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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Sad Saga of the Wax Tube Fastener

I purchased a "wax tube fastener" from Dadant to make securing the starter strips in my frames much easier. Everyone speaks highly of them on the Beemaster forum. This is what a wax tube fastener looks like. It comes with NO instructions beyond the description on the Dadant Internet page. Here are the instructions from that page:
"Wax Tube Fastener is ideal for securing foundation into grooved thin top bar (cut comb and chunk honey) frames. Metal cylinder is filled by lowering into container of hot, liquid beeswax. When cylinder is filled, wax is retained in cylinder by placing finger over air hole. With foundation in place, the wax tube fastener is run along the top bar groove. By removing finger from air hole, a small amount of wax flows out to cement the foundation to the top bar. Each, wt. 5 oz."

So I took the WTF apart (see below), melted my wax and then poured wax into the tube.

The wax immediately hardened - DUH - the tube wasn't hot since I poured the wax in. I was so frustrated that I ended up using the bread pan that I used in an earlier post to put the wax in the grooves for the starter strips. BTW, the BandAid on my index finger is from an injury sustained as I tried to push out the old medium frame foundations (built out fully in comb) from last year so I could substitute the starter strips - Beekeeping is a dangerous business.

When I finished I poured the rest of the melted wax through a run panty hose and made this lovely beeswax bar in a bread pan.

In great frustration, I posted a query on Beemaster about how to use the wax tube fastener - seems lovely in concept, but I couldn't imagine using it. Here's what I asked:

"Last night I needed to fasten starter strips to my newly cleaned medium frames - I melted wax in the double boiler and poured it into the tube. The tube is then very hot and NOTHING comes out of the tiny hole in the tip. I tried to reinsert the wooden handle but it was difficult with the hot tube to hold. The instructions on the product description say to fill the tube by lowering it into a container of hot beeswax and then putting your finger over the hole at the tip - it's hot as H..... - how in the world do others do that? And what about all the wax that will then cover the tube that you are supposed to put your finger over the tip of - hot again as H.... This seems like a masochistic act to me.....

What should I do to make the wax tube fastener functional?
How do the rest of you happy tube users keep from

1. getting burned?
2. dripping wax all over the place?
3. getting the wax to come out of the tiny hole?

Michael Bush (my beekeeping hero) said:

"I put a tin can in a pan of boiling water to melt the wax. When it's melted, put the wax tube fastener in the wax and wait for it to get up to the temperature of the wax. If you don't let it get hot, the wax just congeals inside and won't come out. If you lift it out now and then you'll see if wax runs out the tip or not. Once it's warmed up the wax will have run into the tube. You put your thumb over the hole and pick it up and it's like putting your thumb over the end of a drinking straw to keep the liquid in the straw. When you have the tip of the wax tube fastener over the spot you want to wax you lift your thumb to let the wax run out. I hold the frame at a slight angle to the side and a slight angle down and start at the top. The wax runs down the foundation and the top bar all the way to the other end. When you want to stop you put your thumb back on the hole and move to the other side."

To read the entire thread, click here.

I still am unclear as to how one avoids getting burned when you "lift" the wax fastener out of the melted wax with your thumb over the opening of the tube. I certainly will try again using the MB method.

Note: Apparently (later response from MB on my Beemaster question) you don't SUBMERGE the wax tube fastener in the hot wax but rather hold it in the wax so that the tube doesn't completely fill, leaving the top of the tube available for holding without burning. You can then lift the tube out of the wax to see if wax has gone into the tube and if it is filling. THEN holding your thumb over the large opening, you take the now-loaded-with-wax tube to the frame in which you plan to glue the starter strip.
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  1. Right on, Linda!

    I don't see how to pick up the wax tube when it is covered in hot wax inside the pan, either, but perhaps with some little tongs it could be done.

    I've decided that hot wax is not the most easy thing to work with--seems to go with the (bee) territory, though! :)

  2. Anonymous10:49 AM

    I enjoy reading your blog, and am always happy to see you have updated it. Today I got a chuckle out the line, "So I took the WTF apart (see below), melted my wax and then poured wax into the tube.". WFT has a different meaning to many people on the web. It might have fit you feelings at the time though. :)

  3. It all looks like dangerous work to me Linda ! Looking at your pictures and reading your blog, which I must say, it extremely interesting and well written, makes me more determined to change to Top Bar frames when I have the confidence.

  4. This is the easiest thing possible.......In the pot of wax...keep the level so if you lay the waxer in the pot, the level of the wax will be about 3/4 of the way up the tube. You have to wait for it to get nice and hot. Then put your thumb over the hole and lift it out. As you slowly let air into the hole with your thumb, by moving it a LITTLE bit, wax will run out of the end.......Practice with a large straw........z

  5. I don't know if you ever found the answer, but there are TWO holes in the contraption. One at the tip, one on the handle. You're supposed to hold the hole on the handle, and dip wax out like a straw as Mike said.

    I noticed nobody caught that in the comments, so just wanted to make that clear.

  6. At least there's a few people in here smart enough to operate one of these the rest of you need to stick to wedge top bars.


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