Ultimate Soap Carving: Easy, Oddly Satisfying Techniques for Creating Beautiful Designs--40+ Step-by-Step Tutorials

Ultimate Soap Carving: Easy, Oddly Satisfying Techniques for Creating Beautiful Designs--40+ Step-by-Step Tutorials

by Makiko Sone


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In Ultimate Soap Carving, Makiko Sone—founder of the Mizutama.Soap YouTube channel—shares her secrets for designing and hand carving a variety of beautiful soap designs by cutting, shredding, shaping, sculpting, and other oddly satisfying techniques that fans of ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) will love.

Inside, you'll find:

  • Essential Supplies: Discover which knives and soaps work best for carving.
  • Key Techniques: Learn how to prepare soap for carving, hold a knife correctly, and make grooves, incisions, triangles, waves, and other basic cuts through eleven designs in eight step-by-step lessons. You’ll also find easy recipes for making soap and other products using shavings and cuttings.
  • Thirty Step-by-Step Projects: Find instructions and templates for carving super-cute animals, exquisite flowers, fun fashions, sweet accessories, and more.
Packed with guidance and inspiration, Ultimate Soap Carving will teach you everything you need to carve your own stunning soap designs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631597244
Publisher: Quarry Books
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 766,029
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Makiko Sone, better known to her followers as Mizutama Soap, demonstrates cute, fantastic, and easy to make soap carving projects on her YouTube channel, mizutama.soap, and sells supplies on her Etsy shop, MizutamaStudio. Her most popular video has received over one million views. She lives in Japan outside of Tokyo.

Read an Excerpt



Soap for Carving

You don't need to purchase special soap for carving. You can use commercially made soap that's typically sold in supermarkets, pharmacies, and other retailers. Regardless of the brand or type you use, make sure it's fresh, soft, and moist, because hard, dried-out soap is difficult to carve properly.

Keep these recommendations in mind when choosing soap for carving:

Texture. The soap should be soft, moist, smooth, and fine. Don't use exfoliating soaps.

Shape. Choose soaps that are large and thick so they're easier to carve. I use 3-ounce (85-gram) or 5-ounce (142-gram) bars.

Color. Colored soap is great for carving. Color can enhance a design and emphasize the details in a carved pattern. If your choice of colors is limited, or if you want to customize your designs, you can apply color to carved soap (see page 46 for details).


As a general rule, you should purchase soap for carving that's well-packaged; ideally, it should be sealed in plastic. To keep soap from drying out, leave it in its original packaging until you're ready to carve it.

You can wrap loose soaps (including original packaged soaps) in plastic wrap, then store them in a resealable plastic bag or a covered plastic container. To help keep the soaps from drying out, add a tiny bit of water to the bag or container. You can also use this storage method for small pieces of soap that accumulate during carving.


In addition to basic commercially made opaque soap that's usually used for carving, there are a few other options to be aware of.

• Once you've gained some carving experience, you might want to try working with transparent or glycerin soap. Transparent soap is beautiful, but it's hard to carve because it's very sticky, as the glycerin is a humectant, which retains moisture. But, if you make a mistake, transparent soap is easy to melt and harden; though it will be more white than the original soap. Note that handmade melt-and-pour soap is very similar to transparent soap in terms of handling.

• Handmade cold-process soap and handmade hot-process soap can be used for carving, but both types are often dry and hard. After they're made, these soaps are usually air dried for long periods in order to evaporate the liquid ingredients so the bars won't soften or melt. If you want to try carving handmade soap, shop for fresh bars, which will likely be softer, or you can soften it before carving (see page 20).

• Typically, soap made locally within your country or region will be fresher than imported soap.

Tools for Carving Soap


There are two types of carving knives, which are distinguished by the shape of the blade.

• Bird's beak knife. This type of knife has a curved spine and a long cutting edge like a bird's beak. The blade of the bird's beak knife is often made of stainless steel. The handle is often constructed of plastic or wood, which makes the bird's beak knife lightweight.

• Classic carving knife. This type of knife has a long V-shaped blade and is the kind traditionally used in Thai carving. The cutting edge is usually one side of the blade. The blade of the classic knife is steel or stainless steel. Steel blades are usually very thin and flexible (though very thin stainless steel blades are available, too). The handle of the classic knife is made of aluminum, stainless steel, brass, or wood. An aluminum or wood handle is lightweight. Professional carving artists often use the classic carving knife with a flexible blade.

