Types of Wax
This is a general knowledge section about the different types of wax. IT is not a specific information area. If you are interested in where the waxes come from, how they are refined…etc, you will find the information here. For specific wax questions, like what is in J223, visit your supplier’s website. If you are interested in learning more about the different types of waxes and what applications they have, then please continue.
What is paraffin wax and where does it come from?
- Paraffin wax is a complex hydrocarbon refined from petroleum. It comes from fossilized trees, animals, bacteria etc. It is considered a fossil fuel and is a precipitate from refining crude oil into natural gas, heating oil and gasoline. While that sounds yucky considering the “green” movement in our society, it is interesting to note that it is a renewable source on our planet. Not for the massive energy needs of our modern society, but as a cycle on our planet. If you are unsure how oil came into being, here is a quickie little lesson. I’ll use trees as they take the longest to turn into oil:
Falls in the Forest (Yes, it made noise...LOL)
Covered by mosses, fungi and bacteria start the breakdown process
Releases Nitrates, Phosphates for other trees to grow
Unbreakable Cellulose is covered by topsoil, leaves...etc
Moves down into the Earth’s Crust, crushed cellulose begins to break down further
Crushing continues until the unbreakable cellular structures start to fuse
Without going into technical details, the remaining tree turns to oil.
- At any given point there are literally millions of tons of broken down trees turning to oil every year. The oil might only be as little as a teaspoon at first, but it will grow.
- For further information on the actual refinement of paraffin go here: http://igiwax.com/wax-basics/how-wax-is-made/
What are the uses of paraffin wax?
- Ah good question. Paraffin wax is very diverse. It can be used as a pillar wax, votive wax, container wax, hurricane wax and embed wax. Paraffin’s range of uses is typically defined by how hard or soft the wax is. In this case, hard and soft refer to the amount of oil in the wax. Generally, the less oil, the harder the wax, the higher the melting point.
What is Soy Wax and where does it come from?
- Good question. Many people are confused about soy wax, most only know it comes from soy beans. And it does, but it’s not that simple. Soy wax starts as soy oil from the hull part of the bean. The hulls are stripped of their oil/wax coating during a solvent refinement, cooking or pressing. The solvent is recouped and the course oil is further refined.
- Here is an excellent source for how soybeans are processed: http://www.fao.org/inpho/content/compend/text/Ch19sec2.htm#.
- Here is a flow chart of the processing into oil: http://www.fao.org/inpho/content/compend/img/ch19/ph02599.htm.
- And finally a history of soybean production: http://www.futurefood.com/Pages/51vierling.html.
- Soy oil becomes soy wax by further refinement and the addition of another natural oil, the most popular one used is cottonseed oil. It is interesting to note that soy wax production is constantly changing with each passing year. Many manufacturers of soy wax are discovering better blends for their waxes, and in some cases no additional oil is necessary. Soy wax has certainly come a long way from just being Crisco.
What are the uses for soy wax?
- Soy wax is almost as diverse as paraffin wax. It can be used for container candles, votives and pillars. Like paraffin the harder the wax, the less oil and the higher the melt point. To date there really isn’t a sufficiently high melting point soy wax on the market that can be successfully used as a hurricane wax without the addition of stearine. Embed wax is also elusive for strictly soy. But I would keep watch because new soy waxes are always being developed.
What is Palm Wax? What does it do?
- Palm wax is a very interesting wax. It is all natural and comes from the flesh of the palm tree. Unlike soy oil, minimal pressing is needed to separate the oil from the flesh. Processed palm oil is refined, deodorized, and bleached with a variety of solvents to produce a clear oil. Further refinement isolates the oil into two types; a liquid called palm olein and a solid called palm stearine. Olein is commonly used as frying oil while stearine is used in a variety of baked goods and is used as blends (with other tropical oils) in waxes or as an additive to increase the melting point of other waxes.
- Palm wax itself will yield a crystalline to feathering structure to candles depending on the blend that is used. In general it has a high melting point. There are many uses for Palm Wax that can be found here: http://www.candlewic.com/candle-wax/pop-natural.asp
What is bayberry wax?
- Bayberry wax is derived from the berries on a bayberry shrub. It is a thin wax that is separated from the berries by boiling. 100% bayberry wax is very fragrant by itself but also tends to be brittle. Most people will mix it with beeswax to give it some elasticity. Out of all the natural waxes bayberry wax is by far the most expensive. The general melting point of bayberry wax is 130 degrees.
What about Beeswax? Where does it come from? How can you use it?
- Beeswax is one of the original fuels for candles used by humans. The real original was animal fat with either grass or corn flax for a wick. Beeswax is all natural, it is made exclusively by bees all over the world. It is harvested as a by product of honey production and is refined by either heating it naturally (in the sun) or boiling it to separate the wax honeycomb from the honey. Most beekeepers use what is called a sun box to separate the honey from the comb, this uses solar energy and will not damage the prize product, honey. Boiling the combs normally comes after most of the honey has been harvested. The heat separates the honey and the wax along with all the propolis (dead bees) and the wax is skimmed off the water and set to harden. Further refinement is necessary for candlemaking and cosmetics (another good use for beeswax). This refinement is done by filtering the melted wax through various materials. I use pantyhose.
- Beeswax is produced by the honey bee. It is secreted by 2 glands located on the abdomen and its sole purpose to the bee is a building material. The bees use the wax to build walls to keep the honey in its place so that it doesn’t run out the bottom of the hive. It is also used to build chambers for baby bees (pupae), the queen’s chamber, defensive walls and of course the outside of the hive if they build one (bees come in all forms, some don’t like to build a whole hive and will find dead trees and such). It is waterproof, has antibacterial properties and has a high melting point. All essential characteristics for a perfect building material….and all from a bee’s butt. LOL.
- It has many uses in cosmetics, candles, waterproofing materials…the list goes on and on. Beeswax can be used on its own, no additives are needed. The one thing that is a little touch and go with beeswax is container candles. You really have to test the right wicking in order to get these to burn correctly. Square braided wicking works the best with beeswax candles, although lots of people like flat braid too. The melting point of beeswax is around 158 degrees F.
- You can mix any wax with beeswax to enhance your final product. As it is slightly more expensive if you want to do solid beeswax candles, I suggest you find a beekeeper in your area that will sell you the wax. Chances are, they throw it away after they have harvested the honey.
What are beeswax sheets? How are they used?
- Beeswax sheets are known to beekeepers as foundations. They are typically produced in sheet sizes of 8-81/2” by 16” on a foundation machine. A foundation machine melts the beeswax, carries it by conveyor belt through a stretching portion that stretches the wax and cools it at the same time. It is then embossed with a foundation (little mini honeycomb) pattern and sold to beekeepers OR further embossed with a large honeycomb pattern and sold to candlemakers.
- Beeswax sheets are used for rolled beeswax candles. You can melt the beeswax and pour the candles, but quite frankly it is cheaper just to buy blocks if you are going to do that.