If you've processed your honey using a honey strainer, you're now left with beeswax from the cut comb in the upper bucket. Now we're going to show you how to turn that into something you can use! Beeswax can be used to make several products; most common are candles, of course, but it can also be used for furniture polish, soap and even lip balm. Turning cut-up comb into a useful product is a two-step process. It's fairly simple, but you'll need some special equipment, a warm, sunny day, and a bit of patience.
The first thing you'll need to have is a solar wax melter. These usually come unassembled and unpainted, so you'll need to put it together and then paint it black, inside and out. Once it's painted, you can install the glass using silicone sealant under the edges to seal it and secure it to the cover.
Wax from supers will melt down without leaving anything more than a trace of impurities behind. Brood comb, however, contains lots of impurities such as shed larval skins, cocoons, remnants of cappings and pollen. The impurities need to be trapped before they enter the pan where the wax is being collected. By lining your melter with a large piece of 8-mesh hardware cloth, you can retain them while the melted wax flows through and down into the catch pan.
Be sure to get the melter out into the sun early in the day. During the month of September, late morning is a good time to start melting wax. In order for the melter to work efficiently, you'll need to rotate it as the position of the sun in the sky changes. Rotate the melter clockwise until there is a small shadow being cast into the melter from the east side. This position is your starting point and is "ahead of the sun". You can leave the melter in this position until there is a small shadow being cast into the melter form the west side. The position of the melter has at that point become "behind the sun", so rotate the melter clockwise until it's once again ahead of the sun. In this way, you'll need to rotate the melter a minimal number of times.
By the late afternoon or early evening, the melter will cool to the point that all of the wax has hardened again. At this time you can remove the wax catch pan and take it into the house. You'll notice that in the pan with the hardened wax is also some honey. This is honey that was trapped in the cut comb. It is not fit for human consumption. You can feed it to your bees if you wish, but remember that it is no longer raw honey and is likely to have little nutritional value over sugar syrup.
Remove the wax "brick" from the pan and wash it under warm water to get the honey off of it. Most of the honey will be in the bottom of the catch pan since it is heavier than the wax. However, there is likely to be honey trapped within the wax brick, which is one reason why the second step is needed.
Because there are some contaminants that made it through the 8-mesh, and because of the likelihood that there is some honey trapped in the wax, it must be re-melted. This time you'll melt it in a sacrificial pot (4 quart dutch oven works well) that is about half filled with hot water. I say a "sacrificial pot" because after you use the pot for melting wax, that's all it will ever be good for since you'll never be able to get it completely clean again! Bring the water to a rolling boil. Break the brick in half if you need to in order to fit it into the pot. Reduce the heat to a medium setting and add the wax pieces to the water.
Do not allow the water to return to a boil. Once most of the wax has melted, reduce the heat to low and allow the remainder to melt slowly. After all of the wax has melted, turn off the heat and carefully move the pot to a cool burner.
At this point, any honey that was trapped in the wax has mixed with the water in the pot, most of the contaminants have sunk to the bottom, and the clean wax is floating on top. Be patient and allow everything to cool down slowly. After several hours, the wax will contract and pull away from the sides of the pot. In the photo below, you can see water between the wax and the sides of the pot.
When that happens, you can remove the wax and store it away for future use.
WARNING: This wax "disc" will have a small amount of moisture (water) trapped in it. It needs to be stored (NOT in any type of sealed container) in a cool, dry place for at least a week in order to allow this moisture to evaporate out of it. DO NOT proceed to the next step with wax that has not been allowed to dry thoroughly. Violent mini-explosions of released moisture could occur when the wax is remelted, causing hot water and wax to erupt from the pan!
Well, as we stated at the beginning of this section, beeswax can be used for many different purposes. But we will simply finish up here by giving you some tips on pouring your beeswax into molds, since candle making is by far the most common use for beeswax. Almost all of the wax that our bees make is sold to our customers as 1 ounce bars that they use to wax comb guides. Therefore, that is the type of mold that we will be pouring our wax into, but the same basic principles apply when pouring wax into most any type of mold.
