I signed up immediately for Amy Warden’s March Soap Challenge – Rimmed Soaps, with guest teacher Tatsiana Serko. And then I got really sick and thought I would miss out.
I started late, but I’m so glad that I was able to participate. The videos were great and discussion boards were very helpful – I learned a LOT.
POGY Rimmed Shampoo Bars – Pineapple Orange Grapefruit Yuzu
At the last minute, decided to try a second batch – hoping to finish in time – with some brighter and more colorful colors than the fist batch: Yellow mica; Tangerine Orange; Electric Bubblegum (dark pink); and Apple Green LabColor.
I used the same rim soap recipe as before. (For recipes, more details, and all my discoveries see 1st batch later in the blog.)
The first thing I realized (and had been suspecting) is that I may have a container of Lye (sodium hydroxide) that is waning. I have been noticing some slight changes through the past couple months with this lye. It used to always heat up to 210 degrees, then only 200 degrees and in this batch it only went up to 190 degrees.
And the soap batters seemed to get thick really fast, and then start reversing trace. (With bad lye, you will not achieve trace at all – speaking from experience and from what little I have read of this.)
I pushed on and did a Peacock swirl in my 9-bar mold. I free-poured each line, as the batter got thick quickly and I felt like it was too thick to stop & put it in squeeze bottles. (I didn’t do much of a photo shoot because of this.) By the end though, I was able to get nice thin lines when pouring.
I poured on the small side of the mold instead of on the horizontal side – I thought that would give each rim more definition after the finished soap was cut.
Half way through the pour, the lines were pretty thick (first photo below). I then swirled this with a chop stick, as I know that my peacock swirl tools will not reach all the way to the bottom of the mold.
In the first step of the peacock swirl (middle photo), you can see that the lines of the soap are narrower with the reverse trace. On the third photo you can see that I made the swirls much tighter than usual, again to add more definition to the rims after the soap is cut. (The orange & pink are not very well delineated, but after the soap gelled, they became more pronounced):
I put the soap in a 150 degree oven for 2 hours; turned off the heat and left it in for another 4 hours. I took it out and it sat on the counter for another 4+ hours before it cooled off enough to un-mold.
I was so excited that I could finally cut the rims, that I forgot to take photos of the rims I used. (I cut the leftovers into bars and you can see the Peacock swirl on one side & what looks similar to a frog-foot swirl on the back side):
This soap was firmer than my 1st batch and really rubbery. It was more difficult to cut, but easier to form into a roll without cracking.
And since my freezer paper seems to have creases throughout, I tried butcher paper and parchment paper in my tube molds, hoping to prevent wrinkles from transferring to the rim soap.
I cut 3 rims and each one was different. The peacock swirl on one; a negative impression mat (that I put on the bottom of the mold) for another, and a middle piece with a lovely “frog foot” type swirl.
I made my shampoo soap (see batch #1 for recipe) using a different brand of lye that worked great, and I didn’t stick blend – for the first time ever. I added my scents and then the lye, and hand-stirred, while it accelerated itself to trace. I poured off enough for each color – white, pink and green; stick blended to smooth out the slight ricing, right before pouring into the tube molds.
Again to avoid wrinkles on the outside (possibly from gelling), I put my soap in the freezer for 8 hours, then in the fridge overnight. While un-molding in the morning I noticed the parchment paper was crinkled, but it did not transfer onto the rim of the soap and they were all smooth & unblemished – I didn’t even need to rub or steam them.
But next time I will let the soap gel, as the freezing shrunk the rims a bit.
(On left side of photo below you can see one edge of the impression mat where the inner soap overflowed and filled the impression. I could easily scrape it out, but I think it will add a fun touch to that soap slice).
I had some beautiful leftover soap that I cut into six 4 oz slices for unscented soaps (back side & front side):
Mint Trio Rimmed Shampoo Bars – Peppermint, Spearmint & Wintergreen mint
Making the Rims:
I wasn’t able to use Tatsiana’s rim soap recipe, as I don’t have Palm Kernel Oil and unsure of it’s soaping properties. As far as I can tell, Palm Kernel Oil is a homogenized version of Palm Kernel Flakes (both have the same SAP value.) I do have the flakes, and I’ve found that using them over 5% accelerates trace. So I felt that using 15% of palm kernel flakes could turn into a disaster when needing a slow-moving batter. I also don’t use almond oil, as I am allergic to almonds, but an easy substitute is apricot kernel oil.
