Basic Cookie Cutter Method - "Uncontained" Space
First and foremost: I do not recommend using this method without a 12-inch, white, ceramic tile work surface because you will be pouring the hot, melted soap directly only the work surface. Of course, you'll be pouring into a cookie cutter on the 12-inch, white, ceramic tile. Though the cool surface of the tile will thicken the stir-cooled soap enough to prevent it from running all over the place, there are other precautionary measures that should be taken. It's not that this is the Armageddon of soap making techniques, it's a matter of applying a little common sense to the approach. This, as previously mentioned, is my absolute favorite and preferred method of soap making.
I know that molds serve a purpose and I often make use of them. Nonetheless, I lean toward cookie cutters because they are, essentially, warp-proof and come in so many wonderful shapes and sizes. Additionally, virtually any technique that can be executed using a soap mold can also be executed using a cookie cutter. Now to explore "uncontained" space.
Make sure that your 12-inch, white, ceramic tile is thoroughly cleaned and dry. When I mention "tile", I am referring to this specific work surface.
Place your cookie cutter (cutting edge down) in the center of the tile and look inside the cookie cutter to see if there are any obvious areas where light is coming in and soap will be seeping out.
Press down to see if pressure "seals the leak". If not, you may want to consider using the "contained space" method.
Estimate volume of the cookie cutter and melt, color and scent the soap base, following whatever technique you're using (basic bar, marbling, etc.).
Place a craft stick across the cookie cutter and press down (with one hand) while pouring the soap (with the other hand). Pour the soap in slowly so that you can address any seepage issues before the entire soap has been poured. This is another way to prevent the soap from running all over your work surface.
Once the soap is completely poured, make sure to spray the soap with alcohol to help eliminate any air bubbles.
Maintain pressure on the craft stick for a few minutes more, allowing the cool surface of the tile to precipitate "soft setting", sealing any potential leaks.
Slowly let up pressure on the craft stick, watching for any late arrival leaks. If the seal integrity holds, leave the soap on the tile for another 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie cutter. There can be a rather dramatic difference in both the surface area and depth of the soap when dealing with cookie cutters. More surface area usually means a quicker "soft set". More depth usually means it's going to take a bit longer.
Once the soap has semi-set, you have the option of trying to move it to the freezer for a hard set, but I don't recommend it because I used to do it, and there were consequences.
Just a couple of examples of what can happen if you move the soap before it has hardened enough.
(Left) This is the bottom side of the Ground Cinnamon Bar (coming up in the next section). I rotated the cookie cutter until it loosened from the tile. Although the bar is salvageable, I wasn't going for a wave.
(Right) This bar was far too wet to move. You can see, if you look closely, that it just "staccato-ed" across the tile, losing volume and ruining the bottom of the bar.
So, leave the soap in the cookie cutter and on the ceramic tile work surface for at least 30 minutes, allowing it to completely harden. As with the "contained" method, press on the soap from the non-cutting side of the cookie cutter toward the cutting side. If the soap resists, please it upside down on the tile (cutting edge up) and press (in the soap area only, taking any needed precautions with the metal edges). Again, this should shift the soap sufficiently that you can then pick it up and press from the non-cutting edge toward the cutting edge to release the soap from the cookie cutter.
Store or use soap, as with every other technique.
Don't forget to record your recipe and process. Doing this while the soap sets on the tile is a good idea because, most of the time, your supplies will be more readily accessible and the process is still fresh in your mind.
With these two Christmas tree cookie cutters, for example, you can easily see how the smaller of the two is deeper. That's less surface area AND increased depth. It will take quite a bit longer to "soft set" than it's larger, green counterpart.
Familiarizing yourself with the cookie cutter soap making techniques is going to be very important should you choose to purchase and explore more advanced methods for even more stunning soap creations. Keep in mind, use of the term "cookie cutter" is, in this case, rather generic. These same techniques can be applied to fondant cutters and polymer clay decorative cutters (which look like really small cookie cutters).
There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of different cookie cutters, polymer clay cutters, and fondant cutters. Fondant cutters are also often sold in nesting sets. WILTON sells a collection of 100 (or more) plastic cookie cutters that covers virtually all seasons and holidays.
Cookie cutters can be found almost everywhere, if you look. Some of my most authentic cutters have been purchased in dollar-only stores. But I have also purchased them from kitchenware specialty stores, at flea markets, at craft stores, and online. The online purchase was for a rectangular cookie cutter. I wanted the look of a simple bar of soap and the ease and flexibility of the cookie cutter techniques. I encourage you to expand your collection based on your soap making interests, but don't use those cookie cutters for, well, cutting cookie dough.
Nesting sets of cookie cutters (like the seasonal sets above left and right) can provide unique design and soap set opportunities.
You will find both plastic and metal cookie cutters. The metal cutters tend to be quite a bit deeper than the plastic.
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