The next thing you'll need to invest in is a good quality, 1 quart saucepan that you will only use for melting clean wax. A good quality saucepan will be stainless steel, with a thick, heavy bottom and at least one pour spout. The exterior bottom will often be copper coated. Plan on spending between 20 and 30 dollars for one. Ours is an Emeril, and it works very well for us. Again, the pan will never come clean after you have used it to melt wax. Don’t even try to get it clean, you’ll just make a mess of your kitchen. The best thing to do is allow it to cool completely and then put it away somewhere, hardened wax and all, ready for use the next time you melt wax.
What we cannot stress enough at this time, is that melting beeswax in the way that we are going to describe, and working with melted beeswax, can be dangerous! Bad things can happen if these instructions are not followed exactly!
Teakwood Organics L.L.C. is not responsible for any injury, death or damage to person or property when you are working with beeswax, as we cannot be present to oversee and/or control the processes used.
Read and follow the precautions and instructions below!
· Never leave beeswax unattended when on a stove or hotplate that is turned on-not even for a minute!
· Always use only the lowest possible temperature setting on your stove or hotplate when melting beeswax. Beeswax has a flashpoint of 399 degrees F, at which it will explode into a fireball. If you ever hear popping or see smoke, you have the heat too high!
· Use a quality sauce pan that has a thick bottom. The thick bottom will help to prevent overheating of the wax and will keep the temperature stable longer, giving you a longer working time without having to reheat.
· Give yourself plenty of space and time to work. Don’t be in a hurry!
· It is probably best if your small children do not partake in this activity with you.
1. Select your work area. Ideally, you will be working on a work bench and using an electric hot plate for melting the wax. Take your wax "disc" and, if necessary, scrape the bottom of it clean of any contaminants with a metal putty knife or spatula. You don't have to get it perfectly clean. Break the disc into smaller pieces by placing one side of the disc on a small block of wood and then very gently tapping on it with a small hammer. Break up the wax so that each piece is small enough to fit into your saucepan.
2. Add pieces of beeswax to the pan without adding too much. You'll want the pan to be no more than 2/3 full once the wax has melted, or it may be difficult to pour into a mold. Do not allow any piece of wax to hang over the edge of the pan! If a piece is too big to fit safely inside the pan, break that piece in two. Turn on the burner that is farthest away from where you’ll be pouring. Use the lowest possible setting and then place the pan on the burner. The wax will melt very slowly. Be patient and do not leave it unattended.
CAUTION: If the wax begins to boil at any point during the melting process, momentarily turn the heat completely off! It may be necessary to cycle the heat from the lowest setting to off a few times to keep the wax from boiling.
3. Once most of the wax has melted and there is just a small portion of un-melted wax remaining, turn off the heat. The remainder of the wax will melt in the next few minutes. Do not stir the wax.
4. After all of the wax is melted, remove the sauce pan from the hot burner and place it on the cool burner closest to where you’ll be working. Allow the wax to cool to the point that it starts to harden on top or around the edges.
Note: Step five is very important. Many candle molds are made from high density plastic and will overheat and distort if the wax is too hot. Regardless of what type of mold is being used, the wax should never be hotter than the minimum temperature required to keep it liquid (about 150 Deg F).
5. Place the pan back on the warm burner and turn the burner on low just long enough to re-melt the wax completely. This should only take several seconds. Do not apply too much heat.
6. Once the wax is totally liquid again, you're ready to pour! With the type of mold we're using, we pour every other compartment full and then go back to fill the empties. This helps to ensure that the mold won't get too hot. Pour slowly and steadily, and don't stop until the mold is full.
If you look closely at the photo below, you'll notice that a little bit of wax is hardening at the edges of the spout as it is being poured. That is exactly as it should be, if the wax is at the right temperature for pouring (not too hot).
7. After you have poured your wax, you must once again be patient. If you attempt to remove the hardened wax too soon, it will surely stick to the mold and be ruined. Some molds require you to treat them with a releasing agent, so be sure to follow any directions supplied with your particular mold(s). Most will readily release the wax once it is cooled, without an agent of any kind. What is very useful, is to put the molds of hardened wax into the freezer for at least an hour (the longer, the better).
8. With this particular mold, we simply twist it like an ice cube tray once everything is cooled and we have 5 beautiful 1 ounce bars of wax and a clean mold that is ready to be used again.
Be careful and have fun!