Beeswax Rendering

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About: I wish I knew all this stuff 25 years ago.

In May of 2018, I set up a small 2 beehive apiary in Mono, Ontario, Canada. My goal was simply to help pollinators and involved planing / restoring native wildflowers, assisting my bees as needed and getting back to nature. My goals did NOT include harvesting honey or beeswax...

But, Nature did what Nature does when you leave it alone... it took over and thrived. My bees filled box after box of honey, my queens produced strong, healthy offspring, and wildflowers grew wild.

In order to scale up this little project, I had no choice but to harvest a very small amount of honey (less than 1/8th). Furthermore, during my hive inspections, I collected a small store of burr comb (burr comb is the wax bees make within a hive where they really shouldn't, and in order to ensure no bees are squished as you inspect the hive, it's good practice to remove the burr comb as you come across it.) Finally, I also collected some wax when I installed a feeding inner cover upside down and the bees used the extra space to build.

So, with this small store of wax, I decided to try my hand at rendering it. I used a few methods and learned a ton.

Step 1: Cautions

  1. Beeswax is flammable. Never expose it to an open flame.
  2. Rendering beeswax can get messy so try to do it somewhere like a backward or a garage.
  3. Melting beeswax can also attract bees and other insects, so beware.
  4. It can be hard to clean things like bowls and spoons, so it's a good idea to use equipment you're dedicating only to this activity.

Step 2: A Thought About Bees

Bees work hard. A lot of people say they want to "help the bees" and then go and steal all their stuff, often times not leaving enough for the bees to survive on. I'm new at all this, but it does seem there is a very fine balance between helping and robbing from our little pollinator friends.

Consider, for a moment:

  • It takes 6 pounds of honey in order to produce 1 pound of beeswax
  • 1 pound of honey takes up to 2,000,000 flowers and 80,000 kilometres to produce

Let's all take a second to process that.

Step 3: Equiptment

  1. Beeswax... duh
  2. A hotplate
  3. Cheesecloth
  4. An elastic band
  5. Container or mold
  6. Wooden Spoon (optional)
  7. A safe, open, well ventilated space to work

Step 4: Melt in Water Method

For this method, I took all the wax and dropped it into a bowl, and then added a 1 to 1 ratio of water.

I used 2 bowls: 1 for the water & wax, and one I made a cheese cloth filter with by putting cheesecloth on top and securing it with an elastic band. The second bowl is what will filter the melted wax from all the debris.

Put the bowl on the hot plate and turn it onto a medium/low heat.

As the mixture heats, the wax melts safely. I got impatient and mixed it with a spoon (should have used a wooden spoon.)

Once all the wax is melted I poured the entire contents into the bowl that has the cheesecloth filter on top.

This is where you'll see all the gunk and "bee bits" that were in the wax.

Wax is less dense than water to the filtered wax will settle on top of the water. Once it's cooled you can pour out the water and decide what to do next.

For me, and as you can see, the cheesecloth didn't filter out all the debris, so I had to filter it again and chose the double boiler method (see step 2.)

Note: I have read that using tap water causes a chemical reaction with the wax and can create "mushy wax" or a discolouration. Something about the alkalinity in tap water, but I didn't notice that using tap water had any negative impact on my wax. If you're worried, it's suggested you use distilled water or, better yet, rain water.

Step 5: Double Boiler Method

So, my first method left my wax with a fair amount of debris, so, needing to filter it again, I figured I'd try another method.

To remove the wax from the first pot, I used a hairdryer to warm the wax and then easily broke it off and into pieces. I let the wax sit for a couple days so all the water evaporated off.

Once dry, I set up a homemade double boiler system with a big pot of water, a small grill to elevate my bowl with wax and then turned the stove on low.

It didn't take long for the wax to start to melt. Once melted, I had my other bowl ready, this type with a thicker layer of cheesecloth.

Once filtered, it was completely free of debris, so I poured the wax directly into molds.

Step 6: Conclusion

There's a lot you can do with bees wax. It's used for furniture polish, candles, rubs and, my favourite, waterproofing clothing. I hope to melt these back down and add in some other special ingredients and made a nice fabric wax for my camping gear.

This was my first time rendering wax and I certainly learned a lot. I hope you found my experience useful and if you have any experiences you'd like to share, please comment!

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    15 Discussions

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    Nikolaus21

    2 months ago

    could the bees wax be used as a filament for 3 D Printing, maybe adding some hardener so the melting temperature is in a smaller temperture window ?

    2 replies
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    ClintL2Nikolaus21

    Reply 2 months ago

    if you have a syringe-style printer (like the kind to lay down clay), you can wrap a resistance-wire laden silicone pad around it to heat it up and lay down the melted wax in trial and error method to determine the speed necessary to lay it down reliably.

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    thepantheonzaibatsuNikolaus21

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hey! I’m pretty inexperienced with 3D printing and not sure. Seems like a cool thing to investigate though. :)

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    ToniRose

    2 months ago

    Great project and well-written 'ible. I look forward to reading about your experiences working with beeswax. How many bars did you render?

    3 replies
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    thepantheonzaibatsuToniRose

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hey thanks! I realize I didn’t proofread and there were a few typos, but that’s ok. :) I was able to render 3 and a half of those little bars. I think that should be enough for some fabric wax... but I’m concerned that the beeswax smell will attract bees, which isn’t a bad thing, but probably not ideal as I’m camping or hiking... I’ll have to think it through as I really don’t want to waste this stuff. :)

    You could probably add something to the melted wax as to get rid of what attracts them just like making deodorant for hunting you use beeswax but you add all of this stuff and it gets rid of all sent.

    1⁄4 cup coconut oil
    ● 2 Tbsp. shea butter
    ● 2 Tbsp. cocoa butter
    ● 1⁄4 cup beeswax pellets
    ● 3 capsules 400-IU Vitamin E
    ● 2 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
    ● 1⁄4 cup organic arrowroot powder
    ● 2 capsules Vitacost Probiotic 10-20

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    Roosterhead

    Question 2 months ago

    What type of pots are those? Could you provide a link for them? They look to be quite useful for rendering wax and would help my dad out greatly.

    1 answer
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    thepantheonzaibatsuRoosterhead

    Answer 2 months ago

    Hey! They are “emailul enamelware” from Romania. I picked them both up at home sense in Toronto last year. Here’s a pic of the bottom with all the information I have. :)

    D303943A-2A4B-4F02-8758-E566C3F2C4FB.jpeg
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    Jozebeerze

    2 months ago

    Nice instructable. I have been a bee keeper for a number of years now, might I suggest you look into a solar wax melter to render your wax. It does a beautiful job, no heating elements to worry about. You can use a couple of "throw away" aluminum pans over and over and a piece of paper towel as a filter that can be used as a fire starter when your done. All with the power of the sun.

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    Kink Jarfold

    2 months ago on Step 6

    I found this so fascinating. Great that it all came about to save the environment. KJ

    Bee Great Instructable.png
    1 reply
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    Bean_MD

    2 months ago

    Me and my Dad started beekeeping this year (although my Dad is deadly allergic) and like you, we just want to conserve bees and not raid the hives.

    We talked about what to do with the ekstra super we have on top and making wax was on the list somewhere.
    Now after I read this instructable I can say it is not on the list anymore, but on it way to production.
    Thank you.

    P.s. If you have any tips on beekeeping please share, we want to grow our hives from 2 to atleas 15.

    1 reply