Extracting Honey

Well, I’m finally extracting honey from three hives that produced some surplus. My best hive was one that is a few years old and has swarmed in the past. This is definitely  the smallest honey crop I’ve gotten in the seven years that I’ve kept bees. I’m guessing the total will be around 150 lbs.

I have a Maxant Model 3100 extractor that I bought third hand. It was originally a hand crank model, but after a few years of cranking out several hundred pounds of honey, with lots of help from my son Josh, I scavenged a motor from a free treadmill, got a pulley off of an old Saturn engine in the junkyard, made a bracket and bought a belt and voila. Now the treadmill control panel sits on the table and I can turn the extractor on and off, and adjust the speed while I uncap the next set of frames.

Maxant extractor with double stainless screen to filter honey as it goes into bucket where it will settle before bottling.  Honey supers are stacked in the background. This extractor will hold three medium or deep frames, or 6 shallow frames tangentially. The frames have to be turned around after one side is extracted. It comes with clips to hold 6 frames radially, but I’ve always had trouble with them popping off and having to fish them from the bottom of the extractor. Besides, extracting tangentially gives me time to uncap the next set of frames, so I don’t feel as if I’m wasting any time doing it that way.

Here, I’m using an uncapping fork to remove the wax cappings covering the full cells of honey. You can also use and uncapping knife. You can buy an electric one that quickly slices through the cappings and they come off in a sheet, but I prefer not to expose the honey to any heat.                                                                            

You can also just scratch open the cappings, if you’d like.

Here are a couple of frames that have been uncapped and are ready to be put into the extractor.

The extractor will spin the frames, flinging the honey to the sides where it will run down and out the gate, through the stainless steel screens, and into a storage bucket.

After the honey is extracted, I’ll check the moisture content using a tool called refractometer.  The one I use is digital, and although it costs a few hundred dollars, I feel the expense is worth it for its accuracy and ease of use. You simply turn it on, let it warm up, put a drop of honey on the glass “eye” and close the lid. Push a button and in a moment you have a digital readout of the exact moisture content.   The moisture content of the honey must be below 17 percent, otherwise the honey will ferment. After settling for a few days, any tiny bits of wax rise to the top, then the honey is put into bottles using a gate at the bottom of the bucket. Honey makes great gifts, and if you have enough, you can sell your surplus. Once people taste my pure raw honey, all I need is word of mouth to sell all that I produce.

A digital refractometer made by Misco

This is my motor setup. The flywheel came on the motor, the pulley is from a car engine and I made the bracket from two pcs of scrap metal, but you can purchase angle iron from many hardware stores. The electronic circuit board and speed control set on the table in easy reach. Every year I say I’m going to make an enclosure for the circuit board, but never seem to get around to it. The beauty of this setup is that to change the speed, you simple move the slider on the control panel. I never have to run it even up to half speed and it has plenty of power to get the job done.

Next spring, I’ll be saying once again that “This is going to be the best year ever”


About Beekeeping in the Berkshires

Here at Berkshire Farms Apiary we've been keeping bees and making honey since 2005, with hives in most of the surrounding towns. We also make pure beeswax candles, lip balm, and hand salve, as well as give presentations. As secretary of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association, I am very active in the local beekeeping community.
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