Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Want Some Patience and I Want It RIGHT NOW!

Remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza's father goes around screaming, "Serenity now!" at the top of his lungs? That's how I felt after slaving over a batch of layered soap bars a couple of days ago.

I was making my triple-layered Black Rose soaps. The first layer was soft pink, the second layer black, and the third layer was more soft pink.  I was working on a batch of six bars; four turned out great. Two were goners.

This is what the Black Rose soaps are supposed to look like. Here are two of the successful bars.

What happened?

Well, anyone who has done layered melt-and-pour projects before knows that temperature and timing are crucial. If you pour too soon, your soap may be too hot and could melt the layer beneath. Pour too late, and the layers might not adhere. Get caught between these two, and you might have a problem.

I got caught between the two.

The first two layers of each bar went fine. It was on the third layer where I got tripped up. See, I had allowed 5 ounces for each bar, making a total of 30 ounces. That's 10 ounces per layer: 20 ounces of pink, 10 ounces of black.

Ten ounces of pink was great for the first layer. Ten ounces of black worked great for the second layer. Ten ounces of pink for the third proved problematic.

Here's a photo for comparison. See how the nice soap on the top has a clean, straight line of black? And how the two soaps on the bottom have uneven melty black layers with tendrils of black running through the bottom pink layer? Blech.

The third layer of pink for bars 1-4 poured just fine. But by bars 5 and 6, the soap was starting to cool too much and it was getting tacky and gloppy. So I heated what was left in my measuring cup for a few seconds in the microwave.

I took its temperature. I usually pour my layers around 110-115 degrees so I don't melt the layer below it. But it's kinda difficult to get an accurate temperature read on so little soap in a big measuring glass. I dipped my spoon into the base and dripped some of the melted base on my finger. Warm, but not hot.

I wondered if it needed a little more time to cool. But when I stirred it, it felt like it was getting tacky again and a skin was forming on it.

And it was time to pour. The second layer had hardened up and really needed its third layer NOW.

I figured, "It's probably cool enough. It's getting thick and I need to pour."

So I poured it, slowly and gently.


Yep, you guessed it ... I melted the black layer beneath on both bars.

Pools of black floated to the surface of the pink, and little wispy melt lines reached their dreadful tendril-y fingers upward.


What did I learn? Well, I think next time I will start out with more soap base than I need. I had figured that I needed 20 ounces of pink. If I could have a mulligan and do it over again, I would start with 24 ounces instead so maybe I'd still have enough liquidy soap to at least finish all of my pours even if an ounce or two of the soap gets tacky and sticks to the sides of the glass. It is always better to have too much soap prepared than to not have enough.

And I will be more patient. It's a bit heartbreaking to work on a batch and then ruin some of them (especially on the last pour) because you pressured yourself to pour RIGHT NOW.

Ah, well, four out of six ain't bad. And the four that did turn out were a great success, and I am very happy with them. Heck, I can always make more.

Psst ... you can get one of these Black Rose soaps at my Etsy shop. Don't worry - I'll send you one of the pretty ones!

And, hey, Mother's Day is tomorrow. I can give my mom the prettiest one of the reject bars as a gift. And she has to say it's beautiful because I made it and she's my mom, right?


(Have soaping tragedy stories of your own? Share them with us! Wally the Wonder Turtle and I would love to hear them!)