DIY Wire Soap Loaf Cutter ($12)

Curing Soaps

My soap collection has been slowly building.  One thing I’ve noticed is that the bars are rarely uniformly cut.   No matter how hard I try that cheap little soap cutter is just doing a poor job.

I’m talking about one of these bamboo box jobbers with a  planer:

It seems like it would work well, but there’s too much play in the gap where the knife goes.  And these boxes are never tall enough for your soap, so the first inch or so of soap cutting you’re pretty much guessing where you should cut until you hit the slot for the knife.

So what everyone really wants is a wire cutter.  They come in a single wire and many cut whole loafs of soap at once.   Just take a look at the etsy pages for wire soap cutters.   Some of them are really quite nice and people put a lot of effort into making a quality cutter.   But, let’s be honest, most of the time you can’t justify spending that much money on some wood and wire.   Especially, us hobbyists.

So I made my own, all I needed was a cheap cheese slicer off amazon, some popsicle sticks and glue.   I chose this cutter because it was actually quite large and the size of my soap loaf would not be an issue.   While I can’t imagine why I would ever need it too,  it could easily handle a loaf over 7″ tall.   Some of you get crazy with the soap frosting and inclusions, so this might be important to you.

Starting with the popsicle sticks, I glued 3 together for some height.   This will be my guide on the board.  I’ll need 2 of these guides, so I glued 6 together in total.    Obviously, you could use some scrap wood, shims or any number of other items to make a guide, but I’m going for super cheap and I already had a huge box of popsicle sticks from my miniature crafts.

I clamped a ruler down to the board to mark how large I wanted my bars.  Most Soapers cut their soap to be around 1 inch thick so I clamped the ruler down and glued my popsicle sticks directly to the board at the 1″ mark.

Then, I glued my second guide down.    The glue I was using was from one of my miniature kits, so it actually adhered in under a minute.   This whole project took less than 5 minutes.

Finally, I grabbed one of my soap loafs and gave it a shot.   It worked flawlessly and cut like butter.

Although, don’t do what I did in this picture.  Put your loaf on it’s side if you have inclusions on the top of the soap.   I learned pretty quickly the wire would drag my lavender flowers pieces right through the center of the bar leaving a huge scrape down the middle.

And there you go, the $12 soap cutter.

Kiln fired glass painting

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I’ve known for a long time you can use some ceramic products on glass, I just never got around to trying it.   I used to do a lot of glass fusing but I never really got into it.  It just wasn’t very consistent and that frustrated me.   But I got out some Mayco Designer Liners, which are known to work if you sandwich your painting in between two pieces of glass.

But the real question was whether or not it was going to work with a microwave kiln.

Painting on glass is a pain especially with a water-soluble product like Designer Liner.   If you try to do any layering, the previous layer will come off the second it gets wet. Dripping product onto the glass will work, but brushing will not.

Using a glass calligraphy pen seemed to work well at dropping product where I wanted it.   It also let me scrape product away.   Eventually, I had a cute little lightning design and after letting it dry completely (we don’t want to have boiling liquid on glass) I sandwiched the design with another piece of glass and crammed it in the microwave.

The results were not great.

The product cracked around the edges (the liner, not the glass) and a giant bubble of air was trapped in the middle.  In an actual kiln, these air bubbles would eventually rise to the surface and it wouldn’t be an issue.  An actual kiln would be fired for many, many hours and not a few minutes like this microwave one.  Now that I see the result, I’m not sure if this will actually work.

I could try nuking it again to see if I can get the air to release, but I don’t really want to try, it already looks bad.   Also, I need to try and get the Designer Liner a lot thinner.   I was warned about this but I guess it wasn’t thin enough…. hence the cracking.

I may try again after pondering it a bit, but for now, I’m moving on to other projects.

Trying the Fuseworks Microwave Kiln

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With my full-size kilns put away for a bit while rooms are being remodeled, I thought I’d finally try the Fuseworks Microwave Kiln.

I remember asking my local stained glass shop about this a few years ago and they deterred me from getting it.  If you’re a real glass artist, this probably isn’t for you.  If you’re a crafter or just think the idea is cool, then you’ll probably get some fun out this.

The kit comes with all the basic supplies you’ll need to get started:  The kiln (duh), gloves for handling a potentially hot kiln, glass cutter, kiln paper and some glass products to fuse.

I’ve worked in glass for many, many years.  I actually used to work at a glass studio and taught some classes, so I’m very familiar with these items.  I generally use higher quality items (a full kiln, a top-notch glass cutter, thicker gloves, etc) but the glass is pretty standard.

One thing that annoyed me was the instructions kept showing tools you don’t get with the kit.  For instance, Figure 5, shows ‘running pliers’ which you don’t get.  These pliers are pretty essential to cutting curves in the glass.  So this kit will pretty much limit you to straight cuts unless you want to get some running pliers as well.  Considering that the items you’ll make with this kit are very small, you won’t likely be making many curved pieces.

I cut some glass, slapped down some glass confetti and some millefiori and piled it all onto a piece of kiln paper.

I then closed up the kiln, placed it in my 1800W Microwave (you can use anything, the amount of time will change depending on your microwave) for 3 minutes.  Using my gloves, I peeked into the kiln and saw everything looked fine, so I let it sit for 30 minutes to cool off.

And there you have it, my glob of melted glass products.

Overall, this was pretty quick and fun.  I plan on playing with some of my ceramic supplies in it.  Some ceramic underglazes and liners can be used with glass, so I may do some mini paintings or something.