There comes a time in every beekeeper’s life where he or she will want to harvest some honey. This is usually done with a centrifuge extractor. These start at a few hundred dollars for a very cheap unit, and the price goes astronomical from there. I spent quite a bit of time and money building test articles and doing mini test extractions, but ended up with a really good design that can be had for 50 dollars and a minimal set of tools.
Due to the attention on this post I felt a video was needed to help with some of the questions. Enjoy and thank you for watching.
This spinner is specifically designed to hold medium super frames. Slight adjustments will be needed to make this work for shallow super frames. Does NOT work for large frames. The 5 gallon buckets are too small. Maybe find a larger trash can if that is your preferred frame size.
The above images show what a loaded out spinner looks like. The spinner now needs a container to catch all the honey. I really wanted to use 5 gallon buckets for their price and size. One bucket isn’t deep enough, so I cut the bottoms out to use them as height extenders.
I used a mix of firehouse pickle buckets and white food grade buckets I bought at the hardware store. I cut the bottoms off of two buckets to stack them inside each other to increase the height and allow for a good spin without messing up your kitchen.
The bucket with all the holes in the bottom holds the bottom shaft from the spinner and keeps it stable during a spin. The center hole is just big enough for the 3/4″ PVC pipe. The others are there to help the honey drip down into the white bucket with the honey gate.
The stack up is: White bucket with honey gate, red bucket with holes, and two bottomless buckets for height. It is a very small setup that will quickly process two frames at a time. I just did 20 frames with this tool and had a really good time with it. Best of all it doesn’t take up much space in the house.
The Spinner Build
You will need the following items for the spinner. I included the prices I paid for everything, though your prices may vary. Not included in the list below is the buckets and the honey gate. The white food buckets can be had for 4-5 dollars each at lowes. The firehouse pickle buckets can be had for 2 bucks each! They do require a bit of soaking to get rid of the vinegar smell though. Honey gates can be had for 5-10 dollars.
In total you will spend about 50 dollars on the whole setup. Filters, a capping knife, honey bears, and others will cost you more, but a whole extraction and bottling setup for under 100 dollars is very attainable.
From a tools standpoint you will need PVC pipe cement, a saw or PVC pipe cutter, tape measure, and a marker. The pipe parts should look like those shown below.
UPDATE: Fresh PVC cement can be helpful. Fresh glue allows longer open working time than old glue. You only have a few seconds to get it right, so if your glue is old, get a new one.
While assembling the sections be mindful of how much cement you use. Too much will drip on your work surface, and will drip down inside to the sections you want to glue in the future. Work slowly and purposefully. Once you put two segments together, they are permanent in just a few seconds. Dry fit everything beforehand to make sure it all fits with your frame hardware.
UPDATE: Dry fitting is really important! Some stores may sell fittings with different sizes and depths. Dry fit every stage and check it often with your frames and bucket. Use multiple frames, as there can be variation in their construction as well.
These features are the depth stops for the frames. Gather a cross, two elbows, two plugs, and cut 2x 1.75″, 1x 1.5″, and 1x 3″ sections of pipe.
The 1.5″ section of pipe will connect to the bottom guide, the two 1.75″ pieces will hold in the bottom hooks that keep the frames from sliding down any further. I used plugs to keep honey out of the lower section of the spinner. This is what the finished part should look like
Next comes a bottom guide to keep the frames from sliding left and right. This step requires a cross, two tees, and two 2.75″ pipe sections. Be careful with this step. Too narrow and your frame will not fit, too wide and it will not fit in the bucket.
Assemble the sections and attach it to the bottom hook as shown below. Now the frame will come down into the hook and be held from sliding left and right.
The top guide will hold the top end of the frame and prevent it from going out during the spin, and from going left or right. Gather a cross, two tees, four elbows, 2x 2.75″ pipes and 4x 1.5″ pipes.
It is probably best to assemble the two outer arms first, then attach them to the central cross.
A short 3 inch section of pipe and the threaded pipe fitting goes on top to allow for the drill to be attached. I chose 3inches for that length, but it could honestly be longer or shorter.
A single 14.5″ piece of PVC attaches the top and bottom half. Dry fit this piece to make sure it holds your frames correctly. The two sets of guides should line up so that a frame can be slid down through the top guides into the bottom hook.
A threaded coupling was installed at the top of the spinner earlier. Now comes the final piece of the puzzle. An iron pipe threaded adapter takes the size from 3/4″ to, I think, a 3/8″ female thread. That allows a brass barbed fitting to thread in. The brass fitting is small enough to fit into my drill. Most drills can chuck onto anything smaller than 3/8″ in outer diameter. I used a hose clamp around the PVC threaded fitting to help reinforce it. My dewalt drill runs it pretty well on the lower speed setting. Just accelerate slowly, and stop slowly and everything will be ok!
Update: A good alternative is to cut the barb off and use the remaining brass hex portion as a nut. Get an adapter for your drill and put the appropriate socket on there. Now you don’t have to tighten your chuck every time, just slip on the socket and drive!