Beemaster's International Beekeeping Forum


Title: Making foundation
Post by: Ralphee on October 14, 2020, 09:32:36 pm
What do people use to make their own foundation?
Looking up how its done is fun on YouTube, but i dont think i need an industrial plant for my few bee hives!
Do people the hinged alloy plates that have the pattern on them? (think a giant sandwich press) Even these are a few hundred $$

I am very much a hobby bee keeper, i only have 3 hives (so far...) and not making hundreds of frames, so i am looking at the silicon mold which is only $50 or so
That way i can use the wax i have and make some of my own foundations and not break the budget

I see some people use the paddle to make flat sheets, but the rollers to imprint the patterns are even more expensive than the alloy press! (and we know that flat foundation isnt the best)

So, without buying crazy expensive equipment - how do YOU make foundations from your own wax??
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: sawdstmakr on October 14, 2020, 10:55:32 pm
I tried to make a silicone mold. It did not work at all.
I recommend that you just buy wax foundation.
Jim Altmiller
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Ralphee on October 15, 2020, 12:08:24 am
sawdstmakr - that was my thoughts, probably a lot easier to simply buy them as i am not producing hundreds of frames (or thousands like some of you!)
But i like to play and its a hobby, so i am curious what other people do, and experiences from others.
Watching a couple youtubes with the silicon molds looks very hit-or-miss and the full alloy frames are more expensive for me than simply buying the foundation pre-made.

Do people who assembly hundreds (or thousands) of frames buy the foundations? Or what do you use?
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: paus on October 15, 2020, 10:37:29 am
For years I used store "boughten" foundation.   I am going foundationless now, it's not for everybody but check it out.  My foundation comes from the same source my honey comes from and I know it did not come from China.
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Michael Bush on October 15, 2020, 02:30:14 pm
There really is no need for foundation.  Just a comb guide will do and that can be wood.  But if you insist, you really need a press to emboss it and you make sheets with a board soaked in brine and dipped in wax.  If you don't have a press the resulting sheets are vary hard and kind of brittle so it's hard for the bees to work it.  Hawley Honey in Kansas sells the presses at the best prices I've seen.  I would get a 4.9mm press if it was me. 
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: worrywort on October 15, 2020, 07:17:33 pm
Hello Mr Bush.
I live in the UK and Have tried a few of your Brilliant ideas. The foundation less frames  I tried I planed a 45 degree angle on the edge of the wedge which holds the foundation in place. I stapled it to the top bar. I put six inside a hive with a frame of foundation either side.

A couple of years later. I replaced the combs and as I was cutting out the old comb, I realised amongst them were The foundation less Combs. I had forgotten about the trial and they were used and waved about just like the Foundation combs. They looked exactly alike. 

Back to the Foundation question. (Forgive me For a moment as I am relying on Memory. A few years ago a Magazine called The Beekeepers Quarterly ran an article about how some beekeepers in Africa would pour  A thin layer of wax onto a wet board, peel it off and attach it inside a frame.

It was found that it worked as well as foundation if half a dozen 1 inch  (25mm) triangular Holes were cut out with the point down. The bees would work it almost as fast.
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Skeggley on October 16, 2020, 10:59:42 am

Back to the Foundation question. (Forgive me For a moment as I am relying on Memory. A few years ago a Magazine called The Beekeepers Quarterly ran an article about how some beekeepers in Africa would pour  A thin layer of wax onto a wet board, peel it off and attach it inside a frame.
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Beeboy01 on October 21, 2020, 08:50:56 pm
Actually I just made a batch of home made foundation this year with mixed results. I took some used wood frames and wired them with mono fishing line and cast the wax foundation in the frame instead of casting it separate and installing it in the frame.

