Wax On/ Wax Off
So, if you’ve been a good beek all year – cleaning off brace-comb & taking it away from your apiary; replacing manky old brood frames; and uncapping super frames for extraction – sooner or later you’ll find yourself with a hoard of beeswax. This can be used for a myriad of lovely things – swapping out for new foundation, candles, mouldings, blocks, furniture polish, wraps or lipsalve.
But first you’ll need to process it to one degree or another so here are some ideas on how you can do that.
If you’re new to beekeeping then you’ll be rapidly realising that there are many tools designed to make your life easier when handling wax – solar wax extractors and steamers which you can buy or make for yourself. But a great starting point is a bain marie that keeps the hot water separate from the wax you want to melt. You can use a saucepan and a glass bowl but that can be a bit of a faff & you can buy the real deal quite cheaply (around £20) and that’s what I started with.
Tip = good idea to keep different quality of wax separate when you melt if you want to use for cosmetic or decorative purposes – cappings or freshly drawn unused wax are the most highly prized!
Here’s are before & after pictures of mine with some wax in it ready for melting down. The wax here has come out of old brood frames melted in my solar extractor, but it could also be cut directly out of an old frame or your cappings from spun super frames.
Your next step is to strain the wax as it’s likely to have bits of bee or cocoon / pollen / dirt etc. & this is what you’ve prepared for by eating fresh soup for months and keeping your legs warm with nylon tights…
Oh, you haven’t? Well, you are going to need
- a) a container into which you pour the molten wax (so heatproof), and
- b) something through which you strain the wax.
And as you can see from the next photos, soup containers and tights do very nicely! If you take it up a notch and want to prepare wax for show classes then you’ll need to think about something that filters higher levels of particle and j-cloths work well, but for now – this’ll do just fine.
Once the wax is poured into the container, you can remove the tights / stockings / pop socks (very cheap multi-packs are available from supermarkets) and snip off the used bit, tie a knot and they’re ready for next time. You’ll also likely have a load of gunk in the bottom of the bain marie which you can wipe out with kitchen towel.
You then need to leave the wax to cool and set which will take a couple of hours at least, overnight is best unless you’re pushed for time. Then you can release from the container and behold, a block of filtered wax ready to go. The wax might have been mixed with honey so that might be in a pool at the bottom – that can rinsed off the block with cold water.
From the photos below you can see a range of useful things…
The quality of the wax improves as you move from left to right. The two blocks at the far left were from the pourings above – old brood frames so darker in colour. The block on the far right is from pure newly drawn unused wax – best for competition blocks of wax or candles.
The dips & cracks in the top of some of the pours is because the wax was poured rapidly into a cold container and cooled quickly – if you’re doing candles for show then you need to take more care!
There are signs of grunge on the bottom of the third & fourth pours – a sign that the wax needs more filtering.
The fifth pour has a different colour in the top quarter as I topped up the container with wax from a different melt – not a problem for these purposes, but again, if you’re creating items for show / sale then something to bear in mind.
So there you have it – a beginners guide to wax wrangling, hope you enjoyed!