Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Solar Wax Melter

Another project out of the woodshop this month!  We found a lot of great designs for solar wax melters online, and decided to combine a lot of the ideas into this wax melter.  Everything you see here is reused materials.  The wood came from scrap wood from miscellaneous project; the handles are chair legs leftover from the milk stool project.  The window came from our house when we replaced the windows 2 years ago;  the black sheet metal is leftover scraps from the solar food dehydrator project; and the silver sheet metal came from a random thing a friend gave us attached to a canvas bag (she thinks it was a grass catcher for a lawn mower).  The screen with large holes is leftover from a big piece we bought for catching leaves in the rain gutters.  All in all, the project was fairly simple and free to build.  Ideally all of the sheet metal should be black to absorb the heat and increase the temperature, but we are trying to be resourceful and use what we have.  I don't like the idea of using black spray paint like others have suggested.  The dimensions of this melter are 17x26 inches.  My husband did a little research and found the suggested angle for the melter is 20 degrees.

To give this wax melter a good trial run, I melted a lot of brood comb and some broken wired wax foundation.  Brood comb is old comb in the bottom of the hive where the nursery, honey, and pollen stores are located.  This wax was given to me from Zenger Farm, an urban farm located about 3 miles from my house.  

Melting Point of Beeswax: 144 to 147 °F

This is a pile of comb that was taken from the brood boxes. It's darker than honey super comb.

When the sun hides behind the clouds and the temperature drops, the wax immediately hardens.  It's pretty amazing that this bright yellow wax came from the dark comb.

Here is the final product----golden yellow and smells wonderful!  I lined the box with waxed paper so the wax can easily be removed with no sticking.

I used an old diaper changing cover for the filter.  You could use a sheet, t-shirt, or anything to catch the small debris.  I wouldn't bother using cheesecloth because you'd need several layers and it's one more thing to buy. Let's be resourceful and use what we have.

This picture shows something you don't do: put plastic foundation in the melter.  I was like, "Duh! What am I thinking?!"  The temperature gets too hot and will warp the foundation.  I am humble enough to show my mistakes.  ; )

I thought it'd be helpful to list a few tips if you're interested in solar wax melting

Tip 1:  When you store wax, make sure it's in a mice-proof location.  Mice love to eat old comb!!

Tip 2: Do this away from your hives because bees will be attracted to the wax aroma.  The wonderful aroma does waft in the air!  For this very reason, I did the melting in the front yard and the beehives are in the backyard.  I had a few interested bees come and visit the wax when I was replenishing the melter, but it didn't become a huge problem. 

Tip 3: Remove the foundation wires before adding the wax to the melter---makes cleanup easier. 

Tip 4: For easy cleanup, use aluminum foil on top of the metal sheet. 

And for a little bee humor...
q: Where did Noah keep the bees?
a: In the ark hives, of course!


Zapp July 13, 2011 at 10:52 AM  

I'm building a solar wax melter right now. It's an awesome project. For your filter, you said you used an old diaper changing cover. Do you use a different one every time you melt the wax?

Holly July 13, 2011 at 12:19 PM  

Hi Zapp! I use a new filter when the melted wax starts pooling because the filter is clogged. When I'm done with it, I burn it in my firepit. I suppose if you're melting honey super wax, you could use the filter several times because the wax is much cleaner. In the pictures for this post, I used one filter and I melted a 5 gallon bucket full of brood and burr comb. The key is to have a very fine filter, like an old high thread count sheet that catches everything the first time. Good luck with your melter!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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