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.