Soap serves as an ideal introductory medium for carving -- it's soft enough that it does not require chisels or sharp knives to shape, so even elementary school children can take part in the fun.
If you do decide to use knives to carve your soap, take caution not to cut yourself, and do not allow children to carve with knives.
Selecting the Soap
Choose an inexpensive large bar of bath soap for carving -- smaller soaps such as travel and hotel sizes are too small and thin to carve easily without breaking them. Lightweight, unscented soap that floats works well for carving because it is fairly soft, making it easy to carve even with plastic spoons and knives.
Planning a Design
Draw a basic shape such as a boat, turtle or whale directly on card stock. Make the design large enough to cover most of the soap bar.
Cut the design out with scissors, then set the cut image atop the bar of soap.
Trace around the card stock shape with the tip of a toothpick, pencil or wooden skewer to make an outline on the top side of the soap.
Carving the Soap
- Carve your soap into shape by shaving small bits of the bar away at a time, starting with the corners and edges. Use a plastic knife, potato peeler, wooden craft stick or even the bowl of a spoon to shave the soap down until the entire bar takes on the rough shape of your traced design.
- Shave the soap down by drawing the tool toward you -- toward the center of the bar of soap -- for the most control and to lessen the chance of soap breakage.
- Once the soap roughly resembles your desired shape, round and shape the sides so the sides take on the desired shape as well. For instance, if making a rowboat, the boat narrows a bit toward the bottom, which requires shaving the sides down a bit.
- Use a sharp toothpick or skewer to carve details such as scales on a fish or buttons and a face on a snowman.
- Smooth the final shape by rubbing it with your fingers or a damp cotton swab. Pat it dry with paper towels and allow the soap to air dry completely.
- Stick with fairly simple shapes if you've never carved anything before or if working with young children.
- Save the soap shavings to recycle them into soap balls.