How To Build a Honey Extractor

In order to get Honey out of your Beehive you have to be able to take it out of the honey comb. If you are a top bar beekeeper, you do this by removing the whole comb and then straining the honey out. But if you use standard wired frames in a Langstroth type hive, then you will need to use a honey extractor to get the honey out.

You can of course buy a honey extractor, although there are quite expensive – depending on the model, from about $250 up. And because you will only use it for a few days a year at most, it is difficult to justify. Alternatively, if you have a good local Beekeeping association, you can usually rent or borrow their honey extractor. This is a much better option, but one drawback is that you may have to wait your turn, particularly if there are a lot of hobby beekeepers in your area.

So, if you are a hands on type of person, there is another solution – build your own honey extractor.

What materials will you need?

  • 1 large steel drum
  • 2 bicycle wheel rims (of smaller diameter than the drum)
  • 1 thick threaded metal rod (at least a meter long)
  • 10 nuts for the metal rod
  • 2 pieces of wood (length equal to diameter of the drum)
  • 1 meter of 2-3mm fencing wire
  • 4 40cm lengths of 8mm threaded rod
  • 16 8mm nuts
  • 8 coach screws
  • 1 self centering bearing
  • 1 pillow block bearing

Note: Make sure that the metal drum was never used to store potentially toxic materials.

What tools will you need?

  • an electric drill
  • a welder (and preferably some welding experience)
  • a socket set
  • a hack saw


Building a honey extractor: the base

Bottom of the honey extractor drum

Remove the end of the drum that does not have two pouring holes. The newly opened end will be the top of your honey extractor. Use the coach screws to attach one of the pieces of wood across the bottom of the inside of the drum (making sure you do not cover the pouring holes). The wood length should be the full diameter of the drum. Then screw the pillow block onto the centre of this piece of wood.

Insert the threaded rod through the center of the first bicycle rim, holding it in place approximately 10 centimeters from the end of the rod with a nut on each side. Screw another 2 nuts on together about 15mm from the end of the rod (this is the end which will sit in the bearing). From the opposite end of the rod, screw on a nut for the other wheel – the second wheel will rest on this nut, and is again secured with another nut on top. The distance between the 2 wheels should be about 35 cm.

Completed extractor basket

Completed extractor basket

When both of the wheel rims are in place, drill holes in four spots around each wheel at the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions, and use the 8mm rods to lock the wheel rims together, using 4 nuts on each rod. Make sure that 2 cm of rod protrudes.

Thread another nut down the central rod until it is about 15cm from the top wheel. Put the self centering bearing above this, and secure with another nut above.

Cut a slit 10mm deep and 3mm wide into the end of the rod using the hacksaw (in other words, make it into a screw head – this is where you’ll use the drill to spin the extractor). Then screw on another 2 nuts at this end of the rod. Now put a spot of weld on all the nuts to permanently lock them into place.

Extractor basket with wire in place

Extractor basket with wire in place

Next, fasten the wire to the the spokes of the bottom wheel rim, approximately 5-8cm in from the rim. This will stop the frames falling out of the basket. You have now successfully made the basket of your honey extractor.

Place the extractor basket into the drum, with the rod in the pillow bearing. Now position the second piece of wood diagonally across the mouth of the drum and in line with the self centering bearing. Attach it to both the drum sides and to the bearing with coach screws.

Your honey extractor is now complete!

Completed honey extractor seen from above

Honey extractor, complete with frames

Honey extraction in action!

To use it, place you uncapped honey frames in the extractor basket (between the spokes of the top wheel, and resting on the wire on the bottom wheel) and turn it using a drill with a screwdriver bit in the chuck. Gradually build up speed (although not too fast, or you will damage the honeycomb).

When you are finished, the honey can be drained out of the outlets at the bottom of the drum, and strained as usual.

Building your own honey extractor is obviously for the more adventurous beekeeper, but it is a real money saver, and equally as effective as a bought extractor.

Photo credits Garth Chambray

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2 Responses to “How To Build a Honey Extractor”

  1. teresa says:

    i enjoy this website and all the useful information… i have a couple of questions tho… i am wanting to build my own honey extractor and i needed to know what size (gal wise) barrel should i use with the above instructions? should the barrel be stainless steel? where do i buy such a barrel and what is a normal fair price for barrel? thanks for all the great info

  2. bestbeekeeping says:

    Hi Teresa,

    thanks for your kind comments – glad you like the site. The main things to think about when choosing which barrel to use are that it is clean (and not contaminated with chemicals) and that it has a drain hole, so you can get the honey out. Size doesn’t really matter, but as a guide around 40 gallons, and what it is made of does not matter, as long as it is sturdy and easily cleaned. Stainless steel would be good, but strong plastic would also work.

    As for where to buy and price, it really depends on where you are at. As with most things, the best place to start is on Google!

    Hope this helps.

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