A Homemade Honey Extractor

With this homemade honey extractor, you beat the high cost of commercial extractors while avoiding the disadvantages of producing only cutcomb honey.

| March/April 1981

The purchase of a honey extractor is a significant step for any beekeeper, but the financial burden can be particularly traumatic for the one- or two-hive amateur apiarist. At $150 or more, the cost of an extractor will easily exceed the total of all the other expenses a beginner may face, forcing many neophyte beekeepers to stick to less efficient comb honey production (the bees use up extra energy, and honey, replacing the waxwork that's "stolen" with each harvest).

Aside from the cost, though, the advantages of having an effective rotary extractor are considerable: Such a device will separate honey from its comb in a matter of minutes, and can actually increase hive productivity by more than 50%. An extractor, you see, allows the beekeeper to retain the entire honeycomb network intact during honey removal and then return the ready-for-filling comb to the hive. It's not surprising, then, that a diligent group of Apis mellifera will yield far more honey when they're spared the trouble of rebuilding their "pantry."

The instructors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' beekeeping seminars and members of the magazine's staff who keep hives have long urged our research crew to design an inexpensive homemade honey extractor. And—after nearly a year of testing, revision, and encouragement—we're finally ready to unveil the finished product: It's a handcranked model capable of processing four honey frames at one time. And you can build one for less than $50!

After trying a number of different approaches to contriving an extractor that would spin at 200-plus RPM, we finally settled on a method first suggested (to our knowledge) in the pages of the Ohio-based magazine Gleanings in Bee Culture. Because the basket must rotate on a vertical axis, and because most folks find it is far more practical and convenient to crank on a horizontal axis, the critical component of our extractor is actually the right-angle gear set from the foot of an old outboard motor. Using one of these recycled boat parts—which typically have ratios between 1.5-to-1 and 2-to-1—our spinner is able to achieve the necessary rotational speed.

So, the first component you're going to have to hunt up is a junked or used outboard motor with a good foot gear assembly and prop shaft. Look for one with a vertical shaft that's 5/8" thick and at least 26" long from the top of the lower gear case.

The crank can be fashioned from a 7"-long strip of 1/8" X 1 1/4" strap steel. A 3 1/2" piece of 1/2" electrical metallic tubing (EMT), slipped over a 1/2" X 5" bolt, will serve as the handle. Of course, you'll also need to bore a propeller-shaft-sized hole in the steel so that the crank can be secured with a nut.

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