Building a Solar Beeswax Melter
When I became a beekeeper, I didn’t want to waste anything produced by my bees. So, my beeswax cappings represented many possibilities for producing other products and crafts. 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 cut and strain harvest method yields even more beeswax for the beekeeper to use. However, the honey bee colony must rebuild the entire honeycomb structure next year.
As I explained in a previous post, I will 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 use. 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.
Using The Energy of the Sun to Melt Beeswax
For hundreds of years beekeepers have been harnessing the power of the sun. This includes melting excess beeswax. I have a large solar beeswax melter- It is ugly but gets the job done.
Are you a small scale beekeeper with just a little beeswax? If so, you can make your own 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. (Click Here for Another idea)
What Does it Cost to Make A 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 Needed to Make Your Own Solar Beeswax Melter:
Styrofoam cooler (or other insulated box)
Aluminum foil (or small pan)
A cup of water
Cheese cloth (or nylon, tshirt material)
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 $4 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.
Working with glass must be done with care. A suitable piece of “safety glass” is best. An old window works well as long as it will fit the melter box tightly. We do not want out heat to escape!
If you have nothing else, you can purchase window pane glass at most small hardware stores. ($5) It will break easily and it will cut you too.
Children should not be involved with this part of the process. I always tape the edges of any piece of glass to reduce the chance of cuts.
Step 7: We have water in the bottom, beeswax cappings suspended above (on strainer material) and a tight-fitting glass top. You only need 2 more items.
What is the last requirement for anyone wanting to make your own wax melter? A sunny day and patience.
Here in South Carolina it is hot as @#$@ in the summer. My small wax melter will melt my beeswax by the end of the day. Place your wax melter in a sunny location out of the way.
Removing Beeswax From The Solar Melter
Do not open the glass top! All the heat will escape. You may notice condensation on the glass lid. That’s okay.
Once the day is over and all the yellow wax has melted, you are almost done. It gets really hot inside the box. Do not remove it too quickly. Let the box cool in the shade for an hour or two.
Carefully remove the glass top. 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. There are many ways to accomplish this task. (Another point of view). Beeswax is important! Our bees work so hard to produce wax and honey. It is my goal as a beekeeper to make use of every bit.
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