Waxing in the Waning Days of Summer

Our summer is drawing to a close. After record-breaking heat, we’re now getting seasonal temperatures (though no frost yet, which is unusual). Fortunately, we are having some much-needed rain. In the heat of summer, I set up our solar wax melter. Now it’s time to put it in the garage.

In all my decades of beekeeping, I never owned a solar wax melter. (Actually, one of my brothers built one for my honey farm a few years, but the design wasn’t quite right – it was too big, too deep, and not easily turned to catch the sun.) Two years ago, I bought a small one, designed for hobby beekeeping. It is light-weight, easily rotates into the right position, and produces beautiful sun-drenched yellow wax.

This melter, built by Uncle Lee’s Bees in Calgary, is almost perfect. It quickly builds a high temperature. It is easy to load and clean. I find it hard to believe that it was designed, produced, and sold for just a few hundred dollars. (You can buy one from Worker and Hive in Calgary.) On the other hand, it would take a hobby beekeeper a few years of wax sales to earn the $335CAN ($260US) that it cost. But that’s not the point. Producing nice-quality wax and doing it cleanly, efficiently, using the sun’s energy – and not on the kitchen stove! – is the real point. We found that this melter took the pressure off the kitchen, kept bowls and cutlery from being destroyed, and saved on our electric bill.

If you don’t have one of these remarkable gadgets, consider getting one. There are a lot of designs available. We like ours, especially since it works so well and was manufactured in our own city. If you don’t have your own solar-wax-melter factory nearby, here’s the link to buy one made in Calgary.

To keep debris out of the wax, we use a disposable dish cloth (a roll of 50 will cost less than $10) – disposable, but also reusable (we run three or four cycles on each, depending on how much junk is in the wax being melted). Here in Calgary, the melter only works on bright sunny days, though melting begins at ambient temperatures as low as 15C (60F). We usually revolve the box three times (or whenever we think about it) to catch the most direct sunshine. We don’t use any water in the plastic tray that catches the wax drippings. If the wax is from fresh cappings, there will be quite a bit of honey in it, which will be dark but not burnt-flavoured. I save it for my tea.

Some photos of our deck’s summertime conversation piece:

If you sell your wax at craft-store prices (and you should), you might get $20/pound and actually pay for the melter within your lifetime. Amazon has some good-quality beeswax at $160/pound ($10/ounce). At that rate, the melter pays for itself in a couple of sunny days.

Or, you might simply make some duck candles and charge a couple hundred dollars for each.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Ron has written two books, dozens of magazine and journal articles, and complements his first book, Bad Beekeeping, with the blog at badbeekeepingblog.com. Ron wrote his most recent book, The Mountain Mystery, for everyone who has looked at a mountain and wondered what miracles of nature set it upon the landscape. For more about Ron, including some cool pictures taken when he was a teenager, please check Ron's site: miksha.com.
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1 Response to Waxing in the Waning Days of Summer

  1. Pingback: Waxing in the and Waning Days of Summer - One-Bee-Store

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