It is said that when you want something done right, do it yourself. When a dedicated fan of the film "Fight Club" saw it necessary to have the signature soap prop used in the movie’s trailer, he couldn’t find one that met his needs. And so he made his own. This is his story.
As I walked excitedly out of the dark movie theater on October 8th, 1999, I realized I had just seen one of my favorite movies ever—David Fincher’s Fight Club. All night my friends and I discussed the how wonderfully this movie seemed to express a part of ourselves that was hidden and often repressed in today’s celebrity and designer-obsessed world—the need to tap into our nihilistic and ascetic impulses more, and to forgo the trappings of a material life and really live life to its fullest. A few weeks later, I realized I wanted an ironic symbol of my affection for the film; something I could display in my apartment that was a sarcastic nod to the film, and something that was unique. This something, it dawned on me, was the soap used in the movie’s trailer—the solid pink bar of soap with the raised Fight Club logo on it. Though it never appears in the actual film and only in the trailer, it is a tidy symbol of movie. In today’s anti-Fight Club, merchandise-everything world, surely this object had to exist and probably not as an ironic gesture.
I fired up my web browser and hit EBay, and sure enough amid the T-shirts, hats and bags, there was Fight Club soap for sale. It was a bar of soap that 20th Century Fox, the studio which released the film, had sent out to promote the film. It was a clear pink glycerin bar of soap with a logo that loosely resembled, but not duplicated, the Fight Club logo. And yes, the letters were raised, if only slightly. Being the stickler that I am for detail, I couldn’t even bear to bid on this item. A month later there were others, mostly made by fans, that tried to duplicate the soap—some with sunken letters, some with raised letters, but it was clear that no duplicate or decent replica of the movie prop existed. I then made a bold decision—to make one for myself. Not really sure of what I was getting into or how to go about it, I nonetheless jumped headfirst into this adventure. Having a background in graphic design, I could duplicate the logo easily enough, even from scratch, but getting it onto a bar of soap, or something that looked like one, was another challenge entirely.
I drew the logo as vector image (vector images carry only numerical information and can be resized without losing resolution), which could easily be translated into instructions necessary to precisely cut the logo into paper or some other material with a computer. My first calls were to sign companies, who I had seen make raised-letter signs. After explaining my quest to them, they had nothing but bad news. They said one way to do the soap with the raised letters was to sandblast it out of wood, metal or sign foam. I could then paint it pink and have it sit on my desk as a prop. The problem with this was the immense cost of its production. Sandblasting for one piece, such as my soap, would cost around $500. The news was the same company after company. Later, I also discovered that sandblasting would not leave the background smooth and flat, as I desired it to be, but would give it a somewhat rough appearance.
After rethinking the problem, I hoped that perhaps the problem was as simple as miscommunication, and I took my ideas to the sign companies in person. A few places I visited gave me the same news. However, there was one company that said they could do what I wanted. It would require the use of a CNC (computer numerically controlled) routing machine, a computer-controlled router that would cut my logo from a piece of foam or wood. They promised me it would be more reasonable since the labor involved was not as intensive, as the router, not humans, did most of the work. This is exactly what I was looking for and what I had in mind. Unfortunately, they said they would have to send the piece out to a specialized company that had such a router since not many local sign companies could afford them as standard equipment. I didn’t like this option because I wanted to explain to the person who was making my soap exactly what I wanted so as to minimize costly errors. I asked for the name of the company who they sent their work to. It was a small outfit that one hour’s drive south of where I lived. I got their phone number to ask for quote. Excited, I manned the phone.
I spoke to the man in charge, Bill, and he said he could do what I wanted. He said he couldn’t give me quote without seeing the logo so I faxed him the logo and also sent him an email with pictures of the soap from the trailer and various promo shots of the actors holding it. He called back a day later and said he would do it for around $100 on medium density fiberboard (MDF), a type of fine particleboard used in signmaking. This too, was more than I wanted to pay but perhaps my main concern was that he expressed some uncertainty about getting the depth of the letters I wanted. He said that the bits that would cut the logo to the depth I wanted (˝ inch) wouldn’t cut the fine details, such as the little hole in the “B,” without cutting away too much material and altering the look of the final piece. I thanked him and told him I’d get back to him.