Bees

Self Filtering Solar Wax Melter for Beeswax from 4 commonly available second hand items

I love discovering methods to process farm products without using any energy; even more so when one of the requirements to process said products is heat. I have to gush over the success of this quick and easy project as I designed it around the concept of a car heating up when parked in the summer sun. Beeswax melts around 150 °F/65°C so summer sun is all you need!

Beeswax sticks to absolutely everything and is nearly impossible to get off once it sets. In the past, running molten beeswax through a strainer resulted in immediately congealing wax that clogged and overflowed on the kitchen counter. Amazingly, with this design the only items that touch molten beeswax is the strainer, filter and pot. As the wax is held at molten temperatures for the duration of the process, the only item that retains any wax is the tiny bit the optional cheesecloth filter absorbs and a very thin film on the inside of the pot.

So I’ve pieced this design together over the last few months. For the long and entertaining story of my trials and tribulations, see this post.

Note: I always freeze the wax overnight first to ensure no wax moth eggs or other bugs survive. Then I just store it in airtight containers until I build up a large stock to melt in the summer. Below I will quote and link to new products, but I acquired everything except the cheesecloth secondhand for a final investment of $28.80 or $83 when buying everything new from amazon. Below is my exact setup just to make sure everything fit together!

Items Needed:

Cooler (lid not needed) tall enough to fit the pot. Alternatively a temperature safe box (maybe a bucket would work?) that you insulate with blankets, etc. ($28 new)

Stockpot or something similar with no plastic pieces ($25 new)

Scrap piece of glass or Plexiglas that lays flat atop the cooler (The cheapest option on amazon that most closely matches my 1/8″ thick 14″ x 24″ custom piece is the plexiglas from this frame, $17 new)

Metal strainer that fits atop the pot ($8 new)

(Optional): Cheesecloth or Nut milk bag and string to attach it to strainer. Only needed if pure wax is required for candle making, etc. ($6 new for a convenient bag that fits the 8″ strainer)

Extras:

Bungee cord, rope, etc. to secure the glass to the top of the cooler (improvise for free! But if you need a bungee cord: $5 new for adjustable single or $9 for a set if you don’t know the size you need and need to link multiples)

Oven mits for handling the utensils in the melter after the wax has rendered (no link needed)

 

Build and Operating Procedure:

  1. Attach cheesecloth beneath strainer if extra filtration is required. Otherwise, omit the cheesecloth.
  2. Place strainer atop the pot
  3. Place your wax into the strainer
  4. Place the pot with wax-filled strainer into the cooler
  5. Place the glass/Plexiglas panel atop the cooler
  6. Set the entire melter in the sun and simply wait until the wax has melted
  7. Remove the pot filled with liquid wax USING OVEN MITS! EVERYTHING INSIDE THE MELTER WILL BE HOT
  8. Quickly but safely pour the wax into your molds of choice before it has a chance to cool. I just use paper cups!
  9. Peel the paper cups away after the wax cools and simply store the wax in a manner that prevents critter intrusion or weigh it for sale.

 

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Note on pictures: I really wanted to include pictures of the whole process. However every single day this week at 12:30 pm, thunderclouds rolled in. Even worse, they never yielded much needed rain! Pictures will be updated on the next sunny day, Monday or tuesday appear promising.

Acquiring the materials

The cooler: Craigslist is probably the best option but keep an eye open at yard sales or thrift stores as well. The cooler pictured is one that was not longer in use by my parents, but I also acquired from craigslist years ago for $10 an old 5 gallon igloo drink cooler like the ones you see at sporting events. It was my first mash tun before I upgraded my homebrewing beer setup to 10 gallon batches. You may be able to do even better by rescuing a cooler with a lost lid, as all the lid does on my cooler is catch wind and flop the whole set up over. Alternatively you could just make a simple wooden box or possibly insulate a standard five gallon bucket. In fact, I may try the next batch in a bucket just to see if it works. Whatever you choose, make sure the pot fits!

Pot: I chose a stockpot for this project. The dimensions are efficient to fit within a wide array of coolers, compact handholds instead of long handle(s) is better accommodated within the cooler, and there is no plastic. I acquired mine for $4 at the thrift store. The previous owner had damaged the enamel coating inside the pot which matters not for this project. In fact if a friend or family member has done the same, you may be able to get a free one!

Strainer: $1 at a thrift store. I’m considering buying a new one without a plastic handle as they are ~$5 on amazon or simply cutting off either the plastic or the entire handle. The handle could also be cut off to fit in a smaller cooler. Plastic + heat + UV rays = either melting or off gassing of chemicals or deterioration.

Glass/Plexiglass: I was originally scouring the barn loft for a discarded storm window. Then I considered checking out the Habitat for Humanity Re-store where contractors cheaply offload unneeded or recycled building materials…basically a thrift store for building materials. I even called an autoglass shop looking for scraps. By chance when I went to the local hardware store for an unrelated purpose, I inquired about getting glass and Plexiglas cut. The quotes were around $5 and $11, respectively. Way cheaper than I was expecting so I chose Plexiglas for durability. It also occurred to me that my dimensions closely match those of cheap poster wall-hanging frames like I had in college. One could be cannibalized from the thrift store!

Cheesecloth: Amazon or Walmart or I’ve even seen them in grocery stores however they were add on items hanging in random isles. The plus side is that I found mine hanging in the canned food isle on sale for $2 for a 6 yard cloth. After the first test run with cheesecloth, I might be looking for something more substantial like the bags on amazon for about $5 that are made from better cotton intended for yogurt or nut milk.

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