Solar Extractor

by Peter Mathews

This is aimed one of our new members who asked me last January if it was too early to putting on supers. Well, this is what you should be doing in January:-

After a year or two of keeping bees you should be in a position of collecting a lot of surplus wax. Do not throw this away it is valuable! Most people render wax down to trade in against new foundation. This should provide you with more than enough, so that you will rarely need to buy in.

If nothing else you should get yourself a solar extractor. This is simply an insulated box in which you put spare wax; it sits in the sun, the wax melts and runs off into a suitable container. All the usual suppliers will have something in their catalogue, at a price. If treating this as a business proposition then you will be looking at a fairly lengthy payback time. On the other hand if your bees are highly productive and you are getting a good price for your honey, then you may see it as a good investment.

As solar extractors work well even if poorly manufactured, most people make their own. The main box is probably easiest made out of marine ply. Don't bother with fancy joints, just use strips of baton to screw the sides together. Just ensure exposed edge are well protected against the weather. The window should be doubled glazed for maximum efficiency, and the whole thing lined with insulation. This could be expanded foam, felt etc. But, 2" roofing insulation board is very easy to work with. The most difficult part is making the inner tray. Commercial units are made in stainless steel with welded joints. An old cooking oil container, made of tin plate, from your local take away is free and easily worked with tin snips and a soldering iron. Make sure all cut edges are folded back to avoid cutting yourself.

I am reminder by a winning entry at the National Honey Show by John Nailard of St Albans which he built out of material retrieved from skips. The body was a high density polystyrene packing box, the window was triple glazed polycarbonate sheet and the tray knocked up from an old oil drum.

You can go on to refine your wax and use it for candle making etc, which is worth more than a trade in. But, for now rough filtered wax will be very acceptable to KBS, Maisemore, Thornes etc. This little project should keep you quiet until the end of February!

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