Monday, June 21, 2010

Honey Extractors - Which one to get?

There are a couple kinds of extractors available to the beekeeper that I'm aware of made by two excellent companies: Maxant and Dadant.

These brands are reputed to be well made, sturdy and dependable.

There is a plastic two frame extractor that's available but I heard that it doesn't work well (not sure who makes it but I believe Dadant sells it). The advice from beekeepers is to not waste money getting that one. Two beginner beekeepers I know who purchased the plastic one were selling it the next year and buying a stainless steel one instead.

Things to consider with your purchase of an extractor is the size of your operation. This is hard for the hobbyist to guesstimate. Will I stay small with one or two hives or grow more? And if so, by how many?

It appears the 6 frame extractor fits in the middle price-wise and work-wise and is the most popular with beginners and hobbyists. There's a considerable price jump between a 6 frame extractor and a 10 frame.

[This is our shiny new Maxant 9 frame Extractor.]

Good luck if you're trying to get a 6 frame extractor second hand. If they become available they sell so fast you don't usually hear about it. I think they sell from one beekeeper friend to another without a classified ad most of the time. The good news is that extractors' resell value remains very high and they maintain their value over time. If you ever quit beekeeping you'd have no trouble selling it.

They are usually labelled like this: 6/9 and 10/20. The two numbers represent the number of frames it can do, depending on the size of the frame. The Maxant 6/9 extractor holds 6 shallow frames in the radial position plus 3 shallow in a tangential position, equalling nine. Or it can hold 3 deep frames (but don't put deeps and shallows in at the same time).

The honey is spun out of the combs in two ways: Tangentially or Radially. If the extractor is a tangential one, the price might be a little lower - and every frame will need to be removed and flipped--essentially spun twice, once per side, to remove the honey from both sides. (Bear this in mind if buying a hand crank tangential extractor - that's a lot of cranking).

The Radial extraction flings the honey out of both sides of the frame at the same time so frames only need to be loaded once. This is the most popular type of extractor.

Other considerations are whether to have power or crank by hand? How are your joints and hands? Can you take hand cranking for long periods of time? I opted for power for mine since I'm prone to carpel tunnel, and shoulder issues.

A motor that also has speed control allows you to start the frames spinning slowly at first so as not to damage the combs when they are very heavy with honey and then speed up their rotation as they begin to empty. Also it allows you to slow down the rotation prior to stopping.

Extractors should be made of stainless steel and not galvanized metal. The old galvanized versions were made with lead seals and are now discontinued and not recommended for use.

What tips or suggestions do you have about extractors?
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