up

I also experimented with Xmas trees this year and managed to burn two fingers
 

Todd_in_Minnesota

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Yep, lots of interesting and 'simple' ideas out there. Until you try them out...:)

Really like your experiments and the write-up cracked me up

I also experimented with Xmas trees this year and managed to burn two fingers
Hey Sugar,
They DO all seem simple at first....
But writing this up has made me realize that I'm actually pretty close to success.
All I need to do is:

  1. mix the triangles/rectangles from a recipe that won't go crumbly on me
  2. pour the tree, and assemble it all, at a firm trace. That way the inclusions will behave more predictably
  3. do more mathiness
  4. be very, very careful and precise about everything.... not my strongest point.
It could be I'm closer than I thought! Next year, we'll know.


Sorry about your fingers :( Hope all is well.
Thanks!
Todd
 

sugar_soap

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I decided to take the easy way out and do muffin soaps with green frosting and small yellow and red drops as decorations :D fingers not too bad - at the moment they look like an old witch's, all wrinkled. Tres sexy
 

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Todd_in_Minnesota

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penelopejane

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Thanks PJ,
I'm going to have to do a bunch of study before I know how to use those molds for stamping.
But I've got a whole year before this project starts up again, so ... no worries.
Todd
You don't use them for stamping. You just pour your batter in, wait for it to set and that's it. u can do different colours - google it :)
They look excellent.
 
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