Introduction: Honey Extractor

Got Bee's? I knew this day would come. One day all those bees would make some honey then I would have to make a honey extractor-anator and extract all the honey in the tri-state area. After all what could go wrong?

I have been a city bee keeper for two years now and this will be my first harvest. I couldn't afford a commercial honey extractor and borrowing the local clubs extractor seemed like a lot of work planning ahead and rushing to go get it extract and then return.

This project went together by solving one problem at a time in sort of a hap hazard way and getting a bit of luck every know and then. Sorry if some of the pictures seem out of order I just went building the parts as i thought of them then wrote this trying to put them in a logical order.

The theory behind the extractor is to spin the frames of honey flinging the honey out and leaving the wax intact. I wanted to spend as least money as possible (under the price of a store bought one 150.00+) and to use what I had on hand.

I noticed that a frame from my hive fit in a food grade bucket that i had for making beer. Lucky me. If i could use that i would not need to buy a bucket.

Step 1: Stuff (parts) and Things (equipment) I Used.


Drill with bits
Scroll saw


Large piece of tivar (Polyethylene) or plastic bread board (wood would also work)
8 - #8 stainless steel screws
1 - 3/8x36" threaded rod
6 - 3/8 bolts, washers, Lock washers
3 - five gallon buckets (as i would later find out one of my 5 gallon buckets is a 6 gallon bucket)
Several pieces of wood
1 - 1/4x7" threaded rod
2 - 1/4 lock nuts
1 - 1/2"x5" PCV pipe
2 - 1/2" end caps
1 - 3/8 Stainless end nut
5 - 1/4" screws
4 - pony beads
Scrap wood or what ever you have on hand

Step 2: Rotor

The rotor consists of two plates held in place on a threaded rod by (in order) a bolt, lock washer, fender washer, plate, fender washer, lock washer, bolt. The spacing between the plates is just longer than the length of the frame minus the tabs.  Follow the pictures and read the notes.

The inspiration for this, that I saw on U-Tube, They placed the frames in a line one on each side of the threaded rod. You would need a bucket 14 inches across to fit the router the and the five gallon bucket is about 12. I think that places the frames the wrong way as the honey cells would be parallel to the bucket walls, but many large extractors use that configuration (it eliminates having to flip the frames). You can also fit three frames in a triangle that would fit in the bucket. The plates were cheep and easy to make so I might try several configurations.  One with a basket would also be good for spinning the cappings.

Follow the pictures as you read to help you follow along.

Using a compass I drew a circle on some graph paper seven inches in diameter and placed the ends of frames parallel on my template. This helped in spacing and alining the holes. (the Polyethylene i found in the scrap bin at a local box company and was just over 7" wide and another piece about 10" wide) (You could also use wood, an old cutting board or possible a laser cut metal piece.)

The bottom disk has two holes that the tabs on the frame fit into and four pins that hold the end (bottom) of each frame. ( pins are #8 SS Screws) The top disk has the two corresponding holes and a slot cut out so the frame will side in. it is held in by a wedge pushing it forward and two fixed pins on the inside and two removable pins on the outside. The outside pins are removed and the frames are placed or removed and then the pins are replaced. All the fixed pins were screwed into tight fitting holes and the two removable pins were dropped into loose fitting holes. Nuts, pony beads and longer screws were used to help in removing the screws. ( I do foresee at least once dropping a screw into the vat of honey, Note: have extra screws ready.)  

Note:  Spacing - Leave extra room between the plates the top tab only needs 1/8 or 3/16 to hold the top plate.  Leave as much room as you buckets allow at the bottom also.  When spinning out the honey it sticks to the sides of the bucket and moves slowly down but i found that while spinning the second side of the frame the honey would build up at the bottom and touch the bottom plate in the router slowing it down and i would have to wait until it drained off to finish spinning.

Note: My homemade circle cutter is just a Plexiglas scrap attached to the bottom of the router. A hole is drilled in the Plexiglass one half the the diameter from the cutting bit.  Another hole is drilled in the material your cutting and a roofing nail is place through both holes. Then its around we go cutting about 1/8" every pass. The nail also went into a scrap piece of plywood to hold everything still and to save my nock down clamping table.

