Processing Beeswax And Its Uses
After a cautionary warning to never use kitchen utensils in wax reclamation as they will never see a kitchen again, David Barrett and David Haigh, a pair of our most experienced beekeepers, started by explaining the source of bees’ wax, (i.e. the wax glands located in the bees abdomen) and the enormous effort of the bees in converting honey into wax: 7kg of honey producing just 1 kg of wax.
Given this effort by the bees, we should, as beekeepers, make the most of such precious material.
The Dave’s demonstrated how to take a year’s collection of wax scrapings and wild comb and filter it through a rough hessian filter to produce wax of a good enough quality to trade in for foundation. A wallpaper stripper was used to produce the steam to heat the wax via an enclosed contraption to pipe the steam onto the dirty wax.
Members were advised that the Thorne’s catalogue provides details of the ‘trade-in’ value of wax against foundation; the LBKA shop will honour the same price for members cleaned wax brought to the shop to be taken to the trade show for exchange.
Some semi-clean wax was subjected to further processing using a microwave oven (not from the kitchen) as the heat source. The wax was added to a dish containing water to avoid super-heating of the wax. Heating was done in careful stages, at about 30 second intervals over 4 minutes to avoid overheating. A pair of nylon tights acted as a double filter to remove debris; the molten wax was poured into a bowl with the tights tightly fitted to the rim; the filtering process was speeded up by squeezing the nylon ‘bag’ containing the molten wax between two wooden sticks – far too hot to handle! The product in the bowl was a really clean wax, it could be left to set in dishes or poured into wax moulds; this wax could be further processed into other products such as candles, wax blocks or polish for sale to the public.
Dave Barrett went on to demonstrate candle making, he used a table top stove, a bain-marie made from an old pan containing water and a metal can (to hold the wax for the candles). When melted the wax was poured into silicon moulds e.g. owls, bears, hedgehogs, (each taking - 1 oz of melted wax). A few ‘had a go’ at making candles themselves – perhaps some room for improvement but great fun was had by all. Others preferred to sample the flapjack and honey cake made by Rachel, Alison and
For more information on handling and processing wax you could study BBKA Module 2 materials or browse the books in the LBKA library in the clubhouse.