Bees Wax

The double boiler I ordered from Amazon finally showed up today. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to melt the bee’s wax I collected from the cappings a couple of weeks ago. Here’s how to turn bees-wax into usable “blanks” that can be stored and eventually used to make bees-wax products such as candles or lip balm.

Collect Raw Wax

I took all the cappings from the extraction process and washed them repeatedly in cold water right after I was done extracting honey earlier this month. I then dried the wax out as best as I could. In reality I didn’t realize it’d take so long to select and get a double boiler, used in melting the wax, that I actually let the wet wax sit too long. It got moldy. And attracted a lot of fruit flies. I did my best to then spread all the wax out on a pizza box and dry it out in the sun on the screen porch.

Washed wax ready for processing.

Washed wax ready for processing.

I could’ve also taken the wax from the bee hive frames, but I had left most of that for the bees after extraction. Side note: we checked the bees last week. The bees did a freakishly neat job of cleaning up the extracted frames. What was a train wreck after my brutal uncapping was turned into a geometric masterpiece by mother nature. I can’t even describe it, you’d have to witness for yourself what an incredible job they did cleaning up the frames. They’re already filling them again with honey as I write this.

Okay, back to wax melting. You need a double boiler to melt the wax. We couldn’t find one locally so I ordered this one from Amazon.

This is the double boiler I bought on Amazon for like $15. Worked like a charm.

This is the double boiler I bought on Amazon for like $15. Worked like a charm.

I like it because it’s a single piece that fits into a variety of pot sizes. As you may be wondering, a double boiler is essentially two pots on top of each other. Fill the bottom one half full of water and put the other pot on top. Boil the water in the pot below and it evenly warms up the upper pot, allowing stuff to melt up there without burning. “Stuff” can be anything from chocolate, cheese, or in our case: bees wax.

What You’ll Need

As mentioned, you’ll need some tools to melt your wax. I recommend having a set of items that you use specifically for melting wax, if for no other reason than melting wax is super messy or rather super hard to clean up afterwards. Wax cools and dries almost instantaneously, leaving a film on everything that is difficult to remove without reheating it.

  • double boiler
  • wooden spoon
  • bowl (for draining the wax into after you strain it)
  • butter knife (for scraping wax off wooden spoon)
  • muffin pan ( or milk carton or other form, your choice, to make wax blanks in the shape of your choice)
  • towel
  • cheese cloth
  • raw bees-wax (from cappings, scraps or frames)

Melt The Wax

I set up my double boiler on the range and turned on the fire. As everything warmed up I started shoveling bits of wax into the pot with a wooden spoon. When the wax started to melt I stirred the pot and added more. I had ten (10) frames worth of capping wax this time around. All of it fit handily in the boiler, no problem. As the wax melts you can see impurities in the was, and ours was a dark gold clear color.

Wax is just dumped into the double boiler and slowly melts. Stir with a wooden spoon.

Wax is just dumped into the double boiler and slowly melts. Stir with a wooden spoon.

Bees wax melts in the double boiler, muffin pan stands by. I was going to embed twine in the mold to help release the dried wax muffins, but decided I probably wouldn't need to do that. I was correct.

Bees wax melts in the double boiler, muffin pan stands by. I was going to embed twine in the mold to help release the dried wax muffins, but decided I probably wouldn’t need to do that. I was correct.

Strain The Wax

Once all the wax is melted I covered the top of an old bowl with cheese cloth. You can fold the cheese cloth over a couple of times to really get a fine mesh. I just left it folded over like it came out of the package. With the cheese cloth in place I poured all the molten wax over it and into the bowl: straining the wax to get all the impurities out. It was amazing how much “garbage” was in the wax including the aforementioned mold, bee parts, honey, and other debris. There was a huge ball of brown muck in the cheese cloth, and purer wax in the bowl.

Cheese cloth filters out impurities in the bees wax. Some wax dries on the cloth is lost; not sure how to recover it so it goes in the trash.

Cheese cloth filters out impurities in the bee’s wax. Some wax dries on the cloth is lost; not sure how to recover it so it goes in the trash.

The cheese cloth filters impurities: bee parts, honey, mold, etc. Pour liquid wax through cloth into a bowl then put the wax back in the boiler to melt again; repeat until pure wax is left.

The cheese cloth filters impurities: bee parts, honey, mold, etc. Pour liquid wax through cloth into a bowl then put the wax back in the boiler to melt again; repeat until pure wax is left.

I then poured the wax back into the double boiler. I used my wooded spoon to scrape the bowl and a metal knife to scrape the wooden spoon; returning all the clean wax I could gather back into the boiler. Once back in the boiler the wax that had cooled remelted. I then strained it a second time.

Two passes through the cheese cloth made wax that looked clear to my eye. I did lose some wax as it dried on the cheese cloth and the bowl. I’m not sure how to avoid wax loss unless I had a custom set up in the studio with more than household items. Having now done it once I do know what to do in the future to be even more efficient.

I tossed out the cheese cloth and put all the wax back in the boiler for a third time. Bowl and implements were scrapped again and all the clean wax I could gather was melted once again.

Mold The Wax

Once it was liquid I poured the wax into a common muffin pan to let the wax cool into easy to store “pucks”.

Bees wax cooling in a simple muffin pan to make bees wax muffin shaped blanks.

Bees wax cooling in a simple muffin pan to make bees wax muffin shaped blanks.

Bees wax "muffins" ready for storage or use.

Bees wax “muffins” ready for storage or use.

Our ten frames worth of cappings yielded three “muffins” of bees-wax. Enough to make one medium size jar candle. The wax is a deep yellow color and looks pretty clean. The best part is it’s 100% natural. Because of the mold issue I won’t use the wax for lip balm or soap but I don’t see why it can’t be used for candles. Wax in this state can now be easily stored and remelted when the time arises.

There you have it. My only feedback is I think wax making is messier than honey extraction because wax is so difficult to clean up. For example, I hate to wash anything in the sink because I’m afraid of wax build up in the drains. I recommend having wax specific implements so any dried wax can remain on them, possibly being remelted the next time you process.

I cannot wait until the bees have made more honey and wax. I enjoy processing both, very therapeutic and rewarding. It’s cool having new experiences and learning new skills, especially when it’s not that common in our hectic world.

Sadly I think our mama deer lost one of her fawns as we’ve only seen one of the twins the last few times they visited our yard. My absence in the yard (been busy with work, so the yard is a mess) has meant that the deer have gotten comfortable coming up close. They are loving all the clover in the yard, not to mention my poor choke berries.

Yesterday we, as a family, got to enjoy our lunch watching our spotted newcomer play in the front yard with two does (presumably mom and “aunt”). It was funny to watch baby, er actually toddler deer, practice running, jumping and antagonizing. She’d run from one end of the yard to the other and back. Then practice kicking. Our boys would look out the window and laugh. The fawn would spot them, get real serious and commence practicing her hoof stomp-n-snort. Threat averted, she’d be back to playing until receiving a deft hoof in the ass from one of the does, when she misbehaved.

I suspect most folks don’t get to see this sort of thing too often and we had a front row seat. Or if they do, they don’t pay too much attention.

To everyone else they’re just deer.

Not so here.

They’re part of the fabric that makes this a magical place indeed.

Baby deer pushing the patience of mom and aunt.

Baby deer pushing the patience of mom and aunt.

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