Last year I finally purchased and used a Honey Paw Uncapper. It works quite well, but it was a pain to buy. Nothing like sending 200 EUROS (about $215 at this time, I think the exchange made it higher when I bought it) to Narva, Finland based on their video and a few comments in on beekeeping web forums. It all worked out. Buying it was the hardest part.
a short history of uncapping honey at Brookfield Farm
When I had a few hives I had a friend with a huge extraction set up. 60-frame extractor, baffle tanks, pumps, and of course a Cowen Uncapper.
Easy? It was a breeze.
Then I got more hives and my friend left the business. I got a 20-frame extractor and a hot knife.
Efficient, yes, but hard on my hands.
Also, as much as I explained to the bees that I needed flat surfaces on the comb, I got lumpy surfaces. Bees, they just don’t listen.
So I kept poking around on the web, looking at options that 1) I could afford 2) could work in my very small extraction room and 3) could deal with the rolling surfaces of my drawn honey frames. That’s where I found the Honey Paw.
The Honey Paw:
Basically, the Honey Paw is a smooth “scratcher” that is warmed by steam. I thought that was pretty cool, and still do.
The unit is small and handheld.
The warmed unit is passed lightly across the drawn honeycomb, rolling over, and dipping down into all the little hills and valleys of the comb’s surface.
Furrows are left behind where the honey will emerge in the extractor.
I thought it did a lovely job. The honey came out in about 15 minutes (pretty standard time). The best part was that the wax was not completely disassembled on the drawn comb. It looks good, and leaves more intact cells so the bees will need to do less work to rebuild before they reseal.
It’s hard to photograph, but the parts that look like they are still uncapped have no honey under them. Surprised me too.
Ian took a break from woodworking and did some of the extraction this year.
To see what he thought of the Honey Paw, I had him use my hot knife for a bit, then the Honey Paw. He too felt that the Honey Paw was easier to use, easier on the comb, and was more efficient in uncapping portion the frames.
How The Honey Paw Uncapper Works:
Two hoses attach to the unit: one is steam coming into the unit; the other is the steam (water) leaving the unit. The water goes into and out of the unit itself. The honey doesn’t get wet. The Honey Paw is just warm enough to melt the wax as you pass over the frame – you don’t linger, which is nice.
A wallpaper steamer provides the steam.
If one had to buy this it would be pricy, but one can rent them at any DIY place in towns. You get all these amazing tools for removing wallpaper with the rental, but they just sit in the truck. It’s the steamer unit that’s important.
It’s also the part that worried me (me being worried is a natural state, like the sun shinning). Would the tubes fit? Would it blow up? Yes to the first, no to the second.
It’s pretty simple: attach a tube to the steamer and run it to the tool. Run another tube away from the honey paw and, for me, out the door.
The Tubes For The Honey Paw
The tubes that run from the wallpaper steamer are ¼” clear, flexible tubing. We have this amazing hardware store in Bellingham Washington, Hardware Sales. Wallpaper steamer rental: no problem. Small flexible tubing: no problem. Amazing advice on plumbing: no problem (but that’s another story).
The critical part on the Honey Paw set up is that the tubes should not touch. Each tube on its own if fine, but the company says you should not let them lay against each other.
The Honey Paw Video shows a beautiful rig with ceiling rigging and spiraling wires that keep the tubes separated.
Brookfield Farm is a bit more basic. The room’s ceiling is low and has beams. Two C-Clamps did the trick: one C-Clamp for each line.
Put the Steamer for the Honey Paw Outside
At first I ran the out-flow hose into a bucket in the room, but that was putting water in the room. The line was then run outside though a small opening in the door jam (the benefits of doors not fitting properly) and into a bucket outside.
The Honey Paw Uncapper: I’m Glad I bought it.
In all I’m glad I bought it. But I think they need a US and/or Canadian distributor. It is just way too worrisome to send money to a small, unknown (at least here) company overseas. They are totally legit, have a lovely selection of equipment, but Finland’s a long way away. If you are inspired to get one, I’d say go for it (the bank does the hard part: the exchange rate, figuring out the routing numbers, at least mine did for me, I like my bank). I think I’ll be using the Honey Paw for a long, long time.
What’s Happening Now At Brookfield Farm
I’m struggling to learn to use a square reader and the new, used, tablet that I had to get to use the square. So in 2016 I’ll be able to take credit cards at both our Seattle Markets: Ballard and Fremont. Really, I’d much rather work bees without a veil than get my head around this technology. The things we do to make a living, eh?
On the positive side, we’re past the last big snow – I was so tired of chaining up my truck to make it up the last half mile to the farm (and that was with snow tires and 4-wheel drive). One of my guard dogs was somewhat disappointed that he could not find enough dogs and cats to play a proper game of hockey on the drive.