By: Ed Simon
All the capping wax is sitting in five gallon pails and it is too much of a bother to send it off to be processed. So why not take try to process it yourself. After all wax costs more to buy than honey and there seems to be a steady market for it.
Processing your own wax in a small volume does not require a very large investment and can reap reasonable dividends.
Much of the equipment needed can be obtained for a good price from your local Salvation Army store. It may not be available the first time you visit the store but all the needed equipment will eventually show up.
- 5 gallon pails
- Large sieve
- Cupcake pans (molds)
- Crock pot
- Wax releasing agent
- 1 lb. plastic butter containers or other plastic tubs (Molds)
- An outdoor propane stove or turkey roaster.
For safety perform the first part this process outdoors. Wax will catch on fire.
Wax burns when it splashes on your skin.
Beeswax Properties From Wikipedia
- Beeswax has a relatively low melting point range of 62 to 64°C (144 to 147°F).
- If beeswax is heated above 85°C (185°F) discoloration occurs.
- The flash point of beeswax is 204.4°C (399.9°F)
- Density at 15°C is 958 to 970 kg/m³.
- Just a little lighter than water.
- We will make use of this attribute.
Before we start, I’ll make an assumption that the wax is dirty and full of honey. If your wax has minimal honey mixed in then you can eliminate the first step.
Step 1: Remove the honey from the wax This can be accomplished in either of two easy ways:
- Spread the wax out on cookie sheets and allow the bees to remove the honey. This is the easiest, most efficient and conservative way to remove the honey. Unfortunately, it does not work at temperatures below 60°F.
- Put the wax in a five gallon pail and add warm water. Mix the wax and water, then strain the solution through a kitchen strainer. The honey water mixture will flow into the pail with the wax remaining in the strainer. The procedure may have to be repeated a couple of times to remove most of the honey from the wax. After the water settles, any wax that makes it through the strainer can be skimmed off the surface of the water and reunited with the wax in the strainer.
Step 2: Remove the bee’s knees and other solids from the wax
This step requires melting the wax so it will flow through the strainer. For this we’ll use the properties of water and wax to safely melt and separate the wax. Since water boils at 212°F. and wax melts at 145°F. and the flashpoint of wax is 400°F, you can melt the wax without worrying about it catching on fire as long as there is water in the container. The water boiling off at 212° will limit the temperature of the wax to 212°.
Warning: Do not let all the water boil off or the mixture or the wax temperature will rise above 212°F.
Warning: Wax and water may boil over while you are processing it. Be careful; boil the wax/water outside in an easily cleanable area.
While the wax is melting, add a gallon of hot water to a five gallon pail. Once the wax is melted pour it through the strainer into the pail. The hot water in the pail will slow the solidification of the wax and allow the remaining impurities to slowly separate. The larger impurities will remain in the strainer.
After the mixture cools the result will be a layer of wax on top and a layer of impurities on the bottom. Depending on the degree of separation, this step may have to be repeated several times.
Step 3: Remove the bottom layer
Using a putty knife or your hive tool, scrape the layer of impurities from the cake of wax. Since you will probably get some wax in the scrapings, save them for further refinement.
Step 4: Remelt the wax in a crock pot.
The crude refinement of the wax is complete. Now it’s time to remove the last of the impurities and to mold the wax into sellable sized units. A crock pot works great for this step. It is best if you can get a crock pot that has variable temperature control, not just the standard Low, Med, Hi settings.
While the wax is melting, spray a wax releasing agent into your molds. And set them on a level surface.
Note: Wax releasing sprays are available at hobby stores.
Then attach your filter to a container that has a pouring spout. I use a Pyrex four cup measuring cup for the container and milk filters for the filtering device.
Note: I use standard and small cupcake pans as molds along with plastic one pound butter tubs for most of the molds. When I need a larger mold I use mini-bread pans.
Note: Milk filters are available in any farm supply store. They are extremely cheap (100 for $6.00) and are thrown away after one use. A coffee filter may also work but I have not tried using one.
Step 5: Filter and pour
Once the wax is melted, use a ladle and filter the wax through your filtering device. When the wax hits the cool surface of the Pyrex measuring cup it will start solidifying. To delay the cooling, you can preheat the measuring cup in a microwave oven. Then pour the wax into your molds.
As the wax cools you will notice some fantastic designs forming on the top of the wax. When the wax is cool remove the wax from the molds. If the wax is stuck in the mold place the mold outside in cold weather or in a freezer. The cold will shrink the wax for easier removal.
If you make your wax cakes in multiple sizes, your customers can purchase a volume that closely matches their needs.