Processing Beeswax

beeswax-title
Beeswax is amazing stuff. From Wikipedia: “For thousands of years, it has had a wide variety of applications; it has been found in the tombs of Egypt, in wrecked Viking ships, and in Roman ruins. Beeswax never goes bad and can be heated and reused.” It has been used by every civilization on every continent and is still used today! Read more about it here. The wax is secreted as tiny flakes on the bees’ abdomens and is the only wax on earth that is completely non-toxic. Cool, huh?

Did you know that honeybees will visit over 17 million flowers just to produce one pound of beeswax?  Over seven pounds of honey are necessary for the bees to consume just to produce that one pound of wax.  Incredible.

It is naturally antibacterial, anti-fungal and extremely protective, too, and that’s why we use it to make our Beeswax Lip Balms and Lotion Bars.  It’s takes some work to make it usable, though…here’s how we do it.

raw-comb

First, we gather the cappings from when we extract the honey from the hives. Cappings are the pieces of comb that we cut off so the honey will drip out.  We leave some for the bees to refill so they won’t have to use as much energy rebuilding their comb and can expend their efforts on making more honey.

comb-in-pot

Next, we dump the cappings into a big pot full of water and bring it to a gentle simmer, just hot enough to melt the wax.

gross-comb-pot

Yuck!

Looks horrible, doesn’t it?  It actually smells really nice. 🙂

cooling-in-pot

Without stirring, we allow the pot to cool.  Heavy impurities sink to the bottom and honey dissolves in the water while the wax, pollen and other lighter-than-water things rise to the top.  When it’s completely cool, we lift the hardened wax layer off the top, pour out the dirty water, wash out the pot and do it all over again.

first-melt

We’ll do this four or five times, just to get as much crud out of it as we can.

second-pot

Here’s what it looks like after several “washes”. We have to make sure that there is absolutely no honey left in it or it won’t harden.

last-cool

Top Side

Bottom Side

Bottom Side

Now for the final filtering. No water this time – we just break up the big disk and put the chunks into the trusty mini-crockpot.

in-tiny-crock-pot

Melting down slowly…still looks pretty nasty.

wax-only-melt

Still murky…

last-melt-yuk

When it’s completely melted, we pour it through several layers of cheesecloth to filter out the pollen, propolis and whatever else has been hanging on.

filtering

And voila!  Pour the hot wax out onto a silicone sheet and it cools into a beautiful mass of fragrant beeswax.

clean-wax

Isn’t it beautiful?

We harvested over 50 pounds of honey this summer and got just under 9 ounces of clean beeswax.  That’s why I don’t make beeswax candles – that stuff is too precious!  Thanks, bees. 🙂

Essential Oils Or Fragrance Oils? What We Use And Why

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If you’ve read my post about essential oils, you know what they are, what they do and what they are not.  If you are familiar with our soaps and other products, you know that we use essential oils in many things but use fragrance oils in others. Read more…

Essential Oils: What They Are (And Aren’t)

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There seems to be a lot of interest – and misunderstanding – surrounding essential oils these days.  Lots of people – myself included – are looking for ways to get away from unnecessary chemicals and drugs and essential oils are being touted as an all-natural answer to all kinds of ills.  Let me offer a little dose of reality here and talk about what they actually are and, more importantly, what they are not.  I’ve been using them around my house for about fifteen years and you can read about how we use them in our products here.

So what are essential oils? Read more…