So here’s the revised rim recipe I came up with:
20% palm oil
20% apricot kernel oil
5% palm kernel flakes
25% coconut oil
20% avocado oil
10% castor oil
I did maintain the recommended superfat & water:
water – 30% of oil weight
I was fixated on the colors white, black, light blue, & dark blue – as I wanted something more masculine, or at least more neutral without the usual pinks & purples I always love. But that color scheme seemed very bland, so I added yellow…and then at the last minute, orange.
Colors and order of pour:
BB Activated Charcoal black
BB Ultramarine dark blue
CC Yellow Locking Mica
BB Tangerine Orange
BB 1982 blue mica with TD
I heated up the oil used to mix the pigments & micas and that worked like a dream for preventing clumps, which I usually get in my TD and Ultramarine Blue (despite micronizing them and mixing with a mini-blender).
After separating the batter and adding the colors, the soap thicken up really fast, so I didn’t stop for any photos. Interestingly, as time went on, the batter reversed trace and was at a very nice consistency for the spin swirl. Doing this swirl was a first for me.
I put my 9-bar mold on my Lazy Susan spice rack to spin – but it got very muddy on the sides. I expected the white & black to make some grey – it made a lot of grey! I was very surprised that sandwiching the yellow color between the two blues did not produce any green.
Per the discussion boards (and living in Colorado, where everything cooks at a lower temperature), I popped my covered soap in the oven at 150 degrees for 1 hour, turned it off, and left it there for another 3 hours.
When I pulled it out, it was very hot in the middle. I was able to un-molded it, but the middle of the soap was still very mushy and oily. So it sat on my counter for 2 hours and despite checking on it every 20-30 minutes, there was no change. I covered it up with a towel for another 2.5 hours and then it was done.
Cutting the rims:
I had pre-cut lots of cardboard and had several hard books to put into my 9-bar mold, then put the soap on top. But this was a very unstable platform and I could not get consistent cuts. (Using wood pieces would have been more stable, but I didn’t have any.)
I had 3 slicers to choose from: the top of the horizontal wire soap slicer from Bramble Berry (https://www.brambleberry.com/Wire-Soap-Slicer-P6326.aspx); “the garrote” (that my sweetie-pie made for me using Tatiana’s method in the videos), and an adjustable wire slicer for cakes that Omneya recommended.
I tried all three and the cake cutter far out-shined all the others. I ended up putting my soap on the counter and cut it there for the best stability. I discovered that the settings on the adjustments of the cake cutter were 2mm apart. After slicing off a layer (and getting it into the tube mold), I simply moved the wire down 2 notches and had a perfect 4 mm to slice again.
It worked so wonderfully, that I got my handy-man to improvise some additional tube molds for me, so I ended up with a total of four and some leftover soap for another project. (See next Blog post for more on that.)
Of course it took a lot of trial & error to get to this point.
It was fascinating how the swirl changed after each slice:
I did notice as time went on, that the soap got harder & harder to slice, so timing is a huge piece of this process.
Rolling the Rims:
It took several attempts of rolling the rims to get that right too. Rolling the tube mold over the rim or using a rolling pin made the curl too big. And then trying to roll it smaller or squashing it down after the first roll, caused cracks and unevenness.
I tried a variety of items to roll it around, and none of them worked until my Sweetie-Pie gave me one of his small plastic fishing rod cases. It’s about 2 inches in diameter – the inside of my tube molds were 3 inches. I rolled the rim between two sheets of freezer paper on the fishing rod case; pulled out the case & inside paper and it was small enough to easily slip into the tub mold and then I let it expand to fit the sides.
I have long, thin hands, so I thought it would be easy for me to get the rims into the molds and smooth out the inside edges. But with the thickness of the rim, the space was very tiny to work in and I had to work blind, as I couldn’t look inside, with both my hands in there.
A shout out to Alaiyna B’s tutorial, that I had seen a while ago: http://alaiynab.blogspot.com/2015/10/rimmed-soap-tutorial.html
She did a wonderful job of explaining the meeting of the edges – having the rim a tiny bit big, slightly overlapped, then manipulating the sides (pushing them apart) to plop the rim edges together, which worked really well. Sadly, my edges still turned out very rough inside….I hoped this would not be reflected too much on the outside.
