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Extracting honey from comb using rotary extractors requires the uncapping of the cells. This is the removal of the top covering that would otherwise prevent honey from flowing out of the cell. When uncapping, you aim to remove a thin layer of wax from the top of the cells. The honey cells remain largely intact with only the top cover removed. Properly uncapped cells allow easy flow of honey during extraction. They are also easy to use for storage of more honey when the empty honeycomb is returned to the beehive.
Honey uncapping knives and needle rollers are manual tools that can be used to uncap honeycomb cells. In this article we’ll be discussing honey uncapping machines, which are automated, mechanized devices that can uncap many frames at once. We’ll be taking a look at the honeycomb uncapping process and a few of the best honey uncapping machines.
What are Honey Uncapping Machines?
A honey uncapping machine is a device made to help remove honey cell cappings. Some are also made for piercing of the wax cappings so that honey can be extracted from the honeycomb. Uncapping machines come in various designs. They are usually made using food grade materials since they get into contact with honey. Traditionally, uncapping was done using knives of various kinds. Serrated uncapping knives are still popular with many beekeepers.
Over the years, uncapping machines have seen heated knives and specially designed tools developed. Some are rollers that are passed over the honeycomb to be uncapped. The roller has spikes which pierce wax cappings. When using uncapping knives, a thin layer of wax is removed off the top of the honeycomb.
Modern uncapping machines however, are much more advanced and help make the process of uncapping honeycomb faster. They use mechanisms that have a roller through which honeycomb is passed, or an edged tool sliding a long a plane. They are often made using stainless steel that is certified food safe. Some of the modern uncapping machines are heated using electric power. They are able to uncap honeycomb with greater ease. On average, a honey uncapping machine should enable you to uncap more than 4 frames with honeycomb per minute.
Benefits of Using Honey Uncapping Machines
Honey extraction from comb is a lot easier when uncapping is done as a preparation activity. The closed cells with ready honey would require a lot of centrifugal force to break them and expel honey. By first uncapping the honeycomb, you are able to use less centrifugal force on the honeycomb. This raises the chances of the comb remaining intact and can be returned to the beehive soon after.
Best Honey Uncapping Machines
Let us now take a look at the best honey uncapping machines that will make your life a whole lot easier.
5. Beekeeping Vertical Manual Uncapping Machine (12V)
This manual 12 volt uncapping machine for Langstroth beehive frames is an electrically powered. The whole machine when fully assembled measures 50 x 60 x 45 centimeters. Its total weight is approximately 10 kilograms. Stainless steel is the main metal used to make most parts of this electric honey uncapping machine. It has 2 knives with sharp cutting edges. The machine is built in a design to allow the 2 knives to slide on rails. As they move from one end of the rails to the other, the knives cut off cappings from the honey comb.
Battery clips and the power cord needed for powering of this uncapping machine are included in the purchase package. Instructions for use of the uncapping machine are also included in a user manual. The honey uncapping machine has heating power of 70 watts on each blade. It heats up the blade to temperatures of up to 800 C. It takes about 5 minutes to warm up to the set operating temperature once connected to a power source. Proper charging of the battery you use with this honey uncapping machine is needed for quick heating and maintenance of the operating temperature of the sliding wedge knives.
- This electric uncapping machine heats the knives so that they cut through capping wax with greater ease. It runs on 12 volts of direct current electric power. A car battery is required for the use of the electric feature of this uncapping machine. If you are near mains power, an adapter that converts AC to DC power is needed.
- A two-sided uncapping design is used. The machine is made using a frame with a horizontal section supporting vertical struts. A frame with honeycomb is inserted vertically into the machine. It is supported on both sides by a guiding mechanism that holds the frame in place.
- Two wedge knives slide along the vertical supports and uncap the honeycomb. You can make adjustments to the distance between the two wedge knives by a distance of 25 millimeters to 35 millimeters. This allows for uncapping of honeycomb from different beehives without having to look for another uncapping machine.
4. Honeycomb Uncapping Machine with Electric Knives (12V)
This uncapping machine is made mainly from wooden parts and comes with 2 knives. It uses electricity to heat up the knives. The heated uncapping knives remove the wax used by bees to cap cells easily. Using wood makes the machine exceptionally food safe. Only the parts that cannot be made using wood are made using metals such as the sliding knives. These are made using stainless steel that is not corroded by honey. It is food safe and does not add flavors or smells to honey. The machine is designed for the mechanical uncapping of comb. It is constructed with strong quality control to ensure it does not compromise on quality.
With a weight of 6 kilograms, this is a very light honey uncapping machine. Using wood contributes to the weight reduction of the machine. The design also requires fewer struts and parts in its construction. Overall dimensions of the machine are 75 x 540 x 1000 millimeters. It is long, thin, and a little wide. This honey uncapping machine is a worthy investment for both beginner and experienced beekeepers. It is portable and easy to set up. Its use is not complicated. You are able to use the uncapping machine with minimal instruction and uncap honeycomb very well.
- This honey uncapping machine helps you greatly accelerate honey extraction with less labor used. The cutting knives are powered using DC electricity. It can work on 24 volts or 12 volts. When using mains power, a step-down transformer and converter are needed for the proper operation of the heated knives.
