Sunday, November 09, 2008

Freaking Out About Christmas (and other updates)

First off: Mask was a success! Hooray! I do have pictures of me in it, but as folks should have guessed by now, I don't do self-portraits. The pictures that I do have of him are not with him entirely completed - imagine the horns are dark grey, drybrushed with black. And someone is wearing it. That's all you're missing.

(the second one has accurate colors)

Now, on to other news. Soap! It exists, and it is fabulous. I finally figured out that Cold Process soap is a million times easier than Hot Process soap, and that CP soap works best when you actually pay attention to the temperature of your ingredients.

The first batch, which I posted about last month, was eventually saved. Turns out that the little crock pot I got from goodwill to make soap with has 3 settings - off (duh), low, and high. And by "low", they mean "not hot enough for HP soap". So when I was cooking my first batch, it was not getting hot enough for the gel phase to complete. Easy fix though! One 30-minute jaunt through the high setting, and it turned into real, honest to goodness soap.

Now, at that point you might think that I would do more research on this whole soapmaking thing, maybe fill the crockpot with water and see exactly what temperatures the different settings give (holy crap why did I not think of that until just now I totally need to do that), and not just assume that since the high setting worked on the rebatch, it would work on the initial batch. You might think that I would have forethought!

Clearly, you would be reading a different blog. I think I've established by now that I like to live dangerously, craft first and ask questions later! Even when those questions concern things like how do you dispose of 2 lbs of very-lye-active monstrosity. But I get ahead of myself.

Well, not terribly far ahead. Let us tell this story.

So the first batch had turned into real, honest-to-goodness soap. It didn't burn my tongue, it lathered, and it felt really nice to shave with (which was, you may recall, my goal. Mr Sweetie loves it). I was riding the high that comes with learning something new, doing it yourself, and it turning out well enough that you can show it off to your friends (and show off I did!). I decided to make another batch that weekend, and since the shaving soap was just a touch drying (33% coconut oil, 10% castor oil, and bentonite clay will evidently do that to you), I wanted to make sure this next one would be nice and rich. Shea butter! Honey! 9% lye discount! The world was my oyster.

Now, experienced soapmakers will have raised their eyebrows right when I said honey. They know, as I thought I knew, that honey raises the temperature of soap, and so you have to be careful when you add it. You want to make sure that your lye-water and your oils are nice and cool, so that it doesn't overheat.

You especially want to not add your honey TO your water, before you add your lye. This makes your lye-water turn a lovely shade of burnt orange that would be GREAT for your brother who goes to UT, except that it also means your lye-water is CRAZY HOT. Well over the usual 200 degrees that you normally get when this reaction takes place.

Smart people would wait until this cooled down to 110 degrees. Smart people would make sure the oil in the crockpot was also around this temperature, and that the crockpot was not set to high. Smart people would definitely not google just enough shady websites to convince themselves that 150-degree orange lye-water and oils that are probably in the area of 200 degrees themselves could make soap - and you're fucking Mensa smart if you didn't mix your oils and lye, AND THEN ADD MORE HONEY. You know. Because that's totally going to save that giant vat of burning caustic oil.

Fun fact: burnt soap? Smells like roux. This is A Sign.

So, yeah, that batch didn't turn out like at all. It did solidify, but was nothing you'd want to rub all over your body, much less pets or children. It was wrapped in a plastic bag and thrown out. Mr. Sweetie came home and I denied that it had ever happened.

So the new "batch 2"! Same recipe as before, only I didn't add the honey to the lye-water, and I let it cool down to 120 before impatience demanded I mix it to my (set on low) oils. It looked great! I achieved a very clear trace, and if I was a more rational person I would have molded it then and there.

Instead, I added honey. Yup. And two cups of almond meal, to make it scrubby, but I think that the almond meal I bought is more like almond flour than almond ground up bits that can remove dead skin, so it's only very mildly scrubby.

This one also heated up too much, but didn't burn like the first Batch 2 did. Hooray, it's soap! I didn't scent it, and it ended up smelling like what I think must be a combination of unrefined shea nuts and cooked almond flour. It's not necessarily bad, but it IS strange. This is what we're using at home now, because I'm not putting 'toasted almond and shea nut' soap in my christmas gift baskets.

Although that's not a bad name, now that I think about it.

This batch was also made using the silicone ice cube trays that Hastur and the Library Overlord gave me for my birthday, which was very sweet. They also gave me a candy thermometer and an egg timer, and for that I am grateful beyond words.

Oh, you say, that's all grand, but what about the successful recipe? Where is THAT in your cornucopia of despair? Haha. Soon to follow, that's where. Soon to follow.


knitwithit said...

Wtf. Now I want to make soap.

Your mask is awesome!

Persian Pen Name said...

Man, if I can do it, you can do it! Especially if you learn from my mistakes, and buy a good thermometer. I got my lye from, they have really great prices on shea butter, avocado butter, aloe butter (which as it turns out is mostly coconut oil, with aloe juice, and less buttery than anticipated) and a whole bunch of other stuff that I was too broke to try. I've heard great things about their coffee butter, though!

(and seriously, get a thermometer)