You can choose either the bird's beak knife or the classic carving knife for the projects in this book. I prefer the bird's beak knife, which is what you'll see throughout the project photos.

Purchasing and Caring for Your Knife

Regardless of whether you choose the bird's beak or the classic knife design, there are many sorts of blades available, and there are differences in the thickness and length of the blade. Generally, cheaper knives tend to have thicker blades, while knives with thin blades are more expensive. You can find a large selection of carving knives online; unfortunately, they are seldom sold at retail stores.

Classic carving knives were originally used for carving fruits or vegetables such as watermelons, honeydew melons, and pumpkins, so I think the blade of the carving knife is too long to carve small soap.

The length of the blade for both the bird's beak knife and the classic carving knife is usually 1¾" to 2" (4.5 cm to 5 cm). A carving knife with a blade of more than 2" (5 cm) is not recommended for soap carving.

Note that you can probably do very simple soap carving with a craft knife (the type used with paper). However, compared to using a carving knife, it's very exhausting to carve more complicated projects with a craft knife.

If you're working with a knife that's a bit longer than you'd like, you might try wrapping the base of the blade with a strip of sheet metal, fabric, or tissue paper to protect your fingers. Alternatively, you can shorten a steel blade a bit with a metal file. (A stainless-steel blade will be too hard to shorten.)

How to Sharpen a Dull Carving Knife

You can use 1,000- to 2,000-grit sandpaper to sharpen your carving knife when it becomes dull. First, wet the sandpaper with water and then place it on the edge of a flat work surface. Put the knife blade on the sandpaper and move the knife to the knife spine. Repeat as needed on both sides of the blade. Apply some oil to the knife blade to keep it from rusting if stored for a long time.


In addition to the knife you'll use to do most of your carving, you'll need the following tools:

Paring knife. The paring knife is used to cut the soap roughly (such as when you're cutting out a basic outline) or to slice the soap in half horizontally. You can use a common paring knife.

Carving gouges. Carving gouges are used to carve curling petals. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to carve realistic petals with carving gouges. These gouges are sold in sets; the V-tool and U-gouge are often used for soap carving, and there is also a W-tool for carving a wavy petal.

Sculpting tool. A sculpting tool is used to scrape inside the soap or flatten it. It is often used for soap cutwork. You can use a small spoon, such as a teaspoon, a wax carving spatula, or a metal ear pick instead of a sculpting tool.

Other Supplies

Toothpicks. Toothpicks are used for drawing outlines on the soap or making small holes in the soap.

Cookie cutters. You can cut out the soap into fancy shapes using cookie cutters. It's easier than cutting with a carving knife. And you can cut a circle for the center bud using a circle cookie cutter on the top of the soap.

Pins. You can use pins to make small holes in the soap. And when you trace the template into the soap, you'll use pins to attach the template.

Craft glue, adhesive, or hot glue gun. If you're planning on displaying your carved soap rather than using it, you can use craft glue or adhesive for adding decorations such as beads. And if a piece of soap accidentally breaks off while you're carving, you can reattach the broken piece with glue to fix it. Any craft glue or adhesive sold for use with paper, fabric, or wood will work.

Awl. You'll need an awl to make small and long holes such as a hole for a stem in a flower bottom.

Cutting board. When you cut the soap with a paring knife, a cutting board will protect your work surface.




Getting Started

Once you've chosen your soap and assembled the knives and other supplies you'll be using, there are a few steps you'll need to take before you begin carving the projects in Chapter 3. Spend some time with the following quick primer, which will guide you through preparing and softening your soap for carving, holding your carving knife correctly, and working with the templates in this book. Then try your hand at the projects in the Carving Lessons section, which will help you develop the carving skills you need to create the basic shapes and patterns on which the projects in Chapter 3 — as well as all soap-carving designs — are based. Finally, we'll explore some optional techniques to personalize your carvings, such as adding color, decorating with beads and rhinestones, and packaging them creatively to make unique and beautiful gifts.


Before you start carving, you'll need to slice off the top of your soap to create a smooth, flat surface. This is especially important if the brand name of the soap is engraved on the surface. But even if the soap isn't engraved, you'll still want to smooth the surface because, otherwise, it will be a bit dry and crumbly, which isn't ideal for carving. By slicing off the top, you'll be left with a shiny surface.

