The following description of rendering beeswax, written by Sergey in California, landed in the comments section this morning. It is very similar to something I read about once before, but since I had lost those directions, this rendition is most welcome. I particularly enjoy Sergey’s attention to detail.
Here is the complete message with only a little editing for clarity: [line]
My technique is simple. You need:
- honeycomb or other wax-containing materials
- metal pot approximately 3 times bigger than amount of wax to melt
- plastic bag made out of heavy plastic mesh, usually used for citrus (any bag made from mesh material/fabric would work)
- rock or other heavy object
- some sort of “clips” to keep bag closed
- piece of wood or glass/ceramic plate, which could cover most of the pot’s bottom
- Place wax along with the rock into the bag.
- Use clip(s) to close the bag. Some soft wire may work too. Just make sure that bag is tightly closed; bag should not occupy more than half of the pot’s volume.
- Put wooden or glass plate on the bottom of the pot; it prevents bag from damage by the heat.
- Place bag into the pot and add water. You should have a few inches of water on top of the bag.
- Slowly heat pot on the stove. Do not boil water! Use low heat! Wax will melt and float to the surface. The garbage will stay in the bag (with the rock). Wax, moving through the water, will be additionally purified.
- When most of the wax is at the top, remove pot from the heat and let it cool down overnight. Do not disturb! When cold, remove nice “wheel” of the wax from the water. Scrape off some junk from the bottom of the “wheel.”
- Discard the bag; keep the rock if you wish.
- For additional purification you could re-melt wax in the water again in a similar manner.
To make candles from the wax “wheel,” melt the “wheel” in a double boiler; do not mix wax with water this time! Good luck!
Editor’s Note: When I try this I’m planning on using cheesecloth instead of a mesh bag because it has smaller holes. I’m also thinking of using a canning rack instead of a plate at the bottom of the pan, although I’m not sure I want to sacrifice another kitchen utensil. Still thinking . . .
I’ve tried it before with really old brood comb and passive flotation does not work very well for me. The kitchen really gets smelly in a hurry, but the cocoons just keep the wax securely attached to themselves. Some say the wax disintegrates after years of use by be queen, so old comb is useless to harvest, but I disagree. When I took the same pieces of comb and set them on fire, they were readily dripping wax that my boiling method failed to remove.
Therefore, I think that using Lusby’s method of pressing the boiling bag, as if you were squeezing cider from apple mush, is significantly more reliable. I personally have not done it, but
gives a comprehensive review. Seems to work marvelously, (using Romney’s vocab here 🙂 . I have a cider press that uses bottle jack instead of the turning wheel. I think I will try that this year.
The technique in the movie is basically exactly the same as mine (well, opposite – mine is the same as theirs). It is just much-much bigger scale – they are talking about 500-3000 beehives (calling it a small production) and 60 lb of wax per run. If your very old wax comb did not melt in the pot on the stove, than it will not melt in the press shown in the movie – simply because the press has lower water temperature due to the heat lost in the large system. The difference is that I left wax to solidify on the water. In my opinion, it is much simpler and you will see a layer of debris at the bottom of the solidified on the water wax “wheel” – this debris you may scrape off and have pure wax in one step. In “press” approach, this debris is dispersed in the final wax. I am not saying that my “method” is better, but it works for me in my kitchen with minimal damage to the kitchenware. But, I learned from that video also – they claim that leftovers from water wax extraction are beneficial to plants. Also, video shows how to make your own wax foundation and attach it to the frames. Thank you for the link, it was educational.
If you are making candles with the rendered wax, the appeal to the synthetic mesh is it is lint-free. Cheesecloth is very linty, and if you are pressing and squeezing it, your wax will be dirty with lint. You’ll have to put the wax through a super fine mesh to clean it. I’ve purchased shallots and tomatoes-on-the-vine, where the mesh bag has pretty small holes. The bags aren’t very big so you might need several of them if you’re processing more than a frame or two. My 2 cents… HB
Thanks, HB. I didn’t know about the lint. I’m pretty new at dealing with wax, as you can see.
Sure, many bags could be used. Using bags with different mesh, one could regulate how clean wax will be. One thing – if mesh is too fine, it may be clogged rapidly – it prevents wax from free flow to the surface. As usual – compromise is necessary. I am using the lemon bags from Trader Joe: I love tea with my honey and lemons.
A very wise beekeeper just told me to use old socks to strain the wax. First insert the comb into the socks. Next, tie a string around the end of the socks. Put the socks in a crockpot. Pour boiling water over them. Melt on high until the socks let all the wax out, keeping the slum gum inside. You can squeeze the socks with old tongs to get even more wax out.
