Wood Grain Winners

June 2022 Soap Challenge

Have you ever made a soap that looks like wood?  That was our challenge for June!  We did this challenge six years ago, and there are so many more ways to achieve the wood grain effect now.  After being presented with several options, members were allowed to use any pouring technique that would give them a realistic looking wood grain.  The twist was in the division of categories.  Technically they were synthetic vs. natural colorants.  However, for the “natural” category I decided to call it “no synthetic colors added” because in addition to clay or botanical material, they could use other means to achieve the differences in color such as a discoloring fragrance or multiple lye concentrations.

Custom Craft Tools is our much loved sponsor this month!  They are providing generous gift certificate prizes for the top three voted winners and a Sponsor’s Choice winner in each of the competitive categories, plus an additional Sponsor’s Choice winner from the non-competitive bonus category.

Custom Craft Tools is driven by their passion to create high quality, innovative soap making tools. Each item is manufactured in-house, meaning they don’t do business with second-party manufacturers. Every mold or cutter is 100% designed and produced by hand in their workshop in Charleston, South Carolina.  They have some amazing products that you won’t find anywhere else!  Worldwide shipping available.

I am very happy with the number of people who attempted to make their soaps without synthetic colors this month.  We had 68 entries in this category!  The grand prize goes to Brigid Allen of Woodville Soap Company in New Zealand for her incredible Kindred Spirit wood grain soap.  She chose activated charcoal, Brazilian yellow, red and purple clays, plus French green clay for her natural colorants.  The effect is just gorgeous!

Kindred Spirit by Woodville Soap Company

Brigid did such a great job with her colors and fine lines and she will be rewarded with a $150 gift certificate from Custom Craft Tools!!  Check out the other wood grain soap she made with indigo as well as more photos of this soap by clicking on the photo above which is linked to her Instagram post.

Congratulations to our second place winner, Diletta Vitturi in Italy, who took third place in the experienced category last month!  She simply used 5% cocoa powder in the oils and divided her batter using three different lye solution strengths to obtain the color and texture variation.  It is poured as a Taiwan swirl, then cut vertically.  Isn’t it fantastic?

Spirit of the Wood by Diletta Vitturi

The effect is like chunks of walnut wood, scented with Virginia cedar and patchouli.  Diletta wins a $100 gift certificate from Custom Craft Tools – woo hoo!!  Click on the photo to see more photos of this magnificent soap on her Instagram post.

Our third place winner is Joyce Li in Hong Kong!  She created her Wood soap with natural colors: activated charcoal, cocoa powder and indigo, while keeping some of the batter uncolored.  The fine wood grain lines are truly incredible:

Wood by Joyce Li

The photography and presentation of this soap is also superb!  Joyce wins a $75 gift certificate from Custom Craft Tools!  Click on the photo to see her Instagram post to see some of her previous wood grain soaps and the progress she’s made.

Next we have the Sponsor’s Choice winner from the No Synthetic Colors Added category.  Alex has chosen Whittany Nicholas of J&W Soaps in Alabama to receive this award.  The soap is titled “Wood You?” to which Alex replies, “I wood. I would pick this soap for the knots, grain and heartwood. Routed edges turned it into a jewelry box!

Wood You? by J&W Soaps

Whittany used cocoa powder, activated charcoal, rose kaolin clay and yellow Brazilian clay (along with uncolored soap) to achieve the beautiful wood grain effect.  Custom Craft Tools gives out generous Sponsor’s Choice prizes as well – an amazing $125 gift certificate!  Photo is linked to her Instagram post with more photos and information about the fancy soap beveler she used.

