Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Adventures in Chandlery

May 23rd:

I decided, in a multi-day, multi-hour project, to make something of the ruined comb from last year's hive.  There was a lot.  First, though, I had to cut it all off the frames and put it in a big bucket:

That took way too long, and left honey and wax all over the garage floor.  It's impossible to clean up.

Then I took all this comb in and rinsed it off in a calendar in the sink.  It was full of junk, including dead bees--so sad.  I rinsed several times, then put it all in a big pot on the stove, topped off with water to about 2 inches above the level of the wax:

I heated this slowly, and used a kitchen strainer to skim off the gross dark matter (and more dead bees) that rose to the surface.  This stuff is called "slumgum", and according to the all-wise internet, is good as a firestarter.  I'll hold onto it for a year, and then I'll get sick of it and probably throw it out.

Eventually all the slumgum was skimmed off, and I turned off the heat and let the beeswax harden on the top as the whole mess cooled down over the course of about a day.

That top layer of wax became a sort of big puck:

That got melted and strained through cheesecloth about 8 times, each time producing a bundle of cheesecloth saturated with gunky bee stuff.  I set that aside with the slumgum to serve as firestarter maybe someday.

Eventually it was clean enough for a final meltdown, and then I poured it carefully into a candle mold.  There's a tricky step that involves waiting 45 minutes after the first pour, then going back to fill in a fissure that develops around the wick.  But that went smoothly, and later after a very brief stint in the refrigerator, I was able to decant my candle!

The final result is undeniably quite lovely, and it smells wonderfully (at least to a beekeeper's nose) of honey and bees and wax.  I hate to think how much money this one candle cost, in terms of time and supplies and bee-time, but it is nice, and I feel good that last year's bees' hard work went to some use.

(A note:  I'm indebted to the author of a blog called "Green Road Farm" for pointers on how to do all this.  The blog post I used is here.)