Thursday, April 9, 2009

Amber's Ambry Tutorial

This tutorial was taken directly from Amber's Ambry word for word. Amber is a lovely woman with mean sewing skills and some super duper creative juice running through her. ALWAYS:

Okay, the moment no one has been waiting for: My first tutorial! I figured those wee little hand balms would be a good thing to do since none of my close blogging friends have a hand balm tutorial yet. Let's go!

*Disclaimer 1* If you are a soap maker, this will bore you to tears. Like, for real. Read the recipe and then skip to the end where I show the nifty way I put the shrink bands on.

*Disclaimer 2* The recipe I use calls for a blend of beeswax, solid butters and liquid oils and is a modified version of a recipe I found online. The most important thing about the recipe is to maintain even amounts of liquid oils and solid butters. You can tweak the beeswax and starch amounts according to your personal taste, but you must use equal amounts of oils and butters for them to properly solidify. Anyway, if you do a quick search for "solid lotion bar" or "solid hand balm" it should bring up a slew of different recipes for you to choose from. I will share my favorite here:

2.5 oz grated beeswax (or beeswax pastilles)
3 oz liquid oils (I've used a bunch of different combos of the following: avocado oil, sweet almond oil, golden jojoba oil, rice bran oil, wheatgerm oil -- still searching for my favorite blend)
3 oz solid butters (I've used varying amounts of each of the following: unrefined shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter)
1.5 tbsp starch (I was using corn starch, but I have switched to arrowroot)
1 - 2 mL fragrance oil or essential oil (depending on desired strength -- you be the judge, but I prefer my scents on the lighter side and generally don't exceed 1.5 mL)
*This recipe makes 12 mini-muffin sized balms

You will need:
•Any combination of the oils listed above (or substitute your favorites!)
•Any combination of the butters listed above (or substitute your favorites!)
•Fragrance, if desired (you can find skin safe fragrance oils at most craft stores with the soap making supplies, or you can use essential oils)
•Mini muffin pan "mold" (I use both silicone and non-stick metal pans with success, but the flexible silicone pans are MUCH easier to release the balms from)
•Kitchen scale that measures at least in half ounce increments
•Utensil for stirring
•Ladle for pouring melted balm into "mold"
•Crock Pot set to LOW, double boiler over LOW heat or oven safe dish in a warm oven (no more than 200° F) ***The key is to use an indirect heat source.*** Amber's Ambry is not responsible for horrendous kitchen fires caused by irresponsible wax melting ;)
•Individual containers for finished balms (Snack size baggies will do the trick, but don't expect your balms to retain their lovely little shapes that way. After a few trips in your purse or pocket, they will get smashed and smear all over the inside of the baggie. Still usable, but extremely, um, gross looking, so don't say I didn't warn you.)

Step One:
Measure your solid ingredients.
Start with your beeswax so it gets a head start at melting. However, it is not necessary to melt it completely before adding the other ingredients.

hand balm tut. 1
Measuring mango butter.

Step Two: Add solid ingredients to melting device and cover. (Covering is not necessary if you are using an oven.)

hand balm tut. 2
Butters and beeswax pastilles in warm crock pot.

Step Three: Measure your oils.

hand balm tut. 3
I measure my oils all together until I get to my desired ounce total -- in the case of this recipe: three ounces.

Step Four:
Add oils to melting device.

hand balm tut. 4
Adding the liquid ingredients to the solids.

hand balm tut. 5
All ingredients added and ready to melt.

Step Five: Twiddle your thumbs and wait for everything to melt. Stir occasionally. Wash some dishes or something. The time will go faster than if you are hovering over your pot waiting for the chunks to disappear. Not that I know this from personal experience...

hand balm tut. 6
Oh my gosh, it's finally melting!

When your mixture has melted completely, it will be totally clear, with no little pieces floating in it. You may experience some fine sediment at the bottom of your pot from several sources, especially hand-grated beeswax and unrefined shea butter. This is nothing to worry about and you can just stir it in with the starch in the next step.

hand balm tut. 7
Ingredients completely melted.

Step Six: Add starch. This is an easy one. Just measure and dump carefully so as not to splash and stir thoroughly with a wire whisk or a fork.

hand balm tut. 7
Starchy goodness.

hand balm tut. 8
Whisking with fork.

Step Seven: Add fragrance. If you are leaving yours unscented, ignore this step. Otherwise, measure 1 - 1.5 mL of your desired fragrance and stir it into your melty balm mixture.

Step Eight: Ladle into molds.

hand balm tut. 9
Erm, ladling into molds...

hand balm tut. 10
Almost completely solid.

See the color difference in the above two photos? The pictures were taken about fifteen minutes apart, but the balms will actually start to set up pretty quickly in a cool room. Use care not to move or bump them during this process or they will develop unsightly cracks and uneven areas.

Step Nine: Release from molds and place in containers.

hand balm tut. 11
An army of balm.

You did it!!! Now enjoy your balm and give some to all your friends. They will be so delighted with your crafty-ness AND they will have nice, soft hands when they give you the pat on the back you so richly deserve...

*Now for the packaging addendum:
If you are going to sell your balms and need to seal them with shrink bands, I have a neato little trick I use to keep them from rolling away when I turn the heat gun on them.

I place two thick oven mitts or hot pads on the table and I place my broiler pan (the kind that used to come with new ovens) on top of them. Then I line up the shrink bands over my tins and place the tins on their sides in the grooves of the broiler pan. The pan keeps them from rolling while the heat gun is shrinking the little bands, and it provides a heat resistant surface (with the help of the oven mitts underneath) so I don't have to worry about scorching my countertop or table.

hand balm tut. 12
Shrink bands in place, ready for the heat gun.

hand balm tut. 13
Awesome heat gun action shot.

blueberry hand balm group
The finished product.

Alright, that does it! I hope you enjoyed Hand Balm 101. Please check back much, much farther in the far off distant future for more tutorials. But first I have to think of things that I do that don't already have eighty bajillion tutorials devoted to them. ;) For real though, I hope you enjoyed it. Have fun making hand balm!

Thank you, Amber, for sharing your tutorial! Anyone else who wants to share, please be in touch!!


Body Natural Soap said...

That is awesome what a great tutorial.

Anonymous said...

Great tutorial! Very detailed and the end result is just precious!


Anonymous said...

Amber is amazing and so are you!

Christina said...

I thought I knew how to make hand balm, but now I'm finding that I might be mistaken! I've never seen cornstarch added to balm. What is its purpose?

Amber said...

Thanks for posting it! I saw it the other day, but then I was out of town for two days, so I didn't get to comment before now. :(

Nuria said...

Thank you Joanna, this is a great tutorial. I hope to do the ones I promised in my blog one day...I want to do so many things and have so little time ...

Lori at The Nova Studio said...

awesome tutorial joanna! nicely done - beautiful pics! :) do you mind if i post a link on my twitter page?

Josh Cantrell said...

Hey just read your article. That sounds pretty good, can't wait to try it out. You should post it on too. I have found a ton of food and drink recipes that have come in handy at BBQs. They have a ton of articles on how to make everything. Plus you can put a link to your page and they have graphs to track how many hits you get on your articles. Thanks so much for posting your article.

The Soap Dish said...

Wow, what pretty balms they look in their little tins. l'm so inspired! :-)