The more I use soap finish, the happier I am with it. But many woodworkers are skeptical. And I applaud that. For too long companies have tried to sell us this, that or the other as the “miracle” finish that is easy to apply and will leave furniture looking like glass.
Well I don’t want my furniture looking like glass. I want it to be subtle and understated.
That’s where soap comes in. It leaves a flat-sheen surface that is soft to the touch. And it’s easily maintained. Today I noticed the top of this 48” x 48” worktable was getting a little scruffy. I whipped out the jar of soap and rubbed some on. Five minutes later I wiped off the excess and the top looked like new again.
Plus my hands were cleaner than when I started.
All the details on a soap finish are in “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” or you can find plenty of recipes online.
— Christopher Schwarz
29 thoughts on “Soap Finish: What’s it Like?”
Would you use it on a bookshelf? Would the soap get on the books?
Works fine on casework. The soap won’t get on the books any more than cured oil gets on the books with an oil finish..
Thanks for the update… Wonder how it would be on Workbench Tops?
It’s not slippery. I prefer no finish on a workbench top. But this would work.
wunderbar… Going out with some soap not to do some tests.
About how long between touchups are you experiencing with it so far?
What does it look like when it’s “a little scruffy”?
About six months.
It’s scruffy when it has gotten dirty from use. I had some light stains on it. Some ink scuffs.
I will try it on my next project,I am a big fan of BLO and shellac.I also like chalk paint but you need to wax over that so could I use the soap over the chalk paint instead of wax ?
It’s best on raw wood, but looks good over milk paint.
Is that the finish you used on your ATC and the Dutch tool chest I have noticed my milk paint only looks all tattered only after 6 months.
Would the soap finish work on a maple dining table top with hot plates, water and wine glasses?
It’s not heat-sensitive as far as I can tell. If it gets too wet (it hasn’t yet), it’s easily repairable.
Did dome samples on Ash, Tulip Poplar and Pine.
Very little if any color change… Interesting.
I went right onto a fine planed surface, so I’m wondering about Grain Raising.
I even tried it on the sides of a Wood Body Hand plane, have to reverse that.
The raw or Oiled wood left a bit more grip.
I would definitely use this on Floor and Trim IF I were wanting a light colored Danish look that is easy to maintain.
Obvious question I suppose but why soap?
Why would you put a non-drying vegetable oil on wood? Or a bug excretion mixed with alcohol? Tree sap? Flax seed resin?
sorry but that is funny…..giggle
Wish I could post a pic… I like the result.
Hand planed or tooled surfaces, finished with the Soap Finish… WOW !
I can only imagine what a well used piece of furniture will look like year after year of use and cleaning with more… Soap Finish.
Safe, Natural… I’m going to send you some of min Chris to try… it is more of a clear liquid.
Did not darken the Cherry Much at all.
Can anyone suggest where I can buy 100% Soap Flakes? Thanks!
as an alternative, could you use a pure unadulterated olive oil soap like the Greek soaps which are very cheap to buy, or if you have money to splash around, use French Marseilles olive oil soap, as these are made from pretty much just olive oil and caustic soda, and by small manufacturers?
cheers from Down Under
forgot to say… EXCELLENT chapter is the Soap Finish one in the ADB! and what I have read elsewhere from the book is EXCELLENT!! loving it, and loving Chris’s wry humour!
I believe that is exactly what “Castile” Soap is.
exactly, and therefore being a “pure” soap one would think it would work as well as soap flakes… hopefully I will get a chance to do a test this weekend… would love to do the soap finish on our as of yet finished baltic pine kitchen floor, but feel I may come across lots of doubts from my better half 🙂
I remember see an article about Australia’s own Princess Mary of Denmark where they had pics of the inside of the palace where they in Copenhagen and the floors were all what looked like bare wooden floors… albeit ones that had been well and truly scrubbed such that they had almost a bleached looked about them… but they looked wonderful!
Indeed. Any pure soap – such as castile made from olive oil – will work.
In today’s market “Castile” Soap can be made from any pure natural oil which has no additives.
thanks LAP for the confirmation… won’t be wasting any of my Greek olive oil soap after all 🙂
What if you decide you don’t like the soap finish, can you sand it off and apply another finish such as brush lacquer? How do you prepare the surface?
Scrub it off with hot water.
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