Building a Honey Extractor (using an 'antique' washing machine)

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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.

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What a childhood trip this has been. I remember seeing one of these when I was but a little lad. Finally I may just be able to build one of this! It seems very elaborate and well-thought, props to that! This is probably out of topic but I would most certainly add designs to the exterior with a really vintage paint like red mahogany paint with antique silver designs around it. You know, just to be classy and all.
dcastor3 years ago
When I was growing up, my father had a homemade extractor made out of a garbage can. There was a bolt on the top that with the right driver bit enabled two frames at a time to be spun with an electric drill. A pipe was was welded into the bottom of the can to drain out the honey. It worked very well...and, I *hope* the garbage can was painted with food grade paint, but not sure.
Here's a cheap and easy beehive to go with your extractor:
mtngrown4 years ago
I'm working on a non-electric version of one of these using a 55 gallon barrel and some bicycle parts for the spinner. Hope to post the instructable sometime soon. Thanks for the post, it's great!!
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  mtngrown4 years ago
MtnGrown: Thanks for the comment. I've see a couple units constructed using the 55 gallon drum and bike spokes/rims as the basis of frame holders. We just finished using my unit for spring honey harvest on a few hives, and it's worked well, although the ceiling fan motor was grossly underpowered. It worked, but took nearly 20 mintues to spin down to shallow frames....too long. We've switched it to a variable speed 1/2" drill motor, which works much better. The only input I'd have for you is: 1) If you set your frames like i did mine (radially), the wind resistance is surprisingly high. If you are doing a hand crank, or pedal might be worth considering orienting the frames in a non-radial pattern where only one side is extracted at a time....and then you flip them over. While that seems like a nuisance, it is surprising how much wind resistance comes from a honey frame...and that might be pertinent to your implementation, given you won't use an electric motor. 2) "Pickle Barrels"....Food grade barrels seem shady at best, when you buy them. People here sell them, but I never had any idea how to tell if they are indeed food grade, or if they really came from a factory making something toxic, and the guys selling them are fibbing. That said...I've heard several people say that pickling companies sell their barrels, which are obviously food if you know someone working in any food supply industry...that might be a good place to get a barrel you are sure has not been exposed to anything that might pollute your honey. Thanks again for the view and input...much appreciated...I'm just glad someone out there has found my post useful! We're in the great state of keep the 'Mountain Grown" theme going!
Beautiful state, WV! I have kin up there. I'm in the northern Appalachians of North Carolina myself, so we're practically neighbors in mountain terms, lol. I hadn't considered the wind resistance factor, glad you brought it up. I have some recovered motors here from things like old refrigerators, washing machines and waterpumps. Think I'll use one of them on the drive gear instead of a hand crank and I'll just keep the hand crank option open for when I have to extract off-grid. Seems like pedal power would be great but difficult to set up unless you used a worm drive of some sort. Gotta love rural
 Very nice and detailed, looks like a professional job! But one question, since the wire basket you made looks like un-protected metal, is there any rust or metal taste that gets in the honey? I'm building an extractor at the moment, and trying to find out what would be best as a basket, but we don't have a welder! 
Thanks for the feedback.

I actually bought a food grade paint (which is clear) and coated the internal components (not the liner, but everything else) with it.  It took some digging locally, but I found paint that met the 'food grade' requirement.

Many apiarist (bee keeper) websites sell a similar paint on their sites, so a quick google search should yield those places as well.

You can buy "brush on" or "spray on" food grade paint, but the 'spray on" isn't as easy as it sounds, so I'd say go with the "brush on".  I don't sell my honey commercially, so it's not as big of a concern, but if you are going to sell commercially, you might check with your local Agricultural Extension Agent (a free service in your state) and talk to them about other options.

Thanks again...and if you want to talk about my 'lessons learned' and hear what I would do differently, you can message me with your email address, and I'll be happy to talk about it.

Thanks again.

