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Solar Wax Melter- very handy! The Bees Knees in fact!


#1

I was just lucky enough to purchase some beekeeping equipment from an estate auction, A very solid vintage two frame spinner a big stainless honey tank with filters- and at the moment my favorite thing- a solar wax melter! I set a mental bidding limit before the auction- and then just totally kept bidding to double that price! :wink:

It’s a very simple design there is a rack, with the tray underneath it, that funnels the wax down into a collecting pan. All you have to do is place your dirty wax on some paper towels, and let the sun do all the work! The result is very clean wax in the collection tray, no muss no fuss.

It’s also good for many other tasks, today I’m cleaning up a heap of dirty old frames. After a few hours baking, I am practically hot wax dipping these frames-and I hope just about any pathogen in them will be utterly devastated!

With a light wipe down with a cloth they come up pretty good:

The roasting removes all wax trapped in the channel in the top bar where the foundation slots in- which is annoying to get out otherwise.

I can also use it to clean wax off tools, and maybe to uncandy honey and dry fruit with some modifications… (adding adjustable air vents and a thermometer). And I think I will cook in it too. In fact I am sure of it…

Would be very easy to make one of these- and seems to be a must have for any beekeeper with a few hives.

A month ago I made a 2.5kg block of wax- and it was a pain and a messy process. I thought- ‘there must be a better way!’ - then the auction gods put this in my path!


#2

i was stunned at the increase of my electricity bill after getting 3.5 kgs of wax clean to a good level, and the amount of time it took. It would be interesting to know the heat inside the wax melter and the ambient temperature at the same time. I made a small(very small) one to experiment with scraped wax off frames etc and put it in a chux which was then in a sieve, it produced very clean wax over a day and am sure I made basic design mistakes, but it was just a prototype. A great idea for cleaning up frames that hadn’t crossed my mind.
Your solar melter looks impressive.
Cheers Jack


#3

It gets very hot in there very quick - I’ll have to find a thermometer but the wax completely melted in 20 minutes. It was pretty sunny today- over 30c. I realize now you could easily put entire frames with full combs in it- and all the crud will be left on the paper towel.

When I made 2.5 kg block I boiled it in a pot with water and then sieved it- and had to do it twice. Dealing with the foul slumgum water wasn’t pleasant and it’s kind of sickly smelling.

The design if the melter is really simple it basically just a box painted black on the inside with a glass lid. The only slightly hard part would be fabricating the metal tray that catches and funnels the wax- it’s made from galvanized tin with welded/braised joints. I guess it also acts as the thermal mass to store the heat.

You could make a deeper one that could double as a very effective dehydrator for fruit.


#4

Is the lid an air tight join when it sits on the body? My prototype works reasonably well but I saw improvements when I had made it. I like the idea of doing a couple of complete frames at once and the wife likes the idea of the smell being outside the house too.
Just a quick add on Jack, could you when you have the time post the height, width and depth of the melter, the wife wins.:heart_eyes:
Cheers Jack


#5


Here’s mine and it was free. I need to make a collection tray with a drain pipe.


#6

You have done well. I melted wax in a pot of water once too, and vowed to avoid this at all costs in the future and now I do pretty much the same thing as you. Frames go into a large solar melter box and the cappings and scraps go into the broccoli box melter… no more stinky mess! Got to love leaving it to the sun… especially with our ridiculous power prices these days.


#7

It wouldn’t be 100% airtight but close- it is made of relatively heavy wood with a close fitting lid. The glass is also thick. I will post some more images and dimensions of it when I have finished the last few frames.

sounds like another job for the men’s shed Peter.