After the fact, I read about the method of using a rolling pin inside the mold to smooth it down.
Three pics below: Tube molds ready to be filled; the beautiful colors on the inside; and you can see that I still need much more practice to get the edges lined up and looking pretty:
The tubes that turned out to be the best were made from tall, heavy-duty plastic lye containers. Cut off the top and 1.5 inches from the bottom, split the bottom piece and tape it back on.
Filling the molds:
All of the above took me all day and an hour past my bed-time, so I didn’t get the soap into the tube molds until the next day.
I thought the rimmed soaps might be the perfect venue for shampoo bars, as they set up so quickly I can never do anything too complicated with them.
Mint Trio Shampoo Bar recipe:
5% Apricot Kernel Oil
10% Avocado Oil
20% Castor Oil
5% Cocoa Butter
20% Coconut Oil
5% Hazelnut Oil
10% Olive Oil
20% Palm Oil
5% Palm Kernel Flakes
4% SF Lye
10% disc Distilled Water
3% Nettle Extract (added to Oils)
1% Sodium Lactate (into Lye water at 130 degrees/less)
A combo of 50% Peppermint, 35% Spearmint, & 15% Wintergreen mint essential oils.
I was going to go all white for the centers, but I decided it would be nice to use white, yellow, orange, & light blue – a separate color for each tube.
The moment I started to stick blended my lye water & oils, it turned into a clumpy mess – that was the fasted I’ve had my shampoo bars ever set up.
I continued on with my colors and the white & yellow worked out okay. The orange was very stiff and the blue turned into a disaster. I was using the tallest tube mold and the paper lined most of the mold, although my rim only used the bottom half.
The liner was wet, as I had poured distilled water into some tubes that morning to figure out how much soap I would need. I thought this would be a good way to soften up the rim soap too, so that it would adhere better to the new soap.
But with all the extra wet freezer paper in the tall mold, it turned into mush when I was trying to shove the now extremely stiff soap batter way down into the mold. I tried ripping off the extra paper, but that just balled it up more. I couldn’t get it to stay on the sides of the tube, while I attempted to shove the now clumpy batter in.
I made a big mess with soap flying everywhere! A whole day’s work on the rims and the easiest part could destroy it all!
I was a bit worried about the un-molding, as there seemed to be no video, photos, or mention of it in the tutorials. Interestingly, the soap just “fell” out of the mold!
I was really disappointed that each tube had a bit of a wrinkly section on them – as if the freezer paper wrinkled. I realized it could have been from when I poured water into the tube (see above), but it even happened on the tubes I did not water-measure. Did the gelling of the center soap cause this buckling?
There was really no reason to gel this soap, as the rims are the star here – I just always gel my soap, so I didn’t think twice about it. Next time I will not gel.
Also, I tried Tatiana’s technique of rubbing the rims with a moist towel to make them shinny. This just caused my colors to blur together – maybe you need to wait a few days before doing this.
I did steam each tube soap and it really made them shine!
I had put a negative impression mat on the bottom of my 9-bar mold, as I thought it might be an interesting rim.
I didn’t use this bottom as a rim, because the colors were too limiting. Putting a splash of colors down first, before continuing on with the pour for the spin swirl would be a better way to do this.
I wrote this after my first batch: “There is so much potential of rimmed soaps not working and it is such a huge time suck to do them, with the outcome being such tiny batches, that I’m not sure if this as a viable soaping option on a frequent basis.”
However, after making a second batch and it being such a dream to do – and seeing all the wonderful works of art and ideas coming from other soapers in the challenge – this technique has really grown on me. I am already thinking of a several variations and creating more of these.
I learned SO MANY incredible things making rimmed soap (I even made a list of 21 Do’s & Don’ts). It was a tremendous learning experience!
A record 298 soapers signed up for this challenge: 234 from the USA and 64 from 21 other countries. Only 77 soaps – 25% – were submitted for judging. Even though I didn’t place, I feel like I accomplished a lot with my entry soap.
This was a very difficult challenge that took a lot of effort to get it right. I feel fortunate to have been able to make two batches that were nice. Now I need more practice to refine them.