As I was looking at a piece of leftover metal sheet from building the owl box I realized we could use it to build a solar wax melter. Bees make comb to store honey and polen and as "wombs" for new bees. Once they've reused the comb a couple of times if you take it out and extract honey from it what's left isn't just wax. It'll have left-over cocoons, polen, etc. To get clean wax you need to split those things up and the easiest way is to just heat it up making the wax fluid. You can do this on a stove but why pay for the energy to do it when the sun can provide it. A solar wax melter is a very simple device. It's just a small green-house of sorts where the comb is put on a ramp so that the wax will drip out as it's heated.
The idea here was reuse. We started with an old wine box, the leftover sheet metal and an old plastic container to collect the wax. We're probably going to replace the plastic container with a glass one as heated plastic can give off harmful chemicals.
After a lot of measurement and back and forth we decided to set the metal flat on the box and just create the angle by putting some feet on one side of the box. So we folded the metal so as to create a funnel like exit into the box, to try and make sure only the liquid wax gets through and put it inside the box.
We used the dividers from the wine box nailed to the sides as feet, setting the box up at a fifteen degree angle. To finish it up quickly we bought an Ikea picture frame, took out the back and just set it on top, using the frame itself to keep it in place.
That proved the concept pretty well and we got good wax right away.
Eventually after being outside in the rain for a few days the Ikea frame self-destructed and so we did a simple fix. We took the glass out of the frame and glued a small block of wood to one side so that it holds the glass on top of the box without sliding. This has been working fine and the fact that the glass is much bigger than the box should help protect it from rain.
We've been putting in old wax and bits that we cull from hives and have built up a nice block of wax. It's mostly clean although a couple of bees have been able to get through the crack at the bottom and end up stuck in the wax.
The smell of melting wax seems to attract bees, especially scouts looking for a place to swarm into. This year two of our swarms moved into bait hives that we setup next to the wax melter. An unforeseen upside.