Let’s take a look at the Recognition Awards for this category next.  I asked my husband to help me choose the Best Technique winners since he is a hobbyist woodworker and the goal was to create the most realistic wood grain effect.  We picked Viera Reznickova in Slovakia to receive this award for her Wood Grain soap.  The interesting lines and how they curve on the edges as well as the way she formed the knots are what drew us to her soap.  Her natural colorants include paprika, alkanet, cocoa powder, and activated charcoal:

Wood Grain by Viera Reznickova

Really well done, Viera!  (Photo not linked)

One of the most difficult aspects of using natural colorants in cold process soap is that they tend to bleed.  Very few natural colors will create distinct lines.  For the Best Use of Color Award I was looking for soaps that demonstrated excellent control of the natural colorants and when I saw the unique ingredients that Janice Hsu in Taiwan used, I knew I had my winner!  Not only did she use familiar colorants like cocoa powder and pink clay, but she also incorporated sweet pepper powder, crushed pearl powder, and a yellow exfoliating powder made with red bean seed powder, algus seed extract, red sandalwood powder, Heini turmeric root powder, and white rice starch.  This is her aptly named “Clear Wood Grain Swirl”:

Clear Wood Grain Swirl by Janice Hsu

All the colors are well-mixed and beautifully distributed in varying layers with excellent contrast.  (Photo not linked)

The Best Presentation Award is for an entry with exceptional photography and well displayed soaps.  I have chosen Mandy Welch of Sweet Home Soaps in Alabama to receive this award for the fantastic photo of her Lavender Woods soaps.  Not only are the soaps set up in a fun way, but I also love the super clean surface that shows their reflection!  The white background is perfectly blurred with just the slightest hint of texture and makes the soaps stand out with their gorgeous colors and wood grain design:

Lavender Woods by Sweet Home Soaps

As you might guess, this soap is scented with lavender, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils and the natural colorants used include cocoa powder, vanilla bean powder for the speckled look, paprika, activated charcoal, Himalayan rhubarb, and indigo.  Mandy also used a brine solution to create the white!  This photo is linked to her Instagram post – check it out!

I haven’t been able to give out a Best Soap Newbie award in quite some time since we typically have beginner and experienced categories and not many beginners have ventured into the experienced category lately!  This month I get to give out this award in both categories.  It goes to someone who has been making soap for less than a year and has made fewer than 50 batches.  I was very impressed with this Redwood soap by Marie Stephens in South Carolina!  Not only does it have amazing color from kaolinite clay and turmeric, but it also demonstrates excellent wood grain and is presented beautifully as well:

Redwood by Marie Stephens

Outstanding job, Marie!!  I look forward to seeing more of your soaps in future challenges!  (Photo not linked)

Please check out the rest of the entries in the No Synthetic Color Added category HERE

We had a very close race in the synthetic category.  Our grand prize winner by just one vote is Dani Demyen of Humble Bumble Soaps in California!  She created a unique wood grain soap with a Pringles can and hot glue for the perfect textured mold.  By using an accelerating fragrance for the bark and a well-behaved fragrance for the wood, she was able to make her soap all in one batch!

Pringlewood by Humble Bumble Soaps

Dani has made six different wood grain soaps in Pringles cans plus several others in regular loaf molds supporting her claim that this is one of her favorite techniques!  Well worth the efforts, I hope, as her prize is a $150 gift certificate from Custom Craft Tools!  Click on the photo to see her Instagram post with photos of her process and all her different wood grain soaps.

Our second place winner (by one vote) in the synthetic category is Suzanne Melville in Sweden who did an amazing job creating her award-winning soap!  She calls it “Peach Tree” because of the lovely peach and prosecco fragrance, and the colors certainly give a peachy vibe as well.  Beautiful lines, knots and excellent contrast make this soap truly fabulous!

Peach Tree by Suzanne Melville

Suzanne’s exciting prize is a $100 gift certificate from Custom Craft Tools!  Be sure to click on the photo to read more about this soap on her Instagram post.

In third place we have Michelle Torres in North Carolina whose Desert Tree Dreams soap has all the elements of a fantastic wood grain!  The deeper shades mixed with orange and a peek of unexpected blue give this soap some extra panache!


Desert Tree Dreams by Michelle Torres

My favorite part of the design has to be those realistic looking knots.  Way to go, Michelle!  She wins a $75 gift certificate from Custom Craft Tools.  (Photo not linked)

The Sponsor’s Choice prize in the synthetic category goes to Yumi Mori in Japan.  Check out the added glycerin river cracks to add texture to this incredible wood grain soap! Alex says, “Such wonderful wood planks! I meant soap bars. 😄 Love its realistic look. Great execution of the technique!

