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Honey Frames - Wax Foundation Sheets, and Foundationless

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understanding_bees 

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I watched a Youtube video about making beeswax foundation sheets for honey frames. This video by Tim Rowe shows how he made a simple wax melting tray, and how he makes foundation sheets which can be inserted into the frames at a later date. One of the things he talks about is how the wax sheets become brittle, and how he rolls them to restore flexibility in them. You can see the video by clicking on this link: https://www.google.com/search?q=mak...me&ie=UTF-8#kpvalbx=_NjFHX8fXOILHrQHcx6jgCg58

The ideas which Tim has put into practice have motivated me to try making my own wax foundation sheets. One of the debates about honey frame foundation has been about whether these sheets may have a plain surface, or whether they should have an embossed surface. While it is certain that bees will utilize a plain (unembossed) surface, it seems that they may have a preference for an embossed surface. I decided to make a silicone mold, using a plastic foundation frame as the formwork for making the cell pattern. With this silicone mold fastened to a paddle like Tim Rowe uses, I figured that I could make sheets which were at least embossed on one side.

Being still quite new to beekeeping (only one year) I do not yet have a plentiful supply of wax, but yesterday I refined about two kilograms of wax, and today I have used my silicone mold paddle to make some sheets of foundation. The process of making the sheets was fairly straightforward, except that the wax did not take to the mold as evenly as I would have liked. But by briefly dipping the paddle into the melted wax several times I was able to get a nicely formed sheet. I made the paddle to exactly the same dimension that my honey frames require, and it was easy to insert these sheets into the frames. To cause a sheet to adhere firmly to a frame, I used a spoon to scoop a small amount of melted wax and pour it into the groove of the top bar in which the sheet was placed (while the frame was upside-down). I used the same method on the bottom bar, using several small amounts of melted wax to adhere the bottom of the sheet.

I found that by inserting a wax sheet while it was still warm and supple that I did not have any problem with fastening the sheet, which did not crack.

I will be interested to observe whether the bees have any preference for which side of the foundation sheet that they build on first. I am also going to observe with interest how straight they draw comb on some foundationless frames, and partly drawn frames, which are interleaved with these foundation sheets of mine.
 

Erichalfbee 

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I watched a Youtube video about making beeswax foundation sheets for honey frames. This video by Tim Rowe shows how he made a simple wax melting tray, and how he makes foundation sheets which can be inserted into the frames at a later date. One of the things he talks about is how the wax sheets become brittle, and how he rolls them to restore flexibility in them. You can see the video by clicking on this link: https://www.google.com/search?q=mak...me&ie=UTF-8#kpvalbx=_NjFHX8fXOILHrQHcx6jgCg58

The ideas which Tim has put into practice have motivated me to try making my own wax foundation sheets. One of the debates about honey frame foundation has been about whether these sheets may have a plain surface, or whether they should have an embossed surface. While it is certain that bees will utilize a plain (unembossed) surface, it seems that they may have a preference for an embossed surface. I decided to make a silicone mold, using a plastic foundation frame as the formwork for making the cell pattern. With this silicone mold fastened to a paddle like Tim Rowe uses, I figured that I could make sheets which were at least embossed on one side.

Being still quite new to beekeeping (only one year) I do not yet have a plentiful supply of wax, but yesterday I refined about two kilograms of wax, and today I have used my silicone mold paddle to make some sheets of foundation. The process of making the sheets was fairly straightforward, except that the wax did not take to the mold as evenly as I would have liked. But by briefly dipping the paddle into the melted wax several times I was able to get a nicely formed sheet. I made the paddle to exactly the same dimension that my honey frames require, and it was easy to insert these sheets into the frames. To cause a sheet to adhere firmly to a frame, I used a spoon to scoop a small amount of melted wax and pour it into the groove of the top bar in which the sheet was placed (while the frame was upside-down). I used the same method on the bottom bar, using several small amounts of melted wax to adhere the bottom of the sheet.

I found that by inserting a wax sheet while it was still warm and supple that I did not have any problem with fastening the sheet, which did not crack.

I will be interested to observe whether the bees have any preference for which side of the foundation sheet that they build on first. I am also going to observe with interest how straight they draw comb on some foundationless frames, and partly drawn frames, which are interleaved with these foundation sheets of mine.
The bees draw better straighter comb if you put starter strips between drawn comb. You could try that too
 

Hachi 

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The fat bee man has a good video on this process
 

understanding_bees 

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The fat bee man has a good video on this process
Hachi said, “The fat bee man has a good video on this process”. He did not specify what video he was talking about.

I searched for a video which he might have been thinking of, and found the following video:

I enjoyed this video, which shows that the process of making a flat (unembossed) sheet is not difficult, once you have the equipment set up to do it.

