Column Pour Technique

Here we go again! Another Soap Challenge put on by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks! December’s technique is called the column pour, and it’s new to me (as usual). I’ve seen this done many times, but I’d never tried it until now.

Part of the reason I haven’t tried it is because it works better in a slab mold, something which I do not currently own! I made a small makeshift slab out of a log mold for my Illini soap, but I wanted to make a larger batch this time around. (Please, oh please, dearest hubby, get me or make me a real slab mold for Christmas!!!) Check out what I used this time!


My makeshift slab mold

I emptied out a drawer from the bottom of the bathroom vanity, child safety lock included! It was a bit too long, so I taped some thick cardboard inside the drawer, lined my mold, and set off to find a column. I had a terrible time finding a square to use as a column, so I resorted to taping together two 9V batteries! 

According to Amy, I didn’t need any special slow-tracing soap recipe, so I used my typical skin-soothing recipe with 8 oils and butters. I made the lye solution and left it in the cold garage to cool, then melted the oils and butters and left them out on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours (just enough time to feed the kiddoes, clean up the mess, and get them down for a nap so I could play with soap!).

My vision for this soap was to create an awesome St. Patrick’s day design, complete with lots of green colors and some cool 4-leaf clovers in the swirls! I’m about out of Green Clover & Aloe soap, so this was the perfect time to restock, but with a new design. The only problem is that the last time I made it, the soap traced really fast and was almost unworkable. The result (shown here at the bottom of the post) was still pretty cool, and the scent is especially popular with guys. I really wasn’t sure then if the fast trace was due to my soap recipe, from overblending (I am pretty zealous with that stick blender sometimes), or because of the fragrance.

Verdict: Green Clover & Aloe is the culprit! Here’s how I know…

I planned out my vision using three shades of green (for the clover), a cup of beautiful gold mica (the pot o’ gold), and some white for extra contrast. I was very careful to blend the cooled lye and oils only to emulsification. Then I separated it all into the colors, pulsed the blender only a couple of times to mix in the oxides, and began pouring right away.

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First few pours on the column, and it’s looking like a clover!

The first few pour patterns were coming along just beautifully!

And then it happened. The soap suddenly became thick and nearly unpourable. I continued to try to pour it out on top of my “column,” but it really ended up just being a plop of thick soap followed by a wiggle and shake of the mold, trying to get the soap to spread out. The end result was still layers, though not fluid like they were supposed to be. The middle of my slab was thick with soap, while the edges were thin. I had to work really hard to try to spread it out from the center, but that’s hard to do without totally messing up the design pattern. Since I was so careful to work with this soap and I know my recipe doesn’t trace quickly, the fragrance must be the villain!

I also wanted to try to create some sort of swirls in the soap, but that didn’t work out too well either! I inserted a bamboo skewer to the bottom of the mold and drug it around trying to make something pretty out of something not-so-pretty. In a few of the corners, I tried to make some 4-leaf clovers, but I’m afraid I just left some air bubbles in a muddy mess of soap.


It’s magic! The bamboo skewer is standing up all by itself in that soap! See how the layers didn’t spread out in a fluid pattern? The gold mica colored soap was the only bit that stayed rather fluid, so it ended up spreading out over many of the other layers.

By the time I was done, the soap was mounded up in random places, and there was no slamming it down flat! It was entirely too set up, so I sprayed it with alcohol and stuck it in the oven for while.

Here’s a good shot of the textured top just out of the mold. Can you see that measly attempt at a clover in the bottom corner?


Fresh out of the mold, the textured top looks pretty cool, but it doesn’t show off the layers like the inside will!


A cut bar of Green Clover & Aloe with the textured top.


The same bar of Green Clover & Aloe soap with the textured top shaved off. This one has some beautiful swirls, but see those air pockets?! Ugh. Thankfully, not every bar has so many pockets.

Once I got it all cut and cleaned up a bit, it’s really not too shabby! The greens have enough contrast to show up well, and there aren’t as many air pockets as I feared. Once again, the result isn’t perfect or nearly as pretty as I’d envisioned, but it’s still soap that washes well and smells great!

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The layers along every side of each bar are really cool!

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Each bar is unique in design, shape, and size! I even left that cool textured top on a few bars for added interest. Using them will be like unwrapping a present, slowly revealing the design with each lather!

As usual, I learned a lot doing this technique. Next time, I’ll definitely use a fragrance that I know for certain does not affect trace. I’ll also use a bigger and taller column! Those batteries ended up being way too small, especially when covered with mounds of rapidly hardening soap! More interest could be added to the soap if I used more than one column as well. Amy used 2 columns in her slab to create her gorgeous soap, and I think even more columns strategically placed throughout would create some pretty awesome designs. Off to plan my next batch now! Happy soaping, and thanks for stopping by!