Tag Archive | craft

Processing Beeswax

June 12, 2015

Several months ago I posted all about cleaning frames, removing the dark old comb so I could add fresh new wax foundation.  Of course, beneath all that old black crustiness is bee-utiful, golden beeswax that can bee used to make skin products, soaps, lip balms, furniture polish (yep), candles, and more.  So how do we get rid of the bad to get to the good stuff?  That’s what I’m going to show you in this post.

Equipment

First you’ll need some dedicated wax processing equipment.

  • 1 old bucket
  • 1 old large pot (I use an old crab pot)
  • 1 large colander (not plastic)
  • 1 long wooden spoon
  • Crockpot
  • Cheese cloth
  • Large rubber band
  • Half gallon cardboard milk carton with top arched section cut off.
  • Crockpot (optional)

Part 1 – Cleaning the Wax

I’ve never collected a ton of old comb at one time.  It’s something I collect over time.  When I have a bucket full, then I’ll melt it down.  But first you’ll want to clean your comb and cappings thoroughly so you don’t end up with sticky wax.   You don’t want honey in your wax.

1.  Place the comb and/or cappings in a 5 gallon bucket.

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2.  Fill the bucket with warm water.  Warm enough to melt the honey but not the wax.

3.  Dig in with your hands and stir the wax around so all the comb makes contact with the warm water.

4.  Allow it to soak for about 15 minutes, then drain most of the water off the wax through a colander.  (Interesting fact: back in old times, kitchen staff would clean wax combs just like this, and they would make table mead from the discarded honey water by leaving it out to collect wild yeast.)

5.  Refill the bucket with more warm water and repeat the process multiple times until the water runs clear.

Part 2 – Melting the Comb

1.  Fill your pot with the clean comb and add about 2 inches of water to the bottom of the pot.

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2.  Turn the heat on medium and watch the pot!  Do not walk away from the pot – this stuff can boil over and cause a horrible mess and it’s dangerous.

3.  Gradually the wax will melt down and you will have a yummy brood and larvae wax stew.   Stir constantly with the wooden spoon.

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4.  Once everything is melted down completely, place the colander over the bucket and pour the hot pot o’ wax stew through the colander and into the bucket.  I do this in the garage.

5.  Use the wooden spoon to stir the lumpy leftovers in the colander to help release all the wax down into the bucket.

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6.  Dump the colander filled with lump leftovers in the chicken coop or in a back corner of the yard where the wild critters can snack on it.

7.  Allow to cool overnight, then fish your first wax cake out of the bucket and scrape off and discard the loose, dirty layer on the bottom.  Well done!

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Collect 4 or 5 more buckets of comb and repeat this entire process for each bucket full so you end up with 3 or 4 wax cakes.  (The wax cakes preserve well in the freezer until you’ve collected enough for Part 3).

Part 3 – Melting the Wax Cakes

Your wax cakes, at this stage, a still filled with dirt and bee chunks.  So we’re continuing to melt and clean our wax.  We start this step once we’ve collected at least 3 wax cakes.  If you have more than 3 wax cakes, then one milk carton may not hold all of the liquid wax, so bee prepared if you have more wax.

1.  Break the thin cakes into chunks and add them to your pot.

2.  Fill the pot about 2 inches with water.

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3.  Turn the heat to medium and watch the pot!

4.  Stir with the wooden spoon until all is melted completely.

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5.  Place colander over the bucket, then dump the wax stew through the colander and into the bucket.

6.  Allow to cool overnight and in the morning, fish out your large wax cake.

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7.  Scrape off the bottom layer of dirt.

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Now at this point you should have an impressive, much cleaner single fat cake of wax.  You can repeat this process again, or move on to Part 4 for the last cleaning phase, depending on how dirty the wax still appears.

Part 4 – The Final Cleaning

I use an old crockpot for this phase.  You could also use a double boiler over the stovetop.

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1.  Start by cutting a 12″x12″ double layer of cheesecloth.

2.  Cut the top arched section off of a cardboard milk carton.  Leave the container as tall as possible.

3.  Cover the top of the carton evenly with the cheese cloth and securely slide the rubber band over the cheesecloth to tightly secure it around and over the top of the milk carton.  You don’t want it to fall in when you pour the hot wax through it.

4.  Cut or break the wax cake into small enough pieces so it fits into the crockpot or double boiler.

5.  Turn on low and allow it to melt completely.  The crockpot can be left unwatched.  The same is not true for the double boiler, so keep an eye on it so the water and wax don’t boil over.

6.  Pour and strain the melted wax through the cheesecloth and into the milk carton.

7.  Remove the cheesecloth and rubber and and carefully set aside the wax filled carton and let it cool overnight.

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8.  Peel off the cardboard and you should have a bee-utiful block of wax that can be carved or shredded for all kinds of fabulous natural products.

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Note: if you want smaller bricks, then purchase a silicone mini loaf mold and pour the wax into that after it’s been strained.

I’m hoping to post more tutorials on making product of the hive, so stay tuned.   Happy beekeeping!














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Hand Rolling Beeswax Candles

When I signed up to help my Beekeeping Cub demonstrate how to make beeswax candles at the county fair, I envisioned myself sitting on a stump, wick in hand, dipping tirelessly into a pot of hot wax while waving at the kiddies.

I arrived to a table piled high with beeswax foundation – the long flat sheets of wax that are inserted in the frames of the hive to help bees draw out their comb. Using a precut cardboard template and an exacto knife, I was instructed to cut out the shapes from the sheets of wax. The wick cord was then wrapped around a precut piece of cardboard and cut to length.

