( How to ) Mind Your Beeswax

I decided to go ahead today and process the beeswax we harvested with our first honey extraction.  It was a warm day outside but nice and cool in the barn, so I thought working in there would be a good idea.  The wax comes from the cappings on the honey from the two medium supers we extracted a few weeks ago.  After thoroughly washing the cappings, I laid them out on layers of newspaper on a sheet of plywood, turning them every time I went into the barn for the next couple of days and changing the newspaper daily.  After a few days, the wax was dry and crumbly and only mildly sticky, as wax should be.

I process the wax in a double boiler.  Beeswax has a melting point of around 145 degrees F (about 63 C.), so you don't want direct heat.  In fact, about 185 degrees will discolor the wax and you won't get the nice, creamy yellow color.  I put a few inches of water in the bottom pan and set it on the burner to heat up.  In this whole process, my water never got to the boiling point and the wax was all melted.  If you do get to the boiling point, all you need is a low simmer.  You want to avoid having water get into your wax, which will cause it to lose its nice creamy consistency.

I use old t-shirts to strain the wax.  As you will see, the wax appears dark when I heat it (though not burned as if I were to overheat it), with many impurities (dirt, bee parts, grass, etc.) and I need to filter those out.  When the wax is all melted, I pour a small bit at a time onto the t-shirt which you can either lay on the container or use a rubber band to secure it.  I use cottage cheese or similar type container because they release the wax easily when cooled.  I move the wax around on top of the shirt, allowing as much as possible to drain through while still hot.  Some wax will remain on the shirt, but you can recover much of that later after it has cooled by simply scraping it with a flat knife.
 Here the wax is about half melted.  Notice how much darker the melted wax appears. It also really shrinks in volume as it melts but I'll still get a nice chunk of wax from this.
Here I have poured wax onto the shirt and the hot, clean wax is dripping through.  If I have more than will filter through this spot, I'll scrape the rest back into the pan to reheat.  Then I move the shirt to a new spot.  You do go through old t-shirts this way!
 I poured some of the clean wax into a mold while it was still warm.  These make nice little wax cakes to give to friends.  The rest cools and solidifies in the bottom of the container and is easily emptied out after it is cool.  The other chunks I'll save until I make more wax cakes or some candles another day.  See how clean and pretty the new, filtered wax is!  (Smells great, too.)


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