Practical Insights on Wax Rendering & Selling
While researchers around the world are studying whether you should keep cell phones away from bees,
Bob Hollis shared a real practical reason to park your cell phone while working bees and their by-products.
“Don’t talk on your cell phone while pailing honey,” stated Bob. “Its buttons don’t work as well after you pull it out.”
Bob was sharing his expertise on wax rendering, and cell phone usage, at the Michigan Beekeepers Association annual meeting. Wax rendering is a popular and broad beekeeping topic, and comprehensive information may be found in many excellent books, and on the internet. To supplement that information, beekeeper Bob, who works about 100 – 150 hives and sells wax and candles, shared his insights, including:
He uses capping wax, the wax cut off of frames pre-extraction. He doesn’t attempt rendering the darker wax that held brood—it takes too much time, energy and effort to get a workable wax from it.
There are lots of markets for wax beyond the traditional selling of candles at craft shows and farmer’s markets. Consider:
- Selling blocks of wax for use by other candle makers and crafters. Once word gets out that you have these available (often by selling wax at craft shows and farmer’s markets), it may turn into a steady sales stream.
- 2012 was a tough year for bees, causing a shortage of wax for foundation. Many foundation-supply companies may be looking to purchase wax.
- Furniture makers and hunters are another market for beeswax. Bob uses ice cube trays as a mold for the size of wax blocks they desire.
- Allergy medical professionals may be interested in candles made from local beeswax—a tip shared by one audience member. Her allergy doctor prescribes her candles for people to burn daily for an hour before they go to sleep.
Melting wax tips include:
- Wax is really, really hard to get off of any surface; don’t render wax in the kitchen or any other place where you don’t want to have to deal with it when you spill some. And, you will spill some.
- Use dedicated equipment. It is nearly impossible to clean wax and residues from equipment, so cookery picked up at garage sales and dedicated to wax melting is ideal.
- Wax melts at about 140 degrees—depending upon its composition. Heat only until it melts; higher temperatures cause discoloration and alter other properties of the wax.
- Use a double-boiler. One you’ve made yourself is fine. A double-boiler protects the wax from scorching, and is safer.
- Wax will take the color out of anything except glass and stainless steel—keep this in mind when selecting containers to be used as molds.
- Cooling down wax too quickly causes cracking.
- Network with other candle makers and bee clubs. Sharing molds is a great way to process a lot of wax in a short time, and minimize your investment in molds.
- Bob recommends rubber molds for their durability, noting they are worth the additional investment.
• Storing: Beeswax does not deteriorate with age, so it may be stored until you have sufficient quantities to justify working with it. However, unrendered wax is a wax moth magnet. Rendering isn’t a cure-all; two audience members shared that they’ve had wax moths burrow into processed candles and rendered, stored blocks of beeswax.
- Bees consume 8-10 pounds of honey to produce a pound of beeswax!
- Safety first! Never leave melting wax unattended, keep fire extinguisher handy, and avoid using a gas flame. And, put your cell phone aside.
We caught up with A Kelley employee, who said Kelley's is always interested in purchasing clean wax from chemical-free hives. Payment may be in credit, cash, or wax working (finished foundation for raw beeswax—must have 100 pounds). To sell us your wax, call for the going rate of purchased, clean beeswax, 1-800-233-2899.
When you send your wax, be sure to include your name, address, city, state and zip code,with information on whether you would like credit, cash, or wax working done. A telephone contact number is always helpful.