Friday, June 14, 2013

Minding our own BeesWax --- and making candles

Many years ago I heard the expression, "mind your own beeswax".  I thought it referred to minding your own business.  Turns out I may have been right for a change.

There is an absurd story, much repeated on the internet, that 18th-century ladies used to fill in the pockmarks on their faces (this was when smallpox was a common and disfiguring disease)with beeswax, which would melt if the lady sat too near the fire. If someone else warned her about this, she would retort "mind your OWN beeswax!" This story is only mentioned to say that there isn't a shred of truth in it. Though beeswax was often (and still is) a component of cosmetics of all kinds, it was not used as a pockmark filler in this way. The beeswax saying is of 1920s origin, a garbling of "mind your own business." While it might seem harshly rude to say "mind your own business," changing the last word to "beeswax" softens the blow, and makes a jovial point of the same sentiment.

Transition --- As my wife and I are working more with our honey bees, we are looking for other products from the hive.  The Bee Boss gave us a 5 gallon tub of the beeswax years ago and my wife dutifully promised to make something from it.  Well, time slipped away from us.  We bought a crockpot to melt the stuff and after seeing another beekeeper simply melt wax and pour it into a mold we thought it would be easy.  WRONG!

sO like many things bee, we had to go back to the beeginning. 

Where does beeswax come from anyhow??  Found these nifty photos on Bing that show you the source of beeswax.
A honey bee worker has four pairs of wax glands in her ventral abdominal segments. 

Note that PURE beeswax is clear. (See the three small beeswax chips above and new wax on the abdomen of a honey bee below.)  

This is a direct product from a honey bee worker.   Honey bees use this material to make the comb that is used by the honey bee colony to store honey.  The queen lays eggs in hexagonal (6 sided) cells that are between 4.5  and 5.4 millimeters in diameter to make more honey bees. (brood)  From what I have read, honey bees naturally make their cells 4.5 millimeters while commercial wax foundation is the larger 5.4 millimeters.  The purpose of the larger cell size is for larger bees and more honey.  This has made for some problems in the honey bee world that are not so sweet.  Back to the subject.

Our purpose in using the comb for now is to make beeswax candles.

Why use beeswax to make a candle? 

One reason My wife found in the write up below @  If you go to the web site, note the other types of candles, their composition and byproducts.
 BEESWAX is the only all natural candle wax. It’s a sustainable and renewable resource. When you buy a beeswax candle you’re supporting beekeepers, which means supporting those busy little insects that pollinate food crops and keep the world green naturally. Beeswax candles burn cleaner, brighter, hotter  and longer than other candles. When natural golden beeswax burns it gives off a soft glow* and sweetens the  room with its natural scent — no artificial scents or colors required! Many people are allergic to the  artificial waxes and artificial fragrances common in today’s candles, even in church! Beeswax is non-allergenic and is a natural air cleaner, recommended by the American Lung Association. It’s the best choice for asthma and allergy sufferers. Beeswax candles burn cleanly, don’t drip when properly used, and have long burn times,  saving you money. Be sure that the candles you buy are 100% beeswax – some countries allow as little as 10%  beeswax in candles labeled as ‘beeswax’.
*The light spectrum emitted from a beeswax candle is the closest of all waxes to natural sunshine
Another reason to use BEESWAX for candles has to do with their efficiency in burning.  I read somewhere, can't find the source, that one of the reasons beeswax candles were used exclusively in medieval cathedrals is they release NO SOOT.  Beeswax candles actually clean the air whereas all other candles leave impurities (soot) in the air.  Soot /ˈsʊt/ is impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons.
So whether you want to support a beekeeper; see pure light (sunshine) or experience cleaner air, beeswax candles are a really neat option.

We will offer classes in making beeswax candles.  If interested contact me @

 We are now going to discuss how we make beeswax candles.  My queen bee and I have spent many hours over the old stove and read many an article to get where we are.

Step 1 - Gather beeswax
The best beeswax to use is either the cappings off the end of the comb (a byproduct generated when harvesting honey) or newly formed and unused wax comb.  This wax will be a white color and have a minimum of impurities in it.  BEESWAX with impurities will NOT BURNWe know we tried. We used a crockpot with no temperature control and reheated some old beeswax.  We did a minimum filtering of the wax and poured it into a neat glass candle form with a medium wick.  The results were a candle that would NOT sustain a flame. Useless!

Step 2 - 5 -- Clean/filter your beeswax
You will need a double boiler and a wax thermometer to melt your wax.  Beeswax has a relatively low melting point range of 62 to 64 °C (144 to 147 °F). If beeswax is heated above 85 °C (185 °F) discoloration occurs. The flash point of beeswax is 204.4 °C (399.9 °F).
Pour your melted wax through panty hose, t-shirts or whatever your little heart desires into Tupperware or other container and let it cool.  The neat thing about a Tupperware container is you can see the wax separate from the honey.  The wax will be on top and the honey on the bottom.  Depending on the quality of your wax/honey mixture, you can retrieve some additional honey in addition to the beeswax.  Pour off the honey; rinse off the beeswax in water and repeat.

     Why do I have this step listed three times?  So far we have found it necessary to triple filter our beeswax to get all of the impurities out.  After the first filtering it looks like we have everything out of the beeswax however once we repeat the melting/pouring steps more impurities are revealed.  In step one above you will note our experience with impure beeswax.(The candle does NOT remain lit.)

     Interesting note -  Biblically the number 3 is the number of perfection.  Turns out the third word in Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew refers to Elohiym (God).

Step 6 - Selecting your wick and candle form
From what we have read the best wicks are pure cotton and thick.  We tried medium and wooden wicks with no success. By no success we mean the candle would not stay lit. 

Step 7 - Pouring the wax
Once you have everything ready:
  • Pure wax
  • Wick secured into candle form
  • Candle form stable and ready to receive beeswax 
 Pour in your melted beeswax.

Step 8 - Letting your wax cool
 We let our beeswax candle cool overnight.  The color of the candle is a light brown/tan color.

Step 9 - Burn baby burn
Now for the moment you have been waiting for, light your candle.  The wick should have been trimmed to about 1/4 inch above the wax.  Keep your candle out  of the wind as beeswax candles are very sensitive to air movement.

The glow is magical and after all of your work you can really appreciate the gentle sunlike glow of the candle.

Bee Boy out!

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