All Of Our Beeswax

Given a choice between a bowl of dirty, sticky wax chunks full of debris sitting in our freezer and a fresh round of fragrant, golden beeswax ready for use, I opted for the latter.

I’d say “naturally” or “of course,” but in fact, there was some mild dissent with the household ranks over the issue, since the latter involves getting up off the couch and doing a thing vs. not.

Anyway, I prevailed and we processed beeswax!

Here’s how to do it, if you’re an ordinary civilian whose abode includes a standard-issue residential kitchen and lacks specialized equipment with which to furnish it.

(If that doesn’t describe you, then may I refer you to Williams-Sonoma, where you can drop $30 on a candle-making kit)

1.) Depending on the amount of wax you’ve got, fill one or more aluminum pans with water to the halfway mark; add wax crumbles.

"double beeswax"

It looks a little like granola.

2.) tamp down the wax, since there’s a lot of air trapped inside

"unprocessed beeswax"

It tastes a bit like granola as well, provided you ignore the fact that it’s wax with honey residue and dirt and insect bits mixed in.

3.) place wax pans on sheet pan and melt in oven at the low end of the dial* until you get this:

"melting beeswax"

As with so many things in life, the scum always rises to the top.

4.) “NO!” you cry, removing the sheet pan from the oven. “I’ve ruined it!”**

"beeswax scum"

Yummy scummy.

5.) Don’t worry, you haven’t. Just let it cool and set; it’ll look like this —

"solidified beeswax unprocessed"

Cool down.

6.) Kind of like a weird yellow candy bar…

"beeswax bars"

Crunchy!

7.) …with toffee-colored chunks embedded in it.

"detail view beeswax unfiltered"

crunchy close-up

8.) Now, break up the bars into chunks and place them in cheesecloth (which is, I swear, one of the most useful materials in existence), like so:

"beeswax broken up"

Prepare to melt!

9.) Then tie it into a bundle and place it in a pot of water on the stove. You’ll want to get the air bubbles out, and you may need to use a weight to keep the wax submerged.

"sackcloth filter"

Wow, this looks grim, like we’re drowning something small and helpless before boiling it.

10.) Heat slowly, then turn off the stove. As the wax melts, it will seep out of the cheesecloth bundle and float to the top, where it will harden into a golden disk.

"filtered beeswax"

Filtration achieved!

11.) By the way, this is what’s left in the cheesecloth after the wax has been filtered out.

"filtered out"

What remains.

12.) And here is the wax!

"beeswax disk obverse"

Here comes the sun.

13.) And here’s a view of the other side!

"beeswax disk reverse"

It’s all right.

14.) Finally, here’s a view of the little lunar craters that form on the bottom of the disk (the side submerged in the water.)

"beeswax lunar surface"

One small step for beekeepers.

And there you have it. A large disc of beeswax, measuring about…I don’t know, actually. I’m useless at measurements. I’m hoping My Fella will chime in somewhere in the comments, providing all dimensions in metric, as he is wont to do.

*The melting temperature of beeswax is somewhere between 144 and 147 °F (62 to 64 °C).
**At least, you do if you’re me. In situations like this, it’s incredibly helpful to have someone with a less fatalistic, more scientific worldview, like My Fella, who reassured me that no, I did not ruin it, that’s what it’s supposed to look like; the only way I could destroy it is by going for the flash point, which would mean baking the stuff at 400 °F
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4 thoughts on “All Of Our Beeswax

  1. JennyOH says:

    The photo captions are a thing of beauty. I loved reading this, as with all your blog posts.

  2. Fella says:

    So if I had to guess, I’d say it’s about 10 inches (25 cm) across and 3/8 inch (1cm) thick. Assuming uniform thickness, this gives us a puck that’s about 30 cubic inches (490 cc) in volume. Assuming beeswax has a nominal density of .95 or so, this means we should have 465 grams of beeswax or so — just over a pound.

    In the future, we should be able to save a step by wrapping all the beeswax crumbles in sack cloth to start with. The wax will percolate through and the dross will stay behind. I have an idea of how we could do this with two nested pans, one of which is perforated, with sack cloth between the two….

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