What do you need to make a gel? You need a carbomer of some sort. There are various ones available - I'm using Carbopol Ultrez 20 (from Voyageur Soap & Candle), but there are others like ETD 2020 and Carbopol 940 (at the Personal Formulator). Each has its own process, but the gist is that you get this powder, sprinkle it over the water, let it get wet, then after a period of time that is determined by your carbomer, you add the neutralizer. You can use a solution of 18% lye (82% water, 18% lye) or triethanolamine at the suggested rate.
A few thoughts before we start this series...
Gels aren't inherently sticky. I know that your experience has probably been that the gel you used that one time was sticky, but that's thanks to the stuff you add to gel. If you don't add sticky things, you won't have a sticky product.
Gels can be sensitive to electrolytes, so check what your carbomer can tolerate. Why is this relevant? Because we find electrolytes in things like aloe vera or surfactants, which means you might not be able to make that aloe vera gel you really want!
Gels don't tend to like oils that much, so if you want to add some, I suggest using water soluble oils, like PEG-7 olivate or water soluble shea.
If you're interested in this series, I encourage you to take a look at this post - Gels: Ooey gooey fun (revised for 2013) - to get started. Join me tomorrow as we make our first gel based product - aloe vera gel!
And if you want to know how gels work further, check out this really in-depth data bulletin from Lubrizol! It is very interesting! And I love this data bulletin on how to neutralize your carbomers!