I love trolling the net looking at pictures of hand crafted soaps. In fact, it’s become an extension of my soap obsession. But I guess it’s time well spent as I do use it for research for designing upcoming soaps. Or at least, that’s the story I’m going with 😉
One of the things I’ve noticed a lot of soapers doing is pencil lines. What is a pencil line? Notice in the pictures below, the dark line running through each bar. It’s such a simplistic and modern look, and while I don’t usually like simple (or modern), I love the look of pencil lines. I’ve done it three times, now, and each time has presented its own challenges. And while all three times, the soap hasn’t turned out exactly as I’d hoped, they’re still nice looking. And I’ve learned with soap making that the soaps that don’t turn out perfectly like I want them to are usually the first ones to sell out 😉
These are the most recent two soaps made this past weekend:
Japanese Cherry Blossom (the pink was colored with Cosmetic Fluorescent Strong Pink, the white with Titanium Dioxide, and the pencil line was made with Activated Charcoal).
Bay Rum (uncolored – this fragrance oil has a .3% vanilla content, so it should darken somewhat- and the pencil line was made with Black Walnut Hulls Powder).
Pencil lines are essentially a thin layer of powder (such as micas, activated charcoal, cocoa powder, ground coffee, etc) sandwiched between two layers of soap. To achieve this effect, you can use a tea infuser or a small mesh sifter (which is what I used).
Once the first layer of soap is poured into the mold, simply dust a small spoonful of your chosen powder on top of it. The fun part is that you can make the pencil line straight or jagged just by smoothing out the first layer soap or leaving it more texturized. After you’ve added the pencil line carefully wipe the sides of the mold to clean up the excess powder. Now, it’s time to add the second layer of soap. So that the second layer of soap doesn’t break through and disrupt the line, pour it over a spoon or spatula.
Tip: When you cut the soap, turn the whole loaf on it’s side. This keeps the pencil line from being dragged through the whole bar of soap. This also works great when you slice soap that is topped with oatmeal, jojoba beads, calendula, chamomile, etc. Also, wipe the blade of your cutter clean after each time.
My soap cutter is unfortunately not tall enough to cut soap on its side, so I had to use a knife. And I am horrible at cutting straight, even bars using a knife. So, before I do any more pencil line soaps, I’m going to have to purchase a different cutter – maybe a good cheese slicer like this one here.
Updated on February 14, 2015:
Two years later, and this is still one of my favorite soap making techniques. In fact, browse our Etsy shop and you’ll almost always see at least one pencil line soap (check out our shop here).
A couple of recent pencil line soaps:
Japanese Cherry Blossom. . . . same scent and same design from above.
Indian Sandalwood with a very thin line of gold mica (brown swirls were colored using cocoa powder). . . .
Fallen Leaves with a thin line of gold mica (colored with titanium dioxide, red oxide, and Moroccan Clay).
Tips I’ve learned over the last couple of years. . . .
A cheese slicer is a fantastic cutter for pencil line soaps.
Always turn the soap loaf on its side while cutting to avoid smearing the pencil line.
Use the smallest sifter possible to avoid getting your pencil line colorant on the sides of the soap mold. I now use one even smaller than the one pictured above.
It’s a fine balance between too much and too little. . . . Too little and the pencil line doesn’t show up as well. Too much and the soap might split in half right at the pencil line.
Use a vegetable peeler to clean up the sides of the bars and make them neater.