A Day of Ugly Ducklings

The phrase “The best laid plans” begins as a ominous warning to not let your guard down just because you think you’ve got this.  Life has a funny way to throwing those plans right out the window as quickly as the blink of an eye.

Some plans are just better left on the work table a bit longer as well.  Such was the case today.

I intended to make two batches today.  Ambitious, yes, but doable.  One would require little fiddling as they are shave bars and therefore need no swirls, mica, nothing decorative.  They’re all about function, not form. The second was a restock of one that’s surprising simple – usually – and a popular scent for both genders.

I blended two fragrance oils from Fragrance Laboratory, Acorns & Black Oak with Hibiscus Tea [Note to self: Get more Hibiscus Tea FO].  Remembering the first time I used it in a batch of cp soap,  and the soap remaining soft for a bit longer than usual, I decided to try reducing the amount of water.  Not much, just 1/2 oz.  I thought that would work well enough without the results being too soft like the first batch.  I got to the stage where the lye water was nearly cooled and the oils were all blended together and took a hard look at the mixing bowl.  It didn’t look like enough to fill that mold.  How did that happen?

Looking at the recipe, it was much too low in total volume to fill the mold intended, so I added enough of the oils to bring that up to the proper amount plus enough lye to balance out the additional oils.  Water was also added. Saved that bit and the volume appeared correct by now.  I blended the FO with the coconut milk, added those two to the oils, then added the lye water.

Stick blending only to emulsion or slightly past it, but not by much as I wanted to do a half & half layering with white & brown ITP swirl on the bottom, green & white ITP swirl in the middle then a layer of white with designs of mica in oil on top.  Fluidity was key that plan during the pour though the bottom would need to firm up enough to add the middle layer without breaking through.  Easy-peasy, chill it in the fridge. Right?  *sigh* You see where this is leading already, don’t you.

What I neglected to note in my recipe the last time I’d used this blend was that it can accelerate trace in CP soap.  Significantly.  Like a pedigree race horse at the Kentucky Derby.  Pouring the two colours into the mold with it this thick was fine for that first layer with the brown and the white.  No break-through! I sprinkled on a pencil line of glitter.  Grabbed the green as it began locking itself into its bowl for the day, so a sturdy spatula was employed to make it swirl in the pot a bit before glopping it over that glittery surface below. That was not nearly as easy to swirl in the pot as the brown was.  It was more of a shove it over that way and shove it over this way and scoop – fast! The white for the top was still in the main bowl, mocking me.  Waiting.  Snearing in its hissing voice – “I dare you to try anything fancy with me!” Yes, it won.  Blobs of white were barely spreadable across the surface that had another glittery pencil line layer.  I dusted it with more glitter, and set it aside, hoping it would just please be presentable.

It rested until about 9 pm that same night when I grew bold and cut it.  It had only been in the mold for about 7-8 hours, but it was hard as a rock.  I seriously doubted the strength of the cutter’s wires.  None broke but that was miraculous in a day of too few miracles available.


The Ugly Duckling, Woodlands, without any signs of any pencil lines.

It may be fragrant and very appealing for that alone to both genders, but this is not the result I’d intended.  Still there are fewer air pockets than expected and I’m sure it will clean nicely as well as imparting a really spectacular fragrance that lasts.  But it’s an Ugly Duckling for sure.

I’ve NOW made a bold, easily read note on that recipe that this FO blend accelerates – A LOT – and to use full water.  Hang the ashing consequences I’d hope to avoid in reducing the water this time.  It served to illustrate that the softness of batch #1 was due to a problem with the lye that was used in the first batch.  It was inferior.  Had to be that since the softness would have eventually been overcome by curing out longer if it was too much water. The Oils:Lye ratio was correct.  That was thoroughly checked.  I also changed lye suppliers since that first batch.

There are many questions that came out of this incredibly difficult batch that might be answered but using several calculators and comparing the results for variances then allowing for the extra water to avoid the acceleration.  If ash develops, it can be steamed off.  But this recipe will definitely be going back to the work table for further study to avoid further Ugly Ducklings.


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