 Ah yes food grade paint, I was thinking about that as an option as well. Thanks for the reply!
slimguy3796 years ago
i am a bee keeper and have to exract at a friends house due to me not having an extracter so thanks for the idea
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  slimguy3796 years ago
Happy to help out anyone thinking about bee keeping! Other alternatives to my build might be sourcing a stainless steel 'liner' from a seller of used restaurant equipment/supplies (maybe a large stainless 'pot' or 'kettle'?) Of course...if your friend let you use their extractor for might ask him/her if it would just be easier to "store their extractor at YOUR house"!!!! ;-) Good luck with you hives, and I hope you have a good honey-flow this year!
well honey isn't a aggressive market so i work hand in hand with the guy who has the extractor and he live just down the road... but i might just build it for a weekend project, again thanks. also have you been hit with ccd this year? just curious
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  slimguy3796 years ago
Fortunately, I had no CCD events. My primary problem at the current time is ensuring honey stores are enough in the hives for winter, here in WV. I am currently feeding my bees syrup mix, in an attempt to ensure they make it until the Spring, without depleting their honey supplies in the hives.
exactly whats going on here... in NY, what chemicals do you mix with your syrup? i assume sugar, water and,.... the chemical. this is my fisrt year doing it as a 17 yr old, but my father has done it for over 30yrs, so hes obviously abig help.
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  slimguy3796 years ago
I'm actually in WV. I don't mix any chemicals in my syrup...I just bring about a gallon of water to just below boiling, add 2:1 ratio of sugar, and stir until the sugar totally dissolves. Then I feed it using a one gallon ziploc bag.
You can how in the following link:

Good luck with your bees!
we add a chemical to the mixture for the mites...
this group
thinks no chemicals, use "paint stick" as the middle frame and bees will be stronger, less mites, etc. We have bees now for about 3 years, no CCD, and great honey.
checked the link, but we have top feeders so we dont have to open the hives up ever time. but thanks for the great link
bwpatton15 years ago
Couldnt you just run the combs through a wringer that it came with?? Great Idea Wonderful Ible'
flyerd16 years ago
This was great. You mentioned that you might do an instructable about how to build a hive and start with bees. I'd like to say that I'd love to see that. Can you build a "complete" hive from scratch? That Q comes from my limited exposure to bee keeping when I was shown the parts that hang down into the hive. They appeared to be manufactured and were basically sheets of some material (plastic or wax?) pressed into a hive shaped pattern. If you make a hive from scratch do you need something like that? Thanks again
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  flyerd16 years ago
Hello Flyerd1: can certainly build your hives from scratch....and that's what I did...except for the frames (which hang in the boxes). it's just cheaper to buy the frame kits (unassembled) than undertake cutting them yourself. you can certainly make your hive boxes, lids, bases, etc yourself, adn save mucho money. just have a look at the links i've posted in other comments, and you'll find free plans online, with easy to follow instructions. as for 'wax foundation' (the sheets of material in the frames) can use it if you choose, or you may choose not can purchase such wax sheeting from common bee suppliers (online) in varying sizes/shapes. after your bees are established, wax sheets are less critical, and you'll use less of them (in most cases). i would encourage anyone considering beekeeping to reach out to the free resources online, and the local agricultural office for your area (state organizations)'s not as complex as it might seen...and once you get started, you'll enjoy it! good luck!
RedRyder6 years ago
I don't know if anyone has noticed this or not... if so, I apologize in advance... but it appears that your combs go in perpendicular to the walls of the tub. Could you modify this so that they go in parallel? I went to a beekeeping workshop this week, and they had VERY EXPENSIVE extractor there that was hand operated. The beekerper cuts off the caps from the comb with a hot knife, loads the frame in the extractor with the cut side facing out, and spins it by hand a few dozen times to extract the honey. When one side is empty, remove the frame, cut the caps on the other side, insert it again, and spin. This kept the comb from being damaged, too. There was a metal grid around the frame it rested against while spinning. Watching it in use got me thinking about making one... and in looking, I found yours! This is an awesome 'ible! The only thing I'd modify is the orientation of the holders for the frames. Yours holds 2x as may frames at a time, by the way... another improvement. Well done! And I think my mother-in-law has that exact same "antique" washing machine in her barn... in green. I'm gonna go requisition it tomorrow... :-)
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  RedRyder6 years ago
Yep...that's frames are perpendicular. This is called a 'radial' setup. Combs are actually built by the bees with a slight vertical 'slant' to the cells, meaning one end of the cell is tipped 'up' in a sense. So...if you orient the combs correctly, the honey will flow out easier. Both radial, and non-radial extractors work. In a radial extractor, you don't have to stop once you've done one side, and flip over the frame and do it again. In a radial, you just load them one time (saving time). Both are legit methods...I just prefer the radial units. If you browse a bit online, you'll see commercially produced radial extractors that can hold EIGHT frames (that's a lot of rotating mass, and has to have a motor large enough to accommodate that much mass)....but they are out there, if you can afford them. The only problem with using the washing machine is it limits the diameter, and hence, using a radial design, you are limited to shallow supers (in my case). If your machine is larger in diameter, or you develop a better liner, you may be able to spin Illinois supers radially...but perhaps your idea to switch to a non-radial configuration could compensate and allow for the narrow radius. In any event, good luck, and if you have questions, feel free to message me. is a good place for cheap bearings and such... Glad to meet another beekeeper, and really happy you found the 'ible' useful!!! ;-) again...if you have questions, do message me!
mmh6 years ago
Congratulations! I can almost taste that honey. Enjoy your new tools!
frollard6 years ago
Great project, and great writeup! Only problem is, how many people have access to honeycomb racks conveniently coated with honey? :) I'd love one of these, if I had a honey-farm. Good stuff
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  frollard6 years ago
Thanks for the other part of my Instructable to get more people interested in they would have honeycomb frames to spin in their extractors!

