Monday, October 22, 2012

How to refine beeswax

Beeswax can come in many colors.  The above picture has 3 variations of wax color and one died brown with walnut hulls.  Would you like to know how to refine wax and make balms, candles, and salves?  ......

After I get done with my crushing and straining honey extraction, I've got a lot of wax.

So I put the wax in a pot and add some water.

You may want to choose a location where spilling wax is ok

Almost all melted.  You can stirr it up with a stick.  For the brown died wax I added a bunch of black walnut hulls at this point and boiled them with the wax.

Watch out!  An unattended pot can boil over.  I was playing pretend store with my son Bear and forgot about it almost being done.  When someone asked what this was a picture of I commented none of your beeswax : )  Also cooking beeswax attracts bees so do it and move it or do it in a shed or garage.

After your wax cools off it will be on top in a big circular shape.  I suggest you dry it a bit.  The sweet water can be siphoned into a carboy for brewing mead or fed back to the bees to be put back into the hive as honey.  So this is a picture of a couple pieces of the circle in a coffee can.
You can use a double boiler, but I'm impatient.  I just heat it up and stir it up with a stick.  If it gets too hot I pick up the can and swish it around a bit.

You then pour the melted wax through a thin fabric.  The above is gossimer.  It's the best I've found yet.  It goes through quick and filters any debris.

Then you pour it out into molds.  You can use muffin pans, paper cups, or just about anything.  Wax will shrink when it cools and if you get it ice cold it pops out of most molds.  Most solids shrink when cooled unlike water with it's fancy 109.5 degree bonds making a tetrahedral crystal lattice.
So what do you do with the wax?  A simple lip balm is just wax and oil.  You can buy the tubes if you want or just put it in a tin.  I heard a friend complain about having dry lips and leaving their lip balm at home.  I also knew that they had beeswax and oil at their work. I told her that she could just heat a small amount of wax and oil and it worked fine.

You can use any edible oil.  Some oils feel different than others.  You should experiment.  Start with a little wax and add some oil.  Here's my walk through recipe, but its just as easy to experiment.  Let it cool and put it on your lips.  If it's too hard add more oil, too soft add more wax.  There's no great reason to pay 2 or more dollars for lip balm other than being lazy.  It's super easy!

There are also other adddtives you can use.  On the bottom are essential oils and flavoring oils.  You can get these at hobby lobby or an organic store or hyvee in Dekalb.  On the left are shea butter and de-scented cocoa butter.  You can soak herbs like cottonwood buds in oils to get you own wild crafted flavors.  You can add Vitamin E, coconut oils, and even sunblock.  There are plenty of options and fun experiments to try.

Any balm or salve is just wax, oils, and herbal essences.  You can make any lotion bars you want or even lotion.  To do a lotion you use a blender with water and pour your hot salve in while blending.  It takes a few trials but you can get it just right. It can be made just like that pump out bottle you find at the fancy lotion store.

Here's one quick recipe
.75 -.80 oz beeswax
2.1 oz almond oil
3 vit E capsules
choice of essential oil
peppermint 12 drops
wintergreen or tea tree 15 drops
makes about 16 .15 oz tubes

Most beekeeping supply stores carry all the essential oils, cocoa and other butters, lip balm tubes, and molds.  Here's a link to 25 tubes

Certainly you can make your candles too.  I like the wooden wicked ones, however I've found that I have to mix oil into my wax to get it to climb the wood wick good.  Wicks are available in bee supply catalogues, hobby lobby or you can just use cotton string.  To prepare cotton string for wicks you should make a acid solution.  A boric acid solution can be made by combining salt water with borax.  Add one tablespoon of each to about a pint of warm water and stir to disolve.  Soak your wicks over night and allow them to dry.  Melt your wax and dip or use a candle mold or a jar. 
I also plan to experiment with using a plain salve recipe to put a non toxic finish on my wood furniture outside.  Gonna have to get a hair dryer for that, it's getting cold out : )

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