The one exception to this rule is that you don't need to slice off the top when carving three-dimensional flowers. This type of flower doesn't need a flat surface.


Sometimes, despite carefully selecting a soap, you'll discover that it's hard, dry, and crumbly when you try to carve it. Not only does this make carving difficult, but because a knife will easily slip off hard soap, trying to carve it can be dangerous. If your soap is too hard, try these tips for softening it.

• If your soap is a bit hard: First, wrap the soap in a wet cloth. Place it in a 500 to 600 watt microwave and warm it for 10 to 15 seconds. If it's still too hard, microwave it for another 10 to 15 seconds. You can repeat this for a total of three cycles per bar of soap. (Be careful not to microwave it for too long or the soap could explode!) Once warmed, carve it quickly.

• If your soap is extremely hard and dry: First, wrap the soap in a wet cloth, and then wrap it twice with plastic wrap. Set it aside for at least a week or until softened. I recommend using a cloth made from a chemical fiber, such as rayon or polyester, as moist cotton cloth is likely to develop mold. If you choose to use a cloth made from cotton, remove the soap within a week. Also, note that handmade soap softens more easily than commercial soap, so it should be soft enough to carve in about five days.


It's important to hold your knife correctly as you carve your soap. Depending on the task, you'll want to use one of these two grips.

Pen grip. For this grip, hold your carving knife like a pen, using your ring finger for support and to keep the knife from slipping. Use this grip when carving delicate curved lines, patterns, and indents, and when you hold the knife at a right angle.

Handle grip. Grip the handle with your thumb, middle finger, ring finger, and little finger. Use your index finger for support and control and to keep the blade from slipping. Cut or slice the soap away from you, pushing the knife with your thumb. Use the handle grip when you're slicing off or smoothing the surface of the soap.


Templates are included at the back of this book for all the projects that require them. For most projects, there are two sizes of each template. The small template is for 3ounce (85-gram) bars of soap. The large template is for 5-ounce (142-gram) bars. Choose a template based on the size of your soap. Then follow these two simple steps.

Photocopy and cut out the template and pin it to the soap. Then, using a pointed tool such as a toothpick or an awl, trace around the edge of the template onto the soap.

If desired, trace other lines onto the soap, such as a bow, scalloped line, or leaf veins. This step is optional. You don't need to trace all the lines in the template, but you shouldn't leave any traced lines in the finished soap.


Once you've traced the outline of your figure onto the soap, you're ready to begin shaping it.

• Lightly cut along the edge of the traced lines with a carving knife. Then roughly cut out the shape with a paring knife.

• Using a carving knife, cut off the excess soap around the shape, little by little. Be careful not to trim off too much. Cut off the soap perpendicularly to the top so as to make the bottom and the top into the same shape.

Carving Lessons

All soap carving — even the most intricate designs — is based on certain basic shapes and patterns. To prepare yourself for making the projects in Chapter 3, try your hand at the carving lessons on the following pages, which will give you practice in carving popular shapes such as V-shaped grooves, triangular patterns, scalloped edges, waves, petals, and leaves.


V-Shaped Grooves and Incisions


Leaves are a perfect way for beginners to learn soap carving. You will learn the basic techniques of soap carving in this lesson. You can also carve these leaves in relief, which is easier


[??] One 3- or 5-ounce (85- or 142-gram) bar soap

[??] Paring knife

[??] Carving knife

[??] Small or Large Leaves template for the Shamrock,

Traditional Leaf

• To make a traditional leaf (a rose leaf) use a paring knife to roughly cut the soap into a slice of your desired size.

• Use a carving knife to smooth the surface.

• Trim the sliced soap into a leaf shape.

• Holding the carving knife at a right angle to the soap, cut two straight lines in the middle of the leaf to create the midrib. Tilting the carving knife, cut the soap along the straight line to remove the soap around the midrib. Do the same on the other side of the midrib.

• Carve wide leaf veins (V-shaped grooves). To do this, first hold the carving knife at a right angle and make a cut on the side of the leaf to create a vein. Next, hold the knife diagonally and make a slant cut along the first cut to remove the soap. Turn your leaf upside down and remove the soap along the first cut in the same way. Do the same to carve the remaining five veins as shown.

• Finally, turn the leaf tip upward and carve small incisions at the edge of the leaf.


• Cut the soap into a slice that's bigger than the shamrock template.