- The uncapping knives are angled to cut through the cappings of cells only. It does not reseal the uncapped honey cell unlike some other heated uncapping machines. Knife adjustment is allowed for. The height and width of the area covered by the heated uncapping blades of this machine are adjustable.
- A movable carriage of this uncapper is held on telescoping ball guides that take a working load of up to 25 kilograms. This load tolerance makes the honey uncapping machine durable since it is rarely made to bear a maximum load in normal use.
3. Apihex Hand-Held Honey Uncapper
The Apihex Hand-Held Honey Uncapper features a very simple design. Its small size and weight make it a lovable honeycomb uncapper. It is hand-held and easy to use. This honey uncapper is made of a steel bar with two protruding struts. On the end of the struts is a chassis holding a row of plastic needles. It is a sequential honeycomb uncapper that allows you to uncap one row of cells after another. The arrangement of the plastic needles is well thought out. It does not allow for any cells in a row on the honeycomb to retain their cappings. It enables quick uncapping of honeycomb during honey harvesting.
During uncapping with this machine, you should take care not to place the uncapper on a dirty surface where the plastic needles can collect some dirt. This would contaminate your honey and make it unsafe for use. After uncapping, clean the uncapper to maintain the hygiene of the production process. You should also rinse it with some water before starting uncapping to remove dust that might have settled on the uncapper during storage.
- The needles of this hand-held honey uncapping machine are mounted on springs that prevent the destruction of the walls of honey cells. The materials used to make this hand-held uncapper are all food grade. They are safe to use with food for human consumption. The handle and metal parts of the uncapper are made using stainless steel. It makes the uncapper strong and durable. Plastic is used on the needles that pierce cell caps.
- The assembly of the uncapper uses some bolts and screws too. It can be disassembled for cleaning and storage. Metal surfaces of the uncapper are smooth and do not get dirty easily. The uncapper is built well and solidly. It shows excellent craftsmanship and thought in the design and materials used in making it. The uncapper is easy to use by experienced beekeepers and those taking their first steps in beekeeping.
- Using this uncapper involves aligning the plastic needles to honey cells and pressing on the cappings. The plastic needles pierce the wax caps to let honey flow out when the comb is spun in an extractor. It makes the uncapping process clean and fast. You can easily uncap 5 frames of honey comb in a minute using this uncapper.
2. Simple Harmony Farms Honeycomb Uncapper
Simple Harmony Farms is the manufacturer of this honeycomb uncapper. The honeycomb uncapper promises simplicity in its use and easy cleaning afterwards. This uncapper is made of a frame with 2 rollers mounted on it. Beehive frames with capped honeycomb on them are passed between the rollers. The rollers slit open the wax cappings of the honey cells.
This Simple Harmony Farms honeycomb uncapper is made using high density polyethylene in the uncapper body. Its rollers are cut using superior CNC lathe technology. A solid block of aluminum is lathed to make each roller. The rollers are durable and never need replacing. Polyethylene in the uncapper body is strong and protects the rollers in the unfortunate event that the uncapper is dropped. The weak part of this honeycomb uncapper is the O-rings. Replacing them is easy and spares are available. With this honey uncapping machine, you do not need an uncapping tank on which to place frames awaiting extraction.
- The frame is pushed through the rollers. When it emerges from the other side of the rollers, it can be pulled through the rollers and out of the uncapper. It helps to make sure the frame does not drop out of the uncapper since it would damage honeycomb or the wooden frame itself.
- The uncapper removes cell capping wax from both sides of a frame at once. This uncapper is designed for use with Langstroth beehive frames of any depth. This honeycomb uncapper gives you fast and simple uncapping of honeycomb. It is superior to most other uncapping machines available to beekeepers.
- The uncapper does not need you to position a single frame multiple times for uncapping. Its speed varies by user. It can uncap up to 6 frames in a minute when operated by an experienced user. The uncapper does not require electricity in any part of the uncapping process. Additionally, this uncapper does not remove capping wax from the top of honey cells. It is great for use by both beginner and experienced beekeepers harvesting honey in their beekeeping operations.
1. Varomorus Honey Uncapping Machine with Electric Knives
This is a stainless steel honey uncapping machine made by Varomorus. It promises to be a suitable uncapping machine for apiaries of all sizes. Varomorus has many products for beekeepers including pest control treatments. The company extends its good quality production to the making of this honey uncapping machine. Hive frames uncapper with double 12V knives shows solid construction and excellent craftsmanship. Its design is also simple and the machine is therefore easy to use. It is made using stainless steel as the only material used. Its durability is not in question. The honey uncapper can be easily disassembled and reassembled when needed. This Varomorus hive frames uncapper uncaps 3-5 beehive frames per minute.
This uncapping machine works with standard deep, medium and shallow frames of Langstroth beehives. It comes with an English manual to ease your learning process and help you become very good at working with the uncapper. Beekeepers buying this uncapper get a durable and effective investment in equipment for their beekeeping operation. Clean the uncapping machine and maintain it well to enjoy the full benefits of owning one of these Varomorus honey uncapping machines.
