Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cleaning Beeswax


I have been wanting to clean bees wax, and have not been sure how to do it. I have melted down a pot several times, but have not really been able to strain the wax, and it just ends up making a waxy mess. We have saved decappings and extra beeswax from our hives for a while, I have been hoping for an easy way to clean wax, and I have found it. And I will now share it with you.

Sunshine found a video that showed a method of wax filtering using a solar oven, and based on that idea, we made a very simple screen for a filter. First, the solar video is on YouTube.

We decided to do the same for the filter without the solar oven. The decapping (dirty) wax was melted down in a pot with a double boiler while we created the frame for the filter. We selected a large glass casserole dish, and cut out the filter frame from plywood to fit it. We cut out the center of the plywood creating a perimeter frame to hold the wire mesh.

We had some scrap hardware cloth left over from our Fort Knox chicken coup. It was a strip around 6 inches wide and a few feet long. My first impression would have been to prefer a large contiguous mesh, but the strips actually worked out to our benefit, and I suggest cutting your mesh into strips. With the mesh in strips, we were able to make a depression in the shape of the screen, like a small bathtub, with worked really well for holding the wax as it was being filtered through a paper towel.

The video shows the mesh being window screen size, but I really liked the hardware cloth mesh. It gave perfect support, and there is less wires to get clogged with dripping wax. As you can see in the image above, we stapled the hardware cloth to the plywood frame, and by this time all of the pot of beeswax had melted in the double boiler.

We took the large glass casserole dish, and placed an inch or so of cool water into the dish. Next we placed the mesh frame over the dish with the depression down, and completely covered the mesh with one layer of paper towel. (Ours used two sheets of paper towel. We did not separate them, so it was one piece covering the entire frame.) Then we carefully poured the hot wax onto the paper towel. We filed the frame as much as it would hold and let the clean wax drip down through the mesh to the water. When the filter could hold more, we continued to add till all of our dirty and melted wax was in the filter. We just let it sit at room temperature, and it worked fine. The double boiler had the wax warm enough that it was able to stay liquid through the filtering process.

I did not get a picture of the filtering, and had crumpled up and thrown the paper towel away when I thought I should show you the gunk and bee parts left behind. So I pulled it out of the trash, and by then it had hardened. It did not make a good picture of what it was like, but with that disclaimer, here is the filter pic.

And what was left behind was a remarkably beautiful and clean slab of bees wax. It was too easy, and special thanks to LDS Prepper for that video mentioned above. I think our improvements take it the next step further, and it was incredibly simple to construct. I would not mind doing it with a solar cooker, but do not have one. I was pleased that the wax held enough heat to go through the paper towel. Other filtering media I had previously tried was too thick, and slowed the filter time too much and it clogged the filter, and just made a mess.

Here is a picture of the finished slab. Note after the filtering was complete, I put the casserole dish into the oven set at 170 for 30 mins, and the wax remelted into a smooth slab, as shown. This reproduced the solar cooker smooth slab effect. With the cold water in the casserole dish, the water and wax seemed mixed in layers. Melting the wax in the oven allowed it to reform and float on the water.

So simple, and I am so happy to have clean wax to use in our soaps and lotions. (We are getting ready to sell soaps and lotions out of natural organic materials... so stay tuned.)