It’s been two years in the planning but finally got around to building a fancy solar wax extractor based on an old wheelbarrow. Solar wax extractors don’t need to be fancy and a piece of glass over an insulated box or not insulated if the temperature and strength of the sun is strong enough will work. However I fancied something a bit different with more capacity and efficiency of my smaller extractor I made a few years earlier.
I already had two of these wheel barrows both pulled from skips and have served me well as I would leave them on various apiary sites. The one in the photo is very rusty with holes in it but works fine. The other one the handle had rusted through and was broken but the galvanised lining was in almost perfect condition.
I initially thought I would repair the handle and put the wheelbarrow to one side ready for repair. This just so happened to be the summer and at the time I was feeding my small solar wax extractor with old comb and it felt it was going to take ages and very time consuming.
So over a cup of tea thinking how I could improve and speed up my wax recovery the wheelbarrow caught my eye and I thought that’s the perfect lining. A bit of head scratching over a few cups of tea trying to work out how I was going to construct it and eventually came up with a plan.
The lining had capacity for a large amount of combs but so therefore the extractor needed a large area to collect the wax and fortunately I had salvaged a few old pans and one was the perfect size at approx 5L. The large collecting pan was not just for wax but also the large amount of old stores in the combs that if you are not careful can overflow your collecting area, but no danger with a 5L capacity. With the large pan and liner it was clear this was not going to be a small extractor.
I also realised it was going to take a reasonable amount of plywood and a good exterior plywood. As I like to make things like this from salvaged or leftover materials I would have to wait until I had the materials to progress. So when I had a job to make a large outside beekeeping storage shed using ten sheets of plywood in its construction with just about enough offcuts to make the extractor I was good to go and no excuses. Also the prospect of some hot weather on the horizon to test it helped with the enthusiasm.
The construction was reasonably straight forward and the offcuts of ply worked in my favour. It’s basically a box with the bucket of the wheelbarrow fitting inside and fixed in place. The back and surrounds are then filled with insulation, again salvaged. There is a removable door so as to remove the pan containing the wax and waste stores. There is a gap so you can see down into the pan and monitor the levels. The wheel of the wheelbarrow has been refitted so the now heavy extractor is easily moved around, handy as you don’t want to carry it far. The handles also form as clamps to help hold the triple glazed polycarbonate cover in place. The oak edging fixed to the three sides of the polycarbonate prevent it warping and the polycarb sits down into a rebate.
The polycarb was given to me in a larger sheet from a beekeeping friend Andy Pedley after breaking the glass cover on my smaller extractor with the instruction to return what I don’t use. Woops like so many of these situation the polycarb sat in the garden with every intention to be returned but I clearly I owe Andy a favour, but it has been put to good use. Polycarb works extremely well and is way lighter and safer than glass. It does however need the ends sealing up as I found out on my smaller extractor air is drawn up through the cavities of the sheet and actually has a cooling effect rather than transferring heat to the extractor. I found good old duct tape to be sufficient to seal the ends. It is also slightly opaque and if you like to watch the combs slowly melt makes that bit harder but the advantages outweigh this.