• Photocopy and cut out the template. Trace the shamrock's shape onto the soap.

• Using a carving knife, cut the soap to the shamrock's shape.

• Holding the carving knife at a right angle to the soap, cut four straight lines between the leaves and the stem with the knife point. Cut a straight line in the middle of each leaf, and cut two curved lines in each leaf in a heart shape. Cut off the soap between the right and left leaves to create the stem.


• Using the technique described for the shamrock, cut the soap into the ivy shape.

• Carve a midrib in the middle of the leaf using the technique described for the rose leaf.

• Carve eight narrow veins. To do this, hold the knife diagonally and make a slant cut. Turn the ivy upside down and make a slant cut along the previous slant cut to remove the soap. Repeat to carve the other seven narrow veins.

• Using the knife point, cut four curved lines around each of the two veins near the base to create small veins.

Maple Leaf

• Using the technique described for the shamrock, cut the soap into the ivy shape.

• Carve a midrib in the middle of the leaf using the technique described for the rose leaf.


Excerpted from "Ultimate Soap Carving"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Tools for Carving Soap, 14,
Additional Carving Tools, 16,
Other Supplies, 17,
Preparing to Carve, 20,
Softening Soap, 20,
Holding a Carving Knife Correctly, 21,
Working with the Templates, 22,
Shaping Soap for Carving, 22,
Lesson 1 V-Shaped Grooves and Incisions — Leaves, 24,
Lesson 2 Triangular Patterns — Simple Bird, 28,
Lesson 3 Circular Scalloped Patterns — Scalloped Butterfly, 30,
Lesson 4 Delicate Waves — Purse, 32,
Lesson 5 Complex Floral Designs — Dahlia, 34,
Lesson 6 Complex Floral Designs — Rose Relief, 37,
Lesson 7 Complex Floral Designs — Rose: Starting with the Outer Petals, 40,
Lesson 8 Complex Floral Designs — Rose: Starting at the Center, 43,
Cream Soap, 49,
Recycling Soap Scraps, 50,
Soap Ball, 51,
Project 1 Mini Cactus, 56,
Project 2 Lily of the Valley, 58,
Project 3 Dachshund, 60,
Project 4 Cat, 62,
Project 5 Squirrel, 64,
Project 6 Sheep, 66,
Project 7 Sea Turtle, 68,
Project 8 Little Insects: Ladybug, Bee & Snail, 70,
Project 9 Miniature Cake Slice & Doughnuts, 73,
Project 10 Miniature Cream Puff Swan, 76,
Project 11 Scalloped Frame, 78,
Project 12 High-Top Sneakers, 80,
Project 13 Party Dress, 82,
Project 14 Umbrella, 84,
Project 15 Teacup & Saucer, 86,
Project 16 Bouquet of Miniature Lilies, 89,
Project 17 Starry Cutwork Soap, 92,
Project 18 Heart Lamp, 94,
Project 19 Orchid, 96,
Project 20 Carnation Arrangement, 98,
Project 21 Unicorn, 101,
Project 22 Lock & Key, 104,
Project 23 Heart Clock, 107,
Project 24 Gardenia with Curled Petals, 110,
Project 25 Mermaid, 113,
INDEX, 128,

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Ultimate Soap Carving: Easy, Oddly Satisfying Techniques for Creating Beautiful Designs--40+ Step-by-Step Tutorials 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
MontzieW 7 months ago
Ultimate Soap Carving Easy, Oddly Satisfying Techniques for Creating Beautiful Designs--40+ Step-by-Step Tutorials by Makiko Sone is a book I requested from NetGalley and the review is voluntary. This book is amazing! I loved just looking at the lovely art work! This book has everything from little cute animals, detailed dresses with pearls, unicorns and other fun stuff, gorgeous flowers that look real, to things like picture frames with delicate designs. So many projects and all with step-by-step instructions and lots of photos. When I was looking at the book I thought I would never be able to do something like this! After reading the instructions, watching the close up pictures, I could understand easily what they were telling me! I think I probably could do some with practice! Not only does this give you the projects, it shows and tells you so much more about soap carving. It explains what tools you need, what they are used for, how to paint on soap, melting, shaping, blending, adding adornments, and more. There is so much packed in here! Yes, the patterns for the projects are in here too! I adored the simple and easy approach to learning a skill that looks so intimidating. Thanks!