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Guar-based mixes can create amazing bubbles and are well-worth exploring even if you are already happily using another polymer. NOTE (July, 2015): This article was written pretty early in our exploration of guar gum based juice. Some conclusions/suggestions found here may no longer be current.
20120428 guar0426absca sun

0.75 grams guar per liter on a sunny day with only 40% humidity

20120420guar in shade

See some pretty pictures here to get an idea about this solution.

For a number of reasons (mostly serendipitous), I decided to re-visit Guar Gum, which I had previously more-or-less written off as a primary polymer, as a primary polymer. One contributing factor was an interest in finding a bubble juice recipe for those that have difficulty finding J-Lube or HEC.

20110424 guar75 IMG 1021crop

5 foot diameter bubble create with 0.75 grams guar/liter.

The search for a definitive recipe is ongoing as I have only just begun to have success, but there is clearly great promise here -- and others are confirming it with their own tests. I have mostly been using variants of the recipe below -- but a few experiments that I'm not ready to discuss are pointing to the possibility of an even better recipe.

Videos

Testing Guar Bubbles02:46

Testing Guar Bubbles

Bryce demonstrates bubbles with his guar-based recipe

The video to the right uses a recipe with detergent, water, guar gum, and baking powder. The loop is a 48" top-string of Libman Jumbo Cotton Wetmop yarn.





 
2012 04 28 guar evening 32inch modular03:27

2012 04 28 guar evening 32inch modular

32" top-string and 1 gr/liter guar gum solutions.

The video to the right uses a 32" topstring modular loop.The top-string is full-ply Rubbermaid rayon finish mop yarn. The bottom string is a singly (blue) ply of deconstructed mop yarn. The solution used 1 gram of Bob's Red Mill guar gum per liter of tap water.




 
2012 04 28 guar 48" top string02:35

2012 04 28 guar 48" top string

The same juice as above using a 48" top string loop.

Guar bubbles with a 48" top-string loop.







 
2012 05 07 Guar 72-inch top-string03:45

2012 05 07 Guar 72-inch top-string

72" top-string. 2 grams guar/liter water. 25:1 dilution.

A session with a 2 grams guar per liter water, 2 grams baking powder per liter water and 40 grams Dawn Pro per liter water (25:1 water:detergent).

Different brands/sources of guar may behave differently

Something that I have just discovered is that there is a lot of variation between different sources and brands of guar gum. Some mix up more readily than others and some are more viscous than others at a given concentration. Guar/water concentrates on their own do not seem to store well (even in a refrigerator) without some sort of preservative. Also, guar/water concentrates don't always combine as succesfully with detergent/water as PEO or HEC concentrations. At this stage in my exploration, I recommend using guar powder to mix up bubble juice rather than using a concentrated guar solution. [May 23, 2012: I am finally getting good results with some concentrates which I'll document in another blog entry or on the recipes pages.]

20120430 guar 100 inch top 3

3 gr. guar/liter. 100" top-string on a very windy eve.

20110424 guar75 IMG 1017crop

0.75 grams guar/liter and a 6-foot top-string loop.

Odds and Ends

Guar seems to need more time to fully hydrate than PEO, for instance. I am finding that this recipe consistently works better the next day than it does shortly after being mixed.

A blender, hand-blender or drill with a paint mixing bit are very helpful, but I have made some great bubbles with a mix that was done with a whisk and hot water.

Hot water helps speed things up enormously: the hotter the better. Water that has been brough to a boil and then used immediately works much much better than very hot tap water. If the water is hot enough, you can pour it onto guar powder while stirring vigorously by hand and get a great mix.

Glycerine might be helpful in stabilizing the guar in solution though I can't say so definitively. [May 2012: I am finding that glycerine does not make a noticeable difference but it also doesn't hurt. Pouring just enough glycerine (or 90% or higher isopropyl) to cover the powder before adding very hot water seems to speed up hydration but is by no means necessary.

This recipe works quite nicely but does not have quite as much stretch as some PEO-based or HEC-based solutions, but perhaps that will change when the recipe is fine-tuned. What I can say, is that the colors are great. With my "standard" 32-inch top-string cotton cord (Lehigh/SecureLine) test loops, max tube length is in the 10-20 foot range versus 20-40 foot range of my standard PEO solutions. But, I am going to work on refining the recipe to see if this can be improved.

