When it comes to rendering beeswax from old combs, one common concern is the amount of wax that remains in the slumgum. Whereas it is fairly easy to melt new comb or cappings, old combs can be difficult and frustrating due to cocoons and other debris in the wax.
Aram Frangulyan, a beekeeper in Auburn, Washington devised a simple rendering system that separates most of the wax even from the darkest combs. He uses steam in an enclosed box and lets the wax drip out the bottom into a pan of water. Aram writes, “It does not matter how old your frames are. Steam chases wax out of frames completely caked with propolis or frames that are so old you would never get anything out of them with any other method.”
Here are some instructions for a building a wax melter using a wallpaper steamer:
1. Build a steamer box. Aram used a deep brood box and made a top and bottom out of scraps of plywood. Attach the bottom piece of plywood securely to the bottom of the deep box.
2. Drill a hole near the center front of the plywood. This is where the melted wax will drain out.
3. Line the box with aluminum foil, completely covering the bottom and then up the interior sides of the box. Punch a hole through the foil at the drain hole.
4. Drill another hole in the top plywood, large enough for the steamer hose to fit snugly.
5. Arrange the steamer box so that it tips forward and the drain hole is over a catch bucket filled with water. The water prevents the wax from adhering to the inside of the bucket.
Once the melter is complete you can begin filling the box with frames. If your frames are wooden with wax foundation, you can put them in the melter as is.
If you have plastic frames or plastic foundation, the steamer will melt the plastic. So for these frames, you can scrape the frames free of wax and place the scrapings in the box.
When you are ready to begin, just turn on the steamer. Aram says it takes about 40 minutes for the wax to begin dropping out the bottom.
I have not tried this method because I don’t have a steamer, but I’m seriously considering it. I have buckets and buckets full of wax waiting for me to do something.