Solar Extractor

The solar extractor is made from a discarded double-glazing unit. No dimensions are given because it depends on the size of  the unit one has available and on other materials conveniently to hand.

This unit is made largely from pallet wood. It comprises a sloping box on legs with a lid hinged at the top containing the double glazing panel. The whole thing has two wheels so it can be pushed like a barrow and rotated to angle it to the sun. The top three-quarters of the box contains a sheet of polystyrene (styrofoam) insulation on top of which is an inch of fibreglass or rockwool insulation to protect the polystyrene from the solar heating effect. On top of the glass fibre is a heating tray comprising a sheet of aluminium bent at the bottom to form a spout to guide the molten wax into the collecting trough. Below the spout is a plastic collecting  trough with a triangular cross-section cut from the corner of a 5-gallon plastic drum. The joint between the lid and the box contains foam insulation strip to keep the heat in and the bees out. (When the unit is hot the aroma given off is attractive to honey bees.) The hinged joint at the top is protected from rain with a strip of bituminous roofing felt. there is a wooden prop to hold the lid open to a convenient aperture. Two pieces of wire run across the inside with strips of aluminium fixed to them to act as retainers for combs etc. placed in the heating tray. An important modification is to line the heating tray with a piece of old sheet or other such finely porous fabric such that any melted wax passes through it before reaching the spout at the bottom. This ensures wax of a high cleanliness that is immediately ready for use for candle making or for the starter strips on top-bars of Warré hives.

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The solar extractor is filled with frames of old comb for extraction. The yellow wax can be seen in the collection trough. This was taken in September when the sun was much lower in the sky than at midsummer. Thus unit is propped up on a brick to bring the incidence of the suns rays on the glass nearer to a right angle and therefore increase the speed and the efficiency of wax extraction.

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This shows the bottom of the extractor with the lid open and set wax in the collecting trough. Melted wax is still dripping in to the collecting trough from the spout immediately above.

See also 'Extracting beeswax from combs with a thermostatically controlled boiler'

Heaf's bee index