The double roller uncapper setup in a mesh-based tub
We recently purchased a new double-roller honey uncapper and would like to share our thoughts and experiences of our new contraption with you.
This post will be an overview of the item, how we set it up and a review of how it went with an initial test.
The Double Roller Slit Uncapper
This item was purchased locally in Perth, Western Australia. It is unbranded as such, but we believe it is the same as the Simple Harmony Farms Uncapper that is sold throughout the US and other parts of Australia.
It was intended to be a birthday surprise for our chief beekeeper, however, when he overheard the phone conversion requesting pickup of said item, the surprise was ruined and unfortunately, that meant we had to use it earlier.
Wasting no time, we raced down to pick up the new uncapper.
For quite some time we’d always got by fine with more traditional manual means of uncapping – forks, uncapping knives, uncapping rollers, fancier forks, hotter knives etc. We have had mixed success with different means of uncapping, and while getting by okay, we have been looking at a quicker and more efficient means of uncapping.
We had looked at getting a Honey Paw Slit Uncapper, and while these do look good, we agreed to give the double-roller type uncapper a try as it appeared to uncap faster than the Honey Paw.
Early birthday gift acquired, we were fixin’ to get it into action!
Roller Uncapper – initial thoughts
Jurassic Park reference anyone?
Upon picking up the uncapper the most noticeable feature is the weight of the item. It has what seems like a heavy-duty and robust nylon plastic frame.
The aluminium rollers appear to be well machined and are also of a solid appearance. All other metal parts appear to be stainless steel and the overall construction is sturdy.
Please forgive our lack of inciteful and intelligent descriptive terms. We are trying our best to elaborate on just ‘it looks good!’
Yes, it is a fairly expensive item, but it does feel well made and should be worth the money if it does what it’s meant to do.
Setting up the Double Roller Uncapper
Like most uncapping systems, this uncapper requires some consideration as to how to set it up in order to be used effectively and efficiently.
Having already purchased a couple of tubs that happened to fit the uncapper perfectly, we were already nearly set to go.
The double-roller uncapper in all its glory.
Just sitting the uncapper on top could have worked out okay, however, having done our research we knew that it would need to be installed more securely in order to be used properly.
Rather than bore you to death with long paragraphs, below is a list and some pictures of what we did to set our uncapper up in a functional and ergonomically efficient fashion.
I’m sure we’ll tweak things a little as we use it more, but we were happy with this setup for a couple of boxes of honey frames we did first up.
Step 1 – Affix uncapper to the top tub
This involved simply lining up and drilling 4 holes, 2 at each end, to accommodate the small bolts supplied with the uncapper. These bolts go through the uncapper and into the upper tub.
The uncapper came with the bolts and nuts to attach it to a tub.
Step 2 – Flyscreen mesh in top tub
Aluminium flyscreen mesh to help filter honey from uncappings
This step is optional, however we have found (from other extraction methods) that it makes cleaning up the top tub after use, much easier. It also does a pretty good job of filtering the honey, leaving the honey in the bottom tub quite clean.
To do this, simply take some standard flyscreen and trim it to size, so that it fits inside the top tub.
You don’t have to do this, but it is a handy improvement.
Step 3 – Find the tubs a base
The height of the two tubs combined means that if placed on a workbench of standard height, for most people, the uncapper will be uncomfortably high. Being vertically challenged, we had to come up with a way to lower the height of the uncapper, but at the same time keep it on a secure surface.
When placed on beehive boxes, the double tub setup has the uncapper at a handy working height
Having a low table, say at coffee table height or thereabouts would be fine, however, we found that two honey supers stood on their ends made the perfect working height for our measly figures.
8 frame full depth boxes were just wide enough and worked fine. 10 frame boxes would leave a little more room. Either is suited though, so long as they are full depth.
As you can see from the picture, everything stacks neatly into place.
Step 4 – Secure it all down
As neat as the setup looks, it would not work too well if it were not secured down somehow.
The stainless steel loops that come with the uncapper are handy for securing a ratchet strap.
To secure the tubs to the base we grabbed a ratchet strap and, using the tie-down points already supplied with the uncapper, we simply looped the strap under the box and clamped it down.
Thinking about it now, you could probably run the ratchet strap all the way under the boxes in one go and it would secure the whole setup together. The way we did it initially though was to just secure the tub to the tops of the boxes. This made the bottom of the boxes splay outward though.
To remedy this we just used the excess strapping to loop under the boxes and secure the two together.
From there the setup would probably work fine, but we wanted it to be a little more stable.
To fix this we just placed a bucket of honey (25kg or so) inside the two boxes.
Heavy honey buckets in the hive boxes below will help keep the setup from tipping over.
The setup described above provides a working height of about 95cm and is solid and adequately stable.
It has the advantage of not requiring any additional furniture or equipment than what most beekeepers would already have laying around anyway.
With that all setup, we pillaged a few frames from our nearest beehives and gave it a test run!
First use – Double Roller Slit Uncapper review
Running a frame of honey through the uncapper is actually quite easy
In a nutshell, it does what it appears it would do. You push the frames, bottom first, down through the rollers and it cuts neat slits up and down the comb.
This does a decent job of allowing the honey to flow out. What’s more, it was quick and less messy than our usual methods.
The frames we used were not the best, but they gave us an understanding of what to expect when using a variety of different frames. It was a mongrel mix of full plastic frames, timber frames with plastic foundation and standard timber frames.
We did not notice any significant differences between the frames used, other than that the frames with deeper drawn out foundation were easier. By this, we mean that the uncapper did a better job on them.
