A couple of years ago, I kept hearing about 3D printing; it seemed like a great idea, but not realistic for my business. My current thoughts have been how to help my soap business, Magellan’s Gift Micro Soap Company, to survive in a highly competitive field. I needed to work smarter and faster. The profit margin on a bar of soap made with great ingredients is low – I have to be able to make a whole lot of bars to have an income. Soap making is labor intensive. Having an expensive hobby is not an option for me. The goal is to produce artisan bars that can give a great shower experience and leave the skin clean without stripping natural oils. Also, create different types of soap for different types of people and make it fun with a little attitude. I like to encourage people to use their shower as a chance to clean off the troubles of life and dream of adventure. All this without practicing medicine (without a licence), witchcraft, hunting mermaids or making miracles!
One of the biggest time wasters in making soap is washing out equipment. For an example, swirling soap means more containers to wash, especially if you’re trying to be an eco-friendly company and don’t use disposable containers. My hand stamped soaps are just as popular as my swirls, but very time consuming and temperamental. In 2010 I fell in love with impression mats for rolling out fondant cake icing. It is so easy: just place an impression mat on the bottom of your mold, pour soap, wait a day or two and remove the mold and then peel off the impression mat. Soda ash that forms on the top of soap (a cosmetic problem) is a non issue, because the bottom becomes the top. Unfortunately silicone impression mats, come in a limited number of patterns for molds my size and I really want custom designs. The best solution is to make my own custom mats out of silicone, but I’ve got soap to make and not much time to play – perhaps in 2016?
Late last summer I noticed in downtown Harrisonburg VA a 3D printing shop. I just had to check it out. The shop, named Hatch 3D, whose goal is to let people create things they dream up, has many 3D printers and staff to help you out. And so started several little trials with two 3D printing materials: NinjaFlex and SemiFlex.
I started with a tiny mold from Brambleberry.com, perfect for little experimental batches. 3D Hatch printed a little mat made with SemiFlex with a leaf design for the trial. It worked and stayed in place with very little soap getting beneath the mat.
Next, I wanted to try a more flexible material called NinjiFlex. This time I wanted to pour on to one of my HDPE divider molds made by SoapHutch. The mold has an existing silicone liner/mat and I wanted to know if the 3D little mats would cling and not get disrupted when I poured the soap. I poured a swirled batch of soap as pictured and even dragged a chopstick across the little mat and it didn’t budge.
A shot of the production of the little soap mats made by a 3D printer. Check out their website: http://hatch3dva.com I truly enjoyed working with their staff.
I had to go with little individual mats because the printers could not print the size of my molds. This at first seemed to be a problem, but the upside is, if you have a customer that wants a small number of bars with their logo – no problem! An example is a real estate agent that wants to gift every new home buyer a bar of handcrafted soap with their logo or image. They may only want a few bars a month, so you can place their design in part of the mold and the rest in your images.
Some possible downsides:
The 3D printing process leaves extra little strings that have to be removed before the mats are ready to be used. This is kind of tedious.
Both the materials I tested – NinjaFlex and SemiFlex aren’t as nice as silicone for ease of removal. I did have a sticking issue with the recipe I wanted to use. That was easy solved by removing them from the mold and stacking them in the freezer. I forgot them and easily removed the little mats the next day.
NinjaFlex and SemiFlex are not food grade approved at this time. They are non toxic and look safe for making soap. I would prefer to have them food grade, but as fast as this field is growing, it will happen. Here is a link for NinjaFlex http://www.ninjaflex3d.com/support/using-ninjaflex/technical-specifications/
The big question for me is: will the little individual mat continue to cling to my old silicone mats that line my molds?
As to which is better NinjaFlex or SemiFlex? Next week, I will be revisiting the SemiFlex in my next pour of my soap called, “Here comes the Sun.” I’m also planing on working on a spearmint leaf design for my spearmint scented soap. So, 3D printing impression mats, in my mind, are still a gamble and only time will tell, but I sure love the journey!
May warm bubbles surround you – Lori Curry Magellan’s Gift™ Adventure and Discovery in Fine Soap
“Deep in the forest gypsies chorus by the light of the fire” – this is a fragment of an old campfire song of my childhood. The scent takes me back to camping and hiking memories.
Magellan’s Gift™ Dark Forest Soap is scented with essential oils of Siberian fir needle, black spruce, fir balsam and a touch of vetiver. The essential oil distilled from the roots of vetiver makes the scent darker and a little smokey. Finely ground vanilla bean has been added for a get-clean scrubby effect. If you love hiking, camping like a gypsy or just love the thought of exploring dark forests – this is the bar of soap for you!
Available starting November 7 online and at the Harrisonburg, VA Farmers Market!
