Yes, I know.
You can actually use almost anything for a soap mold. People have recommended shoe boxes and plastic containers and baking molds and all sorts of stuff, but you are a perfectionist and you want to turn out the same size bar with beautiful edges every single time.
This is not possible without a standard soap mold.
So, you want a soap mold and I’m tell you what happened to me when I looked at all the possible ways to get one.
In which I try to take the easy route and buy online
The first thing I did when I decided to try to make soap on my own was to find my supplies, my tools, and my soap mold.
Hobby stores for soapmaking do not physically exist in the Philippines, so all of my options were online.
Typing in Soap Mold Manila, I found there were several hits.
One guy on OLX popped up offering a package of a 3 loaf soap mold and a cutter for about Php 4,000. Lazada offered a 1 loaf soap mold for Php 700. I decided I wanted a 3 loaf soap mold and asked him to send pictures.
The moment I saw them, I realized that it was a terrible product. The coat on the cutter was wavy and it was yellow. There had to be a better deal out there.
I decided I would have to widen my search.
I checked Brambleberry and their 3 loaf soap mold was $81.00 or Php 4,050. This was just a soap mold, although yes it had inserts but geez. Plus don’t forget shipping at Php 1,351.
This was becoming an expensive date, and I wasn’t even sure I was ready to commit yet.
So, I did the next best thing – I decided to try DIY.
The Online Buy Route
4,050 Php Brambleberry 18 bar birchwood mold
1,351 Php Shipping
5,401 Php Total
In which I am asked to bribe a salesclerk and I try to hack it myself.
I’ll freely admit it.
This was a total failure. I am not a carpenter and I do not have tools. I didn’t even know where to buy wood supplies. So, I did what works in a first world country and what totally does not work here: I went online to look for a lumber supply business in Manila.
I came up with the following hits: Ace Builders, Wilcon Home Depot, CW, MC Home Depot and some mom and pop hardware stores and sash factories.
This is the approach that you do when you don’t know anyone (I knew someone but he was Big Business and I really didn’t want to bother him) and this is the approach that you take when you follow all the advice on the popular soapmaking blogs.
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you why this doesn’t work. The Philippines is a poor country and all the DIY supplies that you would get in America just aren’t available. The nice supply of lumber of different sizes? Not available. The nice guy who can cut it for you in store? Also not available.
I would have hired my boyfriend but he is Intellectual and does not handle power tools.
So, I called the stores. I called everyone I wrote about and others besides. I was still hoping that I could get someone to cut it for me to the length that I needed it. I was told by one that yes, they would cut it but it would be out in the back and it was Not Official. Specifically, a guy told me that he could cut it for me and that I would just have to “Take care of him.”
I was kind of in disbelief but I still took down the guy’s cell (This is what desperation drives you to).
I called Ace Builder (not Ace Hardware) and I was told that yes, they did cut it. I called all 3 branches after searching wildly for their telephone numbers because surprise, surprise, the numbers are not updated on the website and the internet Got It Wrong and the sales staff kept giving me the numbers for Ace Hardware. (For reference, the numbers are below.)
I decided this was definitely an option.
I went to Ace Hardware but quickly realized that their yes was more of a yes, kind of. Yes, they will cut it for you but you have to buy a jigsaw blade and you have to make a special request to the manager. Also, it was really expensive at almost twice the Lazada cost or about Php 1,500+/-.
One of my stops along the DIY route was to go to a small local hardware. The prices there were really reasonable, with a 1x4x8 at Php 200 and a larger plank at Php 500. But again, the Chinese owner of the shop told me that he had no one to cut it for me, so I was back to where I started.
The DIY Route
334.75 Php 1 pc 3/4″ x 4 x 8′
134.25 Php 3 hinges
29.75 Php 1 set eye and hook
140 Php 1 jigsaw blade
639 Php Total
Job it out
While I was researching the DIY route, I came across referrals to three carpenters who people assured me would do it for me.
The first one wanted to charge me Php 700 for one, while another wanted to charge Php 600 for the whole day. I still have the phone number of the third but I have decided to ask just for a referral. I’m hoping that if I get a referral, he can get it done in half a day.
It is surprisingly difficult to find a carpenter these days. So far, I have had one carpenter back out and another not answer my text.
I estimate that jobbing it out will be roughly the same as DIY so I’ve estimated the below.
The Job It Out Route
200 Php 1 pc 3/4″ x 4 x 8′
134.25 Php 3 hinges
1,351 Php 1 set hook and eye
300 Php Labor
664 Php Total
My soap mold adventure was really educational. I did think that it was going to be a tough proposition if I went the DIY or Job it out route, but I wanted to see what would happen.
The lack of materials and big box home improvement stores that can cut plywood for you really hamper building your own soap mold, and I spent a really long time going around the various shops. I went to back alleys and dodgy places, and I’m still waiting for someone to reply to some of the inquiries I sent out.
The easiest thing is simply to buy one of Lazada’s soap molds.
You won’t have to spend 2 days visiting shops or looking for carpenters, and the price difference of the Lazada soap mold and the DIY stuff is Php 50 or $1.
Php 50 or $1 isn’t a big deal, when you think you could happily be making soap.
Ever decided to try to build your own soap mold? I’d love to hear it.