A good wooden mold will last for years; a great wooden mold will last for decades. Over the years, wooden molds have gotten more affordable and there are more choices available. Now, instead of just a rectangular or square box, there are molds that are fitted with rigid plastic liners, with cutting lines, with pieces that come apart, and with parts that are reputed to be safe for oven applications.
My first wooden soap mold was made from ˝” thick plywood purchased at a neighborhood lumberyard in Chelsea, Manhattan. At the time, I was attending a building trade school. My carpentry teacher allowed me to use the table saw and tools to make my soapbox. It was just an open rectangular box, nothing fancy, comprised of four butt joints secured with 1˝” nails. Though only made of plywood it endured constant use for 6 years. Some time ago it started showing signs of wear and tear—a bit of loosening of the bond that holds the veneer layers together and loosening of the nails and joints.
Since then I have researched and found out that plywood may pose unknown health dangers to soap makers because of the phenol formaldehyde glue used to hold the pressed veneers together. Phenol formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and when used in combination with other chemicals (lye), who knows what the end result will be. To that end, I have discarded all my soap molds with pressed wood. While this may not be a choice some people would make, I felt that it was necessary to protect the integrity of my products and to assuage my conscience.
With that said--there are many fine solid wooden molds available from suppliers and woodcrafters. Here are some things to look for when buying a wooden soap mold. The most important qualities of a good soap mold are the durability of materials and the strength of the joints that hold the pieces together. The best joints are dovetail joints. They are also the most labor intensive to make and the skill level to construct dovetail joints is high! Dovetail joints predates written history. Before there was mechanical gadgetry, carpenters glue, nails and screws, dovetail joints held the world’s wooden products together. Though time consuming to make, a soap mold made with dovetail joints and solid wood will last a long time, and is destined to become a family heirloom.
However, given a second choice, I would choose a simple butt joint made of solid wood and attached with screws or nails, with wood that is knot free. Although more difficult to find, the mold that has pieces that are collapsible and held to together with hinges makes it easy to unmold especially very large soap blocks. Molds that have rigid plastic liners and pieces that interlock to make individual bars are pricey but worth their weight in gold. After unmolding the plastic separators pop out easily thus reducing the time and labor associated with manually cutting the soap bars.
For more information about wooden joints, see
Here are some of the best of the best wooden soap molds. For those vendors who wish to be added to this list please email me with a description of the wooden molds you carry:
1. Perfumekits Nice, sturdy wooden molds that they make in their woodshop. They also take custom orders if the mold you need is not on their website.
2. Creekside Soaps molds are made from 1” thick solid wood and lids that have ample grips. They come pre-lined with freezer paper so that one will have an idea how to properly line the soap mold.
3. Candles and Wood Crafts have some of the best customizable molds ever. Sturdy solid wooden molds, with either hinged, pegged or butt joints and available in a variety of different stains and sizes. They will also custom make to your specifications any wooden mold you need. I love their different wooden bath and body display stands and soap crates!