Lori Curry ~ Magellan’s Gift™ ~ Adventure & Discovery in Fine Soap!
Honest, winter is coming!
Only 3 more markets to buy soap! Look for Magellan’s Gift™ soaps at Harrisonburg Farmers Market next Tuesday, 9/1, Saturday 9/5 and Tuesday 9/8. I’m taking a break for surgery, but will be back in October. Online sales will continue, but there will be a week delay on shipping mid September. I will be back in action with lots of soap and a few new surprises! I will post several blogs while I recover on the use of impression mats and 3D printing of little mats for soap impressions.
Wish Away Bubbles™ are now available at the Harrisonburg, VA Farmers Market! Online sales coming soon. The bubbles are a secret recipe made with Eco dish soap and the wands are from my crazy muse who makes me do these things. Many years ago, I was at a seminar for building confidence. The speaker suggested visualizing a bubble and picturing your fear inside the bubble and then: pop it!
Well, being a soap maker, I had to try my hand at making bubbles. Real soap is great for the skin; detergent is better for bubbles. Eco dish detergent, that has no phosphates and biodegrades, was my choice for the project, but that alone won’t make great bubbles. Here’s where a little chemistry helps and after a few mistakes and some comparing of recipes, I got it. A Eureka moment!
The wands needed to be fanciful and fun. These aren’t for little kids, if you are worried about getting old, these are guaranteed to prevent maturity! Notice, I didn’t say blowing bubbles will keep you from getting old . . .
OK, dip the wand (shell) into the solution and blow gently and visualize your worst fear. Bubbles will form through the shell, sometimes quite a few, if you have lots of problems. When the bubble pops – let the fear go!
You can also breathe wishes into the bubble and when it pops say: done deal or, make it so!
Introducing the The Muse, a handcrafted soap made with a dry brush mica technique used on an impression mat! The scent is created with mints, patchouli and clove essential oils. The bar is enhanced with shea butter and avocado oil. Look for it July 18 at http://www.magellansgift.com or at the Harrisonburg, VA Farmers Market.
It is no secret that I love impression mats for my handcrafted soap. They can be used on the bottom of a mold and peeled off when the soap is firm. Pesky soda ash which sometime forms on the top of the soap is not a concern for the design on the bottom will become the top of the soap. You can find impression mats where fondant cake icing mats are sold.
I’m working with a 3D printer shop to make custom mats for my soap and a lot of testing is still needed. So in the meantime, I’ve been working on using color on an impression mat and trying to find the fastest and best way. So far, I like to use a flat stiff art paint brush, dip it dry into mica and use it lightly.
This is a photo of the mat removed by peeling it back about two days after pouring.
The last picture is of the soap batch ready to go back to a dedicated room for curing. A total of 30 bars of soap are made in what is called an HDPE divider mold. The edges will be beveled after 3 weeks.
May you always be surrounded with warm bubbles!
Lori Curry ~ Magellan’s Gift~ Adventure & Discovery in Fine Soap!
The Mints are back! Come by this Saturday to the Harrisonburg Farmers Market and buy something fresh, local and handcrafted for Mother’s Day and Graduations.
Pictured from left to right:
Rosemary Mint Soap is swirled with sea and Australian clay in peacock fashion and is scented with rosemary, spearmint and peppermint essential oils. This is a “be clean” soap enhanced with jojoba oil.
Lavender Mint Soap is softly scented with Lavender, spearmint and a touch of peppermint, expect a creamy lather from this one. The lavender has been increased slightly from the last limited addition batch. This is a natural colored soap for those who like it simple and clean. Lavender Mint Soap is enhanced with macadamia nut oil.
Ocean Mint is swirled with sea clay and sea-foam ultramarine mineral pigment. The scent is peppermint with just a touch of spearmint. Dried peppermint is added for a mild textured shower experience. This one is for those that like the wild cooling tingle of peppermint and the enhancement of macadamia nut oil.
Online sales for the featured soaps will start Friday.
Handcrafted soap available for Saturday, May 9 – subject to rapid change:
Rosemary Mint, Lavender Mint, Ocean Mint, Spirit Tree, Bergamot Coriander Ginger, Summer Spice, The Good Ship Victoria (4 left), Lavender Green, The Tangerman (low stock), Sirens’ Song, Lime Rosemary, Spearmint, Lavender Blue, West Indies Bay, Grapefruit Patchouli, The Mediterranean Salt and Cardamom Rose Geranium.
For those of you that are new to my posts, Magellan’s Gift™ sells handcrafted soaps at the Harrisonburg, VA Farmers Market located across from the Daily News Record at 228 S Liberty street year round. Current hours are from 8 AM to 1 PM.
Online sales – www.magellansgift.com