- Electricity is needed for the operation of this honey uncapping machine. A supply of 12V DC power is needed to heat the knives. There are 2 knives in the uncapper. They slide along guidance rails and uncap honeycomb without much wastage of capping wax. The knives are slightly angled to prevent them from sealing cells in their wake.
- The double knife arrangement allows you to uncap both sides of a beehive frame simultaneously. Clearance between the 2 knives of this Varomorus hive frames uncapper with double 12V electric knives can be easily adjusted from 1 inch to 1.5 inches. The heated knives use about 150 watts of electricity each. They heat up to a temperature of between 700 C and 800 C and take approximately 3 minutes to heat up on a properly charged battery.
- This Varomorus honey uncapping machine measures 500 x 600 x 450 millimeters. The uncapper can fit in a small space during storage. It weighs 10 kilograms when fully assembled and with no beehive frame in it. Moving the uncapping machine from one point to another is therefore not a problem for most beekeepers.
Maintenance of Honey Uncapping Machines
Your honey uncapping machine needs regular maintenance to keep it working well. The maintenance activities needed are simple to carry out. Some of the activities apply to many machines while others are specific to individual uncapping machines. You should also use the uncapping machine for uncapping honeycomb only. Any other use for which the machine is not intended may result in damage to the machine or the machine not working efficiently. With proper maintenance, your honey uncapping machine can last very many years and still look, feel and work as new.
Some of the maintenance practices you should apply to your uncapping machine include:
Cleaning the uncapping machine
You should regularly clean the uncapping machine. Cleaning the machine keeps it free of dust that can ruin some parts of the machine. It is advisable that you wash the machine after every use. The cleaning should be thorough to remove all wax and honey on surfaces of the uncapping machine. If you are going to be storing the uncapping machine for long, the cleaning should be done with all removable parts removed from the machine.
Disassembly of the machine for detailed cleaning is allowed for cleaning prior to storage for a prolonged period of time. The uncapping machine can be stored in its dissembled state or reassembled for storage.
A dust cover thrown over the machine helps with ensuring the machine stays clean during storage. You should also clean the uncapping machine before use to make sure that it will not contaminate honey.
Oiling moving parts
The moving parts found in a honey uncapping machine need periodic oiling. After cleaning the machine, it is good to oil it to prevent rusting. Oil also cleans machines by trapping and removing dust. Joints and bearings should receive more attention when oiling is being done. Machine oil of the correct viscosity index should be used for best performance of the uncapping machine. Moderation is advised when oiling the machine. Use a spouted oiling can to apply the oil only where it is needed. Excess oil should be wiped from the various surfaces of the machine to prevent contaminating honey.
Care for electrical systems and components
Periodically, check the integrity of electrical fittings on the uncapping machine. This applies to the honey uncapping machines that are heated. They have wire leads from the machine to power outlets such as sockets and battery contacts. Check for proper insulation of the wire leads, properly working fuses and firmly attached contacts. Crocodile clips should also be gripping contacts strongly enough. If any of the electrical parts are damaged or worn out, you should replace or repair them. Proper maintenance of the electrical system and its components keeps the system working properly and reduces the risk of injury to the user of the honey uncapping machine.
Sharpen edges where necessary
For optimum performance, sharpen edges that need sharpening. With use over time, cutting edges can get blunt and lower the efficiency of the honey uncapping machine. Edges should be sharpened periodically to keep them working at optimum efficiency. Some uncapping machines have removable blades which require replacement when they blunt out. If your uncapping machine has such a cutting blade, replace it with a fresh one when it gets blunt.
Tighten up everything
Bolts, nuts and screws used in assembly of the machine become loose over time. After using the honey uncapping machine and cleaning it, look it over and check for looseness in seams and joints. Rivets too and hinges need checking for tightness. If some loose parts are noted during the visual inspection, tighten them up. If any of the components has become too lose and unscrewed from the machine, find a replacement part.
Use of Cappings
Honey uncapping machines that use blades give you capping wax at the end of each run. From each side of a beehive frame with honeycomb, you get a considerable amount of thin wax mixed with a small amount of honey. It is possible to separate the wax and honey. The wax is then used as decided by the beekeeper. The honey can be consumed as regular honey too. Wax from cappings is very thin and light. It is separated from honey by sieving it. Once it is clear of the honey, it is very good for use in the cosmetics industry.
A Final Word
Honey bees seal cells that have honey for various reasons. Cappings are made of a thin layer of wax that keeps honey from losing its quality. Uncapping honeycomb is a simple process when done using the right tools and in the right way. Beekeepers have various designs of tools and technologies of uncapping machines to choose from. Electric uncapping tools are a great development from the traditionally serrated uncapping knives. After uncapping the honeycomb, it is ready to be spun in extractors of various types. Both beginner and experienced beekeepers can uncap honeycomb for extraction of honey. Use these best uncapping machines in your beekeeping for great honey uncapping experience.
Have you ever used any of the honey uncapping machines discussed above? Leave a comment below and let us know what you thought of it.