Make Variable 24-gauge Wire Heater for Beehive Foundation

Thread Starter


Joined May 6, 2016
First, I know basically nothing about electronics. My occupation is in software development. I know how to wire just about anything coming out of my home circuit breaker. I've wired my entire basement, kitchen, dryer, oven, barns, etc. (and passed the county inspections) in a couple houses, but when it comes to electronics, I haven't a will become apparent as you read my attempts to build a wire heater. Please be patient with my unblissful ignorance.

A Beehive Frame is a rectangular 4-sided open box that is made up of approximately a 1" thick piece of wood that is 9" high and 17" wide. Beehive Foundation is a thin sheet of wax, which has shallow hexagonal boxes all over it, that comes from the "factory" with some 24 gauge wires running vertically already melted into the wax. I then put it into the Beehive Frame and thread some 24 gauge wire horizontally through little holes in the frame, wrapping it kind of zigzag fashion, pulling it tightly so that it kind of strums like a guitar, to hold the wax in the frame. The bees build their honeycomb chambers on the wax foundation, in which they put honey, pollen, lay eggs, etc.. The wire needs to be melted into the middle of the wax without melting right through it.

I have attempted 5 different ways to melt the wire into the wax. None have been good, some have been scary. I need help.
1. I tried a 9v battery, I stuck a piece of 14 gauge electrical wire onto each battery nipple and then held one wire on the left-hand side of the frame (touching the wire) and the other wire on the right-hand side of the frame, but it didn't seem to do anything.
2. I tried an old 18v Dwalt NiCad battery. It worked a little bit, and heated up the wire enough for some of it to melt into the wax, but it didn't heat up the middle very well and seemed to have fried the battery. Now it barely holds any juice and won't heat up the wire any more. I tossed it in the trash.
3. I then thought I needed more juice, so I took apart an old Dwalt NiCad battery charger and wrapped wires where normally you plug in your battery. When I tried it, it didn't appear to do anything.
4. So I found an old laptop charger and tried that. It also did nothing. Perhaps it didn't even work anymore. I don't know.
5. My latest bright idea was to take apart an old electronic soldering iron that can heat up the iron at either 15 watts or 30 watts. I took off the iron and ran a wire to each wire coming out of the soldering iron switch. When I tried it on 15w, it instantly heated the wire and melted not only the through the wax but melted quite a bit of wax too...and then the two places where I touched the 24-gauge wire (left-side and right-side) shot sparks like it was shorting and wanted to explode. Not one to give up so easily...I figured I got the 15w/30w switch turned upside down when I was wiring it, so I flipped the switch to 30w and tried again. This time it melted the wire on the right-hand side and the wire snapped apart, it also sent sparks a-flyin'. Somehow, in both of these attempts, the circuit breaker switch never blew.

So, I think I need help from someone who actually knows how to do what I need to do. I don't know your-all's lingo, so please explain it like as to a child.

Oh, and Yes, they do sell these at some places, but we're trying to "save money" and build our own. I think they're around $90. I'm sure we can build it for a lot less without burning down the house.


Joined Nov 4, 2013
A few minutes spent online reading about wire resistance Vs gauge and length would have done you a world of wonders on getting a rough idea for what voltage you would need to get the right amount of current to heat it up without burning things up. :oops:
Thinking out loud.

It's likely that the "factory wires" are Ni-chome, Kanthal or some "resistance wire". This type of wire is designed to get hot and not melt. Copper or tin-plated copper won't be able to handle the current that the "factory wires" can.

Resistance of the wire is R = pL/A where L is the length, A is the cross-sectional area and p or Rho is the resistivity in units of ohms-(length unit).

Power is I^2 * R

The voltage required will be primarily be determined by the length of the wire. Here, you want the wire to get hot.

24 AWG copper wire can comfortable handle 3.5 AMPs and not get hot. See

I definitely suspect that the wire they use is not copper. It's also no likely to be easily malleable.


Joined Nov 29, 2011
The problem you will have is that the wax melts at such a low temp that it will be near impossible to do what you want. It would be better to create a mold for the foundation, lay the wire into the foundation, then pour the wax around it. I would use stainless safety wire for the supports.


Joined Sep 22, 2013
I have no idea of the cutter circuitry. Maybe it's possible to dim it like a light.

I still can't orientate what your trying to do. Got any photos?


Joined Sep 9, 2010
The key thing is to get the special kind of wire for this application. Nichrome is one, but there are other alloys. Any would be far better than a random wire you appear to be using. Sorry if I've got that wrong.
With the right wire, then you need a regulated supply, just as you need to supply the right voltage to a lightbulb. But that will be much easier with resistance wire.