CHAPTER XVI Edit
BEESWAX ITS USES HOW TO RENDER IT Edit
IN running an apiary, especially one maintained for extracted honey, large quantities of beeswax from cappings, old combs, and brace combs, will accumulate, and as beeswax is always in demand and sells at a good price, its proper care and rendering becomes an important item. For many centuries, beeswax has been a much-needed commodity in almost every branch of work. Before the ingenuity of man made parchment as a medium for writing, tablets covered with beeswax were almost entirely used, and fulfilled a useful purpose. Owing to the fact that beeswax will not rot, it was used by many nations to embalm their dead, and mummies that have lain for centuries upon examination show the wax used to be in a fine state of preservation.
The rubrics of the Catholic Church prescribe beeswax exclusively in the making of candles for solemn ceremonies, as it is secreted by a virgin insect. In the polishing of floors and furniture wax has been found a valuable adjunct, as its use adds to the beauty and life of the object polished. Sculptors, painters, dentists, and molders use large quantities of it, and in the arts and various departments of manufacture it has become so great a necessity that there is never an over-production, and the beekeeper who has a goodly suppl} on hand will experience no difficulty in exchanging it at the supply houses for new sheets of foundation for both his brood and super frames. For the use of the beekeeper there has been found nothing that will take its place, although a long line of experiments with paraffin and ceresin have been made, without success, as the bees show a positive dislike for any other foundation than that made from pure beeswax.
The making of beeswax by the bees is a very delicate and wonderful process, and if you will open a hive in the height of the honey flow when the bees are at work, a lot of the little disks will be found on the bottom board of the hive, and when examined under the microscope they are really beautiful. Before secreting wax, the bees fill themselves with honey and then hang in clusters in their hives; and by generating heat they are able to convert the honey into wax, which as small disks protrudes from the little wax scales located on the under side of the abdomen of the bee.
Pattern-makers, machinists, and manufacturers of shoe and furniture polish are ready to purchase at a good figure unlimited quantities of pure beeswax, so it can be readily seen that there is a great demand for it, and the careful beekeeper will make it z, point to save every particle, melting and rendering it into commercial form at his convenience. It seems unfortunate that progressive methods of beekeeping, as compared with the older methods, have restricted the production of beeswax in the apiary ; but as the progress has resulted in a greater production of honey, there is no actual loss in profit. When bees were largely kept in the old-fashioned box hives the bees were brimstoned to get the honey, and as the combs were usually mashed and strained, there was of necessity a larger amount of beeswax secured each season. With the use of the modern extractor, the honey is extracted from the combs by centrifugal force, and the combs used year after year, so that the proportion of beeswax to honey secured is not as great as formerly; the honey-producer of to-day is dependent upon the cappings from the frames extracted, old combs, brace and bur combs, but even at that the revenue from these sources is considerable. As the wax accumulates it should be kept in a cool place, so that it will not become a breeding-place for the wax moth and be ruined, and for this reason it is well to melt and render it before it becomes attacked. There are many methods of rendering old wax, ano the beekeeper is allowed large latitude in the matter of selection. One of the older methods was to fill a porous sack or bag with cappings, old combs, and other waxen refuse and to weigh it down in a large kettle, covering it with water and allowing it to boil until the wax began to rise, and when the water became cold a cake of wax would form at the top. At best this method was far from satisfactory, as the cake was more or less burned or water-soaked, and filled with more or less dregs of matter from the old combs from which it was rendered.
About 1862 the first solar wax extractor was invented in California, and was first used for extracting the honey from the combs, but later it was used solely for melting wax, and even to-day is extensively used in many of the largest apiaries in the world. These solar wax extractors were little more than large boxes covered with glass in which old combs were placed and exposed to the rays of the sun, and toward evening as the day grew cooler the wax, because of its lightness, was found in sheets on top of the honey. Doolittle, Boardman, Rauchfuss, and others invented solar wax extractors which were more or less adopted, but in principle they were practically the same, and depended upon the sun's rays shining through glass to do the work.
While the solar wax extractor can be depended upon to do a certain amount of rendering, especially where capping and new combs are put into them, yet when it comes to getting the wax out of old dark combs, they have their limit, and compel us to resort to another method. The only satisfactory way to render wax is by some method by which the old combs can be enclosed in a sack and subjected to pressure while surrounded by steam. This method is not entirely new, though some of the appliances are, and were used in Germany many years ago, where it originated, but it remained for America to invent a satisfactory press, several makes of which are on the market, all capable of doing excellent work.
