Melting Beeswax for Projects
Raw beeswax is a wonderful by product of honey harvesting. Beeswax uses number into the thousands. But raw wax fresh from the hive needs cleaning before use. Melting beeswax with a solar wax melter is one safe way to get it ready for crafting and other projects.
When I became a beekeeper, I didn’t want to waste anything produced by my bees.
Of course you can melt beeswax in several different ways. But, I was delighted to find out that it was possible to make your own solar beeswax melter.
How Do Beekeepers Get Extra Beeswax?
When beekeepers harvest boxes of honey, the uncapping/extracting process yields extra wax.
The wax cappings are cut off individual honey cells – allowing the liquid to be spun out.
Some folks don’t use an extractor. They cut the whole piece of honeycomb from the frame and squash it to release the honey.
This cut and strain honey harvest method yields even more beeswax for the beekeeper to use.
However, the honey bee colony must rebuild the entire honeycomb structure next year.
Some honey will still be present in the capping wax that has bee removed. Wax cappings can be put into a mesh bag or strainer.
I often hang my cappings inside a strainer bag over a bucket for a day or so. This allows most of the good honey to drip into the clean bucket for me.
Once, I no longer see drips, I pack the wax cappings into a smaller bucket. This is set aside for a few days until I have time to process (render) my beeswax.
Melting Beeswax with the Sun
For hundreds of years beekeepers have been harnessing the power of the sun. This includes melting beeswax into a usable form.
For larger amounts of wax, I have a large solar wax melter. It is ugly but gets the job done and can stand up to the demands of sitting outside all the time.
Are you a small scale beekeeper with just a little beeswax? If so, you can make your own solar wax melter in any shape or size.
And, you don’t need fancy plans to do so – but its okay if you want to get fancy.
What Does it Cost to Make A Solar Wax Melter?
A beekeeper with a small amount of beeswax to clean and melt can make a wax melter for under $10. All you need are a few materials and a little patience.
Materials for DIY Solar Wax Melter
- styrofoam cooler (or other insulted box)
- aluminum foil ( or small pan)
- 1 cup of water
- cheese cloth (or nylon, tshirt material)
- small sheet of glass with taped edges
- a sunny day
Assemble Your Wax Melter
Step 1: Purchase a small Styrofoam cooler. You can use an old plastic cooler as well or an insulated wooden box.
The point is that we want something that will hold in the heat.
My little white disposable cooler was about $6 at the grocery store. It will last several years, if I don’t break it!
Step 2: Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of the cooler. The sheet should be big enough to cover the bottom and extend up the sides just a bit.
You may choose to use a small pan instead. That’s fine as long as it fits well into the bottom of the cooler.
Step 3: I pour a cup of water into the bottom of the cooler. (on top of the foil or inside your pan). I want a thin layer of water to cover the bottom.
This water will catch the melting beeswax! It helps separate even more honey residue from the wax and makes it easier to remove from the box when cooled.
Removing impurities from your beeswax is important, if you want to produce clean burning candles!
Step 4: Place your mound of beeswax cappings inside a piece of straining material.
You can use a strainer bag, cheese cloth or t-shirt material. I search for old, clean nylon curtains at the thrift store!
Step 5: You need to suspend the cappings over the water reservoir in the bottom. We do not want it to touch the water.
This can be accomplished using tape, pins or the weight of the glass top. Anything that pulls the mound of cappings up off the bottom.
It is okay to use a couple of bricks in the bottom to help hold up the capping too!
Step 6: A piece of glass that completely covers the top of the cooler is necessary. Clean glass lets the energy of the sun through and prevents its release.
In partnership with our insulated box material, the air inside the box will heat up and melt the beeswax.
You may see some condensation on the inside of the glass. Don’t worry, this is ok.
Working with glass must be done with care. A suitable piece of “safety glass” is the best option.
But, an old window works well as long as it will fit your melter box tightly.
If you have nothing else, you can purchase window pane glass at most small hardware stores. ($5) It will break easily and it will cut you too.
Children should not be involved with this part of the process. I always tape the edges of any piece of glass to reduce the chance of cuts.
Step 7: We have water in the bottom, beeswax cappings suspended above (on strainer material) and a tight-fitting glass top. You only need 2 more items.
What is the last requirement for anyone wanting to make your own wax melter? A sunny day and patience.
Here in South Carolina it is hot as @#[email protected] in the summer. My small melter does a great job of melting beeswax by the end of the day.
Place your wax melter in a sunny location out of the way. And, don’t open it to take a peek, LOL.
Removing Melted Beeswax From The Solar Melter
Once the day is over and all the wax has melted, you are almost done. It gets really hot inside the box. Do not remove the glass or contents too quickly.
Let the box cool in the shade for an hour or two. Carefully remove the glass top-using 2 hands.
The strainer material will have some dark, gunky beeswax “stuff” on top. We call this “slum gum”. I throw it away!
In the bottom of your cooler, you will find beautiful wax. Underneath the wax is the water that we added earlier.
It will have honey residue. Do not feed this to the bees-it can make them sick.
Now you know how to make your own solar beeswax melter and use it.
You will find so many uses for beeswax. Beeswax is valuable! Our bees work so hard to produce wax and honey.
It is my goal as a beekeeper to make use of every bit. And who couldn’t enjoy the benefits of a few beeswax candles?
Or maybe you could make some homemade beeswax furniture polish?
Beeswax is used for many crafting projects – you can even make your own Christmas Ornaments.