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Discussion Starter #1
I am using a refractometer for the first time.
Bought it on ebay (RHBN-90ATC with calibration knob) new.

I calibrated to tap water. The dark-light line was slightly curved, domed in middle (like hill) so I calibrated to the highest part that crossed the "null line".

Here are the results on 5 samples (checked several times with recalibrations)
-Sample #1: 23% (this year best first extraction >90% capped)
-Sample #2: 23% (this year, some 50% capped but seemed cured since honey stayed-put when I spun the frames about many times trying to force it out of the combs)
-Sample #3: 24% (last year my first attempt-lighter)
-Publix organic honey (store-bought): 22.5%
-Honey tree natural Honey (from Costco): 23%
-Honey from Honduras (notably very thick, hardly ran down glass): 20%

What do you all think? It was 80 F when I checked. Since this is an ATC unit I read that temp is not a factor. Besides, from the tables I have looked at, higher temp means you need to ADD a correction factor so this summer heat is probably not the cause.
From the article in American Bee Journal this month optimal is 17-18.6%

I am wondering:
Do I have honey of undesirably high moisture?
Could the refractometer (e bay-Hong Kong- new- who knows) be off?
Did I calibrate wrong by picking the top of the curved dark-light line?

Thanks very much,
Gail
 

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I am told that there is a specific oil for calibration or distilled water, must be distilled water at the same temp as the room callebrated in. Other than that, that is all the help i can be except your honey has to much moisture. Between 19 and 20% the honey has a shelf life of less than a year. With the moisture in the air this year, all that rain, I am going to test before i extract and have the de humidifier going to draw out excess moisture. Hard to draw out moisture once extracted. If you only have a few barrels or pails might be done with a little work.

Good luck

HS
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks,
This refractometers instructions advise using water to calibrate.

I am thinking the readings are still off since "natural" store-bought honey samples have equally high water content on this meter.
My honey sample from last year (supposedly 24%) is still great......don't see fermentation (as far as I can tell)

I need to get some samples from my bee club also to compare.
Thanks for your comments.
Gail
 

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If the instructions say to calibrate with water, then it MUST be distilled water. There are just too many variables in tap water and will certainly affect the calilbration.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Great advice. I will get on it and report back. Also, I saw the thread posted on the use of a monochromic yellow background light. I noticed that the type of the background lighting used drastically effected the quality of the dark-light division.

Thank you very much,
Gail
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sorry for all the trouble here:
So I got distilled water and an $5 LED light (monochromatic) but I
still am having trouble with calibration. No change in results.

The dark/light line using distilled water is not straight and I noticed that on this unit the "null" line to zero at is at 19.5 on the water scale. (shouldn't it be at 18.6?)
Questions today:

Is the water line for calibration supposed to be wavey (ie since it is not straight like with a honey sample, do I set the null point to the line as it crosses the water scale on the right (lower by several points) or the line as it crosses the null point line in the middle?

Is it okay that the cover plate (mine is plastic) to have some wiggle to it? I press lightly before measuring?

What do you think of a null line at 19.5?

(ps. I will bring this thing to my next beekeepers meeting in 2 weeks to get some hands on help- its driving me crazy)
Thanks to all who have offered opinions. Gail
 

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yes it is okay to have some wiggle in the cover, mine does. Also the ATC is for temp compensation meaning the unit will adjust for temp on its own so it does not matter of room temp or not(at least mine). Now when you put your plastic lid down, you want to make sure there are no air bubbles under it as this could give you an in accurate reading. And as far as Ive ever seen, the line should be straight not curved. But my refractometer is for saltwater so as far as readings go I can not help on the null line. When mine has nothing on it, it is solid blue until I add water, then I get a straight line at whatever the salinity of the water is. When I cal mine, I put distilled water on it and just it till it is on 0 ppt. I have the RHS-10ATC so again it could be(and probably is) different. Good luck
 

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Ok now you've done it. Ya made me go look it up.

The appliance that you purchased has a range of 12-27% for moisture content. If trying
to use water to calibrate the water should read 100% because it has no sugar. I do not believe that you can use water to calibrate this appliance.

Did you purchase ( or get from the vendor ) the appropriate Dioptric oil ? Because that is
what you need to calibrate it. If not, then contact the vendor and get some.

