-Posted by Isaac
This is a post to explain our new and improved wax processing. A few weeks ago Jayne was showing off some new candles and linked to an old post that covered the journey of beeswax. I actually read through that post last night, and realized that we do things a little differently now. We've learned some things! Here's the new version.
As you know, the wax is made by the bees. After the bees get the honey dried down below an 18% moisture level, they seal it off with a wax capping. This prevents the dried honey from drawing moisture. They preserve their food, so to speak.
And you can go right ahead and eat that wax. It won't hurt you. Comb honey, as shown above, used to be the only way honey came. But with the invention of the extractor (honey spinner), the public taste for honey evolved into a preference for liquid, not comb. We like to squeeze our honey out of bottles.
So in order to get to that liquid honey, the delicate wax capping has to be removed.
Below the uncapper pictured is a large hopper that eventually fills with a slurry of wax and honey. The slurry is then pumped up into a big "cappings spinner" which runs the entire day while we're extracting honey.
This machine filters the honey out and dries the wax.
We'll fill that big barrel approximately three times during an extracting season. (Nine or ten times total for the year.)
The wax eventually ends up in the rendering tank. This is set at 180 degrees F.
After only a day or so in the "hot pot" the wax, honey, and sludge have separated.
A little bit of burnt honey comes off the bottom. "Baker's honey."
In the middle is the sludge. After four or five rounds, this builds up to a point where it needs to be scooped out.
We've found one really good use for this black nasty stuff. It burns like rocket fuel!
On top is what we're after-- the liquid gold.
If you read the post from 2013, and were wondering about the burlap filtering step, we've nixed that idea. It was time consuming and stupid. "KISS," right? It's much easier to simply ladle the wax off the top.
Then pour it through a bucket filter. 55 micron seems to work best... not too fast, not too slow.
Another thing we've learned.--(After years of pounding buckets and breaking buckets.) The hardened wax pops right out if you freeze the molds for a few hours.
Over the course of the season, you can build quite a castle from your bucket molds.
At this point, cleaned and hardened, you're ready for candles. (Or soaps, salves, lip balms, whatever.)
Above, you can see the many candle molds, and at the back of the table is the double boiler we use to remelt the wax and then pour.
A lot of wax means a lot of candles. Just in time for Christmas.