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Wax melting and cleaning


#1

Hey there.
I’ve been thinking about how to get old, dark comb out of the frame with as little effort as possible. Meaning especially WITHOUT cutting out the wires, thus not having to rewire the frame. So I strolled through youtube and found some guy who used a big wood fired kettle to heat up water and immersed the whole frame into the nearly boiling water. It took a few minutes for the wax to melt and “dissolve” in the water. The frame came out sparkling clean and sterilized by the hot water, with the wires fully intact.
I want to try that, so I bought a big pot via ebay, that is large enough to hold several frames fully immersed.


The pot has an outlet from which I can let the hot mixture flow through a sieve and a piece of tights into a bucket to cool down. I’d skim off the larger chunks of dirt first, so that they won’t clog the pipe.

I haven’t tried to melt comb yet, but I thougt some of you might have some useful advice for me (other than to be very careful with that hot water-wax-stuff). Maybe someone has the ultimate method of cleaning wax to candle quality? I only know of the tights-filter and letting the hot wax cool down very slowly, so the remaining dirt will settle on the wax-water-line and can then be scratched off.


#2

I’d love to be able to do something like that except boiling wax affects my sinuses. I cut the comb out of the frames, leaving the wires intact, ready for fresh foundation. I still render the wax out of the comb, but I breathe as little of the wax fumes as possible.


#3

I have seen this sort of tub used with other beekeepers and admit that it renders your old frames very quickly. Its a top idea. For myself, I do the same as Jeff i.e. cut out the old wax but then use a solar melter to render the wax through paper towels. Its amazing just how clean the wax comes out. But it is a rather slow process and you need good weather for it.

In the cooler weather I use a cardboard box lined with insulation and a light bulb for the heat source.

The darker wax is from the brood chamber whilst the white wax is from the honey supers.


#4

After messing up the inside of my home with just stuff and little wax pellets here and there I decided to go down this path. It works quite well. This is not my video but it’s where I got my inspiration.

There is another video out here I’ll see if I can find it where a guy made his solar oven for less than 15 – $20. I found it, see attached


#5

Paper towels is a good idea. How fast does the hot wax run through them? Don’t they break? I’d use them for a third step after a household sieve and the tights.


#6

really could not give you an exact time, or I’ll put it in one morning in come back probably two or three days later And it’s all taken care of it’s not something that I’m trying to get done in the matter of a few hours or so. The few times I have stood over and look it’s melted pretty quickly


#7

I use this same method to cut comb out. Start in the top corners of the frame, cut down the wire then run the knife back along the wire to cut the comb out in ‘strips’. I find running the knife under hot water helps the process. The worst that happens is that you may need to tighten a few wires (@JeffH has a great video on this)

Here are the photos of the process (but used on capped frames which were pressed).

For melting/cleaning wax one of my mentors (who has many ingenious ideas on solving problems without spending anything!) uses the following process:

  1. Line a shallow broccoli box with aluminium foil
  2. Tear off two pieces of paper towl and fold back over each other (can do with a single piece, but two holds more weight)
  3. Place the paper towel over the lid of a plastic ‘takeaway’ container and hold in place with a rubber band (like a drum)
  4. Sit the takeaway container in the broccoli box and place the ball of wax on top (as much as the paper towel will hold without tearing)
  5. Place the whole thing in the sun and come back in a few hours to surprisingly (very) clean wax in a ‘brick’ shape in the bottom of the takeaway container and all the debris sitting in the paper towel on top
  6. Finally, use the paper towel with debris in it in your smoker… it makes great smoker fuel!

#8

All the wax melting I’ve done so far has been a bit ad hoc. If I find I have an accumulation of wax, I melt it mixed with lots of water, outside on the gas bbq, straining the lot through an old kitchen strainer, then letting everything cool down. Eventually I get to break up some solidified wax and scrape of the gunge (“slumgum”) from the underside.

Then it all gets to be melted again and filtered through an old tea towel. If I’m melting just wax, I always use a double boiler arrangement so I don’t burn the wax.


#9

Thanks for that link Marty, you gave me inspiration to throw one together with odds and ends from the shed, cost nothing, one hour to make!


I’ve got an old wok in it and am melting some old comb from a cut out. It’s sitting at 120°c (250°f)

I’d like to sit the wax on some 5mmX5mm galv mesh to strain the bulk of the cocoon and wax moth but am unsure if the galv will taint the wax?
What would the pH of wax be?


