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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Beeswax

One of the things I have been doing over the holidays is to make beeswax candles. I had not used up the beeswax from this year's harvest, and we were getting low on candles. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in making candles. Melting beeswax releases a wonderful perfumed scent and its fun to pour the wax into the mould and then the heart stopping moment when you know the candle is set but perhaps not quite ready to come out but you are going to try any way. Soft warm wax is very tactile.
I only managed to ruin one candle this year, and the wax was easily remelted.
It is a timeless process. Beeswax has been used since time immemorial, just as honey has. Cave pictures have included honey/beeswax hunting representations. However, it was not until the mid 19th century that modern beekeeping was born.
Until the invention of whale oil and then paraffin, beeswax was the clearest light. It does not smoke like tallow. Its light though is yellower than the white-blue of paraffin. And when it burns, beeswax releases the most wonderful scent.
I tend to make taper candles as they fit into the candle holders.
Beeswax is also used in a number of products from cosmetics to furniture polish. The cleanest wax from commercial beekeepers tends to cosmetics and the worst for furniture polish.
Because the bee uses the very efficient hexagonal shape, it does not produce much wax and pound for pound, beeswax is more expensive than honey.
Anyway, when I look at my candles and my store of honey, I am very pleased to keep bees. It is a worthwhile hobby and hopefully one which will grow in popularity. However, despite bees being one of the most studied creatures through history, we actually do not know that much about them and the dangers the modern world/chemicals/practices present.

2 comments:

Avi J said...

That sounds great, I would really love to make candles it would save me alot. I just decorate the place with them. All different shapes an colours. Maybe one day I will pick it as a hobby.

liz fenwick said...

Wonderful descriptions but I wonder how you have the time and can you tell me how to find it!!!