Commercial Honey Extractors are devices used to extract honey from honeybee 'frames'. This is achieved by 'uncapping' each frame/comb, and loading that frame/comb into the extractor, and 'spinning out' the honey. The extractor 'spins' (like a centrifuge) the honey out of the combs, slopping it on the inside liner of the extractor, where the honey runs down, collects in the bottom, and is bottled from a valve in the bottom of the extractor.
This INSTRUCTABLE will show you the fundamentals of constructing your own radial honey extractor. In this particular Instructable, I have created my honey extractor within the hull of an 'antique' washing machine. This Instructable will, however, give you enough information, to build your own honey extractor, using traditional materials, and you will be able to eliminate the 'washing machine hull' from your design (if you choose) and built a simple square 'box frame', and still follow this Instructable.
I included the 'antique washing machine' hull as the exterior of my extractor, in an effort to give an otherwise boring homemade extractor a little character. All of the fundamentals included in this Instructable should give you enough information to build your own extractor, simply replacing the antique washing machine hull with a simple box frame/superstructure made of the same 1" square tubing used throughout my extractor.
Step 1: SAFETY NOTES and DISCLAIMERS (Please read...really)
1) READ THE PHOTO NOTES: I put a lot of information in the photo notes. If you don't understand something, double check the photo notes, and see if what you want to know is there. I tried to answer as many questions as I could using the photo notes...in my instructable, the photo notes are just as important as the text body in the steps.
2) FOOD SAFETY: Honey is a food product. As such, it should only come in contact with food grade materials. If you are a honey producer, you should ensure your extractor meets food grade requirements. In my build photos, I used non-food grade materials for all fit-ups/etc . After build, I refitted all parts that contact honey with food grade stainless bolts, or coated other parts in food grade paint, and dealt with other such food related issues (including food grade bearing grease). TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. Contaminants exist in everything, so be conscious of such matters when building your extractor.
3) SAFETY: Really...just wear safety glasses. Loss of an eye can happen quickly in a shop. Wear all safety gear...but SAFETY GLASSES ARE A MUST! Use common sense...don't weld indoors, or near combustibles (even dry leaves). Keep your work area clear and clean. Don't wear baggy/loose fitting clothes that are apt to get caught in spinning drills/etc...and for god's sake...weld with your face shield down, even for tack welding.
4) BUILD DECISIONS: You say "Tow-may-toe", I say "To-mah-toe" (yes, I know it's spelled Tomato): I made lots of liberal decisions in this build. You may elect to make design changes, or you probably know a better way of doing something than I do. I had a time deadline for this build, and tried to use materials I had on hand. Hence, in some cases (such as the center axle build) I did things the 'hard way'. Additionally, my election to use an old appliance frame for 'character' obviously is a unique decision to my build, and that decision substantially complicated my build. This Instructable is intended only as a guide for you to build your own extractor. You may elect to complete certain parts of the build differently. I encourage you to explore other options, and be liberal with my instructions.
Step 2: Tools You May Need
Hobart 187 MIG welder, using 0.035" flux cored wire.
Craftsman 1/2" Hand Drill
Craftsman Socket/Ratchet Sets
Craftsman standard wrench sets
Large Bandsaw (metal cutting blade)
Small Craftsman bandsaw
Craftsman Belt/Rotary sander combo unit
Jet Lathe and associated tools (micrometer, etc)
Drill Press (and drill bits, of course)
Hammers, Hammers, Hammers!!!
A small square (any sort) for ensuring 90 degree angles where necessary.
Craftsman Air Compressor
Sears Sand Blaster
Step 3: MATERIALS LIST
(If you choose to build a box frame for the unit, you will additionally require upwards of 30' of this same 1" square tubing material).
About 1' 6" (one foot and six inches) of 1" (one inch) diameter round stock steel (for axle ends)
About 12' (twelve feet) of 3/16" steel rod (for honey frame "baskets")
About 4' (four feet) of 1/2" wide strap steel stock (for honey frame "baskets")
About 4' (four feet) 1/2" square tubing (for base of honey frame "baskets")
Two 3/4" bearings and associated bearing blocks (I used one four bolt unit, and one 2 bolt unit).
