DIY Honey Extractor


I’m more of a bee-visitor than a beekeeper these days. I only see the bees a couple hours every week or two. It’s just not the same as having them close by and being able to watch them every day. I have little interest in continuing as a bee-visitor. I’m not selling off the hives just yet, but I don’t plan to do anything other than maintain the seven hives I have now. To take on anything more than basic maintenance is beyond my means for the time being, and it’s not much fun if I can’t hang out with the bees. The most fun I had this past summer was when I made a 4-frame extractor with a friend of mine. I’m not posting the plans for it because it’s a prototype and the design has some minor flaws that need to be corrected first. But it works beautifully, easily well worth the $120 I spent on it. Here’s a demo video of its maiden voyage:

By the way, the heating gun method of uncapping the honey works great. No fuss, no muss and way cheaper than an uncapping knife.

AUGUST 13/14: I just uploaded these photos of the extractor for anyone who wants to try to figure out how I built it, though I don’t recommend it.

August 15/15: I trashed the DIY extractor and bought a professionally made extractor instead, the Maxant 3100p:

Maxant 3/6/9 Honey Extractor, Model 3100P. (August 12, 2015.)

Maxant 3/6/9 Honey Extractor, Model 3100P. (August 12, 2015.)

18 thoughts on “DIY Honey Extractor

  1. I first heard about uncapping with a heating gun in this video:

    I had my doubts, but I don’t anymore. I think it’ll take a bit of practice to get the timing right so I melt the cappings without burning the wax here and there, but I love it because I don’t need to deal with the mess of wax afterwards. The wax cappings are best for making beeswax products, but as a small scale non-commercial beekeeper, I’m not interested in extra wax.

    A cheap heating gun is about $20. The usual heated uncapping knife sells for well over $100. That’s my main reason for using the heating gun — and the DIY extractor. Most beekeeping supplies are overpriced, and I’m not rich.

  2. Nice job on the extractor!
    My honey from a few hives came out almost black like buckwheat honey. We think it might have to do with the Japanese knotweed that is prevalent in the area.

  3. You know, Phillip, as much as you complain about your beekeeping problems, you sure extract a lot of honey. :-) Some of us haven’t yet had enough honey to extract.

    • Well, I’m thankful for the honey and had a great time making the extractor. But not being able to see the bees every day (only seeing them a few hours every week or two) and more or less rushing through everything I did with them, no time to sit back and watch them, I quickly realized that I’m not in it for the honey.

      I’d give up all the honey if I could have seen our bees every day like I have for the past two years. Even two or three times a week might have been alright. I feel like a stranger around the bees now. It’s a bummer.

  4. I understand the disappointment. I have half my bees in my backyard, and half in an outyard a few miles away. I’ll be expanding to another yard next spring. The travel is time and labor intensive, and you don’t get to just enjoy them as much. Maybe you could raise queens in your backyard, and have mating nucs that wouldn’t swarm. Queen rearing looks fun. I’ll probably try it next year, too.

  5. Nice DIY extractor. are you planning on adding a small motor or a hand crank? any thoughts on how to place the frames in easier? also did the cappings that you melted harden back up once you strained the honey or let it sit?

    I got about 80 lbs of honey off one hive this August with another 23 lbs of the same hive earlier in the summer and I just have an older model of extractor ( hand crank) and it was a big hot sticky job, but that’s honey :)

    • “are you planning on adding a small motor or a hand crank?”

      No. The drill works perfectly. Almost too perfectly, it goes so fast. It can whip out the honey in four frames in about two minutes. I’ll add a cradle for the drill so I can push the trigger, lock and then walk away while it spins.

      “any thoughts on how to place the frames in easier?”

      We need to build a new cage for the frames. Our design is cheap and it works, but we’re working on a cage that will provide more support and will be easier to load up. The frames spin so fast that poorly constructed frames will fly apart (which has happened twice).

      “also did the cappings that you melted harden back up once you strained the honey or let it sit?”

      I’m not sure what you’re asking, but once the cappings are melted, the wax hardens and the cells are either left opened by the melting or they’re softened so much they split open during the extraction. The heat gun method isn’t perfect. Some cappings seem extra thick and don’t seem to melt, but for most of the frames, 99% of the honey will be extracted.

  6. Hi fellows, I have two questions:
    – why do not you recommend your DIY extractor ???
    – using heating gun, does it damage the comb ???

    • Mattia, I didn’t notice your comment when you posted it. If you’re still listening, the answers are:

      I don’t recommend this DIY extractor because a few simple design changes would make it much easier to use. Specifically, it can be a pain adding and removing the frames. I have to loosen a wingnut every time I do it, and the whole mechanism isn’t locked, so the frame-holders actually move and rotate around unless I’m holding them carefully. The design works, and it worked fine when I only had one or two supers to extract once in a while, but it would take forever to extract the honey from three or four hives.

      The heating gun doesn’t damage the comb. Only the caps over the honey need to melt. A few cells might still need to be scraped open, but overall it works and the bees don’t seem to have much trouble refilling the frames when I put them back in the hives… I use the heat gun because it’s much cheaper than a heated decapping knife and requires much less clean-up afterwards. I also do it because I have no interest in processing wax.

  7. It appears as if you are securing the frames in place by having the top bar of the frame fit into a hole in the white plastic pieces which then spin around. I would think that the design would be more stable if the top bar of the frame were anchored closer to the center rather than distal to the axis of rotation. I like the design, though. Very nice.

    • Stephen, it’s not a stable design at all. I was able to extract honey many times with it, but it was a very precarious operation. Frames flew apart more than once because the mechanism put too much pressure on the weakest parts of the frames.

      I don’t plan to use the extractor again, but I will eventually post a video that shows exactly how I made it, how it worked and how it could be improved for people trying to build one on a budget. For hobbyists with one or two hives, a DIY extractor can be made fairly easily and cheaply.

  8. Once you are finished extracting and bottling the honey from your frames, what do you do with the empty combs?
    – Do you melt them for the bees wax and then install new foundation in the frames before returning them to the hives? or,
    – Do you re-insert the frames with the empty combs into the supers, thereby saving the bees the trouble and time of rebuilding every cells before loading them with honey again?

    • I return the frames to the bees after I’ve extracted the honey. Depending on the time of year, the bees will refill the frames with honey or clean up the frames by consuming the remaining honey.

      One of the advantages of an extractor is that allows the bees to reuse the comb right away instead of having to spend much of their resources building new comb.

Leave a Reply