Whether you are a serious sculptor or just looking to try something new, you may want to give soap carving a try. This craft has been popular for years because it is inexpensive and creative. All you need is bars of soap, a paring knife, 1 to 2 orangewood sticks (used for manicures) and plenty of ideas. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy making these mini works of art.
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Unwrap the soap a day before you plan on carving. Sketch out potential design ideas. Start with simple shapes and don't plan out anything too complicated if this is your first time carving. Some ideas for beginners might be a polar bear, fish, boat or flower carved right onto the surface of the bar of soap. As you become more comfortable carving, you might want to make three-dimensional shapes. There is no limit to what you may try. Animals, trees and flowers are popular choices for three-dimensional shapes as well.
Take your sketch and place it over the bar of soap to help trace on your design. If you don't want to trace the design and only want it as a guide, that is fine too. Just begin by using the orangewood stick to stencil in your design. Use the paring knife to cut off any chunks of soap that won't be needed. Place the soap on a flat surface when you are cutting. A tray is ideal since it will collect the scrapings for you. Leave about 1/4 inch margin so you have room to work with your design. Don't cut off big pieces, as the soap bar may break. Instead, cut off small sections until you have the desired shape you want.
Adding the Details
Keep trimming the soap down until you have the exact shape you want. You may want to use the knife to peel off layers to get a smoother surface. Be sure to stop periodically and take a look at how the entire shape is forming. This way you don't over-trim. Refer back to your sketch. Take your time as you carve out the intricate details. It's important to be patient and gentle since soap is such a delicate medium.
Even though you will be ready to show off you sculpture, it actually needs to sit for at least a day in order to harden. When it is completely dry, lightly polish the sculpture with a soft paper napkin. This will take off any excess scrapings and give the sculpture a more finished look. Finally, rub the entire sculpture with your fingertips and palm. The warmth from your hands will help to smooth the surface.