The last picture shows the end screw and the hight of the first plate I didn't want to drill a hole in the bucket for a spout. I wanted enough room to spin two frames of honey, then I was going to dump it out and start again. But i thought that is going to be messy better put in a spout or gait and use two buckets. This would then be put on a table or stand. Yea i could make a stand. 

Step 3: Rotor Handle

The wood was a scrap. I had cabinet grade plywood from the box company I used two pieces of PVC pipe (2" and a 1" fitting) to draw the circles.

After thinking about it some more I think i will make a tee handle later so it will hang better on the side of the bucket over the second bucket as the whole rotor must be taken out to place the frames in or remove them and two switch them around to get both sides.

The handle is a five inch piece of PVC with end caps that i drilled holes in so the threaded rod fit into a bolt could have been also used. two lock nuts go on the ends with a 3/4 end sticking out that was threaded into the hole on the smaller side of the handle. A loose fitting hole (3/4) was on the large side of the handle to go over the 3/4 threaded rod the handle is held in place the same way as the disks.

As it turned out (no pun intended) I removed the handle and spun the router by sliding my hands past one another with the threaded rod between them.  Harbor Freight sells a angle drill attachment that i thought about using.  Also Some gears would have also worked well (that would be my first project on a cupcake.  Where is the cupcake challenge) I also used a drill attached to the top of the threaded rod.  

Step 4: Bucket Mod 1 Hight and Bracket Attachment

Now thats the router is made you just need to spin it in a bucket  and collect the Honey.  Some choices need to be made to make that easier.  My plan is to put a plate on the bottom of the bucket with a center hole to keep the rotor from wandering and hitting the sides. The bracket on top keeps the top of the rotor centered 

The first mod was to place a cross bar to hold the router steady (not completely needed but it adds class and gears could be attached to it). This bar is held on by pins, since the bucket didn't have a lip big enough for the pins (!/4" screws) And I like making circles with the router I made a ring or a circle in a circle. Remember for the outside diameter you measure to the inside of the cutter and for the inside you measure to the outside of the cutting bit. Still got it wrong. The inside was going to fit tight to the bucket. The ring was going to be split on one side and a band clamp (Or because I couldn't find one a large zip tie would hold it on.) but because its too big I just drilled some holes every 120deg on the side and use three 1 1/2" x1/4" metal screws to hold it in place (like a telescope holder) (could have used three more screws) this worked but the bucket was thin walled and the screws pushed the walls in. 

Ok It was about this time that i realized the the frames fit into the bucket with no room to spare. This means that after you add room for honey the bottom nut and plate with the end nut things are getting out of the bucket on the top end.

The first adjustment is to cut a third bucket and stack two of them this gives you three more inches (Ok this was not a food grade bucket but what makes it food grade did some one just wash it?)

Step 5: Bucket Mod 2 the Bottom Most Plate

The last mod was to cut a large circle that fit in the bottom of the five gallon bucket this will hold a copper end cap in the center so the threaded rod doesn't twist it way through the bucket. More "luck", found out by trying the end nut fits into the the end cap like they were made to. The 1/2 thick Polyethylene will raise the bottom of the bucket as the gate will not sit on the very bottom of the bucket making the last 1/4" of honey hard to get out of the bucket. A notch will have to be cut into the circle for the gate. This was a last minute thing to use the gate so i have to order one. A PVC fitting could also been used but a gate will come in handy to fill jars later.

Step 6: Bucket Mod 3 the Gate

This is the honey gate i bought through a catalog for about $7.00 on the right is the backing nut.  You will notice that the distance from the outside of the nut to the inside is about 3/8 inch.  This means you will need to drill the hole in the bucket 3/8 inch from the bottom inside the bucket  There is a lip on the outside of the bucket so you cant measure from the bottom of the outside.  Too low and you wont be able to get the nut on too high and there will be two much honey left in the bucket.

