So, you have some wax left over from the summer harvest! Congratulations! It may not be much, but you want to use everything you harvest from the hive because you know how hard those bees worked to make it and how patient you were in watching them build it! So, here are some resources to help you on your way to
RENDERING BEESWAX VIDEOS
Check out the Fat Beeman video 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VbXcmh46vc
NOTICE: Use a double boiler! Wax doesn’t boil, it will burst in to flame. Also, if you heat the wax too hot, it will brown. Whatever you use for wax rendering, you WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE IT FOR ANYTHING ELSE!
FatBeeman Video 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFJPXszRw8M
– You don’t have to grease your bucket, you can put in 6-8 cups of water in the bottom of your bucket to ensure that the wax comes out.
Sister Benet Frandrup of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota, demonstrates the candle making operation at Monastic Studios. Sister Benet uses purchased and donated beeswax to make a variety of candles for monastery use and sale through Monastic Enterprises and Whitby Gift Shop: MAKE NOTE of the wick preparation
WAX RENDERING AND CANDLE MAKING
Candle making is a safe craft that is messy and unlimited to the potential of size, shape, scent and colour. Here are some important rules to follow to ensure a safe creative practice.
- Wax safety – both in terms of fires, and in terms of burn
- Using fragrance and/or essential oils which can be irritants or even toxic in concentrated amounts safely
- Accidents, spills and damage to your workspace
- Just Think Safety First
Before you start, and while you’re making your candles – just keep safety in the back of your mind – think ahead – stay focused.
Prepare Your Workspace. No matter how quick your project is going to be, or how neat you usually are, always prepare your workspace. This includes:
- Covering your workspace with newspapers, a tarp or old tablecloth. (I like to get the picnic-table type tablecloths from the dollar store.) No matter how careful you are, you will get some wax on the counter!
- Keeping your workspace clean and organized. A big part of safety is in thinking ahead and being able to focus. Have everything you are going to use readily at hand…and within easy and safe reach.
- Being prepared for spills – have a bunch of newspapers or several rolls of paper towels handy in case of spills.
- Having your fire extinguisher nearby and a heavy pot lid right at hand.
- Assembling all of your tools, molds, ingredients, additives and accessories before starting.
Work Slowly and Methodically
Start by creating a safe workplace – make sure all children, pets or other inquisitive parties are not going to disturb your set up. Follow instructions or a project guide – especially if you are just learning a technique, or trying a new variation. Go slow! Mistakes happen when we rush.
2. Be Careful with Ingredients
- Measure and pour essential or fragrance oils carefully. They are very concentrated and many will eat through plastics, cause stains, and/or cause irritation on skin.
- Wipe up any drips immediately and wash your hands if you get them on your skin. And if you measure them ahead of time so that they’re ready to pour (a very good practice,) be sure that they can’t easily be knocked over or spilled while you’re working.
- Be sure you understand the safety requirements of the fragrances and/or essential oils you are using and be sure you have a good understanding of essential oil safety
- Be careful with dyes and colours. Dyes, especially liquid dyes, while not toxic, can stain things quickly and powerfully. One or two drops of liquid candle dye can colour a pound of wax.
3. Melt Wax Safely
Wax doesn’t bill it smokes then bursts in to flame! Treat wax with respect.
- Do not allow wax to exceed 180° C.
- Always keep an eye on the temperature of your wax. Make sure you have an accurate thermometer nearby.
- Never leave melting wax unattended. Just don’t. I mean it.
Historical facts on beeswax
Throughout the ages beeswax played a significant role in history and folklore. From the myth of Icarus flying too close to the sun with wings made of beeswax to Pilyn (23 AD to 79 AD) who described a broth made from beeswax used as a remedy for dysentery. Beeswax was frequently used by the ancients as a skin softener as well.
– In some cultures beeswax was used as currency and was highly prized.
– In 181 BC when the Romans defeated the Corsicans, they imposed at tax of 100,000 pounds of beeswax.
– In the 1300’s farmers in France paid an annual tax of 2 pounds of beeswax each.
– In that same century a petition was presented to the London Court of Alderman by the ‘Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers” which ultimately established them as the oldest English guild.
– During the same period the Roman Catholic Church decreed beeswax candles to be the only candle appropriate for use in Catholic churches.
Honey Bees and Beeswax
Honey bees produce the wax from the glands on the bottom of their abdomen. As the wax secretes from the plates, it dries and hardens in to small wax flakes. The bees use this wax by chewing it and forming it in to wax combs, which makes the infrastructure of the hive.
Types of Raw Beeswax: Brood Comb, Honey Comb, Capping’s wax
Brood Comb: Brood comb is full of honey bee cocoons. These cocoons absorb a lot of wax on melting, making the amount of renderable wax from these combs less accessible. Brood comb is also the area that has the greatest concentration of chemicals in the hive.
Honey Comb: Honey comb was commonly used as the majorative source for beeswax. Its colour can vary based on the nectar plants that the bees were consuming during wax production, but tend to be golden in colour.
Capping’s Wax: The most common source of beeswax in today’s market. Capping’s wax is a by-product of commercial honey production process. To remove the honey from the Langstroth Frame, the wax cappings are either scraped off or cut-off with a hot jiggle knife.
Option One- Water Rinse and Filter Method
*Method for old brood comb wax and wax with dark impurities
Water, beeswax, double boiler (or temperature controlled vessel), cloth for straining, spoon/stick for stirring, containers for cooled/finished wax
The goal of wax rendering is to clean the wax, separate out the honey, brood cocoons in the water. The more pure the wax is of impurities, water and honey, the better burning the wax. So this is how it is done, simply:
- Fill your double boiler 1/4 full with water, and the rest with raw wax and heat to 40C
- Stir and water will draw out the impurities out of the wax, which is buoyant and floats on the water
- Pour mixture through straining device. Strain again or let cool
- Water will stay liquid, and wax will harden. You can render this process again
- Once at a clear state, melt the wax again but this time without water, strain once more, and pour in to your moulds
Option Two- Paper Filtration
* Method for capping wax and wax clear of most dark impurities
Steel pot with vegetable steamer, oven, water, beeswax
If you are using this method, it is because you are working with clean capping wax with very little debris (honey, cocoons and bees). This is a single filtration method that works very efficiently.
- Fill the pot with 1L of water
- Turn the oven on to 160C (do not use convection)
- Place a single layer of paper towel to line and over hang the edges of the vegetable steamer
- Fill the lined steamer with cappings wax
- Place the pot with the steamer above in the oven.
- Set an alarm to ensure that you check the temperature and the wax hourly.
- Repeat leaving the filtered wax in the pot until you have filled the pot half full or you have used all of your cappings wax
- Cool in the garage or outside
- Once hardened, release wax bulk from the pot and scrape off the remaining debris from the bottom of the waxen bulk.