Some of these presses extract the wax under pressure at the time the steam is surging through the mass, as in the case of the German Wax Press and the Hershiser Wax Press, while others extract the wax under pressure after the heated sack has been taken from the steamer, and Messrs. Hatch and Gamil were successful pioneers in the perfection of the press that bears their names. The latter plan is perhaps the best, and is fast being adopted, as experience proves that there is less wax left in the slumguni, as the refuse is called, than under other methods. The old combs and pieces of wax are encased in a stout bag and boiled for a few minutes, then lifted and poured out of the bag, about a gallon at a time, and, when the cloths of the press are firmly secured about it, pressure is exerted, and the water and practically all of the wax will run out of the press into the bucket or other vessel that has been put into position to receive it, and when the water is cooled the cake of wax is ready for removal. Repeating the process, using about a gallon of the mass at a time, it is surprising how much wax will be secured within a short time. An up-to-date wax press is not expensive, and as it does its work so much better than the many homemade makeshifts that are used, it is economy to buy one, as the extra amount of wax obtained from the slumgum will pay for it in a short time.
If the wax secured is intended for the manufacturers of foundation, it can be shipped just as it comes from the press; but if it is for general use, it should be remelted and molded in little tins, and in the melting an iron kettle should be avoided, as it has a tendency to discolor the wax and render its sale difficult. Manufacturers of comb foundation say that hardly two lots of wax that they receive are uniform in color; this is due to the presence of more or less foreign substances, and to reduce it all to its original yellowness, it is necessary for them to treat it to a bleaching process with sulphuric acid.
The following is the method of bleaching used by the A. I. Root Co. HOW TO REFINE WAX WITH SULPHURIC ACID Wax cakes, as they are bought up, are usually of all grades and colors. The difference in color is due largely to the amount of impurities the wax contains. In all the years that we have been in the business we have found no practical or satisfactory way of bringing the wax to a yellow color that is, to its original state of purity, except by treating it with acid.
The method, in brief, is as follows: Fill a wooden tank or barrel a quarter full of water, and add cakes of wax until nearly full. The water is then boiled until all the wax is melted, when a quantity of commercial sulphuric acid is poured in, and the boiling continued until all is thoroughly mixed. The heat is then removed and the impurities are allowed to settle. For a detailed account, it may be well to describe our own system of refining wax. Our tank is a little over three and one-half feet in diameter, and about five feet high. Water is run into it to a depth of twelve inches, and then fifteen hundred pounds of wax are thrown in, making it about full. The mass is then heated by means of a jet of steam from a pipe projecting down into the water from the top. When all the wax is melted, the acid is poured in. If the wax is dark, seven pints of arid are used ; but if light enough to make surplus foundation, not more than three quarts are used. If the wax is already of good quality, so small an amount as two quarts of acid will answer. On the average, therefore, we use three quarts of acid to eighty gallons of water for fifteen hundred pounds of wax. Soon after this is poured in, the color of the boiling wax will be seen to grow lighter, and, after a minute or so, the boiling is stopped.
The steam pipe is now drawn out, and the tank covered with a cloth or carpet, and allowed to stand as many hours as the wax will remain liquid, or about twenty-four hours. At the expiration of this time the water and acid will have settled to the bottom by reason of their greater specific gravity ; and the acid, in turn, having a greater specific gravity than that of water, will settle to the bottom of the water; and the consequence is, that the wax itself, after being purified, is allowed to become thoroughly cleansed of any residue of acid, and the dirt accumulation will all have settled to the bottom of the wax and into the water. The melted wax is now drawn off from the top, and poured into any sort of receptacles with flaring sides. When the wax is nearly to the bottom, or when it shows evidence of coming near the dirt, the rest is allowed to stand. As soon as it is caked in the tank it is lifted out, and the dirt clinging to the bottom scraped off. Rendering wax at best is a troublesome and messy job, and it is possible to work much damage to a carpet or a suit of clothes that is of far more value than the little wax that may be secured where the beekeeper has but a few hives.
If the rendering is done in the house kitchen, spread some paper newspapers will do on the floor, and go about the work slowly and carefully. If at the close of the work the wax is smeared over kettles and pans, it can be removed by immersing the utensils in boiling water for a while, and rubbing them with a cloth that has been saturated with benzine.
Muffin tins, egg cups, pails, or any receptacles of proper size may be used to pour the melted wax into for molding, first wetting the vessel with water, and when the wax has cooled into solid cakes it can be dumped out and is ready for market. Some of the supply houses make little tins for molding the wax into cakes that retail for ten cents, and these are a help where the wax is to be sold in the home town or placed with the grocery trade for sale. Little candles made of beeswax give a brilliant light and throw off a delicate perfume
- the molds and wicks for making them
can be had at slight cost, and their sale brings the highest prices for the wax that is used. I know of one beekeeper who is able to make a dozen of these little candles from a pound of beeswax, and he has no difficulty in getting $1 a dozen for them. By all means husband your old combs and cappings, as the revenue derived from them will often pay for the foundation that from time to time has to be bought for brood frames and section boxes.