It’s been very cold this winter, almost enough to be disheartening even to a hardy Minnesotan. But we know that this season is crucial in getting ready for spring, even if it leaves us chomping at the bit. As winter nears its end, the garden plans are finalized, hand tools are cleaned and sharpened, some seed has been started, and yet there are more tasks left to prepare for eventual warm summer days. It’s a good time to do a “hot wax” before the busy-ness of spring intervenes.
Before you may get the wrong idea, we’re talking about wax for wood preservation. Specifically, wax melted into the wood framing of our solar food dryer’s screen trays. It’s been many years since the wood was last attended to, and it finally made it to the top of our “to do” list.
We had plenty of old, low-grade beeswax from several years ago stored in a pail in the shed. After getting it melted and most of the debris screened out, we had our raw material. We decided to melt it into the pores of the cedar wood frames. First we rubbed a chunk of wax liberally over the surface, kind of like using a crayon. Then we used a technique that Bob learned when he worked for many years in a ski shop, long ago. Pine tar is normally applied by brush to the bottoms of wood skis, using a propane torch to pull the tar into the ski, preserving the wood. While this works great for a non-food surface, beeswax is far better for the dryer frames. Fire the torch on a high setting, keeping the flame moving in a circular pattern, or use a flame-spreader tip to prevent burning the surface. You can see the wood’s pores push tiny air bubbles up through the wax and suck it in as the wood cools. The heat eliminated the need for a solvent such as turpentine to get the wax to penetrate the wood. The trays now look ready for many more years of heavy use.
As for wax, low grade wax from dead hives or from brood comb works as well as the good stuff. Or you could make use of burned down candle stubs. If using candle remnants, be sure to use only those without added fragrances or dyes so you don’t risk possible food contamination.