Build a Better Uncapping Tank

Harvest golden beeswax with ease using this practical uncapping tank.

Adobe Stock/Fomaa

The honey harvest is an exciting — and sticky — time for beekeepers. As we anticipate that first bite of homemade biscuit drenched with unbelievably sweet honey, we know it’s well worth the work it takes to get to that point. Yet, golden honey isn’t the only valuable product produced by industrious little bees. Intoxicatingly fragrant beeswax — begging to be turned into candles, lip balms, and more — awaits the frugal beekeeper. Fortunately, only a bit of time is needed to harvest this invaluable wax. The tricky part, though, is finding an easy, simple, and inexpensive method to separate the wax from the honey in a manner that allows the beekeeper to retain the highest proportion of both. Fortunately, you can build an uncapping tank that’ll do the job for a fraction of what you’d spend to buy one. Assembling an entire honey-extraction setup takes time and, unfortunately, more money than most of us really want to spend. Yet, as with most homesteading endeavors, costs can be cut along the way while ensuring the quality of our products doesn’t suffer. Costing less than $40 in materials and taking about 20 minutes to build, a DIY uncapping tank will have you ready for the honey harvest in no time. And the money you save can be put toward something else, such as an extractor, a hot knife, or that next package of bees.

Track Down Totes

Used during the extraction process to capture slivers of wax removed from the honeycomb surface, a well-designed uncapping tank should include a few key elements. First, and most important, your tank needs to be the correct size. Too often in our desire to cut costs in an already expensive endeavor, the uncapping process is delegated to the nearest 5-gallon bucket or kitchen stockpot. While these will get the job done, the lack of workable space between the comb, the uncapping tool, and the sides of the container can cause problems. These tight quarters often result in capping wax landing on the table or floor — a recipe for an unpleasant cleanup experience, plus lots of wasted honey drippings. To avoid this, build your tank out of two sturdy, rectangular totes. Both totes should be the same size, with the ability to nestle securely inside one another. This way, the bottom tote will hold all the honey that drains from the frames during the uncapping process.

Select totes at least 24 inches long by 15 inches wide and 3-1/2 inches deep. Ensure they have a weight capacity of at least 40 pounds. It’s amazing just how heavy a few frames of uncapping wax and the retained honey can be! Select thin, flimsy totes, and your wax and honey drippings will land on the floor, despite your best efforts.

In addition to the correct size, you may also want to consider food-grade totes over more standard utility-style totes. While the honey and wax won’t be in the uncapping tank for more than 48 hours, many beekeepers prefer food-grade totes for health purposes. Inexpensive food-grade totes are readily available online and from many restaurant supply stores.

You’ll also want to select a tote material that allows for a few holes to be drilled into the sides and can withstand a bit of cutting along the bottom without structural failure. And finally, you’ll want totes that can be easily cleaned after the harvest.

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