We made a cheap and cheerful solar wax melter from a cooler (about $3 from Orchard Supply and Hardware), some leftover black paint (not enough it seems!), my bread pan, a paper towel, and some saran wrap. We were roughly following this guide.
We tested the paint on the lid of the cooler, some paints and solvents will eat styrofoam. The lid was fine, so M went ahead and painted most of the cooler black. The entire inside got a coat.
The bread pan had some water poured in, and was covered by a paper towel and held by a produce rubber band. A chunk of wax was taken from the bag, chopped a bit, and put on the pan. Next. we sealed it in the cooler with a saran wrap covering, which was tied on with an old piece of garden twine.
The wax was set in Sunday morning, and left.
I got home with just enough time to run to yoga Monday night, and it was dark by the time I got home. This afternoon, I opened up the melter.
wow! We couldn't believe that a paper towel would filter wax, but it appears that all went well.
Once I pulled out the tin (burning my thumbs and fingers slightly!) I saw the rubber band had broken, and some of the wax had dripped out. (Guess we missed the instruction to line the bottom of the container with some aluminum foil in case wax melted out!)
I got the tin inside and broke / peeled the paper towel off. Inside was floating a perfect piece of wax on a pool of water.
(the dark brown bits on the top of the wax washed off with water)
I'm really impressed with the process. The wax heats up, sieves through the paper towel leaving the debris behind. The wax collects on the water, cools, and solidifies into a bar of beeswax.
The paper towel was stiff with debris. The debris had wood chips, dirt, and what is possibly propolis in it.
The water was murky and sticky. I imagine leftover honey is part of it. I let it cool thinking some more wax may collect, but no such luck.
I went to set up the next round of wax to melt. I remembered that I had some old headbands that never did sit on my head correctly. It was the perfect solution to securing the paper towel down. To prevent spills, I did a smaller batch of wax.
We do have the intent to build a proper wax melter, and found a window off of freecycle to act as a cover. There's some good plans out there, and it looks like a project well worth the time.
On a quick bee note: we decided not to keep the swarm, but instead to try to find it a good home. I've contacted a few members of the local bee guild, but am not having much luck with getting return calls at this point. The next meeting is Thursday of next week, so perhaps I can get someone then. I moved the super with the swarm to the other side of the yard, and this has cheered the Urania hive a great deal.
The bee cat has calmed from her experience of the evening. She's curled up on a cushion on the couch to sleep, let her head hang off the side, and began snoring away. The fact that the bee died makes me think she was stung, I feel bad not being able to do anything to help. There's nothing obvious on her tail, and she's not flinching when her tail is handled. She's been eating and drinking. Other than being a bit spooked, everything seems normal. I have no idea what she was doing to attract a bees attention at nearly 9:30 in the evening, and I'm pretty glad the bee didn't signal to its sisters to come help attack the enemy.
A little urban gardening grr.
As I was working in the kitchen, I heard some thunk! noises. I thought it was one of the neighbors in their yards, but then as I went to put in the next batch of wax, I saw two pencils and a marker had been thrown into the garden. I'm irritated that some kids are throwing their toys away, but more irritated that they are getting thrown into the little space carved out. I know these weren't there earlier after having spent a good amount of time with the strawberry plants. I'm also frustrated that things thrown into the yard could hit the hive or the cat. Not good.