Below is more information on how to build wax dipping set up, if you want to build your own. It has drawings and diagrams from another beekeeper, plus my notes on how it was modified. The beekeeper who sent me the drawings put about $3000 to have this custom made, plus another $1300 for wax. Ben was able to make ours, and we were able to find stainless scrap pretty cheap so we have less into the the materials, but have the same in for wax at least.

My tank does not have a heat shield and was made with heavy duty castors rather than openings for pallet jack for movement. I like the castors, but would probably prefer the heat shield or some sort of thermal barrier - both for safety, and for keeping the heat constant.  I use it a lot in the summer, and it is hot work.  It would be nicer to use as a winter project, but it takes so much more propane to keep the tank at temperature.

My tank does not have a heat shield and was made with heavy duty castors rather than openings for pallet jack for movement. I like the castors, but would probably prefer the heat shield or some sort of thermal barrier - both for safety, and for keeping the heat constant. I use it a lot in the summer, and it is hot work. It would be nicer to use as a winter project, but it takes so much more propane to keep the tank at temperature.

The boxes will float in the wax, so you’ll need something to hold them down.  This is a fancy version - with a spring catch.  I used a homemade ‘ladder’ out of rebar and scraps, that I put a cinder block on for weight.  It does involve getting pretty close to the wax, so I wear a full front apron, and elbow high safety gloves (rubber with a high temp insulation).

The boxes will float in the wax, so you’ll need something to hold them down. This is a fancy version - with a spring catch. I used a homemade ‘ladder’ out of rebar and scraps, that I put a cinder block on for weight. It does involve getting pretty close to the wax, so I wear a full front apron, and elbow high safety gloves (rubber with a high temp insulation).

This is from the beekeeper who sent me the diagrams, but my experience is basically the same- “Inside tank dimension are 36" x 24" by 34" depth, and it sits 8" above the ground on a steel base, so total overall height it 42". It has a heat shield around the inner tank that sits out about 2 inches. As it is, we stand on a pallet so that we can get stuff in and out of it easier without having to reach in too much. With this tank I can do 10 mediums at a time or 6 deeps. I wouldn't make it any deeper, I think ours is just right. The interior of the tank is made entirely of stainless steel. The bottom plate is 1/4inch and the sides are 11 gauge. We then have a 16 gauge galvanized heat shield around the whole thing so that we don't burn ourselves and a 16 gauge lid that we place on it when we're done to keep dust and debris out of it.

My propane burner I made myself using a 0-20PSI adjustable regulator, 3/4 black pipe, and a gas/air mixer, HPGX-1, from http://www.tejassmokers.com My initial burner was just 1 pipe with 5/32 holes drilled every half inch. This did not put out enough heat and took 10 hours to melt all the wax and get it up to 250. I then modified this and made it 3 burner pipes. It only took 6 hours to heat it from a solid block up to 270. On our first day of dipping I fired up the burner at 8am and we were dipping by 2pm. The next day all the wax was still pretty liquid with just a 1 inch skin on top, it only took 2 hours to heat it back up to 270. Next time that I plan to dip I'm going to heat it up Friday night when I get home from work, and then let it sit over night, fire it up Sat at 8am so we can start dipping at 10am. All in I used about (4) 20# gas grill propane tanks, but you would want to have at least 5-6 handy. I had to keep swapping tanks out every 30-60 minutes because the tanks would get too cold and would start to freeze, then the pressure would drop causing the flame to be lower and not put out as much heat.”

Some notes from my experience

  • The tank doesn’t clean very easily, so we made a metal skimmer for the tank to get any floating debris (grass, dead bees, etc). I don’t have a solution for removing the dirt and small items that sink to the bottom. That isn’t built into these plans.

  • I don’t mind doing used boxes, but they have to be clean enough not to gum up the wax. Because I have done painted boxes and old boxes, the wax has darkened a bit, but I don’t mind the color change. If there is dirt, it can stick to the boxes, and they are perfectly fine, but don’t always look “clean” - which I tell other people who are getting brand new equipment dipped.

  • I generally get up at 4:00 am on the day that I am going to dip to start the fire, so it is warm by 9am. I can usually dip until mid afternoon, and then it becomes hard to get it up to temperature because of all the moisture in the wood. If there are a lot of brand new boxes, or they have been left in the rain, this can be even worse, and I’ll have to take a break to let the water boil off and the wax to come back up to temp. If it is cold out, I’d probably start it the night before, as it can take a really long time to melt the wax block.

  • I have to watch the propane tanks closely. They freeze, so we are constantly switching them out, or tipping them over, or thumping them to loosen frozen valves. It would be great to have about 4 on hand - we have only two, and usually run to the gas station for a refill once per day.

  • It takes hours to melt the wax block (which translates into at least a full tank of propane), so I try to have enough woodenware on hand to have it going for at least two days. I’ll stop when it gets too cool (which usually coincides with me being too tired). If it is warm, I’ll shut it off, and restart it early the next day. If it is cool, I’ll leave it on low overnight.

  • There is a huge fire risk, and we’ve had one boil-over (an accidental spill of some water into the tank caused the tank to bubble and overflow). I put ours on castors so we can do it on the cement pad in front of the garage. I always have a fire extinguisher handy, and watch what is near the burners.

  • It really isn’t worth it to do if the tank gets low on wax. The wax is super expensive, but having it full means I can do 6 deep boxes at a time (compared to 4), which really makes a difference when you are doing a lot of equipment. I haven’t switched to using beeswax, because it is so low temp, and will get sticky. I know some people use that mixture, but I really want a high temperature, because I am also doing a lot of used equipment, and a main goal is sterilization.