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Slow burn: Welder from Whately talks sidejob making beeswax candles

  • Ewan Mykolajczuk, owner of E's Bees Apiary in Whately. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Ewan Mykolajczuk, owner of E's Bees Apiary in Whately, dips beeswax candles Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Ewan Mykolajczuk, owner of E's Bees Apiary in Whately, checks on his bee hives Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Ewan Mykolajczuk, owner of E's Bees Apiary in Whately, inspects bee hive frames Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Trimmed ends of beeswax candles at E's Bees Apiary in Whately, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Ewan Mykolajczuk, owner of E's Bees Apiary in Whately, holds up a wick used to make beeswax candles Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Ewan Mykolajczuk, owner of E's Bees Apiary in Whately, dips beeswax candles Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Hand dipped beeswax candles at E's Bees Apiary in Whately, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

WHATELY — A sweet scent of honey wafted through beekeeper Ewan Mykolajczuk’s workshop on a recent afternoon, drifting up from a warm pot of beeswax heating on a stove and over dozens of yellow, hand-dipped candles hanging from nails.

“This is all the wax here,” said Mykolajczuk, 66, lifting the pot’s cover. Inside, dark colored beeswax simmered.

Mykolajczuk, a Belgian immigrant, started E’s Bees Apiary after purchasing his first hive in 1987. Thirty years later, beekeeping is a lifestyle for Mykolajczuk. He manages about 25 hives behind his Swamp Road workshop, producing more than 1,000 pounds of honey each year and enough beeswax for a steady production of hand-dipped candles.

In one of the workshop’s corners, three white beekeeper suits awaited. And hanging from the ceiling were a few paper wasp hives that Mykolajczuk keeps for aesthetics and to remind him that “bees out in the wild can be marvelous.” Mykolajczuk started producing beeswax candles about six years ago.

“It’s an art, because there’s not that many people who can do it. It’s a labor of love,” Mykolajczuk said while demonstrating how to hand dip candles. “Normally, you dip them about 21 times. This type of dipping is an all-day thing.”

While incredibly time-consuming, the process is simple and repetitive. Both ends of an 18½-inch wick are dipped into hot wax, held beneath the surface for 30 seconds to ensure there’s no oxygen between layers, and then draped over a stick to dry. Every 15 minutes, the process is repeated until wax thickly covers the wick.

“After you dip them, you cut them to get the right trim,” Mykolajczuk said, pointing to a table with a pile of trimmed beeswax candle points.

During the day, Mykolajczuk is a welder at Hollrock Engineering in Hadley, making golf-ball equipment, but farming is in his blood. Before coming to the United States, Mykolajczuk’s father worked as a coal miner, and started a small vegetable farm after moving to Whately with his family in 1956. Mykolajczuk has continued that farming tradition.

“I think I got a lot of that from my mother. She loved animals,” Mykolajczuk said. “I was always fascinated with animals. It starts with one hive, and before you know it, you have two hives, and three hives, and four. Things start to multiply.”

Starts in the hive

Beeswax candle making is an all-year project, beginning with hive maintenance. Bees survive the winter by clustering together and consuming honey. Thus, by the time spring comes, there’s excess waste that needs to be cleaned from the hives — which come apart in sections.

“Clean the bottom board, scrape out all the dead bees. Scrape it, shake it, put it back together,” he said. If it’s been a particularly hard winter, the bees might need more honey — honey and water mixed in a jar, placed in the hive — to hold them over until March, when pussy willows begin to bloom.

“Those are essential food sources for them because they have pollen,” Mykolajczuk said. In the summer, Mykolajczuk’s bees begin honey production. And with it comes beeswax.

Inside the hive, bees fill rectangular wooden frames with honeycomb, where they keep honey. A beehive produces a lot more honey than the bees require through winters. Mykolajczuk occasionally dons a beekeeper suit and removes a frame, harvesting the honey in a cylindrical spinning machine called a “honey extractor.”

Later, the honeycomb is pushed out of the frame, heated in a pot, and strained a few times through cloth, turning into beeswax. Then, Mykolajczuk begins making his candles, which he sells at area craft fairs for $9 a pair.

“I love it. I think it’s a great hobby, and something I’ve successfully been able to do. Plus, it gives me a little extra spending money,” Mykolajczuk said.

Compared to other types of wax candles, Mykolajczuk noted that beeswax candles burn a lot cleaner. The scent they give off is sweet and natural, he said, and “it’s helping the environment, and the trees.” To purchase Mykolajczuk’s hand-dipped, beeswax candles or find out more about his candle-making process, phone 413-665-3928.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo