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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A New Solar Wax Melter

Over the past few months, my bees have built comb in unusual shapes and in spaces where I don't want them to build.  During each inspection, I've made it a habit to remove this 'burr comb' and keep it.  Initially, I didn't know what I was going to do with it.  I kept it in a sealed, plastic container.  Keep in mind, some of this comb has eggs, larvae, and pupae in it, so it can get quite rank after a few days.

So, after researching my options on what to do with all of this stuff, which I did not want to waste, I decided to build a solar wax melter.  I found some very simple plans for a small, cheap, and easy to use wax melter.  Materials include a cooler, a piece of glass, a container with water, a paper towel, and a rubber band.  

The premise of this contraption is that the sun will heat the air and comb, the wax will drain through the paper towel, and the water will keep the wax from sticking to the bottom container.

I also consulted two trusted advisors (one my dad, a chemist, and the other my boss, an engineer).  I believe that the thermal value is most efficient with one simple piece of glass.  I did have doubts about the paper towel holding up, as did the engineer I consulted, but after three successful melts, it does not tear and holds up fine.

Bees wax melts at about 145' F and so at the end of the day you end up with burnt, nasty blobs of bee goo and in the bottom container, there floating on the water is beautiful filtered bees wax.

You can find plans to make your own here.  Total cost was under $6.00.  They retail for over $300.  Of course, these are wooden and have metal drip pans.  Mine works just as well, just on a smaller scale.

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