My $50 Home Made Extractor

The Inspiration

This last Christmas I gave my sister’s family, nephew was targeted future beekeeper, a Growing Apiary Kit from Mann Lake, top feeder, smoker, veils, various tools, and a 3 pound package of cordovan Italians. The two items I did not give was an extractor and uncapping knife because that was way beyond my gift-giving budget. Extractors and uncapping knifes are not exactly pocket change.

The basic extractors are really not that expensive for what they are but with shipping they quickly become too expensive for the person with one hive with limited money. New electric uncapping knifes in my opinion are just downright outrages and hold their value on the used market. Well that started me thinking. Could I design a simple extractor that someone with few tools, and fewer handyman skills could build, or one small and light enough that I could build and ship half way across the country.

 The Solution

Well I decided I needed to build something that I could ship so any sort of traditional drum style extractor was out of the question. I also wanted them to have a motorized extractor because I hate manually extracting honey. 



Video of extractor running

Warning: this Quick-time file is large and takes some time to download. The noise is not the extractor but is from an exhaust fan.


1. Ceiling fan from thrift store 14.95
2. Sheet of 1/8" lauan plywood  9.99
3. 24x24 sheet of 3/8" plywood 4.99
4. One 2x4 (culled lumber) .99
5. One 2x6 (culled lumber) 2.68
6. Four 1/4 by 2 1/2" eye bolts $0.46 each 1.84
7. Three 1/4 by 2" bolts $0.39 each 1.17
8. Four 1/4 by 1" bolts $0.39 each 1.56
9. Pint Polyurethane 5.97
10. Wire and wire nuts (Dollar Store) 3.00


The above material list is enough material to build six extracting boxes. You can extract two frames at a time while two boxes drain and you fill the other two boxes. You don't need to build six boxes because you can get by with two. You can easily modify this extractor to extract four boxes at a time.

The motor


I purchased the largest and also the cheapest fan that I could find. This fan came with no blades. 


Motor with switch and capacitor removed. The capacitor and switch have to be removed in order to attach a sheet of plywood. Mark your wires or it will be hard to put back together.


A peek inside the motor. You don't have to do this, but curiosity killed the cat and satisfaction bought him back.

The Extracting Boxes



The finished box dimensions are 22 " x 15 1/2" x 2". 

Cut the lauan plywood into sheets of 22 x 15 1/2 inches. If you lay out the cuts properly, you will get twelve sheets which is enough to build six boxes.

Next rip the 2x4 and 2x6 into 1x1/2 boards. you will then need to cut these boards into two 15 1/2" lengths for the sides and one 19" length for the bottom. Make sure you keep enough of the 2x6 to hang the fan from.

Drill 3/8 inch blind hole one inch from the end of side boards and 3/8 inch deep. Do not drill all the way through. The boxes hang from the eye bolts inserted into these holes. 



Put three coats of polyurethane on the plywood, bottom and end boards. Wait until the polyurethane is dry and sand between coats. Because polyurethane mechanically binds to the previous coat , it is important to sand. 

Assemble the boxes using a fourth coat of polyurethane as glue and nail. The plywood will float on top of the polyurethane so get a helper or use clamps. Let everything dry for several days. Once everything is good and dry, pour a small amount of polyurethane in the box and tilt the box until the inside seams are coated. Let dry and test for water tightness by filling with water. If the box leaks, it will be at the bottom corners. Put another coat in the bottom corners or you can use melted canning wax to seal the corners.

Extracting Boxes Support Sheet

Unfortunately, I did not document this process with photographs. The support sheet is the connection from the motor to the extracting boxes. This is what your finish support board will look like. 


Support sheet from above


The support sheet from below.

The construction is fairly simple. Take the 24 x 24 by 3/8 inch plywood. Mark the center of the board by drawing two lines one from each corner to the opposite corner to form a large X.  Drill a hole in the center of the X which is also the center of the board for the fan motor shaft and wires to pass though. 

Next you have to mark where to drill the holes to bolt the support sheet to the motor. There are several ways to do this but I simply spray painted the top of the motor and place the board on top of the wet paint. 


Next cut  two 1 x 1 1/2 inch boards 30 inches in length. Drill one 1/4 inch hole one inch from the end on each end. Drill this hole through the 1 1/2 part of the board. This is the hole that the eye bolt will go through to support the box.


Screw the boards on top of the support sheet. Each board should overhang the plywood by 3 inches. There should also be a 1/8 inch gap between the extracting box and these support boards when you are done. See above picture.

Mounting the motor


How you mount the motor will depend upon the fan you have. I simply drilled a hole in the 2 by 6 for the fan to fit the mounting flange of the motor and used the 1/4 bolts to bolt it to the board. I bolted the 2 by 6 to some cross beams in my storage shed. 



Put the switch and and the capacitor back into the switch box. If you can mount this back on the fan do so. I wanted to experiment with speeds and stopping the motor with the reverse switch so I ran wires from the fan to the switch box.

Support Wires



The last thing you need to do is make support wires. These are simply bent coat hangers that support the frames above the extracted honey. The ones below are 10 inches long. I used this size to extract the deep and medium frames. You can make them any size that you want. You could make some 13 inches long so you could extract two medium frames per box at a time.

Operating Instructions

  1. Insert two support wires per box.

  2. Insert an uncapped frame per box.

  3. Attach extracting boxes to support arm by screwing the eye bolts into the holes on the side of the extracting box. To remove the box you only have to unscrew one bolt.

  4. Turn fan on high and give the fan a push to get it started. The fan will start turning on its own but will take some time to build up speed because of the mass.

  5. Go do something for 10 minutes

  6. Switch the fan reverse switch to slow the motor to a stop and then discount power.

  7. Here you have two choices. You can leave the extracting box on the support arm and remove the frame and insert a new frame or you can remove the extracting box to add the next frame. You can extract two brood frames before you have to dump the honey.

  8. Once the extracting boxes are full remove from support arm and dump. To dump into a 5 gallon pail put a hive body on its side with a 1/4" strip of wood on one side. Put the extraction box standing on end on the hive body overhanging the pail.  The 1/4" strip of wood tips the box enough so honey does not flow on to the outside of the box. 

  9. Insert new frame and go to step three.


This extractor was designed for the beekeeper with only a hive or two and works well for what it was designed to do. I was extracting in a hot shed and the frames came out fairly clean after a 10 minute run. The motor runs at only 66 rpm. Because the frames are so far from the center, they do extract. The good thing about such a slow motor speed was zero damage to the comb. One of the positive things about this extractor is that it would be easy to extract only a few frames at a time. On the down side removing the extracting box was a hassle at times because you have to unscrew one of the eyebolts. The last down side is you need to watch your head. It is some what dangerous and that is why I used a remote switch.

Things I Would Change

Some sort of fan blade on top of the support boards to cool the the motor is needed. The motor did get rather warm since there was not any air flowing around it as in normal operations.

Wire the motor so the wires go up through the hollow shaft of the motor and does not hang down. I did not do this because I was experimenting and needed to get it up and running.

I would also route out the below section to a depth of 3/8 inch on one side of the box. This would allow the installation and remove of the extracting box without having to unscrew the eye bolts. This would be a big time savings.


One might try increasing the extracting box to 3 inches wide that way you could extract two frames at a time per box. This might make the box rather heavy and it may not swing out far enough to extract. If this become the case you will have to lower the support holes down a few inches so you would be closer to the center of gravity. 

If anyone builds one, I would love to hear from you and see some pictures.

Last revised: 07/31/05