But! That doesn't mean that I haven't been soaping. I've been working on something big, something YOOGE for the past couple of months.
A while back, Tim from Lancaster Soapmakers contacted me and offered to send me one of his molds so I could review it. He sent me his latest creation, a 3-in-1 mold called The ONE Mold.
And here it is!
With just a change of a few pieces, the mold can go from a shapes mold, to a slab mold, to a three-loaf mold.
And it doesn't need to be lined! I don't know which part I like best - that I can do three different things with the mold, or that I don't have to line it. A removable silicone mat covers the bottom of the wooden mold, and acrylic pieces line the sides. The mold comes with a set of slab dividers to make twelve individual bars, and it also has dividers that slide into the liner pieces to make three separate loaves.
Want to see how the mold works? Check out my intro video:
Now on to the soapmaking.
For the first batch, I decided to try out the flowers tray mold. Tim also sent me a circles tray, but I decided to use the flowers here because spring is coming. And also because I immediately had an idea for the flowers mold. The tray is made of thick HDPE plastic and it sits on top of the silicone mat. The tray has holes drilled into the sides and pins hold the tray in place in the wooden mold.
Floral fragrance oils can be tricky, so I decided to go with lavender essential oil since it hasn't given me any trouble thus far, acceleration-wise. Of course, the colors purple and green came to mind, so I chose to do an in-the-pot swirl with those colors. After I scented the soap and brought it just to the point of emulsification, I portioned off about a half cup into two measuring cups and colored one green and the other dark purple. Then I colored the rest of the soap a light purple (purple pigment plus titanium dioxide). To make the swirl, I poured the dark purple soap into my bowl of light purple soap at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions, and the green at the 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock positions. Then I moved a spoon through the soap just a couple of times, being careful not to overmix. As I poured the soap into the mold, the soap continued to swirl.
After a couple of days, I put the HDPE portion in the freezer for a few hours to make unmolding easier, just in case the soap was still a bit soft. I was then able to push on the backs of the soaps and they popped right out.
The tray mold worked beautifully - no leaking, no sliding. Just perfectly shaped flowers. And I love how my ITP swirl turned out!
Want to see me make these flower soaps? Here ya go!
Next up was the slab mold, which creates 12 individual bars. To construct the slab mold, I put down the silicone mat and lined the sides with the acrylic pieces. The mold comes with dividers, which I assembled ahead of time so I could just drop them into my soap when I was ready.
I saw a really cool tutorial on the interwebs by Amanda at the Lovin' Soap Studio called "Retro Roses soap design" and I decided to use it for my slab soap. The idea is to use squirt bottles to create roses and leaves on top of the soap.
To make the soap, I used a slow-tracing recipe of 50% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 15% shea butter, and 5% castor oil. (This is the recipe I used for the Lavender ITP swirl soaps above, too.) For the scent, I chose Bramble Berry's Energy FO. It's not floral - it's rather citrusy - but it is well-behaved and it doesn't discolor.
I portioned off about a half cup of soap into each of my measuring cups and colored one red and the other green and transferred each to a squeeze bottle. Then I split the remaining soap and colored one portion green and the other white. I poured a layer of green and then spooned a layer of white on top of it. Using my squeeze bottles, I made red circles and green dots. (Tip: snip the tips of the bottles a bit to help the soap come out easier.) Using a toothpick, I swirled the red circles from the outside in, incorporating some of the white soap into the red. Then I dragged another toothpick through the green dots to make leaves.
Once the roses design was finished, I dropped my dividers into the soap, gently pressing them down to the bottom of the mold.
After about a week and a half, I unmolded the soap. I would have unmolded it sooner, but I got the laryngitis and had to wait until my voice came back so I could film again. The soap was still slightly soft but firm enough to unmold without any trouble. I could have also put the acrylic portion of the mold into the freezer to help with unmolding if I was worried about soft soap.
To unmold, I turned the wooden mold upside down and let the acrylic portion gently slide out. Then I peeled the silicone mat away, slid the acrylic sides away - sliding, not pulling - and then began to slide the bars away from the dividers. Once I had removed a few bars, I was able to remove the dividers as well. The liners and dividers slid away from the soap very easily and I had no trouble unmolding.