One plastic trash can (to use as liner to catch honey)
One drive motor (I chose a $19 ceiling fan from Lowe's)
3/4" x 10" wood for lid (if you choose to build one)
Step 4: Disassembling the old donor washer (to get to just the hull)
I chose to use an old washing machine hull as part of the superstructure for my honey extractor, to give my extractor a little character. You can bypass this step, and simply build a box frame from 1" square tubing (used throughout this project). In retrospect, the extra time it took to refit the old washing machine hull is likely not considered worth it by the utilitarian types out there reading...but the end unit certainly is a unique looking honey extractor, and will certainly get you some attention among the beekeeping crowd.
In these photos, I simply gutted the washer, and stripped it down to it's bare hull.
You will need to do the same, and your process may slightly vary based on the type of washer you are able to lay your hands on.
Simply begin by removing the center agitator axle from the tub (as seen in photo). This will be held in by through hub bolts. Soak in WD-40 or PB (or other solvent/lubricant of your choice) and use socket to remove (or break off) each bolt. You won't be using any of these parts, so destroying/thrashing them is fine.
Then, flip the unit over (as seen in photos below), and remove the drive/agitator/pump assemblies. I was able to get some bolts loose using Craftsman sockets, and WD40....but the sawzall had to come out for the stubborn, rusted parts.
After you remove the lower supports/drive system, flip the washer back on it's legs, and simply lift out the tub.
However you get the tub/drive assembly out, be careful to not damage your hull. The less damage you do to it now, the less repair (even if it's cosmetic) you'll have to do to it later.
In my case, eventually, it all came out, leaving me with a nice light hull to work with, as seen in photos below.
Step 5: Overview of Build Components
Now that you have the basic idea, we can break down the fundamentals of building this honey extractor into the following four fundamental parts:
1) Creation of a superstructure which mounts to the washer hull, to support a lower bearing, and upper bearing, in which the center axle will mount, and rotate.
2) Construction of a center axle and connected radial honey frame baskets (in which the honey frame are held during the extraction process).
3) Selection and Installation of a 'Drive Motor' and construction of a 'Drive Coupler' which links the motor to the axle assembly.
4) Installation of a 'liner', which the honey will be used to 'catch' the honey as it come from the honeycomb, and which will also serve as a temporary collection area for extracted honey (until the honey runs out the drain in the liner and into an external container for filtering/bottling/etc).
Step 6: Building the Superstructure : Lower Support Structure
After measuring the washer hull, and determining it's dimensions, you can begin to build the superstructure within which the extractor would operate. The washing machine hull, being made of thin appliance sheeting, was quite flimsy once it's tube and internals were removed. Hence, you will need to build a superstructure to both support a vertical rotating axle about which the honey frames will rotate, but to also provide rigidity to the washer hull. If you are building a simple box frame, instead of using the washer hull, this will not be an issue for you...but what fun would that be?
In order to center you lower bearing block, you will need to build a lower support system from 1" light wall tubing. This lower support system will center the lower bearing block, and will support the weight of the axle.
First, measure the interior diameter of your hull. Check it both at the top, and that bottom, in case your hull is on a taper. If your hull is tapered, use your bottom diameter measurement for construction of your bottom bracket, and your top measurement for construction of your top bracket.
Once you have the diameter at the bottom of your hull measured, you will need to cut three joints of 1" square tubing to length, (leaving a little extra on each piece's length), and 'mock-up' the base structure within your frame (as seen in the photos). You will also need to account for the flat 'plates' you will be welding onto the ends of your cross members through which you will drill and place your mounting bolts (plates are 1/8" thick). Use C-Clamps (as seen in photos) to hold your mocked up lower supports in place.
Go ahead and cut out eight support backing plates, measuring 3" x 2" from your 1/8" thick, 3" wide flat steel stock. You can pick this up at any Home Depot/Lowes type store. After cutting out all eight, stack them in your drill press as shown, and drill two 3/8" holes in each plate, to allow for 1/4" mounting bolts. ALWAYS use a centerpunch to mark your drill points, so your drill bit doesn't 'walk' on your material. Additionally, once you drill your first hole, if you have to remove your 'stack' of plates to drill the second, use another drill bit to maintain alignment of your first holes, so your second holes are perfectly spaces (see photos below, and notes in photos).
