Sunday, June 27, 2010

Reclaiming Bees' Wax

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Over the past winter and spring, when Robb and I were trying to educate ourselves about beekeeping, I spent a lot of time reading beekeepers' blogs. One of the ones I enjoy the most is written by Linda, a Master Beekeeper in Atlanta Georgia. She has a wonderful common-sense approach to beekeeping, and I found reading her blog -- which spans five years of working with bees -- fascinating and empowering.

Linda wrote recently about using a very low tech set up for melting down bees' wax, and since today was very hot and sunny, I thought we'd give it a try.

We'd seen several plans for "solar wax melters" but they all seemed really over-built and over-complicated. This set up had the advantage of being made of out things we already owned.

Simple. Cheap. Energy-efficient. Sounded good to us!




We dragged our ugly styrofoam beer cooler out of the garage, and stuck a piece of old window glass on top of it. Then we partially filled a plastic food container with water, and rubber-banded some paper towels on, as a sort of a lid. Then we collected some dirty wax scraps that we had laying around, and set that on top of the paper towel. We stuck all this in the cooler, and parked the cooler in direct sunlight.




Forty-five minutes later, the wax had started to melt. The paper towel acted as a filter, catching impurities. About this time, the rubber bands exploded (probably due to the heat) and I re-secured everything with some yarn.




The wax dripped into the water, forming perfectly clean pellets. Robb observed that we had created a tiny Shot Tower. Instead of making cannon balls by dropping molten lead into water from great heights, we turned disgusting dirty wax into neat nubbins.

I realize that these are undoubtedly the worst photographs that I've ever featured on this blog, but I don't care. I'm foolishly pleased with our ugly low tech solar wax melter.

10 comments:

Mel said...

How funny - you & my friend who just bought my old spinning wheel both blogged about this exact styro-cooler-wax-melter system today!

What do you do with the clean wax?

Kaaren said...

That's pretty neat! But yours wasn't bees wax, right?

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Decorate Ukrainian Easter eggs, wax thread, glue strips of wax foundation into our bees' frames.

You've gotta send me the link to your friend's blog.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Kaaren -- that's bees' wax all right. If you scrutize the photos, you may notice some parts of dead bees in the wax.

Christine said...

Neat! I have a couple of chunks from the hives and thought it would be just enough for a birthday candle! And the photos aren't that bad- you at least put the pellets in a pretty little dish!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

How fun! I'm all for low tech and using things you already have to hand. Looks like your cooler-melter worked just fine! We're looking into top-bar/warre style hives for here, as (at least initially) honey won't be our priority, and if we go that route, we'll no doubt end up with quite a bit of wax.

Barby said...

I was doing the same thing yesterday - exactly the same cooler, etc. I love Linda's blog, although GA is a far drive from upstate NY. Mel seems to be a link between our blogs - I think I'll be following yours now as well!

Mel said...

Barby, Lisa, Lisa, Barby!

I learned lovely amounts about painting and patience from Barby at St. Mary's College of Md (and some sewing skills as well.) I worked with Lisa at Baltimore Opera Co & Glimmerglass Opera.

howdy howdy all around. :)

WinginIt said...

Hi Linda. Thanks for commenting on my blog, http://hilltopbee.blogspot.com/. I am slowly cleaning up my new hives, wish they looked as good as yours.

I love your wax-melting approach and I think your pictures are great!

Kristin said...

Ingenious! And the nibbs would be easier to use then my block of wax which I have to grate for lip balms and creams. Nice work.

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