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Uncapping Knife

3426 Views 19 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  SWM
I harvested my first real batch over the weekend, and it was a wonderfully sticky learning experience. I have about 80 pounds of honey from my two strong hives. Overall I think we did pretty well for newbies.

One question though, I was using kitchen knives soaked in vert hot water to uncap, and small hand tool for areas the knife could not reach. It took a long time to uncap the 24 frames. I see there are electric hot knives. Are they worth it? And, if so, any model/brand suggestions for next time?


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I use a bread knife and don't have too much problem. Use a cheap little uncapping fork for the low parts. I have never used a heat knife or any type of heat. I also do around your weight of honey harvest most times and don't find it hard enough to want to spend money for better equipment. I was thinking it worked pretty good. The bread knife was long enough to go from wood to wood of the frames.
I am always scared to have any water near my honey and that is why I have never tried the hot water thing.
Bread knife - thin one so you can flex it a bit for thinner frames plus a fork - keep the room warm to hot, I run around 85-90F, sometimes higher. Thinking of getting a plane type for certain frames - it is a learning curve.
It was recommended to me to buy an electric capping knife so I did. Used it once, very messy. I've since gone to a simple uncapping fork. I'm way more efficient with it. Still a bit messy, but honey's messy.
Agree that for a hobbyist, long bread knife works best. Get one that will span the frame.
The real trick is learning how to use the uncapper fork. When you get good at it, you will have minimal wax in the honey, and minimal honey in the wax. Thankfully, my wife is good at it, I am not. J
I have used an uncapping fork and a roller uncapper these past few years and am fond of the ease of use of a roller uncapper. But, I was getting a lot of wax chunks clogging up the primary strainer. It also did nothing for evening out the frames. This year, about halfway through my 20 some supers, I switched to a long bladed serrated bread knife. Super easy and the frames are all even when done. Also found that the extrator did not shake as much since the weight of the spinning frames was more uniform. Drawback is the increased amount of honey and cappings mixed together that had to be allowed to drip. My solution was to place the strainer in the incubator (a small refrigerator) and increase the heat to 100°. Cappings came out fairly dry afer just 24 hours. I am too small to buy a cappings extractor at this point. After the first rendering of the wax, I feed the water/honey mix back to the bees.
I have a heated knife (that I got free), a serrated knife, an uncappign roller, and a cappings scratcher. The heated knife is the least used of them all.
I started out with a bread knife 40 years ago.A friend came by wanting me to look at some equipment another guy was selling.One thing was an electric hot knife.I bought it and thought I really had something.I used it a little that summer but it just was really slow even with the heat turned up.Then there was scorching honey on it when you sat it down just for a second.I went back with the serrated bread knife and still using that same knife some 37 or 38 years ago.Your combs come out pretty and straight afterwards.
Thanks for the sage wisdom. Yes, I tried a few different knives, and the long bread knife was the best. I'll stick with what I have for next time, I appreciate the advice. ~ Alan
I've used a serrated kitchen knife, a cold uncapping knife, a capping scraper, and a roller in that progression in my years of beekeeping. Just started using the roller this year and it is my favorite, closely followed by the capping scraper. I recommend either of those but I'll never go back to a knife.
I saw someone use a electric heat gun . Just quickly waved it over the comb and it melted the caps with no stray wax in the honey.
it melted the caps with no stray wax in the honey.
So where did the wax go? The beauty of using a serrated bread knife it that most of us already have one and it leaves the combs nice and even. I still use the capping roller and the fork because there are times they are still the best tool for the job. Still want to spend the money and try the Simple Harmony Slit Uncapper, now that my frames are all nice and straight.
I used an uncapping roller.

Tried the hot knife, and comb forks.

This thing works like a charm.
I bought the woodpecker roller and tried it on several occasions. Not impressed. When very hot frames and room it does not clog badly but cooler conditions it plugs up and you need a bucket of very hot water to un gum it. Takes a lot of jimmying around to get close to endbars. Makes a huge amount of wax flakes if you are straining.

Hot knife and a premium quality capping lifter fork works the best for me in my cooler conditions.
Agreed about the temperature.

We did ours in a 95 degree building
I helped my mentor this Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday we pulled 33 supers from 2 yards. Wednesday we spun the frames. He has an electric knife that works very well. He said he got it from Dadant. It does take it 8 minutes to warm up but then keeps up with our production. He uncapped over his fathers old spinner and the cappings fell directly into the basket. We had to spin them out twice for the 33 supers. I used the uncapping fork to open any low areas and right near the top and bottoms mostly. Then I loaded his 20 frame radial and extracted. He estimated we got 600 lbs from that time. He had already done 4 yards and has 2 more yards left. He said he'd probably get 3,000 lbs this good year for him.

I have an old electric knife and it also burns the wax like Snapper1 said. I may upgrade this year. I only had 1 super of honey as I went mostly for increases this year. With my 2 frames manual spinner it takes me a long time if I have many supers.

I thought you folks would be interested to hear how some some one with 80 hives does it.
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I dont remember the brand of the knife but it is temperature adjustable. I set it a bit higher when I can uncap frame after frame and pass off to my wife to use the cappings fork on any low spots. If I pause to catch the low spots I drop the dial a bit. I have yet to try the bread knife.

The heat gun idea was a fail for me. It leaves a clear film of wax that often in places will not break with the extractor force.
I have a heated knife and I like using it. If you were close by I'd let you borrow it so you could decide for yourself.
I have a machine but I must admit I have become very proficient with an uncapping fork or tool. Even with a machine I still need to use the tool. I can describe the tool but it is the better qaulity tool that everyone sells, and is mostly thicker metal forks and not the one with the thin forks.
I've used a Pierce Speed King electric knife, with adjustable thermostat, for years and can't imagine being without it.
You can buy a cheap knock off for half the price and that may be the reason for a lot of the dissatisfaction being expressed here.

I also agree that an uncapping fork is sufficient if you only have a couple of hives.
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