I've only been doing it for a year or so now, and I never thought I'd be a beekeeper...but it's great fun...environmentally helpful...educational...and can be done pretty much anywhere...not just on some rural farm!

So....perhaps my next Instructable should be how to build your own hives, and get started with bees?

Do check out these sites, and consider keeping a hive this'll need to get started's almost spring!

Thanks again!!!
those are some pretty neat resources. Still not sure the landlord would like a bee hive on my balcony :)
KEUrban6 years ago
Congratulations on becoming a finalist in the Craftsman Workshop of the Future contest! Good luck!
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  KEUrban6 years ago
Thanks! I'm excited about making 'round 3'. My girlfriend dug your wine bottle lights...I suspect I'll end up making that soon... They looked great, and are a great recycle...I look forward to seeing what else you come up with. Thanks again.
wfp2a6 years ago
Beautiful work! I am a WV beekeeper also so you make me doubly proud! I have pics of a homemade extractor (no where near as fancy as yours, but...) on my site if you want to have a look
Homemade extractor

Anyhow, you get my vote for the contest!
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  wfp2a6 years ago
Hey...thanks for the compliment! Your extractor is great as well...I like the screen basket you built. Very effective. You should post your unit as an INSTRUCTABLE as well...I think the more people see how easily you can build an extractor...people might further their bee experiences. Thanks again!
SinAmos6 years ago
Simple in design, but cool.
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  SinAmos6 years ago
Thanks so much. Yes...I did a very simple design. This things will get used about three times a year or so...and I needed to be able to pull it out, use it, and put it away, with little effort, and not having to 'fix' it every time, or anything. Thanks for having a look, and the positive feedback.
JulieMae6 years ago
When I was a girl, we used an old milk separator. It worked very well. I like your plan, it is electric. It will go much faster.
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  JulieMae6 years ago
Thanks for the comments. My electric unit is pretty quick, but I was careful to not have it go TOO fast, so it doesn't collapse my honeycomb. Using wire in your combs can help...but too much speed would probably result in collapsed comb, that would come out of the frames. I'm sure your milk separator worked well...and was a pretty classic way to do it. Thanks again!
mmh6 years ago
Great instructable. I took a beekeeping course from George Imari (invented the Imari shim). How are the bee hives doing these days? I've noticed a great reduction in domestic bees and fortunately we have a variety of wild bees in our area. Now, how about some of that delicious honey!?~
kcli6 years ago
Even if I weren't a beekeeper, you'd still get my vote! What a challenging entry and I hope you win!
schristy05 kcli6 years ago
Hey...I hope I win as well! Thanks for reading...and if you aren't keeping might think about fun, interesting hobby, that can be done pretty much anywhere. Thanks again!
doozer_not_fraggle (author)  schristy056 years ago
BTW...I'm the owner of this I-BLE...previous post from SCHRISTY05 was actually from just posted under my girlfriend's account...she was on my laptop voting for me, and it either didn't log out, or cached her account. ...but should definitely consider's surprisingly interesting!
I totally agree...I've been a backyard apiarist for about 25 years and know for a fact that suburbia will never have too many bee ambassadors! Thanks for promoting this unique hobby :o)
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