The red did drag through the bars a bit when I put the dividers in, but that is no fault of the mold. It is just the nature of the pigment. To avoid that in the future, I could put the dividers in and then make the design on the individual bars. Or perhaps a different colorant would be less prone to dragging. I think it looks kinda cool, though, no?
Here's a video showing the making of these slab bars:
Finally, I tried out the loaf mold configuration. The mold makes three loaves this way and holds about ten pounds of soap. This was the biggest batch of soap I have ever made. None of my bowls were big enough, so I used a dishpan to mix up my soap. Then I split the batch into three equal parts and colored one green, one white, and one black using activated charcoal.
My plan was to do a tiger stripe swirl, but my soap batter got very thick. This rather surprised me, as I was using a well-behaved fragrance oil (Bramble Berry's Wasabi FO) and almost the same recipe as the other two batches. I did have to tweak my recipe a bit because I didn't have enough shea butter. Instead of using shea butter at 15%, I used it at 10% and included 5% mango butter to make up the difference. (And, of course, I ran my tweaked recipe through a lye calculator.) I also was using a different brand of olive oil for this batch. I wonder if that small amount of mango butter could have made such a big impact, or if the new olive oil had something to do with my soap getting thick?
Anyway, I decided to switch gears and do a Celine Swirl since my soap was so thick. So I layered the green, white, and black soap, alternating the colors, and then used a spoon to scoop the soap from the bottom of the mold up to the top all the way down one side of each loaf and then down the other side. This technique also creates beautiful peaks on top of the soap.
About three days later, I unmolded the soap. The soap was pretty hard, so I didn't bother putting it in the freezer. Unmolding it was similar to unmolding the slab bars. I tipped the wooden mold upside down to let the acrylic portion slide out, peeled away the silicone mat, and then slid the sides away. I slid the two loaves on either side away from the dividers, and then slid the dividers away from the remaining middle loaf. Again, it was an easy and clean removal.
And here is a video for the Celine Swirl soaps:
So what did I think of this mold? Two enthusiastic thumbs up!
There are many things to like about this mold.
I like that you can do three totally different things with one mold. All you have to do is move a few pieces around. So instead of having a slab mold over here, some loaf molds over there, and a bunch of shapes molds scattered around, you have one mold that can do it all. It sounds like a variety of shapes trays is available - The ONE Mold website says that "the design shapes range from lighthearted flowers, hearts and clovers to geometric circles, squares and triangles."
And I LOOOVE that it doesn't need to be lined. Making liners can be such a pain and this mold eliminates that.
The soap is easy to unmold, the mold's pieces are easy to clean, and the mold is easy to put together and take apart.
The mold is of a very high quality, too. It's sturdy, and the soap doesn't leak out. I can tell that this mold was made by a soapmaker with other soapmakers in mind, and it seems that a lot of thought and care went into its design.
I have no criticisms of the mold - there is nothing that I don't like about it, and nothing that I would suggest changing.
As a side note, I have another mold that Tim designed, but I didn't know that it was his design until recently. I bought one of his acrylic slab molds from Soap Making Resource in 2011 and it has been my go-to slab mold ever since. (In fact, it was the only slab mold I had until now.) It is similar to the slab mold here, but it is held together with rods and bolts instead of a wooden box. Whenever I use it in a video, people are like OMG WHERE DID YOU GET THAT MOLD?! I have enjoyed that mold for all of these years and it is still in excellent shape, and I expect that this 3-in-1 mold will hold up just as well.
So if you like the looks of this mold, please check out The ONE Mold website at theonemold.com. The ONE Mold also offers custom logo plates upon request, which is a great alternative to stamping soaps.
And also take a look at the Lancaster Soapmakers website. You'll find a wide selection of soap molds there - wooden molds, acrylic molds, HDPE molds, slab molds, loaf molds, column molds, vertical molds.
The ONE Mold/Lancaster Soapmakers team welcomes custom work, so if you have something in mind, do contact them.
You can also connect with The ONE Mold and Lancaster Soapmakers through their Facebook page.
And, as always, thank you to all of you for reading!