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After carving some soap per the suggestion here:

Is there a kid-safe carving material?

I made a small, but fragile design that I'd like to keep relatively safe. I'm concerned about moisture and physical strength, but also that handling the soap actually affects the shape (for instance, edges get smooth if I accidentally rub them, and it gets soft from the heat of my hands).

This tutorial mentions using acrylic sealer after painting it, but I wasn't planning on painting my carvings. Will that type of sealant still hold and work?

For the record, this was Irish Spring soap, and it's pretty soft.

  • I am stuck with a recent soap carving using glycerine soaps. Last time I tried using acrylic mixture (clear) to coat my carving, but with time the coating turned pale yellow and fractured too. Hope to try lacquer or acrylic paints now. – Rishi Raj Singh Mar 3 '17 at 10:35
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If you weren't planning on painting your carvings, how about varnish?

A transparent and colourless lacquer should be almost invisible after it's dried on the finished product, but will adhere to the soap and preserve your carvings as well as keeping the moisture inside the bar and preventing it from cracking.

From J. C. Rich, The Materials and Methods of Sculpture, p. 357 (emphasis mine):

Soap is an inexpensive, readily available and easily worked material that is steadily gaining in popularity as a wholesome and interesting avocational carving medium. (See Plate 62.) The major disadvantage of the substance is its marked lack of durability. A work in soap is subject to a degree of physical shrinkage as it dries out and this may result in the development of fine surface cracks, which may in time fracture through the entire piece. As a soap mass dries out there is also a resultant change in appearance, from the soft and attractive surface the block has while it is fresh and possesses an abundance of moisture, to an opaque and dull surface after the bulk of this moisture has naturally evaporated from the mass on exposure to the atmosphere. However, a finished soap carving can be treated with one or two thin coatings of colorless and transparent lacquer, which will serve to prevent the marked evaporation of moisture from the mass. Much of the attractive appearance of a feshly carved block of soap can thereby be preserved, and the permanence of the work substantially increased.

And this tutorial from the LDS organisation website tells you what to do after you've finished the carving process (again, emphasis mine):

Set your carving aside to dry for several days and then polish it with soft tissue paper, using your fingertips and palm of your hand to bring out highlights. If you wish, you can preserve your carving with a coat of transparent lacquer or tempera paint.

(Oh, and just for fun: Has a prisoner ever escaped by carving a bar of soap to look like a gun, painting it with shoe polish, and then tricking a guard into allowing them to leave the jail; or is this only an urban legend?)

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  • If I can find cheap lacquer, this'll be good. – user24 Jun 29 '16 at 2:37
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I have made numerous soap carvings over the years, and have learned the following:

  1. I used mainly Ivory and Swan soaps, which were available in large bath sizes. The clear finishes I tried tended to deteriorate in time, giving a flaking appearance to the carvings. (Probably not good lacquers.)
  2. Leaving my carvings untreated resulted in changes in color as they dried, and the resulting tones ranged from light ivory to dark cream. An uncoated 14-piece Nativity set has pieces of different shades.
  3. At my daughter's request, I used ACRYLIC PAINTS to color a carving of the bride and groom for her wedding cake--and the colors (and the soap) have NOT deteriorated with age.
  4. I have since used acrylic paints on other carvings, with great success. Acrylics can be applied in a single color, to match (or not) the color of the original soap, or painted in detail if a more realistic result is desired. Though I have not tried it, I suspect that applying any finish to a carving already coated with acrylic paint would be the same as adding the finish to any acrylic painting.
  5. I display some of my favorite carvings under small bell jars, an added way to preserve them.
  6. GLYCERIN soap, however, is a different case. I absolutely love the immediate results of carving it, but I haven't yet learned of a coating that will keep the soap from becoming sticky and melting as it gets older.

    In my search for a coating to preserve a glycerin soap carving, I contacted a glycerin soap manufacturer, who sympathized with my dilemma and confessed that it took years for the manufacturer just to come up with a secure wrapping to use in marketing this soap!

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  • Just FYI, you can freely edit your own posts but for your protection, it must be done under the original user account. It looks like you tried to edit without logging into your account. That appears as an anonymous edit, which gets reviewed to ensure someone else isn't trying to change your intention. – fixer1234 Mar 5 at 1:06
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I've never tried this, but another approach that hasn't been mentioned would be to make a plaster cast. You could make a latex mold (as described here: http://m.wikihow.com/Make-a-Latex-Mold) and then use the mold to create a plaster replica of the original carving.

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