  It ended up being a pretty simple procedure, I cut a piece of plywood which was a tight fit in the frame, soaked it with water and pressed the wired frame onto it. Then I used a ladle to pour liquid bees wax onto the plywood and immediately took a second piece of water soaked plywood with a handle on it's back side and pressed the hot wax out into a sheet which embedded the mono fishing line and filled the frame. Sometimes a second pour of wax was needed for deep frames and to fill out the edges missed during the first pour. The first half dozen didn't fill out right till I got the technique right.  I mainly made shallows with a couple of deeps.

Ended up with what looked like heavy usable foundation cast into the frame. Unfortunately the bees didn't seem to like it and wouldn't draw it out even during a flow. I had three or four frames that were drawn out just a little along the top bar but it looked like the bees were making burr comb not foundation. I only kept the home made foundation in the hives for about five or six weeks and they might of drawn them out more if I had left them in there longer.

  Looking back at it I think that the foundation needed to be embossed like commercial foundation, the bees couldn't draw out the wax because it had a smooth surface and they couldn't get ahold of it to work it. I never could figure out a way to emboss the wax so it went on the back burner till I have more time to work on it. I was thinking about making a small roller but couldn't figure out how to cut the comb design in it.

 Maybe transfer the comb pattern onto a aluminum roller and etch with acid but that's pushing my envelope a little. Casting a aluminum roller is another way to go but it's still outside my comfort zone. A small cold chisel and hammer would work but take forever dinging in each hexagon and I would still need some aluminum round stock to work with.  Just some ideas I came up with to make a roller. A 3D printer would be the ticket but don't have one laying around LOL

If you are going to give it a try use regular foundation wire not mono fishing line, the fishing line has a lot of stretch when hot and the foundation will flop and sag.
Hope this helps.   
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Ralphee on October 22, 2020, 12:54:21 am
The aluminum molds are expensive, i wonder if a 3D printed mold using a heat resistance plastic would work?
Beeswax has a relatively low melting point range of 62 to 64 ?C (144 to 147 ?F), so it doesn't have to be highly heat resistant.
Now to try and find someone with a 3D printer! - has anyone tried this??
Title: Making foundation
Post by: TheHoneyPump on October 22, 2020, 06:30:40 pm
Some random ideas
- Buy a sheet or two of the thickest plastic foundation available. Would that perhaps bet the Rite-Cell brand?
- next get a liquid silicone pouring mould making kit.

Mix up the silicone and make a mould slab from the plastic foundation sheet.  Make two slabs, one for each side. 

Next take those silicone slabs and makeup a wax pouring unit that does both sides at once. Pour hot wax in, open to remove the new wax foundation sheet, repeat to makeup as many foundation sheets as you want.

Just thinking on the fly there.

There are two other ways of making foundation that are much more efficient. 
1. Dont.  Just give them a starter strip along the top bar and let the bees make it themselves.
2. Transmute cash directly to foundation.  In other words, buy it.
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Beeboy01 on October 23, 2020, 03:44:23 pm
Well after screwing around with making my own I'm moving over to plastic foundation and using my extra wax on it. LOL
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: sawdstmakr on October 23, 2020, 05:38:11 pm
Well after screwing around with making my own I'm moving over to plastic foundation and using my extra wax on it. LOL
Smart move. 
Jim Altmiller
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Ralphee on October 26, 2020, 01:18:18 am
Okay, the general consensus seems to be - "Dont!"

And seeing that i think there are a lot of people here who would be much smarter than myself when it comes to what is cost effective and productive, i think i will take that advice!
Purely for the sake of playing, i might get a plastic frame and mold it (i have stuff at home, i was going to use for a different project, so no cost except one new fresh and shinny plastic frame), then see if i can mount that on a board and use some of my extra wax to play. If its a horrible mess (most likely to be) then i can re-melt and nothing but my time is lost.

Have you ever watched the industrial machines making wax frames? That's mesmerizing!

Thank you all.
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Beeboy01 on October 27, 2020, 01:28:29 pm
Good luck with it and let us know how it works out. Just because I couldn't figure it out doesn't mean it can't be done. ;)
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Bobbee on November 27, 2020, 05:09:57 pm
I just found an interesting link to a 3d printed foundation roller ><
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Ralphee on November 29, 2020, 11:44:55 pm
Bobbee- that could be a good idea for the flat foundation made with the paddle approach.