Let the bowl come to room temp. Take wheel of wax out the next day. Repeat if needed.
This worked so well that my comb came out pure cream colored. I can’t wait to do this again.
I’d love to post a picture, but don’t know how.
So Michelle, I’ve heard of this system before using various cloth items including pantyhose, socks, underwear, dishrags, old towels . . . whatever you’ve got going. But honestly, it sounds so messy I didn’t think it would work. But with your endorsement, I’m determined to give it a try.
We all would love to see a photo. Just e-mail it to me: email@example.com.
We have recycled some wax with varying degrees of success. We put about an inch of water into an old crock pot (cheap from Goodwill) and heated the water. When it got hot we began adding honey comb. When that got melted and up to temperature we used Solo cups to strain into. Cut the lower 2/3 off the first cup and use a panty hose for a strainer. A rubber band will keep this hose on the cup rim. We used some rubber insulated mitts (hot pad type) to hold the pot and pour the strainer. This is a two-man operation. The next say we took the muffins off the top of the Solo cups and poured the water into the yard. Don’t pour this into your drains or a plumber will be your next phone call. This worked well for us. I did try this once and don’t know what happened. The comb was very old and there was traces of honey involved. It did not set up so I think there was little wax left in this. Anyway, we did get wax on the other attempts.
So, Rusty. Did you ever try this method? How did it go? I’ve just broken down my top bar hive and have more comb than I can fit in my homemade solar wax melter. Also I just read that solar wax melters don’t fully extract the wax (source: http://beespoke.info/2014/01/14/rendering-beewax/). I’m finding this to be quite true with brood comb, and I’d like to find a way to get more out of the darker combs than I am.
Forgot to mention. One reason why I want to try an immersed-in-water technique is that I have a bunch of comb with pollen and/or crystallized honey in it.
I’ve tried it but I found it pretty messy and the wax still needed a lot more processing before it could be used for anything. I’m still looking for a better method.
There is a tried method that works wonderfully for me. Take a deep, Securely attach a piece of plywood to the bottom. Drill a hole in the bottom plywood close to the front. Line the bottom with aluminum from inside going up to the sides. Place frames into the deep. Attach a piece of plywood to the top. Screw the top and bottom plywoods to the box for secure fit. Tilt the box forward so that stuff leaks out the front hole.
In the top, supply water steam from wallpaper remover or clothes steamer. I just drilled a hole into which I stick a hose with steam. In about 40 minutes the wax starts dripping out the bottom hole and it DOES NOT MATTER how old your frames are. Steam chases wax out of completely caked with propolis frames or frames that are so old, you would never get anything out of them with any other methods. All you need is a steamer and two stray pieces of plywood. After you are done, the frames are sterilized for you. Just wipe the remaining gunk off with ease. The wax then need to be remelted in a solar melter or with any other method that filters out small particles. I have tried it and it works. it will ruin your plastic foundation or plastic frames, but that’s cheaper than cleaning the darn things with chemicals, water and pressure washers.
This is completely new to me, but it does sound interesting. I will give it some thought. I don’t have a steamer of any type around the house, so that would be one issue.
If you have a kettle you have a steamer!
Get hose the size of the pour spout and a length to fit your needs.
I have not worked with honey frames , but have curved wood to make dog sleds!
Hi Rusty, i’ve had a request for “food-grade beeswax” and I wasn’t sure how to respond! I melt my wax in a big pot with lots of water and strain it through cloth (I like the method in this post though, will try that next time), and then I melt again and pour into smaller moulds, so its heat-treated twice and free of solids, but I don’t know if I can call it food-grade! I would be interested in your thoughts on this topic. It seems like another one of those things that people say about bees/honey/wax when they don’t really know what they mean.
I thought about this a long time, but I don’t have an answer. Beeswax is “food grade” if you don’t tamper with it. I think all the states consider comb honey, for example, a whole food product like carrots or turnips—it’s food grade in its natural state. But I couldn’t find a definition of “food grade” beeswax. I found that it is sold for the food industry either white or yellow, and the white is bleached, which to me sounds like tampering. I think, to be on the safe side, I would just explain to the buyer what you do to it, how you processed it, and let them decide if that is what they want. This is a new question for me, and very interesting. I would like to learn more.
Thanks Rusty, I agree that the bleached wax does not sound great for food! I went ahead and explained all of this to my customer and he has placed an order, so I guess that’s all you can do. I will be keen to read about it if you find out more!
So I just read your post on hanging up a swarm catcher cloth that is well infused with slumgum. Seems that the leftovers from these methods of straining would work pretty well as swarm catchers as well.
Just a thought.
I have a bunch of old wax that is waiting to be processed and getting a 2 for 1 seems to be ideal.