#10

When you wrote pH, did you mean to write mp? Like most mixtures, beeswax has a melting range, 62ºC to 64ºC, rather than a fixed melting point. Out of interest, I google the pH of beeswax to discover very few authoritative sources. This one http://americanbeejournal.com/beeswax/ puts the pH at a neutral 7.


#11

Thanks, good article. Yep pH was what I was after, neutral is good, the galvanised mesh, as a primary filter, shouldn’t corrode and taint the wax then.
Every time I opened the oven I was swarmed with bees, they must like the smell!


#12

Given the low water content of beeswax, I would guess that measuring the pH is extremely tricky - not many free ions in it! :smile:


#13

Won’t that attract a lot of bees?
I can’t do that right now, since we have something around -10°C right now, last two nights had even less. Plus I don’t think that will melt the wax out of my frames. I’ll try my pot next week, when the temperatures are supposed to go up to around 0°C, so I don’t freeze off toes while working in my shed…


#14

Except for really concentrated, strongly acidic or alkaline solutions, there is a very low concentration of hydrogen ions over almost all of the pH range. The amount of hydrochloric acid in your stomach for example might be about 1/50th of a gram. This is enough to make it taste unpleasantly acidic and give it a very acid pH of 2.

Gardeners often measure the pH of soil and it doesn’t have too many free ions either. They need to add some water and indicator to induce vanishingly tiny amounts of hydrogen ions to dissolve from the soil into the water. A typically, healthily acidic soil with a pH of 6 would contribute one ten millionth of a gram of hydrogen ions into two drops of water. Same sort of thing would happen if you put a couple of drops of pure water onto beeswax except at a pH of 7, only a hundred millionth of a gram of hydrogen ions would move from the wax into the water. The wax wouldn’t actually lose anything because with a neutral pH, exactly the same number of hydrogen ions would be moving from the water in the opposite direction.


#15

You can place more foil over the top of the broccoli box to close it up, or alternatively use a piece of glass if you have one (old windows in wooden window frames are useful for these and can be found relatively cheaply at junk/recycling places).


#16

What kind of broccoli box do you use? Those sold here are definitively too small and not sturdy enough for any use.
I might try building such a cardboard box thing, but I’m not sure if there’s a spot on my property that gets enough sun during the day… Trees and buildings all around…


#17

Hi Angela, I line a metal colander with 2 slightly overlapping paper towels, they have never broken. It takes the whole day to pass through the colander (with the solar melter) but the costs are minimal. Then throw them in the bin, though I do know that other beekeepers use the scraps as fire starters.


#18

As @RBK has mentioned, I used a piece glass shelving found on a council throw out day so it cost me nothing, the local green grocer was more than happy to give away one of his boxes, then a slap of black paint, a couple of bricks and a bowl of water underneath and Hey Presto! Solar Melter…


#19

Ah, that would be a nice use for those boxes in which I get my frozen dog food. That means two boxes each month, although the supplier takes them back. Some piece of glass will be found somewhere. If I have some time to spare in summer, I’ll give it a try.


#20

Today was the day! I took the big pot to my washhouse, because in the bee room I don’t have water supply. I filled it with hot water, so the little induction hotplate had less trouble heating it up. It was, however, a serious task for the little thing, since the cold air works against it. We had 5°C in the room at the beginning, rising to 8°C during the process.


The frames with comb in them float up, so I put the lid and two bricks on to hold them underwater.

An then I had to wait until the water got hot enough to melt the wax.

This was the highest pot I could possibly find, with 50cm height. I still had to turn the frames and dip the other side in to melt out the rest of the comb.

Afterwards the are fairly clean, I’ll leave them like this and won’t scrub or scratch any more.

After all frames of the first batch were out, I removed most of the dirt with a hand sieve before ´putting in the next batch.

Paper towels didn’t work too well as a filter, the wax cooled down too fast in the cold air. I moved to a pair of tights as a filter.
AFter skimming the dirt again after batch 2, I drained the wax-water trough the sieve into a bucket.

When the faucet became clogged (which happened twice), I rinsed it with a short splash of hot water through the hose, which I could easily put onto the outlet.

Finer dirt was held back quite well. Of course, the water is still dirty, I’ll have to clean the wax normally. Now I have to wait until it’s cold… I decided to let it cool quickly, so I can melt the three thin wax pieces again together with not that much water. I guess the technique will work out better with more frames, so I’d end up with more wax than water in my pot. Today I got a whole lot of dirty water with a little wax on it…

I might try using thedirt with the remaining wax in it for my fireplace. After drying it should burn well, I guess…