Rendering beeswax in the microwave
At the end of the season, I have buckets of wax comb waiting for me in the shed. I always think I will make holiday candles, but I find rendering beeswax really intimidating. Even before I begin, I’m convinced I will set the house on fire, or at least ruin everything I touch.
My beeswax is pretty much sorted by color—light, medium, and dark. Nevertheless some is a bit sticky, some looks pretty nice, and some is atrocious. Elsewhere on this site, a number of people have shared their take on this process, and I’ve tried some of them.
A new idea for rendering beeswax
Earlier this week, I got a recommendation from Reece Buhler, who uses a “microwaveable pressure cooker.” I’ve never heard of such a thing, so I searched Amazon and discovered these are plastic devices with a lid that go in the microwave. Unlike regular pressure cookers, they elevate the temperature only slightly because the pressure build-up is minimal.
But Reese says they work:
I have a fantastic, fast, simple, and low-mess way to melt beeswax for processing. It works best for relatively small batches and cleaner wax such as cappings. While looking through Value Village for expendable pots for double-boiling wax, I stumbled across a microwaveable pressure cooker. I can fill it with crushed comb or cappings, throw it in the microwave, and have melted wax in 10-15 minutes. Then I pour it off through a fine stainless steel sieve to filter, if necessary. Otherwise I pour it straight into a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and then into waxed paper cups (8 oz capacity). After the wax is cool, just peel off the paper, drain off the honey, and trim off the scum at the bottom, then refine as you wish.
In addition to melting the wax quickly, it eliminates the fire hazard, allowing you to go off and do other things while you are melting your wax. You can find the pressure cookers on Amazon, and I’m sure in department stores, in various sizes and prices.
Another tip: Someone has probably suggested this, but when using the bag-and-boil method of extracting wax from brood comb, stick the comb into a disposable paint filter, inexpensive and available from the hardware store in two sizes, and tie it off with a thick elastic band. I’ve found this much more effective than pantyhose as it doesn’t split or tear, and the filter bags can be reused.
That’s my two cents. Hopefully someone will find it useful.
When I read this, I was still worried about fire. But as I think about it, there probably isn’t much oxygen inside the cooker, and you are not dealing with an open flame. Still, I’m a bit leery.
Before I get into my buckets of wax scraps, I would like to know if anyone else has tried something similar to Reece’s method. How did it work?
Also, if you have a preferred method, I would love to hear about it. It seems like many things have improved in the beekeeping world, but rendering beeswax always defaults back to messy and dangerous. What do you think?
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