Sunday, December 4, 2016

How to properly melt beeswax cappings

My first year beekeeping I had a bit of wax and I melted it to make candles using a crock pot.

I did that for the first few years and then found I got so busy I started stockpiling the cappings to deal with "later".

You know, when I get a round-to-it.

I wanted to bump up our sales to help pay the beekeeping bills.

Ultimately I don't care if I make money since it's a hobby, but I'd like it to at least pay for itself.

I'm going through the bags and pails of saved cappings wax.  Some are bee licked dry and others are sticky.

I started researching the best ways to process beeswax and that lead me to some interesting information.  Take a look at my candles in the photo below.
Notice the colour difference between left and right?  The left side is the colour I was most familiar with.  But then I learned that the wax was actually camel coloured because it had been overheated when melting.

I had followed the directions on some U-Tube videos where beeswax was put in either a double boiler or into water in a pot and was then boiled on high heat.  Much too hot for the delicate wax I learned.

Overheating cappings wax not only destroys its colour but it greatly lessens the beautiful aroma as well.  Here's an excellent video on a one step slow melt oven process.  I like this for the safety as it's enclosed while melting for long periods of time in an oven.
When I slowly melted cappings in the oven on the lowest setting and leaving it for
hours and hours the wax that melted was bright yellow and also very clean and smelled amazing.

I wanted to know why the wax was bright yellow.  And that's what lead to further research where I learned I had been overheating my wax.

[Oven melt pan with wax, honey and a bit of water.  I use the darkened honey in mead making or baking.  I prefer to have the bees lick the wet cappings but don't always get that done.]

I now melt cappings either in the oven or a double boiler, but always with very low temperature over many hours.  And the wax is gorgeous and the colour is usually yellow/orange.

But here's what's happening now when it comes to selling. Customers are so used to the camel coloured beeswax that they think the yellow/orange wax isn't right or has been altered in some way and many seemed to prefer the camel coloured wax.

[My double boiler - water in the bottom and wax in the top]

A customer at the craft sale changed her mind on the lighter colour after she smelled the candles.  The camel colour had only some smell and the yellow/orange had a lot.  I can see some customer education is in order.  Maybe some beekeeper education too.

What are your experiences with melting wax?

Another important thing to do is to filter the wax.  I'll provide more info on how to do that soon.
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