21 LCBA members braved the heat & had a blast uncapping, spinning ~ & tasting! ~ their honey at host John Blacklaw's shop, aided by 4 LCBA mentors. Scroll on down for a slideshow of how the extraction process works . . . in particular, note the array of honey colors!
Above, dark amber honey draining from extractor through strainer to bucket.
Below, note how the knife slices only a thin layer of capped comb away from the frame. The goal is to leave as much of the comb structure intact as possible to minimize the reconstruction the bees will have to do:
Below, Marnel & Grubby Groebner uncapping a deep frame of dark honey:
Below, Grubby notes: this is a lot of work! It yielded Marnel & Grubby about 6 gallons of honey, though :)
Below, Taylor & Jerry Mizar found pollen embedded in a honey frame (no detraction from the honey's flavor!):
Below, Linda Gorremans delicately jabs the last uncapped cells with the uncapping fork:
Below, LCBA VP Kevin Reichert's uncapping tank. Kevin inserts a queen excluder so the honey in the cappings filters down, leaving larger chunks of wax behind, which simplifies the subsequent straining process:
The next stage: spinning the honey. Below, Violet Arnold loads a frame of honey into the extractor:
Below, our 2 Steves load one of LCBA's 9-frame, hand-crank radial extractors:
Below, it's loaded & ready to take for a spin (photo, Phil Wilson):
Below, these extractors can be adjusted to spin 3 deep frames at a time:
Below, Debra Sporseen spinning her first honey:
Below, Ed Odell spins his honey in the tangential extractor as Walt Wilson braces it:
Below, a honey super filled with spun frames - called a "wet super" - bagged for transport home. The spinning doesn't remove all the honey from the comb, so the wet super can be put back on the bees, who will eat up that honey - again, good nutrition - as they clean up the comb & ready it to store nectar at the next nectar flow:
Below, Sandy's light amber honey begins to drain from the extractor into filter & bucket:
Sandy's honey seems to darken in color as it accumulates:
Below, part of the fun of this spinning party was seeing the different colors of honey emerging from extractors. Below, white honey:
The Groebners', below, seemed the darkest:
Below, tilting the extractor & working the spatula to get the last of the honey out:
Below, socializing around the extractor:
Below, host John Blacklaw & Walt Wilson (photo, Phil Wilson):
Below, Ed Odell takes a frame to spin out of his super (photo, Phil Wilson):
Below, Janelle uncaps a nice thick frame (photo, Phil Wilson). She & her daughter, LCBA's 2015 Youth Scholarship student Jana, got honey their first year, as did several of our first year beekeepers:
Below, Martin Stenzig, Phil Wilson, & Norm Switzler at the impromptu refreshments table:
Below, Marnel spinning more honey for baking: the rhubarb cake she brought was devoured inside an hour.
A good time was had by all!
Below, LCBA mentors relax after the workshop (photo, Phil Wilson):
Below, some of the uncapping equipment went home with secretary Susanne, who let her bees begin the cleanup process. Below, here's how the gear looked after the bees spent 8 hours licking up all the honey - you'll have to take her word for it that there were GOBS of honey everywhere when she set it out!
Above, Steve & Laura Arnold brace an extractor while Steve Grega spins. Below, Team Sparling uncapping honey: Anna works the uncapping fork while Alan uses the hot knife:
Below, note the yellow bar on which Steve Grega balances a honey frame while Barbara wields the hot knife: these yellow plastic bars have holes where the frame tab can be inserted to help stabilize the frame during uncapping (because any day you don't burn yourself with that hot knife is a good one!):
Below, Art Sporseen & LCBA mentor Susanne Weil stabilize the frame on the more traditional uncapping bar, which has a nail sticking out on which the frame balances; Debra Sporseen cuts off the delicate cappings (photo, Phil Wilson):
Above, LCBA President Norm Switzler observes Sandy Moore's uncapping; below, Sandy carves with care:
Above, wax cappings stirred with a spatula so that more honey drains through the filter. The cappings can be taken home & spread thin on a sheet of cardboard & put out in the bee yard - the bees will clean out the honey, which is great nutrition for them, especially now that the forage has dried up. Below, Kaylene Tate displays cappings she's taking home for her girls:
Kaylene had just 5 frames to spin because she responsibly only took honey from the super that she added after her bees had filled 3 medium brood boxes with brood & food, what they need to survive a Washington winter. Honey supers are called "supers" because they sit above ("super" is Latin for "above") the brood boxes, but we could also look at the term as referring the surplus honey - over & above what the bees themselves have to have to thrive.
Below, the club's tangential hand-crank extractor can take 4 frames at a time. These have to be flipped and spun again, unlike the radial: Below, LCBA Mentorship Coordinator Martin Stenzig looks like he's having fun spinning honey:
Below, Art Sporseen spinning his first honey:
Spinning needs to be fast enough to hurl honey out of the comb, but not so fast that it disrupts the comb. Below, wax foundation bowed out of the frame:
Fortunately, foundation can be bent back in shape the bees will fix damaged comb; this didn't dampen anyone's day. Below, folks gathering around the spinning extractor:
Below, an ordinary kitchen strainer can do the job of filtering out those big chunks of wax. We use filters no smaller than 4 microns so that pollen grains don't get screened out. One of the hallmarks of raw honey is the cloudy pollen which can be used to trace the source of the honey, & which may help boost immunities:
Sandy's honey - seen draining from the extractor at left - below, before spinning, looked darker in the frames:
Below, the moment we've all been waiting for ~ the tasting! John & Violet Arnold enjoying their first honey:
Below, the Spoorsens tasting their honey:
Below, beautiful amber honey draining through the filter (photo, Phil Wilson):
Below, filtering out those chunks of honey through the screens led to a "straining bottleneck":
Below, we moved some of the straining table-top; here, mentor Dan Maughan helps move things along:
Finally, though, we gave up on straining since there were many beekeepers with honey to extract. The honey can be taken home in the buckets & allowed a couple days to settle, then strained.
Below, John showing one of his neighbors how the extractor works (photo, Phil Wilson):
Below, Janelle Girt uncapping her honey (photo, Phil Wilson):
Below, John with Jerry & Taylor Mizar in our "afternoon shift" of spinning:
Below, Marnel Groebner & Phil Wilson manning an extractor:
Below, Dan, Norm, & Martin packing up the extractors:
Below, Phil's shots of the extractors stowed in Norm's truck . . .
. . . where some bees found them & started the cleanup process, below. The extractors & gear were pretty sticky after all that spinning! In the morning, they looked so sparkling clean - after LCBA Treasurer Rick Battin had cleaned them - that some of our new members thought the extractors were brand new. . . .