Review of the Lyson Manual Steam Uncapper
This is an accounting of my initial impressions of the Lyson Manual Steam Uncapper. This unit is available from Better Bee, SKU W20960. First, to put this review in context, a few details about my operation. I typically run approximately 60 colonies of honey bees, and given our local forage conditions, extract honey twice per year; once in the spring, and then after the cotton flow in late summer. In the past I have done all uncapping by hand using a cold knife. I work exclusively by myself, and work a full-time job, so the extraction process had reached a burdensome point a few years back. Iíve been searching for a good solution to the uncapping problem with the objective of bringing in some well-needed efficiency into my operation. My ideal uncapper would have been a Cowen Silver Queen but the cost for a sideline guy seemed extravagant, and besides, my operation couldnít fully utilize the capacity to justify the expense. Iíve looked at many alternatives to the Silver Queen, but none really grabbed me. In the winter of 2015-16, I saw that Better Bee was carrying a nice selection of Lyson equipment, and in particular the Lyson Manual Steam Uncapper seemed like a perfect fit for my operation. The risk of this purchase was that despite being well known in Europe, Lyson is still relatively unknown in North America. In addition to the lack of history, there were virtually no online demonstrations of this particular unit. Despite these issues, I decided to take a risk and buy the unit.
I received the unit from Better Bee on June 10, 2016. The unit was packaged very well in a heavy-duty wooden crate. It was shipped via truck to my residence and arrived very quickly after purchase.
The main system consists of three main components; a cutter system, an uncapping tank, and a steam generator.
The cutter system consists of frame slides that hold the frames that are ready to be run through the knives, a pair of stainless steel serrated vibrating steam heated knives, and a chain-bar-lug system that lowers and pushes the frames through the cutter knives. All of these components are mounted to two vertical side plates. The side plates are made of a thick, non-metal material which seems to be more than adequate to support the various components. There are several adjustments on the cutter system including cutting depth and frame slide position to accommodate different size frames (Iíve run deeps, mediums, and shallows through the machine). The cutting depth is adjusted via allen screws that secure the blades to the vibrating shafts. The adjustments are pretty straightforward for anyone with mechanical aptitude. A 120vac motor drives the vibrating blades. All bearing have grease fitting for easy maintenance.
The stainless steel uncapping tank is approximately 62Ēx22Ē (length x width) with more than adequate depth to accommodate deeps with a good deal of cappings below. The tank has two perforated removable trays to catch and drain the cappings. Below the trays is a tapered bottom that runs down the middle of the tank to a true bottom mounted drain. The drain is connected to a 1.25 inch, 316 stainless steel ball valve for draining the tank. The tank has four castors to ease moving the unit. Two of the four castors are lockable to keep the unit positioned. The transition from the cutter to the tank is accomplished by indexing the previously uncapped frame into the tank to allow space for the next frame.
The steam generator is very simple; in fact, it is a Wagner Power Steamer that runs off 120vac. The steam generator will run approximately 1 hour per filling, perhaps longer. It takes about 20 minutes for it to come up to temperature after refilling. Overall, I did not find the steam generator to be an obstacle and any downtime could be utilized to accomplish other needed tasks. The steamer is connected to the knives with flexible tubing. The blades get quite hot, but never scorched the honey or discolored the blades. Iíve extracted my entire spring crop and the blades appear like new. The returned steam dumps into a plastic condensate bucket. Both the steam generator and the condensate bucket sit on a stainless steel shelf mounted below the uncapping tank.
Overall impressions: I really like the unit. It is extremely fast at uncapping and once the cutting depth is properly adjusted it does an excellent job at uncapping frames. Overall, seems well built and should last a very long time.
- Build quality
- Ease of use
- Speed of uncapping. Frame throughput was amazing.
- Quality of the uncapped frame. Zero hand work was required on well-drawn frames. Poorly drawn frames did require a capping scratcher to get low spots.
- Ability to accommodate both wooden and plastic frames (also see weaknesses)
- Communication with Better Bee was excellent (point of contact was John Rath).
- Nice uniform depth uncappings, no tiny particles to clog screens.
- Cost ($2,425 + shipping). If you break this down, just the uncapping tank would cost around $800, which implies that the uncapper plus steam system would cost about $1625. I see this as a good deal considering the capability it offers.
- Very poor documentation was included. What little was included was poorly translated (I believe originally written in Polish) and difficult to follow. Although a mechanically inclined user will eventually get it tuned in, a well-documented and well-written manual would have been a nice addition.
- The plastic castors that allow the unit to be moved around seem undersized. I need to move the unit from a storage garage to my processing room across concrete, and Iím concerned on how these castors will fare over years of use. I can see replacing these with something more rugged.
- I did have to tweak the blade adjustments a couple of times to achieve consistent results. Perhaps this was related to a lack of experience with this unit, and poor documentation on the proper depth settings for the knives.
- The clearance between the floor and the drain valve is too little to permit a 5 gallon bucket to be placed under it. Not a big deal, but youíll need a different size pail to drain the tank.
- Although it will accommodate different size frames (shallows to deeps) and both plastic and wood, there are adjustments required moving between frame depths. Plastic frames did successfully make it through the cutters, but more careful monitoring was required to insure proper alignment was maintained. I suspect that this unit is best utilized when a single size (and single type) of frame is used. Wooden frames seemed to move through the cutter the best.
I created a video review of the uncapper and it is available here:
One thing to note on this video; the part with uncapping honey was made very early in my experience with the unit. After I became more acquainted with its operation, the uncapping became faster. The video shows approximately 10 seconds per frame, but now it takes closer to 5 seconds per frame.