Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Using the Electric Uncapping Knife

When I first saw how to uncap honeycombs it was on an instructional video that I rented from the Ontario Bee Association.

So we tried our best to follow those directions. I can report its easier to watch than to do.
My electric knife is the yellow handled one - pictured above and below resting on an empty frame with a bowl underneath to catch the drips.

Note that you will need a place to set the hot knife down when you're uncapping so plan ahead and have a heat proof place to put it. This large metal bowl/empty frame worked well for us.
The wooden handled knife, pictured below, belonged to a friend of mine. I used it the first year. I must say that it got nice and hot and I thought it worked better than my new one.

Here's how to uncap a frame of honey.

This set up uses an uncapping tank to catch the combs. The advantage is the beam of wood across the tank. It has a screw that sticks up and catches and holds the frame while you work.

First hold the frame vertically, catching the bottom edge on the screw. You can swivel the frame back and forth with one hand as needed.

Our first mistake was not turning the knife on early to give it time to warm up. No so with my friend's knife. His was hot in a few seconds (I should have swapped him my new one).
Lean the frame forward and start at the bottom and slide up slowly. Let the knife work the combs, rewarming them somewhat as you slide up. The goal is to cut off the bottom 3" of comb. Then go to the top and work down until you meet the cut off bottom section.

The reason why you lean the frame forward is shown in the video (below) where it's NOT done right. (I could say we set up the demo this way on purpose to show you but... I did have a video of it being done right but I can't find it on my computer.)

If held straight, the cut off sheets of wax will fall straight and land on the frame below, melting the combs there and making a mess. Don't poke your knife in them (like in the video) to remove it or you'll melt more comb. This is where the cappings scratcher can come in handy to lift off the wax.

The knife can slide along the wooden edges of the frame as a guide but if the bees have gone to so much trouble to build the wax out from the edge- don't cut that all off unless you need a ton of candles.

Ask yourself what you want more of: Honey or Wax? The more wax you remove the more the bees will need to put their energies (honey) to wax making and rebuilding. If you give them back a frame with lots of deep combs, they'll spend their time refilling them instead.

We notice that the flat part of the knife can warm up the wax and make it slide off easier. The other advice is to let the heat of the knife do the work.

I hope this is helpful.

If you haven't purchased an extractor--and I can't blame you since there are a lot of expenses the first couple years--there are many commercial operations that will uncap and extract your frames for a fee.


Kat said...

Just letting you know that I still read your blog, even though I may not make any comments. All this Bee stuff is very interesting to me. I am not a BeeKeeper, but just curious about it all. Thanks for the blog and sharing your knowledge.

Denis said...

Hello my name is Dennis, Im a Beekeper and Im from Brazil. Im very interested in this kind of knife. Do you know any website where I could buy one of this and tehy could send me to Brazil?

Beekeeper Barbara said...

Hi Denis. You should be able to buy the knife from www.dadant.com (USA) or from www.bensonbee.com (Canada).