More is not better. I am finding that 0.5 grams/liter of Now Brand Guar is working better with a medium-sized tri-string than 1.5 grams/liter, but for a small rigid wand or garland work 1.5 grams/liter is working much better for me than 0.5 grams/liter. All the tests so far have been with 25:1 water to Dawn Pro solutions. [MAY 2012 NOTE: I have had some great giant bubble sessions in the past few weeks with 1.0 through 2.0 grams guar per liter water solutions. What works best is probably a matter of both personal preference and equipment. I recommend trying different concentrations of guar from 0.5 grams through 3.0 grams per liter water. If bubble-in-bubble is not easy or the bubbles don't have good stretch try using more guar).

For really long tubes (I have gotten 35 foot tubes with a 32-inch top-string loop), 1.5 to 2.0 gram solutions seem to be working better for me than solutions with less guar, BUT Bryce has gotten some awesomely large bubbles with his 0.75 grams/liter solutions.

During a few test sessions, I have had particularly long-lasting bubbles in the 3 to 4 foot range. Bubbles that lasted a minute or more during a session where no PEO-based bubbles lasted more than 30 seconds.

I also had good luck on an 80F day with only 40% humidity (making the bubbles in the shade). The bubbles also stand up pretty well even gusty wind.

Unlike the other commonly-used polymers, guar has a non-trivial influence on longevity as it seems to impact the thickness of the bubble. At very high concentrations, the bubbles can be long-lasting but not as colorful as bubbles in the "sweet range". The appropriate concentration will depend on the brand of guar that you are using.

Using guar in a PEO-heavy recipe seems to have little impact (though some will disagree with me), but several people are reporting that a tiny amount of PEO -- as little as 0.1 grams J-Lube for a liter of water -- has some benefit without detracting from the guar's positive qualities.

April Test Recipe

My April 2012 explorations are all variations of the recipe below.

To make 1040 ml bubble juice:

Into 100 ml hot water that is being stirred (preferably with something like a hand-blender or other mechanical stirrer that can get a vortex going)

Slowly sprinkle/pour 0.5 grams to 3.0 grams guar (I have mostly used Now Brand but a starting to explore Red Mill which seems to hydrate a bit more cleanly). Continue mixing for a couple of minutes (or more) until the solution seems uniform and has started to thicken. It may be possible to use more guar, but I haven't tried it yet. 3 grams guar/liter makes a pretty thick mix, but it is worth trying.

VARIANT: mix guar powder with 1 gram baking soda and 0.5 grams citric acid per liter of water to be used and sprinkle this into the water. I am using baking soda/citric acid in most of my mixes. I haven't done a reliable head-to-head comparison, but my impression is that the bs/ca improves the bubble juice. I have also seen video of a nice mix that substituted baking powder for the baking soda/citric acid.

If possible, let the solution rest 15 or 20 minutes then add 40 ml Dawn Pro (or equivalent).

Stir with a spoon, chopstick or stirring rod until the solution is uniform.

Add to 900 ml slightly warm water.

VARIANT: mix the guar powder and the baking soda/citric acid directly into detergent and stir with a chopstick or stirring rod until there are no lumps. Let this sit for a while (even over night). Add this to very hot water (just-boiled water works great) while stirring by hand. Continue stirring until solution is smooth and has thickened. You may substitute 2 grams of baking powder for the baking soda/citric acid.

NOTE (May 2012): If you are using VERY hot water (i.e. water that was just brought to a boil), you do not need to slowly sprinkle the guar. You can start stirring the water vigorously and dump in the guar OR (even better) have the guar in a heat-resistant container (like a glass measuring cup) and dump the just-boiled water in and stir vigorously by hand for a few minutes (or use a hand-blender).

NOTE (July 2015): When this article was written, the use of electro-mechanical stirring was mentioned as beneficial. This was because--at the time--we did not realize how effective isopropyl alcohol was for making a slurry. In the 3 years since this article was written, it has become clear that hand-stirring yields great results and that electro-mechanical stirring is not necessary to avoid clumping. Use of a slurry will do that. Also, we have found that optimizing hydration speed with hot water seems to have no detectable impact on the juice.

More Photos

Guar20120428

Guar bubble in full-sun with only 40% humidity (temp 71F)

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