September 15, 2011

Top-Bar Beekeepers Meeting: Beeswax Candles

In my experience, the crush-and-strain method yields about about one pound of wax for every 20lbs of honey harvested. When you're just starting off and haven't harvested much, you won't have a lot of beeswax to deal with. If you're looking to craft something homemade then soap or hand cream, which call for very small amounts of beeswax, are good options.

Once you've harvested a few times and have more soap than you know what to do with, the easiest thing to do with it is make candles. At the last meeting of the Top-Bar Beekeepers Association, Marty Hardison showed us how he makes candles using wax harvested from his hives.

Marty has something like 30 hives, so that's a lot of wax! While we didn't end up with samples from last month's honey harvest (surplus honey is his retirement money), each member of the Top-Bar Beekeepers Association took home two candles, one of each size.

The key features of beeswax candles are that they are dripless and smokeless. Everything the honeybee makes is super-efficient. I wish I could post their aroma... the scent of honey and propolis and the life of a hive are indescribable. If only someone could develop a scratch-n-sniff widget. How awesome would that be?

OK, back to reality. If you plan on making candles, here's some math to help you determine how much wax you'll need. The 6" taper and the 10" taper weigh 1.5 and 2.75 oz., respectively. The molds cost about $40 each. Brushymountainbeefarm.com has some that are similar to the ones in the slideshow. There's a variety of wick sizes to use depending on candle shapes, and we used a #2 braided wick, which is easy for first-time candle-makers to work with. I've never shopped Blossomland, but they carry 2/0 wicking for beeswax tapers. I have shopped and like GloryBeeFoods and Dadant. They sell lots of other beekeeping stuff and service is good, too.

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