View Full Version : Natural Comb Foundation Mold
02-28-2005, 08:35 AM
For several years, I've been thinking of building a natural comb foundation mold. Since I lost one of my tbhs due to a queen failure, I now have the natural comb to experiment with. I plan on shaving the cell walls down leaving a cell wall rim on the midrib base, much like a sheet of foundation.
Then I will construct a concrete foundation mold. These have been constructed and used successfully by many in Europe. The concrete is somewhat porous and can retain some water which helps cool the mold and act as a release agent.
Stephen, a contributor at biobee has some good construction shots. I'll post a link to them later. Basically a wooden frame is constructed, some reinforcements are added, and the wax is placed between a couple of concrete pours.
Any artists/mold makers have any better ideas?
The resulting foundation should have the tapered cell size found in natural comb. I hope that such a foundation will be drawn out as easily and rapidly as natural comb is. And that the same great mite resistance characteristics I've found with small cell will be apparent.
02-28-2005, 02:48 PM
How about just fill the comb as is with the slip (concrete) and after curing heat it enough to melt the wax to get it into two parts. Then use that mold to make a sheet. Then maybe use the sheet to come back and make a stonger mold. I'm just thinking it will be difficult to shave the cell walls off without damaging the mid rib.
03-20-2005, 01:48 PM
I would use something called hydrocal and not cement. Hydrocal is similar to plaster of paris but much stronger. I think it would give better detail than cement.
What is not clear to me is how to get the final sheets of foundation after making the two part mold, since pouring hot wax into the extremely thin space would likely fail to reproduce the foundation, since the wax would freeze before filling up the space.
I wonder how the make the regular foundation. Perhaps with aluminum molds that could be heated and press onto thin sheets of wax???
For a home made solution, a better option than cement or even hydrocal, would be to make the mold with silicone, which would be easy to make and would give excellent detail (see www.smothon.com). (http://www.smothon.com).) The original would be preserved, most likely intact, although I don't think I would return that to the bees, since the poured uncured silicone might leave some undesirable smell.
Let me know if I can collaborate on the project. I'm a sculptor and handle these materials with a certain degree of knowledge...
03-20-2005, 02:17 PM
>since pouring hot wax into the extremely thin space would likely fail to reproduce the foundation, since the wax would freeze before filling up the space.
My assumption was that I don't expect it to fill the small spaces, I just want it to make a sheet of wax. You could probably fill the smaller cracks with something and wash off what was on the surface.
>I wonder how the make the regular foundation. Perhaps with aluminum molds that could be heated and press onto thin sheets of wax???
Steel plates under pressure emboss blank sheets of wax.
03-20-2005, 04:49 PM
Michael, I do not understand what your assumption in the message above was.
How would the cement mold be used? In the same manner as the steel plates? Squishing a pre-made thin film of wax between them to emboss the pattern?
03-20-2005, 05:10 PM
I'm assuming, if I were trying to do this, that I would make a molde of the comb with plaster or "water putty" or some similar substance. Then I would melt out the wax (gently in a 200 degree or so oven). Then I would fill the cracks with the same substance I made the mold with and rub off all the excess with a brussh and then use it as a mold for pouring molten wax on and putting the two halves together and then letting it get solid.
I don't think any cement/plaster/putty is going to withstand the pressure of embossing.
But I think its MUCH easier to just let the bees build what they want anyway. smile.gif
03-21-2005, 04:57 AM
I made one of these molds with the water putty. Plans were in an old book at the public library. You use a sheet of new foundation and pour the two halves of water putty (hinged for easy and exact allignment. The directions simply said, that after you remove the initial sheet of foundaiton, to melt wax, pour it in, wait until it cools and lift the lid.
I had one *trying* time removing the cooled wax. It stuck to both sides of the mold. I soon gave up, but that heavy thing in still down the basement. If it didn't weight so much I'd put it on e-bay. If anyone can make it work, I'd like to know what I did wrong.
I'm now becoming a follower of MB: strips in the top bar and let the bees draw it out. I also wire my frames diagonally so they don't fall apart.
03-21-2005, 09:37 AM
<it stuck to both sides of the mold>
Would it help to spray Pam cooking oil into it before you pour in the wax? Also, if you could get it into the freezer I understand that wax contracts when it hardens. Maybe it will also contract when it is chilled.
Another trick you can try is to make "blank" pieces of foundation by dipping a damp poplar board into molten wax several times until it is coated with wax to the thickness that you want. You then peel off the wax, warm it to 100-110 degrees F and lay it into the mold. Next, press the mold down hard enough to emboss the cells into the wax but not hard enough to break the mold, of course. This is the way that they made foundation when roller mills were first invented but before they discovered how to make long rolls of blank foundation like they use today. You may have to experiment some to find out the best temps. to use in each step but IMHO it should work even if you had to use some releasing agent like Pam and molds stronger than what have already been mentioned. What do you think, Dennis?
Lesli St. Clair
03-22-2005, 04:11 AM
In John Vivian's book, Keeping Bees (from the mid-80s) he gives plans (and pictures) for creating such a mold.
The book is still in print.
04-02-2005, 01:46 PM
I second the recommendation of John Vivian's foundation mold plans. Good instructions for building it and advice on how to use it.The only thing he mentions being a problem is getting the wax as thin as what you buy commercially. His method was to pour melted wax onto the mold and then slam it closed like a waffle iron. I bet if you instead took a pan about the size you want the foundation to be, filled it with hot water, and then poured in as much weight in melted wax as desired for the foundation thickness, the wax would form an even sheet at the top of the water (like fat on gravy smile.gif ) which could be removed when cool, then put in the mold and pressed.
However, from what I understand, bees will build their own comb faster than they'll draw out foundation...but maybe a mold would be worth it just to have starter strips made from your own wax.
(edited to add) John Vivian also recommended that whatever "matrix" (molding material such as water putty or plaster of paris) you use, make sure it isn't the type that generates heat while it cures. This can melt the foundation sheet you're taking the mold from enough to ruin the detail.
04-02-2005, 03:45 PM
If you want sheets, I'd recommend dipping wet boards. It works very well and you don't have to wait for the water to cool.