Sunday, May 17, 2009
Another burning question solved
You know that tube of chapstick or lip balm you have in your back pocket? I bet you have often wondered how it is made. I imagine you have spent many hours wondering about the simple 15-step process that goes into creating this handy item that is often the only thing that stands between you and bloody chapped lips and a truly rotten day.
I have decided to relieve you of that wonder, and explain.
How to make a .15 ounce stick of lip balm:
1. You have to keep bees, because bees make the wax which is an essential ingredient in lip balm. Keeping bees is simple. It involves making the hives and supers, ensuring they have a good sources of pollen and nectar, either preventing or capturing swarms, making sure the Queen is laying brood properly, dealing with all the various pests that bother bees, including (but not limited to) Varroa mites, trachea mites, mice, yellow jackets, robber bees and bears, adding or removing honey supers as needed and curtseying to the Queen.
2. When the time comes in mid summer, you have to extract the honey from the honey supers. With a heated or serrated knife (it’s a personal choice) you remove the wax capping the bees put on the comb to seal in their honey.
3. Strain the chunks of wax capping to get as much honey as possible.
4. Then start the process of cleaning the beeswax. Boil down the wax, with a little water, and then pour it through cheesecloth to strain out all the dead bee bits, pollen and other assorted items not considered desirable in a tube of lip balm. Repeat. Lest you think this process can only be done once, let me disabuse you of the notion.
5. Once you have strained the wax twice if not 3 times, boil it down one more time and then pour it into an empty milk or orange container (the squared waxy ones). Not through the little hole! Remove the top first. In a few hours the wax will have hardened and you can peel off the container. There will be water and guck in the bottom. Discard this. You now have a squared chunk of pure beeswax with which to make your lip balm.
6. Acquire small plastic tubes and tops into which you will pour the chapstick when it is ready.
7. Clean an empty coffee tin and make a pouring spout. This is will function as the top of your double boiler. Place the coffee tin in a pot of water.
8. Take 1 ounce of beeswax. To accomplish this I use a chisel and a hammer; with these delicate instruments I nick pieces of beeswax off my hardened chunk and then weigh them.
9. Add 2.5 ounces of sweet almond oil. I could tell you how to crush and extract almond oil from raw almonds, but I will not. Not this time.
10. Melt the wax and almond oil together in the coffee tin over boiling water. Add a small amount of raw honey and a few drops of essential oil. I like lavender or lemon. Honeysuckle has been deemed too ‘girlie’ by the resident critics.
11. Let the oil and wax cool down to about 120˚ before pouring it into the small plastic tubes, because if it is much hotter it will cause the tubes to shrink and then their tops will never stay properly shut.
12. Pour oil and wax into little white tubes, carefully. If you are already a brain surgeon, that is a good thing, because chances are you have steady hands. If you are not already a brain surgeon, you might consider medical school.
13. Let the lip balm harden inside the tube. Cap it.
14. Be grateful I am not going to explain the entire process of designing labels, getting labels printed, sticking them on so that they don’t overlap, and then safety sealing the lip balms.
15. Now you can sell each lip balm for the staggering price of $1.50, wholesale.
Now you know why I am referred to as the Beeswax Business Guru.