After reviewing the mock-up of the lower support/bearing mount, some trimming may be required. It's best to always leave an 1/8" extra or so, and trim it off, rather than wasting a piece you cut too short. Always remember to account for the width of your saw's blade when cutting (see photos).
I would stick to my support design as shown, as opposed to doing a simple support with only two contact points. Using the three (well, four technically) point layout I have shown below will add rigidity to the flimsy hull, and will allow you to center your bearing, without drilling through your cross member (by allowing you to offset your cross member so it doesn't lay in the exact center axis of the hull, where your axle is going to sit).
After final fitting in mock-up, the steel tubing should be removed, and prepped for welding by removing all mill scale/rust using an angle grinder, wire brush, or other abrasive. Also, if appropriate, bevel edges on weld joints.
Use C-Clamps and a 90 degree square to ensure your tubing is set up correctly. Tack weld each piece, and save final welding for when entire superstructure has been test fitted (upper and lower brackets) in case you need to make adjustments. Use C-Clamp setup as shown in photos to weld on your end plates to the lower mounting cross members. ALWAYS tack weld first, then test fit. Only do final welds after you are sure you have everything setup perfect.
Now, you will need to cut a piece of 1/8" thick plate to span your lower bracket, to act as a 'pad' for your lower bearing block (see photos).
After you cut a piece (approximately 6" x 4") weld it into position in your lower bracket.
Determine position of lower bearing block on this plate, and mark mounting bolt holes.
Drill mounting bolt holes (1/2") for lower bearing block in the plate, along with a center hole of 1" to allow the axle to pass through. One method for cutting the 1" axle hole is shown in the photos. Simply cut smaller (3/8"?) holes around the circumference of the axle hole position, and knock out with a cold chisel (again, see photos and photo notes).
You will now need to drill matching mounting holes in your washer hull for the lower support bracket. Simply install the lower bracket and check with a level. Then use a hand drill (as shown) to drill through the hull, using your lower bracket mounts as alignment guides.
Fit-up your lower bracket, and mate external mounting bracket plates, and install loosely your bolts.
Your lower bracket is complete.
Step 7: Building the Superstructure : Upper Support Structure
The upper support structure will contain the upper bearing block (the upper point where the axle is mounted), as well as the motor/drive assembly.
As illustrated and noted in the photo below, accurately measure the diameter of your hull at the uppermost point.
Cut two 6" lengths of 1" square tubing, to make the vertical components of the upper support.
Cut one length of 1" square tubing 2" longer than the diameter of your hull (in my case, about 26") for your upper support cross member..
Create four more flat plate mounting plates from 1/8" steel, and drill as before to receive bolts.
As illustrated, weld those flat plates to your two 6" vertical support element.
Now, using a square, and C-Clamps, layout and weld your two 6" vertical elements to your long cross member.
You should now have a simple 'C' shaped unit, comprised of your cross member, and your two vertical elements with mounting plates attached..
To accommodate the pass-through of the center axle shaft (and avoid doing an offset cross member on top, as on the bottom), you will not need to 'scab' both sides of your new cross member. To do this, simply cut two additional lengths of 1" square tubing, about 8" long. Weld the first (as illustrated in photos below) to one side of your cross member, at the center point. After making this weld, cut out 2" or so of the original cross member, to allow for the axle pass through. Now weld (as shown in photos below) your second 8" piece of tubing the OTHER side of your cross member.
Now, drill holes for your bearing block, and grind the holes out to allow for some 'slop', so you can slightly adjust the position of your upper bearing block.
Using a level, and C-Clamps (shown) affix the entire assembly you have jsut built to the upper hull in position, and drill 'through holes' using the mounting plates once again as guides. Install all four mounting bolts through the upper support bracket and the hull, again, using the backing plates you made, and tighten up snug for test fitting.
Step 8: Building the Superstructure : Making the Centershaft/Axle 1
You are going to need a centershaft/axle, with 'baskets' to hold the honey frames. This axle will be aligned in the center of your extractor, DEAD center of your 'liner' (which catches the honey), and will mount into your bearing blocks/bearings at the top support, and bottom support connection points.
