We harvested honey over the weekend. One of the by-products of honey is all the other stuff in the honeycomb – wax, bee parts, pollen and so on. Beeswax is valuable for a lot of things but is not easy to render. In the past we slowly melted the leftovers on a stove in a pot of water. The wax separated and floated and everything else either dissolved in the water or sank to the bottom. However, that is a long process and must be watched carefully as the melted beeswax is highly volatile and can catch fire (think beeswax candles!)
So this time, we are trying something different – a solar wax melter. We lined a styrofoam cooler with aluminum foil. Then we took a plastic bowl, added about an inch of water, rubber-banded two thicknesses of paper towels over the bowl, and placed a pile of the honeycomb leftovers on top. Put a piece of clear glass over all of it, and placed it in the sun all day.
By suppertime the wax had melted through the paper towels and was in a perfect ring of solid beeswax floating on top of the water. The rest of the leftovers (called ‘slumgum’, and don’t ask where that name came from but that is the right name) remained on top. We’ll keep the slumgum as a firestarter.
Overall, it worked great!