With everything precut and ready to go, we invited passersby to sit down and make their own candles. And I mean everyone – kids, parents, grandmas, men, women, teenagers…regardless of age or gender, everyone loved it!

Since most of us beekeepers have a few extra sheets of beeswax foundation lying around, I thought I’d share a tutorial for making hand rolled beeswax candles. It’s super easy, they make great gifts, and it’s an easy and fun project for kids. In fact, many of the kids ended up showing their parents how to make the candles. Here we go…

Beeswax Candles

1 full sheet of deep foundation makes 2 candles. 

Supplies

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Supplies needed to make beeswax candles.

1.  On a large cutting board, lay one sheet of deep size beeswax foundation in front of you horizontally (skip this step if using pre-cut sheets).

2.  Use your ruler to measure across the top edge and cut a small slit to mark the top center of the sheet.

3.  Do the same across the bottom edge and cut a small slit to mark the bottom center of the sheet.

4.  Align the ruler with the two center slits and cut the sheet in half vertically with your exacto knife.  You’ll have two sheets.

5.  Put one of the halves aside and put the other half in front of you.

6.  Measure the left edge and cut a small slit to mark the center, then measure the right edge and cut a small slit to mark the center.

7.  Align your ruler with the two center slits and cut the sheet in half horizontally.  You should have two quartered pieces, as shown below.

8.   Put one piece aside and place the other piece in front of you horizontally.

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Two quartered pieces will make one candle.

9.   On the top edge right, measure 2 inches in (left, toward the center) from the right corner.  Mark with a small slit.

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On top edge, mark 2″ from the right corner.

 

10. On the left edge, measure 1 inch up from the bottom corner.

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On left edge, mark 1″ from bottom corner.


11.  Align your ruler between the 2″ and 1″ slits and cut diagonally along the top outside edge of the ruler, removing a triangular piece of wax.  

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Cut diagonally between the top and side slits.

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Finished cut piece – this can be used to cut a cardboard template that can be used for future candle projects, and it can also be used as a template for cutting the second quartered piece of wax.


12. Lay your finished cut piece on top of your other quartered piece so that right and left edges align.

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Lay the top piece on the other sheet and cut along the edges to create two matching pieces.

13. Use the top piece as a template, cutting along to edges to produce a matching piece from the bottom sheet.  You should have two matching pieces, as shown in the photos below.

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14.  Cut a 10″ piece of #2 (medium) candle wick cord and lay it across the bottom edge of one piece of wax, leaving equal parts extending outside the wax on each side, as shown below.


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15.  Gently press the wick into the wax, about 1/8″ above the bottom edge to help it stay in place, as shown below.


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16.  Use your fingers to gently curl the bottom edge of the wax upward and roll one complete roll over the wick, then stop rolling.

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One complete roll over the wick.

17.  Place the second piece of wax on top of the first piece so that the side edges align and so the bottom edge of the second piece aligns just above the first roll.

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18.  Gently continue rolling the bottom piece while incorporating the bottom edge of the top piece into the roll.

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19.  Continue to gently and evenly roll the combined pieces.  The more you roll, the easier the rolling will become, until you can easily push the roll tightly and all the way through to finish the candle, as shown below.


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20. FINAL STEP.  Turn the candle upside down, curl the end of the wick and press it into the bottom of the candle.   

Voila!  You have a finished candle!  

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These candles look great just as they are, or you can paint or stamp your candle using alcohol inks, as shown below.

You’ll enjoy about 2-3 hours of burning time from each candle.

These candles smell wonderful when burned, and because they are made from bees wax, they will not smoke.  That’s why only beeswax candles are used in the Catholic and other churches around the world.

So buy a few extra sheets of beeswax and start rolling some candles.  They are so much fun for everyone to make, and they make fabulous, inexpensive handmade gifts that your friends and family will love!  Enjoy!

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Glass Honey Dippers

Aside from beekeeping, I love glass, hot and cold – lamp work (torch work), fusing, cold working glass, painting glass (visit my Paula’s GlassRoots blog).  Yep, I like it all.  So when a commercial beekeeper from my Beekeeping club approached me about making glass honey dippers, I was completely onboard. What a fun and fantastic idea!  And why didn’t I think of it sooner???

Perhaps because I’ve never used or owned a honey dipper in my life. In fact, most of my honey is crystalized and doesn’t lend itself to dipping. Doesn’t matter, I was on the torch that weekend coming up with prototypes. The first few are always a learning experience. A few things I learned:

  • Borosilicate/Pyrex glass is better for honey dippers than soft glass. It’s more durable from a users standpoint, and also easier to work because you can allow the one end to cool somewhat before working the other end. And there’s less worry of cracking. Plus you can rework if it doesn’t turn out right.
  • Be extra careful when working both ends. You can even work one end, then anneal and cool, then work the other ends later.
  • Don’t use color on the dipping ends. Not safe for food consumption because of the metals contained in the glass.
    Although you could wrap it completely in clear. Safe to use plain clear glass.
  • 10-12 mm rods are the best size.
  • Also best to work both the designs directly on the rod rather than making a separate component then applying it on the end. Doesn’t look as clean.
  • Don’t make a decorative top the looks like a dipper. User may get confused.
  • There are so many ways to make the dipper bottoms, I think the best is to carefully coil glass from a smaller rod directly onto a larger rod. Tricky part is keeping the larger rod from melting and bending.

These are my prototypes. I have lots of practice ahead of me but I think these lessons are a good start.

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Remember that honey dippers do have a practical use, so do test them to make sure they lift and spread the honey evenly onto a slice of toast or something yummy. This is a tough job, but it has to be done for quality control purposes!