#8

How did I ever live without this? Unexpectedly had to recycle somecombs from a small absconded swarm today- easiest thing ever:


#9

The more I see it the more I see the Men’s Shed are going to enjoy the project of making one. Thanks for the pics Jack.
Regards


#10

Yeah inspired me too! I gathered all my wax together and melted it. The SWM sat at 150°C. I filtered it through some fine mesh, but it still seems to have fines in it. Last time I tried to filter it through cotton and paper towels it got messy and wasteful so will need to reengineer a strainer.
I’m surprised how light wax is and how much it costs. 3 years in the beek game with multiple colonies yet less than 1 kg wax! Mind you the moth has probably consumed the same amount over the time.
So I’m now planning to build another larger melter which will fit full frames for clean up like Jacks but need to find a free catchment base to work off. The first was seriously easy. 25mm aluminium skinned foam board, foil tape and a piece of 6mm polycarbonate… Done. :+1:
Hearing that Jacks melter had thick glass is interesting and wonder if the thickness would make a difference apart from its thermal mass.
Years ago I went through a plastic suppliers skip bin and took bits and pieces including the polycarbonate. I’m slowly working through their rubbish, my treasure. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#11

It’s not super thick glass- just not thin either… I guess regular window thickness?

I am surprised you had trouble using paper? I just used newspaper this time and it worked fine- the resultant wax is perfectly clean and all the crud has been left on the paper. I think it will work even better with paper towels. The other thing: I was lucky with timing as I got this thing in the middle of a heatwave- so I was using it on days that were 34+ C and very bright. I am curious to see if it will work as well in cooler weather.

Yes- once you have collected and made some wax you quickly realise how cheap it is- considering how long it takes to accumulate much. After three years my total production sits at around 3 kg’s.


#12

The thicker the glass the more heat is transferred through the glass and so a higher temperature build up. I am going for 8mm glass as an all round compromise of cost, weight, ready availability, thermal efficiency and heat transfer.
To filter my wax I put 4 thicknesses of chux in a sieve for the wax to soak through into a steel baking tray that holds a bit over 1.3 kilos. If the wax is allowed to cool to quickly it will crack and not look as good.
$30 to $35 a kilo depending on its cleanliness over here and more on EBay. I trade it on new wax foundation with a reputable bee equipment supplier who sells the foundation he makes.
Cheers


#13

Hi Jack,
Can you put up more photos of the box showing internals and how the wax is collected, have to make one of these
Regards brian


#14

@Semaphore has got a lot of interest on his solar wax melter and I like the size as it increases the functionality. I was shocked at the amount of increase to my power bill to make a reasonable amount of clean wax.
Cheers to you all


#15

I think just two layers of paper towel works very well in my melter. Also I have seen a lot of people put water in the collection vessel- so the wax doesn’t stick- i wonder if that will also help it to harden without cracks? perhaps the water will allow a final cleaning by letting any small fine crud mix into the water- and then set on the bottom of the wax where it an be scraped off.

@snapper will do- just need to clean out the remains from last weeks meltings.


#16

I put water in my pans and it does make removing the wax easier I think, and yes, it allows the fine grey crud to settle on the underside of the wax. The trick with producing wax without cracks is in very slow cooling of the wax. Maybe the water help in retaining the heat in the wax, I have been leaving mine in the oven overnight to set. It seems the more wax there is the issue of cracking is reduced.
Cheers


#17

150c sounds like about 300f eh skegs? Does your wax do okay at this temp, I’m curious because I’ve read that something like 220f is the upper limit before beeswax starts to scorch or at least lose some of its fragrance.


#18

Hiya Eva, yep funny thing is I had to convert it to °c from °f as it’s an old oven thermometer I use in the melter.
So now you’ve made me look into bees wax more and 85°c (185°f) wax discolours! That’d be why my wax is discoloured then… :flushed: Thanks for bringing that to my attention. :+1:
Back to the drawing board.


#19

Good link, thanks. Let us know how you make out with controlling the temp on your solar melter - a few variables to tinker with I’d imagine.


#20

the temp in there was 150C?? I skipped over that part of your post… wow- that’s hot! Are you sure about that? I have mine out in the sun today- and it’s a hot bright day. I have water int he collection pan- it isn’t boiling yet so I mustn’t be over 100C. The flash point of bees wax is 200 c. 150 c is well over what is needed (70 c should be more than enough)… I will have to get a thermometer and keep an eye on the temps in mine- I don’t want to overcook the wax.