In this posting, I'll tell you how you can make a small scale honey extractor for about $28.
Note: I created an improved version of this extractor and have posted photos and construction details at: Improved How To Build A Honey Extractor
Earlier this year, I began began doing research on Honey Extractors. These are devices that use centrifugal force to remove honey from the comb. Small scale extractors suitable for hobbyists generally cost over $350 and more productive models can cost over $1000.
I searched the net and found a Do-it-Yourself project where a hobbyist made an extractor for about $100 using a barrel, bicycle rims, and a few other supplies. The plans are from a blog called Voice of the Hive. A photo of the extractor I built using these plans is shown below.
Unfortunately, I found executing the plans to be a challenge. Not all 55 gallon barrels have the same dimensions, nor are all bicycle rims the same. These differences and the complexity of the design meant that I had to make design adjustments on the fly.
Needless to say, on the day I went to extract honey, I experienced problems and had to abandon using this extractor. Left with uncapped honey waiting to be extracted and no working extractor, I was forced to come up with a quick alternative. Design number #2 is what I cobbled together after a quick trip to the hardware store.
There's an old saying... necessity is the mother of invention. Well here's a simple device you can build in about 15 minutes that costs about $8. If you add in the cost of a used food grade barrel (which I had from Design #1) then the cost of this extractor is more like $28.
It is made from a metal paint stirring device that you can buy at any hardware store, some wire mesh, a piece of wood molding and zip strips.
Here's how to build the extractor:
- Start by bending the wire mesh into a cylindrical cage large enough to hold two frames. Leave the top of the cage is open so you can easily insert and remove frames from the cage.
- Now attach the cage bottom to the circular metal section of the paint stirrer using four zip ties.
- Cut a piece of wood molding to the diameter of the cage and cut a hole in the center so that you can put the shaft of the paint stirrer though it. You want the hole to be just slightly larger than the shaft so the fit is tight.
- Also cut a whole on each end of the molding large enough to put a zip tie through.
- Now attach the molding to the cage with a zip tie on each end.
- That's it.
To use the extractor:
- Insert the shaft of the paint stirrer into an electric drill.
- Place two uncapped honey frames into the cage.
- Insert the extractor into the food grade barrel. You will need to hold the cage in the center during operation.
- Turn on the drill and the cage will start spinning. As it does so, honey will get whipped out of the frames and collect at the bottom of the barrel. Pulse the drill on and off so that you maintain a reasonable speed. (Too slow and honey won't be extracted. Too fast and the centrifugal force will pull apart and destroy the wax foundation.)
- Now remove the frames and re-insert them into the cage so that the opposite side of the frame faces outward. Turn on the drill again and extract honey from the second side of the frame.
- Remove the empty frames. Voila!
This honey extractor is far from perfect. You need some strength to hold the drill and the honey frames in the barrel. But it certainly worked in a pinch and I found this simple, inexpensive extractor to be remarkably effective. It was cheap, easy to create, and took just 15 minutes to build. If you only have one or two supers to harvest, you may not need anything more than design #2.
In fact, the success of this simple extractor convinced me that design #1 is overly complex. For someone with just a few hives, simpler is better. I am working on a more robust extractor that will hold 4 frames and not require you to hold the frames and drill during extraction. I'll post that design in the future when it's completed.
Below is a photo of some of the honey I extracted. I created a label for it using photo editing adnd design software, an inkjet printer and adhesive backed label stock.