Some low points will need scratching with a honey uncapping fork even after having gone through the uncapper
What made the most difference with frames though was when the capping surfaces had high or low points. This meant that the rollers would not reach the low points and if left as they were, would not be uncapped.
It will be handy to have a cheap uncapping fork nearby when using the double roller uncapper.
In order to remedy this, we just used an uncapping fork to scratch the low points and uncap them. This made the process a little slower than it would be if all the frames were of a consistent depth, however, it wasn’t that much of a tedious process and only took a few seconds each frame.
Overall, it is quite an easy uncapper to use.
Even on a nice flat comb, it did appear to do a better job if we ran frames through twice, as in, dunked them down twice. By a better job, we mean that the surface was more ‘cut-up’ and more honey seemed to be free-flowing from the surface (as you want when uncapping).
It really did not take that much longer to give each frame a second or even third pass through just to make sure that it was uncapped properly.
Like all good reviews, we’ll break this into pros and cons.
Double roller uncapper cons
Still need to use a fork
While the uncapper did a good job on the majority of the surface of the comb, there were still areas on a lot of the frames that required low points to be ‘touched up’ with a fork. Not a deal-breaker, or even particularly tiresome, just a point to note if you want to ensure you extract all your honey from the frames.
Due to how this uncapper operates, there is not a great deal of wax that is taken off and ends up in your uncapping tub. Our initial results aren’t conclusive enough to tell whether there has been more wax end up in our honey, however, it appears that a lot of the uncapped wax remains on the comb.
While this wax may be recycled by the bees, we believe a lot of it will simply fall to the floor of the bees hive when the stickies (uncapped frames) are returned to them.
As wax is quite valuable to the beekeeper, and it seems that there are fewer wax cappings recovered from this system, then this has to be listed as a negative.
Less effective at extracting honey (perhaps)
We did note that some of the frames (which may have only had one pass through the uncapper), did not come out of the extractor as empty as other frames.
This could be due to our fairly cheap extractor not having spun fast enough or for long enough. Or this could simply be due to us have not passed the frames through the uncapper adequately.
On our second box, we did take more care in ensuring the comb surface was more substantially ‘torn up’ and we noticed the frames came out a bit lighter.
Before we make any real claim that it doesn’t extract honey as well, we’d have to do more frames and get better at using the system or get a more powerful extractor.
Double roller uncapper pros
Speed and efficiency
There is no denying that, compared to many other methods of uncapping, the double roller system is much faster.
Even when having to pass the combs through two or three times, this uncapper only takes a matter of seconds to uncap a frame. Quick fixes with a fork are achieved quite easily. These would be required with a lot of other uncapping methods anyway.
We are yet to do any substantial quantity of frames with this uncapper, but from our quick trial, it seems you’re almost uncapping as fast as what someone would be loading a standard radial extractor anyway.
This decreased uncapping time should hopefully reduce our overall time spent in the honey room.
Compared with other extraction means, we found that this was quite a lot less sticky of a job. As the main components in contact with the comb (and honey) are permanently mounted in the tub, there is less honey getting dripped around the place.
Whatsmore, because the only part of the frame you’re needing to touch is the dry ends of the top bar, you end up with less sticky hands. Sounds a bit trivial, but it did make a noticeable difference to how often we’d need to wash our hands and how much honey was smeared on the extractor dials and things like that.
For those used to just uncapping over a bucket or small tub balanced precariously, the stable tubs would make for a pleasant change.
Ease of tidy up
As above, with fewer items in contact with the honey, there was less mess to clean up. Simply drain the honey from the bottom tub into your honey sump/bucket, wash the rollers, tubs and fork and that’s all your uncapping equipment done with.
This wax can be easily collected once uncapping is finished.
What’s more, the flywire screen filters a lot of the wax out of the honey in your uncapping tub, so the resulting honey is nice and clean, and you’re not left with a tub of half honey/half wax to deal with. Simply scrape your flywire clean of wax, and you’re done.
Compared with other uncapping techniques that may take a while to learn the ‘finesse’ or tricks to it, it appears that this uncapper could be used by almost anyone. Perhaps we are using it wrong or missing something critical, but it really does seem as though you could teach someone to use this in a matter of minutes, rather than seasons.
In a way, it’s almost kind of fun to use! The friction of the rubber o-ring pulling the rollers together, and the way it presses them down on the comb before springing the frame out once it’s back at the top…
Maybe we need to find more interesting things in life, but we did find it enjoyable to use and fought over who got to use it!
That enthusiasm could change after a few hundred boxes, but the ease of this uncapper to use could make it enticing to get a spouse or friend involved to help you, who may otherwise not have been much use with say a hot knife or another dangerous uncapping implement.
Review summary – would we recommend this uncapper to others?
In short, yes.
If you only had one or two hives, then this setup (being approximately $400 once you buy the tubs as well) may not be an economically sound investment. You would probably be better off with just an uncapping knife and a fork to tidy them up with.
For beekeepers with more than just a handful of hives, we believe this uncapper would be a handy way to speed up your uncapping process. While it certainly isn’t perfect and wouldn’t be a substitute for the more expensive machines, it seems perfectly adequate for the sideliner or serious hobbyist.
You really could do a lot of frames quite quickly with this uncapper, and we are looking forward to putting it to the test later this year.
For now, though, it will sit tucked away waiting for Spring… Once we’ve done some more testing of this uncapper we may post up a follow-up review, but until then, we welcome any questions or comments below, and as usual, feel free to share this with anyone who may be interested.