Wall of my Soap Studio by Yumi Mori

Yumi wins a generous $125 gift certificate from Custom Craft Tools!  If you’d like to read more about this soap, click on the photo and check out her blog post in both Japanese and English.

Now we get to do Recognition Awards for the synthetic category!  As I was scrolling through entries with my husband to choose the winner of the Best Technique award, we got to Natural Woodgrain by Will Baczek in Massachusetts and he said, “Now that’s the one!”  He used words like “burls” to describe the effect created on the soaps in the back and realistic “end grain” to describe the soaps in the front:

Natural Woodgrain by Will Baczek

If I read his Instagram post correctly, I believe this is his third attempt at the wood grain.  You can check out more as well by clicking on the photo!

Next is the Best Use of Color Award, and the stand-out winner for this award is Sara West of Twister Soaps in Missouri.  She has taken on some spectacular colors for her wood grain!  Check out how smooth and well-mixed the colors are and how the fine lines are enhanced by the contrast created from the black throughout:

Unicorn Stained Wood by Twister Soaps

What an incredible 7-color soap!!  Click on the photo for more information in Sara’s Instagram post.

For the Best Presentation award, I’ve chosen Radioactive Wood Grain by Rachel Casamassa of Soapothecary in California. Rachel’s soap is also displayed on a reflective surface, but that isn’t the reason her presentation stands out.  The photo is well-lit, the soaps are in focus, and we can see them from multiple angles.  The lighter background is blurred just enough to bring your eye to the forefront and take in the bright colored soap design!

Radioactive Wood Grain by Soapothecary

Great job, Rachel!  If you’d like to read more about her soap, take a look at her Instagram post, linked to the photo.

I get to showcase another beginning soapmaker in the synthetic category as well!  The Best Soap Newbie award for this category goes to Mariel Small in Montana for her “Woodchuck Wood Chuck Wood” entry!  She has done a fantastic job creating her first ever wood grain soap, showcasing large knots and well-contrasted lines of varying thickness.  

Woodchuck Wood Chuck Wood by Mariel Small

Good stuff, Mariel!  It will be fun to see more of your soaps in future challenges!  The photo is linked to her Instagram post if you’d like to read more about this soap.

Please check out the rest of the entries for the Synthetic Color Added category HERE

Last, but certainly not least, we have our Sponsor’s Choice winner from the Bonus category!  Out of 63 entries, Alex has chosen the incredibly colorful Woody Wood by Lucia Mori in Italy to receive this award.  She says, “Love the combination of colors and grain. I wish my countertop looked like that!”

Woody Wood by Lucia Mori

Incredibly beautiful soap, Lucia!  She wins a $125 gift certificate from Custom Craft Tools!  (Photo not linked)

Please check out the rest of the entries for the Bonus category HERE

We have a week between challenges this month, so registration for the July and August challenges will open on Monday, July 4th.  Our guest teacher for the July challenge is none other than Whitney Schneider of Cheeky Goat Soapery in sunny Florida!  She will be teaching us her original Ruffles technique that she made for the Abstract Art challenge last July.  We also have a new sponsor: Farmer’s DefenseThey create game changing garden wear for outdoor work; however, their protective sleeves have become a game changer for soapmakers as they cover your arms quite comfortably and stylishly.  Pre-sales for custom Soap Challenge Club sleeves start tomorrow!  Make sure you are getting notifications and watch the Soap Challenge Club social media to take advantage.

Custom sleeves from Farmer’s Defense

Ruffle soaps by Cheeky Goat Soapery for the July tutorial

Whitney recommends a nice, long bendy palette knife for the best results.  You can get one from Amazon or your local craft store.  Sign up for July only for $14.95, or both July and August for $27.  Check out the Upcoming Challenges page for more information about these challenges and to sign up for notifications.  Looking forward to seeing you in the Club!