Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wax Melting Part I

One day of research and one day to start. I'm turning into my hubby with how quickly I'm moving on these projects. Generally, I'm much more the wait-and-think-about-it type and he is the jump-in-and-do-it type.

Tuesday morning was mostly clear so I decided to try my hand at wax melting in my solar oven. I can't say sunny, because when I get started in the mornings, the sun is not even up yet...

I had a jar of beeswax and a small bit of honey left over from my honey extraction this weekend.

On Monday, I had dumped the jar of wax on a tray and let the bees clean it of all residual honey. I stirred the tray a few times to give them access to all portions of the wax. After a day in the bee yard, the wax was mostly clean of honey.

I put the wax in my cheese cloth lined colander and put that in a big bowl and ran cool water over it to further clean the wax.

After reading warning after warning online about keeping beeswax away from your sink, I was extra careful to catch all of the drained water from the wax.

If this waxy water had gone down the drain, I'm sure it would have caused all sorts of clogging problems in the future.

I filled the bowl with water and swished the colander around to rinse the wax. I used the bowl of rinse water to water my garden outside. It took three rinses before the water in the rinse bowl was clear. I was shocked with how cloudy the first few rinses were, the water was a murky yellow white color.

I then prepared my wax melting jig. I filled my favorite mixing bowl with a few inches of water and got a roll of strong shop towels and a rubber band.

I spread one towel over the top of the bowl and held it in place with a rubber band.

The rubber band was from the last batch of asparagus I bought, those bands are so useful around the kitchen.

I put the bowl on a tray to catch any wax drippings. (hindsight note 1: I used an aluminum cookie sheet, which it turns out was not the best idea because I think it ended up reflecting too much light out of the sun oven.)

The cleaned wax was piled on to the paper towel. Up close you can see the flaked structure of the wax. When the bees create wax, they link together in long chains of bees and it is under this tension on their bodies that they are able to create the tiny plates of wax. These plates are joined together by the bees to form the hexagonal honey comb that we typically see.

I rigged up the solar oven in the garden. Beeswax melts at 145°F and my sun oven has gotten over 300F, so I had to control the heat to prevent overheating the wax. I am not sure the flash point of wax, probably not 300F... but I wanted to be safe.

To keep the temperature low, I used a stick to prop open the door a bit. (hindsight note 2: The door was propped open WAAAY too much. hindsight note 3: the bees smelled the wax and honey and with the open door were all over the wax when I got home, luckily, the temps were so low that I did not cook any bees)

I locked the garden and headed off to work for the day.

Ten hours later... nothing!

The oven door was propped open far too much. I quickly relocated the oven to the last sunny spot in the yard and closed the door. This was at about 6 pm.

With the door closed, the oven quickly got up to 150F, just above the melting point of wax.

I started to see some melting, and the paper towel was now soaked with wax, but it was just not melting as quickly and I knew it should. This is when I realized that the aluminum cookie sheet was reflecting the sun away from the wax.

I replaced the cookie sheet with a dark brown plate and the oven temp quickly rose up to 200F and the top layers of wax started to melt.

Unfortunately, this all happened as the last rays of sun were dropping below the rooftops of our neighborhood so my first wax melt was left incomplete.

In the last hour of good sun and higher oven temps, I got a few drops of beautiful golden wax in the collection bowl below.

as soon as the wax came out of the oven, the bees were buzzing around. Much to the amusement of the locals...

That is wax melting part I, not quite complete. Today is another sunny day and the wax is melting away... I hope.

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