On second thought, put a few teaspoons of your honey into a small glass or plastic jar/container and ship it to me via USPS flat rate box ( $9.95 ). I will measure it and tell you what I read. You keep your jar seperate so that you can re-calibrate to that sample once I tell you what I read. If you are interested, send a PM and I'll give you a shipping address.


Fuzzy
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I regret to say that I bought it on ebay "new" (RHBN-90ATC with calibration knob). I hope this is not the problem.

The instructions say to calibrate with water (distilled) but I would believe the beeforum's advice over this.

Thanks for help and offer, I will send a sample this week. Since this was my 3 year BK and 2nd extraction I really want to know what I am doing.

More later,
Gail
 

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Discussion Starter #11
another amazing response.
This is the company on ebay that I bought from.
The package insert that comes with the meter says to calibrate with distilled water so I did not think to go back to the website for more information.

I hope this is the problem.....but I'll be feeling pretty stupid if this a factor.
thanks so much,
Gail
(mailed Fuzzy some honey samples today to get a second opinon - should be interesting)
 

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Gail,

I received your samples yesterday in good condition. I let them sit overnight to get them to the same temp as the refractometer. My appliance has a little better resolution than yours.

Results at room temp aprox 72 degrees:

Sample 1-2009 17.5%
Sample 2-2009 17.8%
Sample 3-2008 19.0% Noticably less viscosity. The first drop dripped on the counter before I could get it to the refractometer plate.

Sample 4-Honduras 15.8% Nicely thick

If I were you, I would use the Honduras sample and calibrate your machine to 16%. Then measure the other samples.

Regards and good luck -- Fuzzy
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Infinite thanks to Fuzzy, and all the helpful beesource advice, regarding my refractometer results.

I am GREATLY relieved to find my honey has reasonable % water (for the hot humid South).

The calibration problem was due to my using water when it needed to be dioptric oil. The bee source experts knew this before I grasped it. When I went back for the 10th time to re-read the instructions, indeed the fine print has a double asterix (below the detailed general instructions advising the use of water) telling the owner to use the dioptric oil for my particular unit (among a list of other meter subtypes). My inexperience – so sorry for the confusion.

Several points come to mind.
-The devil is in the details! The meter needs the correct calibration fluid

-I am a bit miffed that the company on Ebay did not unequivocally tell me to buy oil or even just include the smallest vial of oil with purchase. The oil is listed at the bottom of the order site as an “optional item” with something called a block (?).

-I am relieved to get Fuzzy’s okay to use the fourth honey sample (Honduras 15.8%) as a control since the best prices I could find for dioptric oil were $10 for one tiny vial to $75 for ten vials. This might help someone else if they can find another beekeeper to help calibrate a honey sample.

-Samples 1 and 2 were different day extractions (two weeks apart) this summer. Sample #1 was 90% capped while sample #2 was, at best, 50% capped but seemed cured. How surprising to find the % water this close between the two samples.

Thanks a lot! problem solved.
Gail
 

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Gail,

I would say, given your climate, that you are lucky with the 50% capped stuff. In the future may I suggest that before you make that decision, use the refractometer and measure the honey in some of the capped cells and separately some of the uncapped cells. Knowing both of those numbers along with the Percentage of capped cells you can compute the overall moisture content if the two are mixed.

example: if you have the equivalent of 7 fullly capped at 17% and 3 of uncapped at 20% Then: (7*17)+(3*20) = 119 + 60 = 179
Then 179/10 = 17.9% ( Because you started with 10 frames )

All right everyone, yell at me.... Fuzzy
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I will try this calculation in the future.

I was spinning the partially capped frames around in the air to see if anything flew out (it didn't) which seemed like a rather crude index.
I had several boxes of low% capped honey after the main nectar flow (with plenty for the bees) so I risked it. This was also the main inspiration for getting the refractometer..............

What is the best method to obtain a sample of honey out of the comb to put on the refractometer?
Thanks,
g
 

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I don't know what the best method is but I use the wide end of a toothpick. Just twirl it around inside a cell or two and let it drip on the inspection plate. It may take a couple of attempts. Try not to include wax particles. And do use a different toothpick for each sample.

When I have some uncapped stuff to spin, I spin it along with some fully capped frames. That way it mixes well as it spins out. If you only spin the thin stuff by itself then it will not readily mix with the thicker stuff. It will float on top because of density issues.

Fuzzy
 
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