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It goes without saying that Langstroth beehives are popular in beekeeping. They make use of beehive frames often made of wood. Some beekeepers add foundation wax in sheets to the beehive frames. Foundation helps bees draw wax faster on the frames. It also helps bees make cells of an even predetermined size as they draw comb on frames. You can make your own foundation sheets from beeswax. The wax can be bought or produced from your own beehives. For this, you can use a foundation press or a mill roller. This article takes you through making foundation using the best beeswax foundation press and mill roller.
What is a Beeswax Foundation Press?
A beeswax foundation press is an equipment used to make beehive frame foundation sheets. It requires wax to be poured onto a holding area and then pressed. Two plates of the foundation press come together and press wax between them. The plates have impressions on them that leave a pattern of cells on the resulting sheet of wax.
Pros and Cons of Using a Beeswax Foundation Press
- A foundation press uses raw wax that is melted. It does not need you to make sheets of the wax beforehand.
- Using a foundation press gives you foundation sheets that are squared. Very little trimming is required after you make the foundation sheet in the press. The sheets are also very strong and flat.
- Very few moving parts are found on a foundation press. It is easy to service and repair. A foundation press has fewer points of weakness that a mill roller. It does not break down easily.
- Making foundation sheets with a foundation press requires wax to be heated to its melting point. This means the beekeeper works with heat nearby. The hot boiler and melted wax can be hazardous when the beekeeper using the foundation press is not careful.
- With a foundation press, the beekeeper has to manage the wax boiler and the foundation press simultaneously.
How to Use a Beeswax Foundation Press
Using a foundation press is a simple and straightforward process. With the right setup, work progresses fast. You should set up your foundation press on a flat surface so that the foundation sheets you make have even thickness. Any spills of wax should be routed back to the boiler. The press is therefore best set at a height that is higher than, and just above the wax boiler you are using.
The equipment you need includes a wax scraper, an air blower, a hand spray can and a measuring tape. Follow these steps to make foundation sheets using the press:
- Open the press and clean it. Remove any leftover wax from previous use. Dust too should be removed from the plates of the press. It is best to also clean the press immediately after use, so that you have less cleaning to do next time you want to use the press.
- Using a hand spray can, apply some water with a little detergent onto the plates of the press. This helps make sure the wax sheet does not stick to the plates. It eases removal of the wax foundation sheet in later steps of the process.
- Pour wax onto the bottom unmoving plate of the foundation press. A strong plastic cup or other suitable container can be used. Do not use iron or brass with wax. Make sure that there is enough wax on the bottom plate. Some spillover is good since it assures you that there is enough wax for the foundation sheet in the press. If you do not pour in enough wax, the foundation sheet will be uneven or smaller than it should be.
- After pouring in enough wax into the foundation press, lower the moving plate of the press. It comes on top of the bottom plate. The two plates enclose wax between them. Press down the upper plate to squeeze out any air trapped under it. Some wax might be squeezed out of the press too at this stage. Make sure to press down firmly so that the foundation sheet you make will have even thickness.
- Scrape off any wax spills from the foundation press. The wax is returned into the boiler.
- Using an air blower, separate the upper plate of the foundation press from the foundation sheet you just pressed. Aim the jet of air between the wax sheet and the upper plate of the press.
- Use the air blower to separate the sheet of foundation wax from the bottom plate of the press. You can lift the sheet as you go so that separated sections do not rest on the press plate again.
- Place your sheet of foundation on a flat surface. Trim off any excess sheet and return the wax into the boiler.
Tips for Best Results
- Use only a little detergent in your spray water.
- If you do not have an air blower and compressor, you can use an edged tool to pry the foundation sheet from the press. This however risks making an impression or marks on the foundation sheet.
- For best results, one or two hinges of the foundation press are elongated to project from the upper press plate. The projecting part works as a handle to help you press down on the foundation press once you have poured wax into it.
- A block of wood or metal that is the exact size of desired foundation sheets is used to make trimming faster. Place the block of wood on the finished sheet and cut off any excess foundation sheet.
What is a Beeswax Mill Roller?
A beeswax mill roller is equipment that is used to make impressions in a sheet of wax. It features two roller drums that make cell outlines on two sides of a wax sheet. The rollers are fixed close together horizontally on a frame made using various materials including cast iron. On the surface of the rollers is a honeycomb cell design that is embossed onto beeswax foundation sheet that is passed between the rollers. The sheet is then trimmed and used as foundation sheet in Langstroth beehives.
Pros and Cons of Using a Beeswax Mill Roller
- Mill rollers can be used to make foundation sheets from long sheets of wax. Once cell outlines have been made, the sheet of foundation wax is cut into smaller sheets that will fit into your beehive frames.
- A mill roller does not require you to have a wax boiler nearby. This eliminates the risk of fire during work. It also allows the beekeeper to fully concentrate on working the mill roller.
- Foundation sheets made using a mill roller have a very uniform thickness.
- With a mill roller, you need to have prepared sheets of wax beforehand. In use, the sheet is later trimmed after rolling. This makes the use of mill rollers to have many activities that the beekeeper has to carry out.