In my construction, I made this step WAY too complicated. I'll detail my process I carried out here anyway...but you can save this entire mess (of adapting square tubing to round bearing receivers), if you simply use round tubing for your entire axle. For instance, if you are using 3/4" Internal Diameter (ID) bearings , then simply choose a piece of heavy walled 3/4" Outer Diameter (OD) stainless tubing as your shaft material, and you won't have to make any special end pieces/etc to adapt to the bearings...your tubing will slip right into your axle bearings, with no lathe/other heavy equipment involved.
In my case, however, I used square tubing for the center portion of the axle...and hence, I had to fabricate axle ends which adapted the square axle to mount in the (obviously) round bearing receivers.
So....to do this (overly complicated, and unnecessary) task:
I selected the same 1" light wall tubing I've used in the other parts of construction. You will need to have an axle length AT LEAST long enough to accommodate the fact that your honeycomb hive frames are 19" in width. I calculated my center axle length as 19" plus about 4" on each end to receive the bearing axle adapters, making my center axle length 27" initially (although, I trimmed this down later during test fitting). Since you have already built and test fitted your upper and lower support structures, you can measure the distance between your bearing to get an idea of your axle lenght.
Cut yourself a center axle piece to length, using the preceding measurement you took.
To adapt the square tubing to the round bearings, you'll need to fabricate an adapter.
For this adapter, wyu can choose a piece of 'round stock steel' (a round bar of steel) of size 1". You can see in the photo that this is obviously the same size in diameter as our 1" square tubing.
Mount your 1" round stock up in the lathe, and turn it down until it's just small enough to slip INSIDE your 1" square tubing (this will vary, based on your 1" tubing wall thickness). Try to get a tight fit, to save having to do any alignments. A sloppy fit will lead to a wobbly axle. You want it to slip perfectly in the square tubing, with NO play at all.
You will want to have at least 1.5" in length of this shaft INSIDE the square tubing for strength.
Now, leaving yourself 1.5" of the freshly turned round stock, turn down the rest of the piece to the internal diameter (ID) size of your bearings. In my case, this was 3/4". Again, you want to shoot for a snug fit...as sloppy fit will lead to vibration of your axle.
You should now have a length of square tubing which comprises the center of the axle, and two end pieces of solid steel, which fit snuggly into the end of that square tubing, and also into the bearing sleeves (see photos for details).
Now that you have two finished axle ends, insert them into your square tubing piece of axle you have cut to length, and center punch a mark to cross drill the tube AND axle (see photo). This will allow you to pass a bolt through the axle end, and the square axle tubing, and still let you disassemble the axle unit, if necessary.
Step 9: Building the Superstructure : Making the Centershaft/Axle 2
(Be sure to refer to photo notes in this section, particularly).
Now that you have a nice center axle shaft, you'll need to make 'baskets' that will hold your honeycomb frames when the axle assembly is spinning.
To do this, you will simply need to cross members to support the frames at the bottom, and simple wire supports to retain a backing plate that keep the frames from slipping out and hitting the liner sides.
One note: BE SURE TO COVER YOUR TURNED AXLE ENDS WHEN WELDING NEAR THEM. This will avoid weld spatter from ruining your smoothly finished axle ends. (Yes, I'm telling you this because I did it...lovely mess on my nicely turned axle ends).
First, you'll need to cut your axle to receive the lower basket supports arms. To do this, drill one 1/2" hold completely through your axle tube, about 1.75" from the bottom. Using a hand file or high speed rotary/dremel type tool, 'square up' the hole (turn it into a square hole) the size of your cross square tubing (1/2").
Rotate your axle 90 degrees, and do the same thing, but about 1.5" higher on the axle tube.
Now, cut two 14" pieces of 1/2" square tubing. Your length may vary, based on your liner size. You want to make these as wide as possible, while still ensuring they don't come close to hitting the sides of your liner.
Slide the 1/2" square tubing through the axle holes you just made, and center perfectly. Using a square (as shown) tack weld into position. You should now have an axle (as pictured) with two cross braces in the form of an 'x' at the bottom of the axle shaft.
Now, cut yourself four 20" long pieces of 3/4" wide, 1/8" thick flat steel. This will be the 'backing plate' for your honey frames.
Using tack welds, attached the end of each flat strap to the newly installed lower supports you just welded into your axle tube.