I havent given up on playing with this idea, i have purchased 3 plastic foundations so i can play and make a mold, but live is getting in the way of playing at the moment and adventurous things such as this get put to the side.

I have never done a 'how to' on the internet before (used a lot though!) so i might try and capture the process - just in case it works ;)
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: little john on November 30, 2020, 06:13:23 am
First, a disclaimer - 'cause I've never actually done what I'm about to suggest ...

I don't use foundation, never have, and doubt I ever will - but - I do love a challenge, especially an engineering challenge ...

Maybe it was 2 or perhaps 3 years ago I bought two sheets of plastic foundation to cut-up for an experiment, and so at the same time I also bought two sheets of wax foundation with this specific idea in mind. But I never did get around to trying it out ... but here's the procedure I intended to employ, if anyone's tempted to have a go.

The plastic foundation I purchased had 'proto' cell-walls, and I believe most plastic types have this feature. Wax foundation on the other hand is simply a plain sheet of wax which has 'dimples' embossed into it from both sides by a pair of inter-meshing rollers. So - wax foundation is the right kind to use for what follows ...

Lay the sheet of wax foundation down onto a dead-flat surface, protected by a thin plastic sheet. Construct a 'dam' around the foundation by placing thin battens underneath the plastic sheet, such that when epoxy resin is poured onto the foundation, the resin will be retained within the 'dam'. There will only be a need to fill the dimples within the foundation, plus a millimetre or two above that wax sheet. It will of course be important at that stage to ensure that any air bubbles present are removed.

Once the epoxy resin has set (say overnight), 'butter' one side of a sheet of plywood around 10mm thick with a layer of epoxy putty (epoxy resin mixed with talc or similar) and place this on top of the hardened resin, and again leave to set overnight.
Next day, invert the plywood so that the wax foundation sheet is uppermost, and then repeat the same procedure on the other side.
Eventually you should end-up with a plywood-resin-wax-resin-plywood sandwich, with the wax foundation firmly trapped in the centre.  Do not be tempted to split this sandwich apart - just yet.

What you now need to make is a clam-shell holder - think something along the lines of a toasted-sandwich maker.  I'd suggest making this from one-inch angle-iron, with a pair of good-quality hinges welded to one side, some means of clamping the bottom frame to the workbench, and with an operating handle attached to the upper frame.

Now this is where it gets tricky.  You'll now need to carefully cut away the excess epoxy resin from around the sides of the sandwich, such that the two sheets of plywood with their epoxy impressions of the foundation can be separated, and yet you need to keep them firmly in place for the time being, in order to maintain the precision 'register' between them.

Attach one sheet of plywood to one side of the clam-shell holder, then invert the holder and secure the other. Much easier said than done, this being perhaps the trickiest part of the build. Only when both sheets of plywood are secured should the sandwich then be opened. Hopefully this will be straightforward, with the wax to epoxy interface breaking apart easily - but as I've already said, I've never done this, and so there are no guarantees here.

What you should now have is a clam-shell embossing machine. You'll still need to make thin sheets of wax, as per the excellent 'Way Out West' video, and keep them warm and thus pliable before 'stamping' them into embossed foundation. I also suspect that you'll need to spray or paint washing-up liquid onto the mould surfaces from time to time, to act as a release agent.
Will it work ?  Well, in theory it should. (Famous last words ...)  :smile: Although - I would prefer to use rollers rather than stamping flat sheets, if that were at all possible ...

Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: sawdstmakr on November 30, 2020, 07:55:51 am
Sounds like this will work out better than the molds made from plastic foundation.
When opening the the molds I recommend using compressed air with a nozzle. The biggest problem will e opening the molds and having the wax stay on one side. If you add two little air ports in the middle of the molds with light air pressure this will make opening the mold easy. Look at a plasticell foundation and you will see 2 injection marks for the proper location.
Jim Altmiller
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: little john on November 30, 2020, 10:55:09 am
Another possibility which has just occurred to me (as I'm not up to speed with 3-D printing) is to use a Router-Lathe to cut a pair of rollers.  I happen to possess one of these which was given to me as a present - which is still in it's box as it's not really my kind of thing. For anyone not familiar with these, Router-Lathes are used to make ornamental legs for furniture - flutes, barley-twists, that kind of woodwork. A cheaper alternative to a pukka wood lathe.

I've just checked the manual, and it will cut both left and right-handed twists, and so one cut over the other would then produce the pattern we're looking for.

Might be worth looking into ?
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Ben Framed on November 30, 2020, 01:14:29 pm
Okay, the general consensus seems to be - "Dont!"

Well after screwing around with making my own I'm moving over to plastic foundation and using my extra wax on it. LOL
Smart move. 
Jim Altmiller

Ralpee I agree with  sawdstmakr and  Beeboy01 Though some of the other methods will work for a small hobby operation: I feel I wasted two seasons. Plastic in my opinion is the clear choice.
Title: Re: Making foundation
Post by: Ralphee on December 04, 2020, 01:42:11 am

I don't use foundation, never have, and doubt I ever will - but - I do love a challenge, especially an engineering challenge ...


That is a better version of what i had planned actually.... The mold and frame i was going to try and cast in one go, but the more i think about it the less i like the idea - air bubbles being the main reason.
Looking at the 'professional' molds you can buy for $800US (they are aluminum) as inspiration, just trying to recreate one of them without that sort of price tag really.
If i cast one side of my plastic frame, flip the whole thing then cast the other side, i will have the spacing right as well (yes its a 'plastic mold' space, not a 'wax space', but close enough for this)
I happen to have a can of spray designed to release casts from molds, its designed for latex and such, but worth a try with an epoxy
Unless i suddenly get a bunch of time free its all hypothetical, life has a habit of getting busy lately!
And don't stress Ben Framed - i know the odds of this being a great success are very slim. The odds of it working are reasonable and its just an experiment really, not planning on going into production or making hundred of foundations (go google the machines that do this! they are great fun to watch!!)
Good tips, thank you
Title: Making foundation
Post by: .30WCF on February 14, 2021, 11:27:34 pm
I just stumbled across this thread, and haven?t put much thought into this before. I use Bondo in some of my taxidermy work. There is a sweet spot where bondo is flexible and impressionable. I mean you have to get it right, but....
If you took a plastic foundation and sprayed it with cooking spray or something, (possibly covered it in plastic wrap?) and smeared bondo all over it kinda thick, 3/8-1/2?, and then kept testing the leftovers in the mixing bowl or putty knife to see when it?s ready to peel. You could peel it off the plastic foundation just like silicone, then lay it down flat and may be even just lay a small piece of plywood on top to press it flat. ( there is a 3 minute window where you can flop a sheet of bondo around like a fruit roll up.) You would need two of these to make paddles trimmed to the right size to press wax.

As for the roller. A 4 inch paint roller.
Strip the nap off down to the plastic, on second thought, who cares, leave the nap on. I would go for epoxy-sculpt (2 part epoxy molding putty) so it would be durable, but modeling clay over the roller and roll the impression from a plastic frame. Once hard you should be able to roll it onto the wax. Things to consider would be the diameter of the roller after the medium is applied. If you roll across the plastic foundation too far and the diameter isn?t sized 100% correctly the pattern won?t line up after one full roll. Just stop at one roll across the plastic to imprint the roller. If it doesn?t meet up just right, leave it to the bees to sort out. If you roll too far in the clay imprint stage you could double imprint the mold with a 50% overlap. Just roll to 90%, roll back and look at the transition, roll forward a little more, roll back and check, roll forward.....until 100% coverage on the paint roller. Hang it up and let it cure.
Once cured, roll it across flat wax foundation.
Probably won?t work. Let me know how it does.

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