I think that Tim Rowe’s video (which I referred to in an earlier comment) is good because it shows how he made the equipment to be able to make the wax foundation.

If the bees are happy to use an unembossed foundation sheet, then this is a good method.

If you want to used foundation sheets which have the cell pattern embossed into them, then an embossing roller is required.

Somebody made a comment under the video by the fat bee man, “Looks simple but I'm pretty sure that embosser is not homemade. What does an embosser cost?” My own enquiry on the Internet suggests that the cost might be in the vicinity of US$500.
 

Erichalfbee 

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Somebody made a comment under the video by the fat bee man, “Looks simple but I'm pretty sure that embosser is not homemade. What does an embosser cost?” My own enquiry on the Internet suggests that the cost might be in the vicinity of US$500.
That's why pargyle's comment on going foundation free is the most sensible.
Thus you don't have to mess around with making your own foundation or spending lots of money on embossers.
I have a couple of colonies that are FF and it's very easy to do. A 14x12 is a big frame so I "wire" the frame with fishing line. I should Imagine a lang frame would need similar reinforcement. Going FF at least means you know the bees are living on their own wax, if that is what you are striving for, and making the cells they need. Bees on FF make lots of drones, by the way
 
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Hachi said, “The fat bee man has a good video on this process”. He did not specify what video he was talking about.

I searched for a video which he might have been thinking of, and found the following video:

I enjoyed this video, which shows that the process of making a flat (unembossed) sheet is not difficult, once you have the equipment set up to do it.

I think that Tim Rowe’s video (which I referred to in an earlier comment) is good because it shows how he made the equipment to be able to make the wax foundation.

If the bees are happy to use an unembossed foundation sheet, then this is a good method.

If you want to used foundation sheets which have the cell pattern embossed into them, then an embossing roller is required.

Somebody made a comment under the video by the fat bee man, “Looks simple but I'm pretty sure that embosser is not homemade. What does an embosser cost?” My own enquiry on the Internet suggests that the cost might be in the vicinity of US$500.
If you are really desperate to embark on making your own foundation there is a cheaper alternative to rollers ... you can make a mould from silicon and use that to make a single sheet press:

Here's a video of one of the better made ones ... but if you do a google search for DIY beeswax foundation press there are a lot of instructables - from the most basic to the Rolls Royce job in the video. Less than about £40 including the silicon for the mould should see the job done. Making one sheet at a time takes a couple of minutes a sheet. They used to make an aluminium press for foundation (we have one in our association we can borrow) and it works .. you need a fair bit of beeswax but you don't waste any. I've used the association press when we do our bees and honey day and demonstrate to the public and it works. The foundation tends to be a bit thicker than the commercial stuff but at least it is your bee's wax.

 

understanding_bees 

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That's why pargyle's comment on going foundation free is the most sensible.
Thus you don't have to mess around with making your own foundation or spending lots of money on embossers.
I have a couple of colonies that are FF and it's very easy to do. A 14x12 is a big frame so I "wire" the frame with fishing line. I should Imagine a lang frame would need similar reinforcement. Going FF at least means you know the bees are living on their own wax, if that is what you are striving for, and making the cells they need. Bees on FF make lots of drones, by the way
I agree that using foundation free honey frames has advantages, not the least of which is that honey in the comb can be harvested.
But the problem of bees building cross-comb, and crazy comb, has frequently been experienced when all the frames are foundation-free. And so there have been recommendations that frames with foundation should be interleaved with foundation-free frames. Sometimes the recommendation is that it is better to use drawn frames of comb than foundation sheets.
But this then begs the question of what form those foundation sheets should have.
How necessary, or desirable, is it to use embossed wax sheets?
How successful can we be if we just use plain wax sheets of foundation? (Such as those made by Tim Rowe, or the fat bee man, before he rolled them with the embossing machine).
There is also the question of what approach new beekeepers should use, if they are starting from scratch without drawn comb.
 

understanding_bees 

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pargyle said, "If you are really desperate to embark on making your own foundation there is a cheaper alternative to rollers ... you can make a mould from silicon and use that to make a single sheet press".

I agree that this approach has lots to recommend it. I have actually made a silicone-mould, using an embossed plastic frame as a casting-mould for the silicone. I fastened that silicone sheet to a paddle similar to that used by Tim Rowe, and the fat bee man.
This silicone mould has enabled me to make foundation sheets which I think are quite impressive, even though they are embossed on one side only, and smooth on the other side. Unfortunately, the silicone being water resistant requires a good release agent to enable the wax sheet to be peeled off easily. I have tried using dish-washing liquid detergent as a release agent, but this has not been as successful as I would like, because an application of detergent loses its effectiveness very quickly.
If a plain wooden paddle is used, and soaked in water, wax sheets peel of very easily. Are there other release agents which could be used with the silicone mould?
 