A light helps (future ible would be a making a light with a 5 gallon pale.)  In the photo the bottom plate is in the bucket and was removed to measure and cut the hole.  The gate was then put in with the o-ring between the nut and the inside of the bucket.  I used channel locks to tighten the nut as hard as i could.  This is where a thin bucket (like the top one) would have been easier but being the food grade bucket was thicker and harder to flatten under the nut.  ( cupcake note:  make a curved washer set)

I traced the bottom plate on paper and cut it out.  Put this template in the bucket and drew around the nut.  I then used the template to cut a notch in the bottom plate.  This puts the opening of the gate just under the level of the plate letting all the honey flow out.  Some is left in the gap between the plate and valve.  I was going to fill that gap with food grade silicone and stick down the plate but it wasn't necessary.  The copper end cap could have fit better but i didn't have a problem with that either once the honey was flowing.

Step 7: Stand

Well what do you do with that hole we cut out in step 4?  Make another and then a stand. As luck would have it I had seven 1" strips that would be about the right hight. And then, they were six thought i counted seven, yes the back one is different, its solid birch.

I marked the disks in 8 section using a protractor every 45 deg. Then placed the first disk on the second and drew an arc between two marks skipping the center one ( traced the bucket).  Marked and pre-drill all holes make sure the second shelf is higher than the lower bucket will be.

More Luck, that 50 Lb weight that was sitting in the basement fit under the stand adding to stability. (I also used a packing strap to secure it to the table.)

Now that all said and done the stand works fine but i was thinking that i would have done the space between the shelves far enough apart to place all three buckets between the shelves for storage.  The i would wrap the hole lot in a bag for the winter.  

Step 8: Putting It All Together

Place bucket on stand with cut bucket inside. Then place rotor i the bucket on the pins. making sure you placing end nut in the copper fitting check aliment and fitting.  Strap the second bucket to stand in the recess.  Looks good, still needs a valve in this picture.  Had to order it.  

The more i look at it, the more I'm thinking if i rase the top shelf and put a slot in it for the threaded rod an make the legs near the cut out removable i could stack the buckets and place them between the shelves for storage. OK that does not work at all the top of the bucket is to big. Keep thinking.

Step 9: Adding a Bracket for the Rotor

I made this bracket for the rotor to hang on when adding or flipping plates.  In the end i never used it, and took it off.  i would just take the bar off the pins lean it back and remove the frames. 

Step 10:

Wash everything and dry it well.  I had my son strapped the extractor to the table.  It tends to wander like an out of balance washing machine.   Note I had just got of surgery and was not supposed to lift any thin heavy.  So who is going to help me get the honey?  The divided attention of a 9 year old.  

Having never done the before the learning curve was steep but i managed. 

The extraction went as follows:  I Placed the frames on the nock down table over hanging them on the opposite side of the table from the extractor and placed a space heater under them. (it was getting cold enough to make the honey really thick. the bees like to keep the hive above 90 deg.)  The heater really helped as the first frame I blew out when i tried to extract them.  My uncapping pan was in the middle of the table.  I would uncap the two frames over the heater and place them in the extractor.  Then i would move the next frames over the space heater.   I would turn the rotor by hand (not with the handle) by sliding my hands past one another with the threaded rod between them (Lucky i did not cut the rod) the handle was a 1 to 1 ratio which was not fast enough.  i would spin most of the honey out and then stop and flip the frames, as the frames are two sided and both sides need to be done.  Don't go too fast or the frames will become unbalanced and the comb will blow out (been their done that)  with most of the honey removed i would then attach the drill and spin at a low speed for 1 or 2 min.   Flip the frame and repeat with the drill.  The only filter i used was a colander from the dollar store.  This got most wax out and the rest floated to the top.  The frames got very clean.  When i gave them back to the bees to clean up, they took all the honey they could find and only filled up only about 4 cells.  I repeated this on 4 supers about 36 full frames and got 5 gallons of honey.  Yum I filled 50 2oz bears, the large Quart+ bear 11 Quarts and 12 1lb fancy jars.  

Refection  for scrap wood, $10 in hardware, $8 gate, $1 filter  and about $25 in buckets I would rate this as a good hobby extractor.  For my three hives this would be all i would need. And at a price at of about 1/4 of a store bought one.   Doing this after surgery I was sore my back was sore my stomach was tender.  It was a moderate workout.  And of course everything was sticky by the end.  I was very pleased with the hole thing.  Cant wait till next year.  Some future ibbles would be the uncapping box and the solar wax melter. 

Step 11: Extra Photos

4th Epilog Challenge

Participated in the
4th Epilog Challenge