Now, you should cut yourself about 18" pieces of 1/8 heavy wire, and use a vice to bend them into the 'deep C' shape shown in the photos.
Weld this light wire to the backing plate, and the ends to the center axle as shown, to finalize creation of the 'honey baskets'.
Step 10: Test Fitting Upper bracket, lower bracket, and axle together.
Now that you have your lower bracket, upper bracket, and basic axle built and tack welded together...it's time for a full test fit-up.
Go ahead and install your lower bracket , the axle, and then the top bracket. Don't tight your bolts yet.
Rotate the axle assembly, and inspect for any misalignment/off-centered behavior. If you left appropriate 'adjustment' (aka 'slop') in your bearing bolt holes, you should be able to use that slight amount of variance to ensure your unit is aligned.
Step 11: Making a Liner
Disclaimer (again): Ok...this is discussed in the original disclaimer...but...honey is a food product. As such, it should only come in contact with food grade materials. I only use my honey personally, and while using a new plastic trash can isn't ideal, I'll live with it for now. If you are producing honey it is your responsibility to determine the fitness for use of your materials. I would STRONGLY urge you to try to find a liner of food grade stainless steel. If you choose to use a plastic liner...consider yourself forewarned.
You will need to locate a plastic trash can that is small enough to fit inside your washer hull, but large enough to accommodate the overall diameter of your axle system (including width of your axle, the honey frames, and the outer edge of the 'baskets' used to hold the frames). I spent a few trips to a couple stores, before I found the trash can that fit my hull. You can always choose a trashcan that's too tall (I did), as long as it meets your requirements in terms of diameter. Then...you can simply trim off the top that is 'excess'. By the way...here's a tip...when the guy at Lowe's asks you why you're being so meticulous in your trash can selection...save yourself some time, and leave out that you're building a honey extractor.
Once you've found a suitable trash can (we'll call it the 'liner' from this point forward), simply place your liner inside your hull, and let it rest of your lower support bracket. Then, simply trace a line around the top of your liner that is even with the washer hull, to mark at what height you will trim your liner, for a flush fit.
Then, remove the liner, and use a pair of tin snips or similar (as pictured below) to trim off your excess liner. Now, reinstall temporarily as a test fit again on top of your lower bracket, to ensure your liner if flush with the top of your washer hull.
Next, you'll need to prep your liner to receive the mounting bolts, as you'll be installing your bearing block INSIDE your liner at final fit-up, and your bolts and axle will pass through your liner, into the lower support bracket.
Flip your liner upside down, and center up your lower bearing block (as shown). Use a marker to mark your four mounting bolt holes for your bearing block. Remove the bearing block, and drill four 1/2" holes on the four marks you made. These holes should PERFECTLY align with the four bolt holes in your bearing liner, as marked by the bearing block. Be very careful with this step....if you make a mistake, you could have to go buy a new liner (as you wouldn't want one with 'extra' holes in it, since it will be retaining some amount of honey.
Your liner is now ready. Set it aside, and keep it handy for the many more 'test fit-ups' that lay ahead.
Step 12: Setting up and Installing the Drive Motor
SAFETY NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with electrical wiring, and associated safety GET A QUALIFED FRIEND TO ASSIST YOU WITH THIS STEP. ELECTRICITY KILLS (and burns down houses). This step assume you have skills handling 110V electricity, or you've found someone who does.
For my drive motor, I chose to use a $20 ceiling fan motor from Lowe's (shown below).
You can use any motor you might have laying about that you think might have adequate torque, and RPM's (the later of which you could achieve with underdrive or overdrive pulley systems). I wanted a direct drive (no pulleys) so the ceiling fan was my best bet. It may burn up eventually, but at $20...it's an affordable consumable part.
Remember, that nearly all ceiling fan motors are set up so the motor body rotates, and the shaft stays 'fixed' (hence how it hangs from the ceiling from the center shaft). So...that mean you need to modify the fan motor to have a coupler to affix to your axle.
Un-box your new fan, and put all peripheral parts aside (blades, light, etc).
Remove any light assembly that might be attached (see pix).
You will have to pull all of your switch wiring back through the hollow center shaft. I cut off the lighting fixture/switch, and drew all wiring in reverse up through the center shaft. The you will be using the opposite side of the fan motor to affix your coupler (the opposite side of where the fan blades were intended to be installed by the fan manufacturer).
