How to Assemble a Solar Wax Melter

By Howland Blackiston

After you’ve cut all the pieces of your solar wax melter, it’s time to clear a good work space and put all this stuff together. You start with the floor of the solar wax melter and work your way to the top.

  1. Attach the riser to the lower and upper floors.

    First use the deck screws and a power drill with a #2 Phillips head bit to attach the lower floor to the riser. Doing this is easiest with these elements of the floorboard assembly turned upside down on your work surface (the screws go through what will be the underside of the lower floorboard and into the lower edge of the vertical riser).

    This is a simple butt joint. Just line up the edges so that they’re flush with each other.

    Now flip these two components right-side up on the worktable and use deck screws to attach the upper floorboard to the top edge of the vertical riser; just line up the edges so that they’re flush with each other.

    Throughout the entire floor assembly, consider using a weatherproof wood glue in addition to the screws. It helps make the structure as strong as possible. Apply a thin coat of glue wherever the wooden parts are joined together (the exception is the glazed top, which you do not want to glue, just in case you need to replace the glazing).

    The screws will go in easier if you first drill a 7/64-inch hole in each spot you plan to place a screw. The pre-drilling also helps prevent the wood from splitting. Refer to the earlier figures to determine where the screws go.

  2. Attach the cleats to the upper and lower floors.

    First use the nails and a hammer to attach the two cleats to the upper floorboard. Position the cleats flush with the front and side edges of the upper floorboard. You’ll have a 2-inch gap left in the center (for the melted wax to flow through). A couple of nails per cleat will do the trick. See the following figure for the approximate placement of the nails.

    Now take the remaining cleat and attach it to the lower floorboard using the nails. To determine the exact placement, place your smaller disposable aluminum loaf pan on the bottom floor, as shown in the following figure. This helps you determine where to attach the cleat (the dimensions of these pans vary from brand to brand).

    The objective is to position this cleat so that the pan doesn’t slide out of position. After all, it will be on a 15 degree incline. This pan collects the melting wax as it flows from the larger pan that sits on the upper floor. A couple of nails per cleat should the trick.

  3. Attach the floor assembly to the front and rear vertical panels.

    Turn the entire floor assembly over and attach the front and rear vertical panels to the front and rear of the floor assembly. The large panel attaches to the lower floor, and the smaller panel attaches to the upper floor. Use deck screws to attach the panels to the floor assembly. The screws go through the lower and upper floors and into the edges of the vertical panels.

    These are simple butt joints. The edges of the pieces should be flush with each other. Precise placement isn’t critical. Now flip the entire thing over again and proceed to the next step.

  4. Attach the side panels to the floor assembly.

    Use deck screws to attach the floor assembly (which now includes the front and rear panels) to the side panels. The screws go through the side panels and into the edges of the floor assembly. Note that the floor assembly is tilted within the side panels so that gravity will do its trick and direct the melting wax into the collection pan.

    You’ll make life a lot easier if you first pre-drill 7/64 -inch guide holes in the side panels. Lay a side panel on the workbench and then position the edge of the entire floor assembly on the side panel (just as it will go when screwed together). Use a pencil to trace the outline of the floor assembly’s edges on the side panel.

    Do the same thing for the other side panel. Now drill the guide holes in the side panels. This little step makes it a lot easier to correctly align and attach the floor assembly within the two side panels. Otherwise it will be a hit or miss exercise.

    Use the following figure to determine the approximate placement of screws. The objective is to make sure that screws go into the edges of all the critical components of the floor assembly: rear panel, upper floor, riser, lower floor, and front panel.

  5. Build the glazed top assembly.

    Use deck screws to attach one of the short rails to the two long rails. These are simple butt joints. You’re essentially building a picture frame. Take care to align and match up the dado grooves; these are the channels into which the window panel fits. Use two screws per corner (avoid placing a screw where it may interfere with the dado groove).

    Now take the polycarbonate window panel and slide it into the dado grooves of the partially assembled frame. Assuming the glazed panel was cut perfectly “square,” it will square up the frame nicely.

    Using two deck screws per corner, attach the remaining short rail to the long rails. Again, be careful to avoid placing a screw where it may interfere with the dado groove and the newly installed window panel.

    Using screws (versus nails) allows you to remove the glazed panel at a later date, should it ever need replacing. For this reason, do not use wood glue on the glazed top assembly.

  6. Paint all wooden surfaces matte black.

    To protect the wood and better retain solar heat, paint all the wood surfaces, inside and out, using a matte black exterior paint. Two or three coats will do the trick. Let each coat dry completely before adding the next.

  7. Place the aluminum pans inside the solar wax melter.

    Cut a 2-inch-wide flap centered along one of the long sides of the large roasting pan (see the following figures). This hole and flap allow the melting wax to flow into the smaller pan below. The larger roasting pan sits on the inclined upper floor, with the cut-out flap aligned with the gap between the two retaining cleats. Fill the large pan with your wax cappings and other harvested comb.

    The smaller loaf pan sits on the lower floor, snug against the riser and aligned to collect the melting wax from the larger pan above.

  8. Put the glazed top assembly on the solar wax melter.

    The removable top fits on and over the top of the wax melter (like a hat fits on a head). Position the entire unit so that the glazed top is exposed to the direct sun (facing south is best). Now all you need are some warm, sunny days and you’ll soon have a lovely block of pure, natural beeswax. Time to make candles, furniture polish, and cosmetics!

    [Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design]
    Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design

[Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design]

Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design