Pembroke 

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Pembroke 

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pargyle said, "If you are really desperate to embark on making your own foundation there is a cheaper alternative to rollers ... you can make a mould from silicon and use that to make a single sheet press".

I agree that this approach has lots to recommend it. I have actually made a silicone-mould, using an embossed plastic frame as a casting-mould for the silicone. I fastened that silicone sheet to a paddle similar to that used by Tim Rowe, and the fat bee man.
This silicone mould has enabled me to make foundation sheets which I think are quite impressive, even though they are embossed on one side only, and smooth on the other side. Unfortunately, the silicone being water resistant requires a good release agent to enable the wax sheet to be peeled off easily. I have tried using dish-washing liquid detergent as a release agent, but this has not been as successful as I would like, because an application of detergent loses its effectiveness very quickly.
If a plain wooden paddle is used, and soaked in water, wax sheets peel of very easily. Are there other release agents which could be used with the silicone mould?
I used to do a lot of silicon moulding and used a spray release agent that was sold in cans on EBay. If you can take one mould from the foundation then it should be possible to devise a box around another fixed to the bench, well sealed that you pour you liquid wax into then put the paddle on the top to get both sides embossed. You might need stops at the side or corner to support the paddle so the depth is consistent.
 

understanding_bees 

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There have been various comments in this discussion thread, and another thread “Do hives recycle old wax and can queen cells be made from recycled wax”

I have wished to find a good way to get the bees to build straight comb on foundationless frames, and have written several of the letters in this discussion.

Several good pieces of advice have been given. The most helpful advice, for using foundation-free frames, has been to interleave them between frames of drawn comb.

There has been another question though, about the use of wax-foundation sheets. I have been interested in the methods which a hobbyist beekeeper could use to make their own wax sheets. I have been interested to find out if bees have a preference for embossed foundation, or whether they would be just as happy with plain sheets of wax.

There has been the additional question of helping the bees to recycle wax. Do bees use existing wax to make new cells? Can we encourage them to use existing wax? Various comments have been made about how much honey is consumed by the bees to make a given quantity of wax.

I am in the happy position to say that I now have answers to some of these questions, based on my own experiments. Perhaps the most interesting answer for me is that I have found very direct evidence that bees do reuse wax, in the process of building new cells. I am attaching photographs to show what my bees have done.

My bees have shown a definite preference for using embossed wax sheets, but I have not had to follow a difficult or expensive process to give them embossed sheets. I made a silicone mould, attached to a paddle, to make wax sheets. I used the method demonstrated by Time Rowe in a Youtube video (which has already been referred to on this forum). I did express my own frustration about my silicone mould, because of difficulties which I had in getting the wax sheet peeled easily from the silicone mould. Happily, I can now report that I have found that a glycerine and water mixture has proved successful as a release agent. I used a ratio of about one part glycerine to four parts of water.

Using Tim Rowe’s method of dipping a paddle into a bath of molten beeswax means that one side of the sheet will have the pattern of the paddle, and the other side will be smooth. The thickness of the resulting sheet of wax is dependent on the operator. I found that I was able to make sheets which were about one millimeter thick.

There have been two main observations from my use of these sheets. One has been that the bees have chewed wax away from the edges of the sheets, and also that they have chewed some holes. They have not discarded this wax though, but have used it as building material for making new cells. The other observation is that when they have constructed a cell, they have chewed or reworked the wax at the bottom of the cell to make that cell-bottom very thin, just like the thickness of a cell bottom when they make cells on foundationless frames. In this process they have actually created dimples on the other side of the wax sheet. This means that they have commenced the “embossing” pattern on the smooth side of the wax sheet. This is very easy to see on the frame which I took from one of my hives, and which I hope that you can observe in the attached photographs.

Photo #1 shows cell walls which have been built, following the embossed cell pattern.

Photo #2 shows the other side of the sheet from those newly built cells, in which it is easy to see that the cell bottoms cause a convex shape to appear on what had originally been a smooth plain surface.

Photo #3 shows how the newly formed cells have very thin bottoms, compared to the greater thickness of the wax foundation sheet which I placed into the honey frame. This clearly shows that the bees have chewed / reworked the wax foundation sheet which I had made.

Photo #4 shows how bees have chewed away a significant part of the foundation sheet.Foundation Sheet #1.jpgFoundation Sheet #2.jpgFoundation Sheet #3.jpgFoundation Sheet #4.jpg
 

gmonag 

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Interesting observations Wilfred. Those bees end up doing whatever they want, despite us beekeepers!
 

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