CAREFULLY remove the fan's cover by removing the retaining screws (photo below).
Cut two lengths of 1" square tubing 3.5" long. These will be affixed to the fan housing, and make up part of your 'coupler' to the axle. Drill two mounting holes in these pieces. I was fortunate, and my fan motor housing had pre-existing holes which I matched on teh tubing, allowing me to easily center my pieces. After cutting and drilling the two pieces of tubing, use four 1/2" bolts to affix them to the fan housing.
Cut one length of 3/4" x 1/8" thick steel flat stock, wide enough to perfectly span the two pieces of tubing you just bolted to the fan housing. Center that piece of strap on the two pieces of tubing so it is perfectly aligned in the center of the fan housing 'circle', and tack weld to your two pieces of tubing already bolted to the fan housing.
Now, TACK weld an 11/16" deep-well socket to the dead center of your assembly you just built (see photos). This will act as the actual 'coupler', mating to a slightly smaller nut (around 9/16", or any size that fits loosely in your chosen socket size)
Next...using C-Clamps and a couple pieces of flat plate steel, perfectly center your bolt onto the top of your axle (as pictured below). Once placed and perfectly centered, tack weld in position. REMEMBER...once you weld this in place, you CANNOT pass the axle back through the upper bearing block (design flaw #299).
Next, you'll need to build a mount on the upper support for the motor. Simply cut two lengths of 1" square tubing, and weld (as shown in photo) vertically onto upper support bracket, at such a height, as to accommodate your fan's ceiling mounting bracket. I chose to weld (as shown) two plates on top of my towers, and drill them, so the motor could be unbolted and removed. You may choose to do that, or you may simply weld the fan mount to the towers.
Step 13: Sanding, Primer, and Paint (the cosmetic stuff)
Again...only use FOOD GRADE PAINT in areas where your honey will contact painted surfaces.
Use a sand blaster, wire wheel, or other abrasive to prep your hull's surface for paint.
I used a combination of sand blasting (using Black Beauty abrasive) and wire wheel with an angle grinder.
Simply remove all dirt/rust/etc using the mentioned methods. Then, wipe down the entire hull using at least a rag, or better, a rag with MEK, Mineral Spirits, or similar, to remove dirt and dust.
Tape off any areas of the hull you don't want painted (I taped off old knobs, and identification plates). Take your prepped hull to a well ventilated area, and paint the entire hull with primer. Allow the primer to dry. Apply additional coats of white high-gloss paint (or color of your choosing).
Allow to dry overnight.
Step 14: Making a Lid
I elected to make an 'optional' lid...mainly to keep dust out of the liner when the unit is stored...and secondarily to add to the 'antique' effect of the machine.
Simply cut yourself out two or three 10" or 12" planks about 2" longer than the diameter of your hull, from 3/4" pine.
lay out your pieces to allow for a center axle gap, and using two 2" wide by 30" or so long pieces of the same pine, make yourself two cross braces.
Screw these braces to your wood planks, again, leaving a 1.5" or so gap for your center axle.
Affix a temporary board to the dead center of this arrangement, and place a nail or screw dead center of the entire assembly.
Using a string, and a pencil, create a compass, drawing a circle, using your nail at the center as your pivot point. Make your circle about 1/2" greater than the diameter of your washer hull.
Now, cut your circular piece out on the bandsaw.
You now have a simple lid for your extractor.
Step 15: The Completed Honey Extractor!
After a reasonable amount of work, you should be able to simply reassemble all of the parts you ahve test fitted numerous times, and have yourself a very unique honey extractor. (really...when is the last time you heard of a honey extractor inside an old washing machine...maybe Craftsman made one at one point...but I haven't seen one!).
See the video to see the unit in action, with two empty honey frames loaded.
As long term followup, I anticipate possibly upgrading the drive system to an ice cream maker motor, or variable speed 110V motor. I would also like to relocate the drive motor to underneath the unit, so it's less visible.
Additionally, at some point if I can manage to come up with some stainless steel, I will likely replace my plastic liner with a stainless steel one.
Good luck building your extractor, and if you have questions, feel free to ask!