No one has a fondness for stinging insects, but when it comes to the honeybee, humanity owes an enormous debt to the insect. Honeybees produce a multitude of products that benefit us. In the process of producing honey, bees build honeycomb cells made out of wax where honey, pollen (and baby bees) are stored. Beeswax is a by-product of honey production, but has a multitude of uses in the cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical industries — for example, producing high quality creams, protecting and aging cheese or coating pills.
Around the home there are several uses for this versatile product. Beeswax can be purchased in hardware stores or craft stores in block form. A one pound block of beeswax will cost anywhere from $4 to $20, depending on the grade and whether it’s filtered.
Without adding anything to it, beeswax alone can be used in the following ways:
1. In the woodshop, drip a little melted beeswax on rusted nuts or bolts to remove them more easily; when screwing into new wood, try dipping screws into liquid wax to reduce the risk of splitting or cracking wood.
2. Purchase or make your own beeswax candles — the advantage to burning beeswax instead of common paraffin wax candles is that they burn cleaner and longer and have a brighter flame. Churches often burn beeswax candles because they smoke and drip much less. For individuals with sensitivity to smoke and intense fragrances, beeswax candles are a good alternative.
3. Drawers or windows stick? Try rubbing the stub of a beeswax candle or block along the edges of the door and tracks.
4. Run your sewing thread against a block of beeswax a few times – it will slide through the fabric easier and prevent longer threads from tangling.
Here is a basic old-fashioned recipe for making a beeswax compound, an inexpensive alternative to commercial wax-based products:
Gently melt under low temperature one part beeswax, shaved or cut into small pieces, over a hot plate or in double-boiler. After wax is melted, remove from heat and add an equal part of turpentine with ½ part boiled linseed oil. Mix well and let it cool to a creamy consistency. (Warning: Do not add turpentine or mix over a flame as it is a combustible product and will result in fire!). You can also make a non-toxic wood finish by eliminating the turpentine and mixing equal parts melted wax and pharmaceutical grade mineral oil. After it’s cooled you can use the mixture as follows:
5. Condition and waterproof boots, saddles, bags or other leather products by rubbing into the leather with a dry, clean cloth, working it in well along seams. Let dry, then buff to shine.
6. Coat hand tools, shovels and cast iron pieces to prevent rust from forming. This includes treating wood handles to preserve and protect them from degrading.
7. Use as a wood finish on bare wood — apply paste with a cotton rag, working it into the grain, then buff.