Honey Extractor Tractor: The Craziest Thing Done with LifeTrac So Far

LifeTrac, our open source tractor, features extreme flexibility by design. We just used LifeTrac as a honey extractor. We mounted our universal rotor on the front-end loader, and used it to extract honey from comb. The process starts with a hot knife to open up the comb. We made the hot knife from a heat shrink heat gun coupled to a tube with a sharpened blade of 1/8″ steel welded to the tube, and the hole of the tube was reduced by welding on a bolt washer. The blade gets hot and cuts the comb relatively well, though this is not as user-friendly as a standard electric knife because your hands get too messy with honey all over, so the heat gun risks getting flooded with honey. We request help with the open-sourcing of a hot knife if anyone has explicit ideas on how to make one. While a fed dollars in parts, hot knives run for $90 at the store.

The honey extraction process involves centrifuging combs of honey, which are opened with a hot knife as above. See our operation in action:

Open Source Honey Extractor from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

Here’s an operational performance review.

We built this first honey extractor prototype to handle 2 frames at one time. This sounds like inefficiency, but in practice, it works as well as an extractor of, say, 12 or more frame capacity. Why? Because we can start and stop the extractor literally immediately – as the 20 horsepower motor has no problem spinning up and slowing down with a small load – almost instantly. This means that each set of 2 combs takes a total of about 20-30 seconds of extraction time. We could have built a 4 frame extractor, or more, but the 2-frame is faster in extracting than a single person can feed the extractor with uncapped comb.

We produced about 8-9 gallons of honey in a 2 hour run, with 2 people. We extracted directly into a 55 gallon storage drum.

Thus, the 2-frame version suffices, and it would probably suffice to extract honey as fast as 2 people with hot knives can uncap the comb. Thus, we are confident that the caliber of our $25 extractor setup rivals the capacity of honey extractors in the $1000 range. This is another major score for cost reduction via integrated, open source design.

Our design for the extractor rotor assembly involves a 1/4″ wall, 2″ tube with metal grate welded to it, plus sides and bottom made of 1/4″x2″ steel. The rotor is connected to our Universal Rotor with a coupler. Both of these are already part of our LifeTrac infrastructure, and we just demonstrated the heavy duty drill press powered with the same interchangeable rotor.


  1. Stefan @ KombinatG

    looks like shooting on birds with canons

    1. Marcin

      Stefan, your argument is valid from the viewpoint of specialization. Our work focuses on general purpose machinery. Given that our design is readily scalable, our $25 dollar device, from the experience described, could scale – such that a $50 or so device could produce the same output as that produced by much larger machines that cost $5000. The tactical advantage that makes our machine so efficient is the immediate spin-up and spin-down, as described in the post – which turns out to be a unique artifact of using our Universal Rotor. This is not speculation, but our experience. Are you suggesting that the cost reduction advantages of our approach are not worth considering?

  2. Demented Chihuahua

    That’s pretty swank! You will have to show us how you finish off the honey and purify it. I’m very interested in this sort of thing. Great work.


  3. Demented Chihuahua

    Nah, I think he was saying it seems a bit overkill. Using a huge gun to knock down small birds. However, if you already have the big gun and the bullets are free…shoot at little birds all day long!


  4. JD

    Honey should never touch metal parts as the enzymes in honey will react with metal which will then loose tiny particles that will go into the honey. Also heating honey is other than the best, as most of the medicinal effects are lost. Yoiu basically kill the good stuff and remove the lifeforce.

  5. […] pips hatched as of now, and we have 70 eggs in there at present. We also deployed Prototype I of a honey extractor. Plus, Sean is on-site for the summer gathering documentary material, and his LifeTrac II update is […]

  6. […] already shown quick interchange power units,  design-for-disasssembly (bolt-togeter) construction, interchangeability of motors, and quick-connect […]

  7. Erlend

    stainless steel is commonly used for honey-extractors and recommended by food safety authorities because of the ease of cleaning it. So I don’t agree with the previous posters comments about honey not touching metal parts. Food-safe plastic is of course equally good.

    big extractors are expensive, e.g. EUR 1000 for an 80W that can extract 4 frames (half-dadant) in a tangential way (not requiring the frames to be turned to extract both sides), so if something can be done for a lot less.

    removing the caps in my opinion should be done without applying heat since the wax is soft enough and the heat can affect the honey.

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