DIY Foundation Press

16a photo 1Like many beekeepers, at the end of the season Geoff Blay found himself with a large quantity of beeswax trimmings together with a lot of very sticky equipment and the question arose as to what to do with it all.

His first idea was to make a large number of candles. But then having used up most of the wax, it accurred to him that there was a much better use – namely, to make a press that could turn blocks of wax into fresh sheets of beeswax foundation.

So Geoff had a go anyway;  recording the stages of construction … and eventual testing … in pictures. He then added a few words to describe what the pictures were showing.

( Hover over an image to reveal its  #  and Click on it to open full screen size in a new window.)

Making and using a homemade Foundation Press

1 photoHere is a photo of the completed design (Picture 1) – it is a sort of giant toasted sandwich maker with silicon moulds of starter honeycomb on each face.

I am pleased to report that it does work quite well at producing sheets of unwired foundation. It is possible to wire the foundation, although it would be slightly thicker than a rolled sheet.

Foundation Press Construction SketchBefore you set-to and begin constructing your own press, I would warn you that it will take a bit of care and attention and a few basic tools – that said, it isn’t especially difficult to do.

The components involved in its construction are identified in my ‘exploded view drawing’  (Sketch).

As for the cost, I spent about £35 on buying in some items, although I did also use a lot of bits and pieces that were lying unclaimed in the garage.

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Here are my instructions for how to make it:

a. Obtain a plastic frame with integral plastic foundation (this can be sourced from the internet) – the plastic frame must be larger than a British National brood frame (or whatever type you use) – (Picture 2).

 

3 photob. Cut a flat piece of board to exactly fit inside the plastic frame – this must be deeper than the frame and is used to keep everything perfectly level during casting – it must then be placed on a level surface eg a kitchen unit (Picture 3).

 

4 photoc. Check that the hexagonal grid is in contact with the wooden base at all points – I used a pin to keep a buckled area down on mine (Picture 4).

 

5 photod. I obtained the silicon from Silex (01420 487130)- you will need 1.5kg (750g per side) of MM730A and 150g (75g preside) of MM730B – it is important to weigh the precise amounts on accurate scales. (Silex were very generous in sending me 1kg as a free sample but I decided to top this up with another 1kg to be safe – this stuff isn’t cheap but it is good) – (Picture 5)

e. Measure half the amount for the first side (call it “A”) and mix it thoroughly – don’t worry if you make a mess or spillage and won’t need to do any washing up – just wait until dry and then peel the residue off!

6 photof. Pour a small quantity into the plastic frame and spread it using a wide blade scraper – make sure all the hexagons are filled (Picture 6).

g. Pour in the rest of the silicon – it will find its own level but help it along with the scraper. It is also important to remove the air bubbles. I did this by tapping from side to side – this can go on for some time!

7 photoh. The silicon will be set within 24 hours – I used the scraper to break the seal around the edge and then hook the casting out – mark on the back the upper edge and that it is the “A” side.

i. Repeat (e) to (h) for the “B” side – mark it accordingly (Picture 7).

8 photoj. Accurately cut two pieces of thick marine ply to the size of the silicon moulds – these boards must be flat – mark them “A” and “B” and also where the top is (Picture 8).

 

 

9 photok. Attach blocks to the bottom section for the press to stand on and a handle for the upper section – Insert screws from the inside of the press, i.e. screwing through the boards and into the blocks (Picture 9).

 

 

10 photol. Apply bathroom mastic to the relevant surfaces and spread this as smoothly as possible using the scraper/filling knife (Picture 10).

 

 

11 photom. Stick the silicon mould “A” onto the base and “B” onto the top – press to remove any air bubbles. It is very important to make sure the moulds are the correct way up and are exactly in position – check especially the alignment where the hinges will be – once the mastic has gone off it will not be easy to rectify this (Picture 11).

12 photon. Cut three pieces of baton to the width of the press (add an extra 4mm) – these are used to strengthen the hinge and to contain the molten wax. The first is screwed into the marine ply of “A” but positioned so that it rises about 1cm above “A”’s silicon mould, the second and third are screwed into the marine ply of “B” (Picture 12).

13 photoo. A section of continuous hinge (cut a piece off of a piano hinge available from a decent hardware store or internet) is attached to the two battens at the rear (Picture 13).

 

 

14 photop. Cut lengths of a 90 degree angled steel to fit on the sides and front as per picture (Picture 14).

 

 

 

Congratulations – you should now have a completed press!

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Here are a few hints on using your press:

15 photo1. Place a wide tray in front of the press and part fill with water (Picture 15).

 

2. Melt beeswax in a bain-marie or similar device and transfer to a jug or use a ladle.


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3. Lightly spray the inside of the press with a mixture of water and a small amount of washing up liquid. (Picture 16)

 

 

4. 18 photoPour a generous amount of molten wax into the press making sure the mould is covered – this must be done quickly and in one hit – avoid spillage onto the hinge if possible. (Picture 17)

 

 

20 photo5. Close the lid – the thickness of the beeswax sheet will be governed by the pressure on the lid. (Picture 18)

 

 

 

19 photo6. The surplus molten beeswax is squeezed out of the front – it sets immediately in the water. (Picture 19)

 

 

 

21 photo7. Wait a few minutes and then lift the lid to remove the set sheet of beeswax foundation. (Picture 20)

 

 

 

23 photo8. Carefully use a thin blade to lift the sheet away from the base former (Picture 21)

 

 

 

 

24 photo9. Congratulations again – you should now have a completed sheet of beeswax foundation (Picture 22) that can be trimmed down to the final size to suit your frame. Of course, the trimmings go back into the melting pot for the next sheet.

 

16b photo 2… as endorsed by our President no less …

 I would certainly be interested to hear if anyone gets this far and also any further ideas on improvements to the design.

Please let me know. Geoff Blay – gdblay@hotmail.com

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