- There are 2 drum rollers on a mill roller. They are rotated continuously in the process of using the mill roller. These moving parts require frequent maintenance servicing and lubricating. They are also likely to break down when handled roughly. If the two drums become slightly misaligned, the foundation sheets made using the mill roller are not uniformly thick and may warp.
- Hand cranking the mill roller can leave you very tired. This is especially important if you have to make many foundation sheets for a large beekeeping operation.
- Warping of foundation sheets from the mill roller requires trimming and flattening later on. The sheets may remain warped in some places and cause bees to make uneven comb.
How to Use a Mill Roller
Follow these steps to make beeswax foundation sheets using a mill roller:
- Set up your mill roller on a flat surface. A mill roller is best used while attached to a shallow bed that can hold some water.
- Add water with a little detergent in it onto the shallow bed of your mill roller. The water is useful to wet sheets of wax so that they do not stick to the roller drums.
- Wet the roller drums with detergent water. To make sure the entire drum roller surface is wet, rotate the drums as you apply the water. A sponge or other absorbent material can be used as needed.
- Place your previously prepared sheet of beeswax on the water bed of the mill roller. Make sure it is wet on both sides with detergent water.
- Pass the sheet of wax between the two roller drums. Have them enter the mill on the bottom side so that they are pressed with cell outlines and released upwards. Once the sheet of beeswax is caught between the drum rollers, crank the rollers so that the sheet is passed between the drums.
- The sheet of beeswax may come out wrapped around one of the drums. Pry it away and continue cranking the drum rollers. As more of the sheet passes between the drums, you receive it on the upper side of the mill roller using one hand.
- When the entire sheet has passed through the mill roller drums, lay it on the bed of the mill roller so it gets wet again. Flatten out any warps and then trim off excess widths from the sheet.
- Mill rollers are precision equipment. An exact distance between the roller drums allows wax sheets to pass through the drums and be pressed with the outline of cells. This requires you to have sheets of wax that are of exact thickness.
- If too thin, the sheets of wax will not get properly impressed with the outline of cell. They may also not be properly caught between the drum rollers and therefore give poor overall results.
- If the sheets of beeswax are too thick, they may not pass through the mill roller drums. Even when they do, the sheet is excessively warped and elongated due to the extra wax.
Best Beeswax Foundation Press and Mill Rollers
4. Beeswax Foundation Press (Cell Size 5.4mm/4.9mm)
This 200 x 420mm beeswax foundation press is a honeycomb cell pattern imprinting machine. It comes in form of two plates with a hinge between them. The plates are easy to mount on a beeswax foundation press frame. They work well and give nicely imprinted beeswax foundation sheets.
The metal used to make beeswax foundation press plates is a major consideration. It comes into contact with the beeswax and should be food safe. These plates are made using hard aluminum alloy that is indeed food safe. It does not react with wax or harm it in any way. The hardness of the aluminum alloy metal prevents the plates from warping in use even when a lot of pressure is applied on them during pressing. The aluminum alloy also releases wax foundation sheets with ease once you have pressed them.
This beeswax foundation press plate gives you large-sized foundation sheets. You can then trim them to fit your beehive frames. The press gives you sheets that can fit anything from shallow to deep beehive frames of Langstroth beehives. It imprints a uniform cell size of 5.4mm in the foundation sheets. This gives you large bees that are great at foraging and defending the hive. You also have the option of going for plates that imprint a cell size of 4.9mm. The smaller size of bees helps with Varroa mite control in beehives. These plates with hinges weigh a total of approximately 15kg. They are easy to use and give you very nicely pressed foundation sheets.Check Price on Amazon
3. Beeswax Foundation Mill with Engraved Rollers (Cell Size 5.4 mm)
This beeswax foundation mill is a roller-type foundation sheet making machine. It features drum rollers on a casing. The roller drums are engraved with a honeycomb cell design that they impart onto sheets of beeswax foundation passed between them. This is a hand-cranked beeswax foundation mill. It is easy to install and setup on various supplementary surfaces. It saves you money by enabling you to make foundation sheets from beeswax harvested in your beekeeping operation instead of buying the foundation.
Roller drums of this beeswax foundation mill impart a honeycomb cell size of 5.4mm. This large cell size results in production of large bees when the foundation is used for brood. It also enables storage of more honey per cell in the beehive. The roller drums measure 420mm in length. This is an ideal length because it allows preparation of foundation sheets that can be used on deep beehive boxes. The sheets require trimming to fit onto medium and shallow beehive frames.
The engineering and craftsmanship of this foundation mill is outstanding. The mill features components such as a stopper bolt, shock absorber and frame spacer. These make the mill safe to use and very reliable. It does not break down easily even with some rough treatment. The material used to make the rollers that come into contact with beeswax foundation sheets is high strength tempered steel. It is coated with a non-stick polymer that allows milled foundation sheets to come off easily. An operation and setup manual comes with the mill and helps you get the best out of this beeswax foundation roller mill.Check Price on Amazon
2. Foundation Machine Mill Finish Beeswax Rollers (Cell Size 5.4mm)
Making beeswax foundation is a breeze with this roller-type foundation mill. It has two drums with a cell pattern engraved on them. The rollers imprint the pattern on sheets of wax that are passed through the foundation mill. This mill is made using excellent craftsmanship. It is reliable and does not break down easily. The hand cranking mechanism of the mill is easy to use. It is not too hard to crank and requires just a little energy. The crank has a reasonable length which gives you best use of applied energy. At the end of the handle is a grip that allows rotation and is nicely shaped to fit into your hand.
This beeswax foundation sheets machine has rollers that measure 300mm. They are good for the production of foundation sheets to be used in all beehive frame depths. A little trimming might be needed for foundation sheets to fit the smaller frame depths such as shallow frames. On the foundation sheets, this mill roller leaves impressions for cell sizes that are 5.4mm big. The foundation produced with the roller mill therefore allows for production of large bees and the storage of more honey per frame in the beehive.
The rollers of this foundation mill are safe to use with wax. They are made using tempered steel and coated with a non-stick polymer. The mill also features components such as a set bolt, pinion spacer, bearing and a base assembly. They make the mill reliable with its consistent results and very safe to work with.Check Price on Amazon
1. Beeswax Foundation Press Machine with Cooler (Cell Size 5.4mm)
Making beeswax foundation sheets using a press is a process that involves working with hot materials. The press can heat up and slow down the production process. This beeswax foundation press machine is built with a cooler to keep everything below a set temperature. It is made in the design of a regular beeswax foundation press and then fitted with a cooler fan at the top.
The press plates are 400 x 230 mm in dimension. They allow production of beeswax foundation sheets that can fit shallow, medium and deep beehive frames of Langstroth beehives. These press plates are made of food grade aluminum. It does not harm the wax and loses heat with ease. The press plates of this beeswax foundation press have a cell imprint that is 5.4mm large. The entire assembly weighs approximately 4kg. It can be mounted on a frame for ease of use.
On the upper surface of the upper press plate on this beeswax foundation press is a cooler fan. The fan is mounted on a heat sink. The fan and heat sink assembly help to cool the aluminum plates of this foundation press. A current of 12 Volts is required to run the fan. The fan comes with a digital thermometer that turns the fan on and off automatically depending on the temperature reached in the press. By cooling the press, the release of ready foundation sheets is made easier. As a result, you take less time to prepare a single sheet of foundation. You are promised a rate of more than 50 beeswax foundation sheets per hour with this cooled beeswax foundation press.Check Price on eBay
A DIY Wax Foundation Press
Making a wax foundation press for your beekeeping operation is possible. You can make one using locally available materials. It is easier than making a roller mill. The major equipment required is drilling and joinery equipment. One way to go about making a DIY wax foundation press is to purchase the press plates. Commercially available press plates have a honeycomb cell impression on them and are ready to use. You then make the mounting frame for the press plates, hinges and other parts that are required. This saves you from having to go through the process of making moulds.
If you have the proper knowledge and are willing to, you can make your own press plates for your DIY wax foundation press. The plates should be made from a honey-friendly metal. Iron, copper and brass should be avoided. If you can get it, stainless steel is the best metal to use. The press plates should be of a size big enough to allow pressing of beeswax foundation sheets for shallow, medium and deep frames.
Molding the press plates for a beeswax foundation press requires working with high temperatures that can melt metals. It also needs you to know about the making of casts and negatives. The process is on the other hand very rewarding because you make plates with your preferred cell sizes. You can make many plates that are interchangeable on the mounting for the foundation press. The plate to be used is chosen based on the size of honeycomb cells you want on the foundation sheets.
Pros of a DIY Wax Foundation Press
- You can make the mounting frame for press plates to take different plates. This allows you to make foundation sheets that have differently sized honeycomb cell outlines. You therefore easily go for smaller or larger bees than usual. It is also possible that you go for more drone comb than worker comb.
- By making the foundation press by yourself, you learn all there is about its structure and weaknesses. In the event of a break down, you are able to easily solve the problem and get the beeswax foundation press working again.
Cons of a DIY Wax Foundation Press
- The process of making the press is long and tedious. Despite the rewards at the end of it, it might sometimes be better to purchase a foundation press that is ready to be put to work as soon as it is delivered.
- Lack of some required equipment or materials may make you use alternatives that are of lower quality. This affects the final foundation press you make. It might breakdown often, or not give very good results in the beeswax foundation sheets you press using it.
A Final Word
Making beeswax foundation sheets is an important step in adding value to beehive products. You can do it to make foundation sheets for your own use, or to sell to other beekeepers. Using a beeswax foundation press or mill roller is easy. It can be done by both beginner beekeepers and experienced beekeepers. Foundation allows you to give your honeybees a head start in drawing comb. It also guides the bees on the plane on which to draw comb so that you do not have a lot of cross comb in the beehive. Use this information about the best beeswax foundation press and mill rollers to boost the productivity and returns of your beekeeping operation.
Have you ever used any of the above foundation presses or mill rollers before? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.