Make Your Own Honey Bottling Bucket

After seeing the cost (about $30) for a pre-made bottling bucket I looked around and found I can get the gate valve shown below from Amazon and Lowe’s sells food grade bucket and lid for about $7.  So that makes it about half the price of a pre-built one.  I just had to be careful to drill it up high enough off the bottom of the bucket so the nut on the inside of the bucket so it doesn’t hit the bottom of the bucket while tightening it.  For an addition $9 I got a filter that fits right in the top of the bucket.

Introduction to the Hole Saw

When it comes to making large diameter holes something called a hole saw is the way to go.  Note that this is not fine woodworking as it can leave a bit of tearout.  However if you are doing something more utilitarian or in construction it works great.  I’m not really a fan of buying a set as you need to buy the sizes you need based on the projects you are doing.  I’ve found the Milwaukee brand that I get from Home Depot to be a great value.  You buy one center and then buy the sizes you need as you go along.  Warning the larger ones are not cheep, I’ve got more than $100 into my collection, but that expense was spread out over time.

A word of warning, you do need a big drill to run the larger ones and if they catch in the wood it can surprise you and maybe hurt your wrist.  I was drilling holes for 3″ drain pipe in new construction and the saw caught spinning the drill which had a side handle.  That handle slammed into a stud hard to break the handle off.  Unfortunately my hand was caught between that handle and the stud and it really hurt.  I suspect I may have fractured one of the bones in the back of my hand and I’ve heard stories of people spraining or breaking their wrist, so caution is in order.  Also NEVER use a trigger lock to keep the drill on.

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These also work particularly well on plastic buckets and barrels for projects that involve putting in valves.  It is important to drill the hole the right size the first time as it is difficult to come back and re-drill the hole to a larger size.  If you find yourself needing to re-drill you will have to put something in the hole for the center guide drill.

 

Buy Lumber Now for Projects Later

If your woodworking projects are of a more utilitarian nature you will not want to spend the money on finished hardwood.  However if you have looked at the stack of 2 x 4’s and the local big box home improvement store you may wonder how can I build anything straight out of this pile of twisted boards generously called lumber.  Generally they also have too high a moisture content to be considered stable.  You can however get something usable at a decent price with a little planing ahead.  The key is buying ahead of time and properly stacking.

This will require a little space but your best bet is to buy wide and long boards and then store them stacked and “sticker-ed”.  Find the best looking boards that are 2″ x 8″ or wider and 12′ long.  Then stack them starting with a level platform with small boards, or stickers, running across the boards between each layer.  You want airflow around all sides of each board so it can dry as evenly as possible.  It also helps to have weights on top of the pile to keep it flat while it dries.

After several weeks to a few months you will have lumber that is much more stable.  You can then cut out of the sides of each board good usable wood for projects like a workbench, shelves and other projects.  Looking at the end or a board the best parts has grain that runs across the board from top to bottom.  If you see the grain forming a shallow arc starting and ending on the same side of the board, that section will tend to warm and twist more.

Consider a small pile of lumber a good investment to make.  You will have it if you ever need something in a hurry and when you do build a project you will find that the wood you have dried a bit to produce better results.

 

Woodworking Joints – Simple Can Be More Than Good Enough

Joining two pieces of wood together is one of the basic principles of woodworking and is something everyone should know the basics of.  However don’t let the complicated joints that advanced woodworkers use prevent you from getting started in woodworking.  While a set of hand cut dovetails is a thing of beauty, it is not really needed with modern strong glues.  As I understand it dovetails are a method to add some mechanical strength to joints because the glue from times past wasn’t that strong.

Matthias Wendel over at Woodgears.ca did a series of test of different joints and glues and something that I found interesting is in many cases the glue was stronger than the wood.  The amount of force required to cause even a box joint to fail (around 100 lbs) tells me that for most things I don’t need to be that concerned.

Granted if you are building something where a joint failure could cause injury or damage you should learn to make the stronger joints with a fine box joint being the best for a corner joint and mortise and tenon being the best for one T shaped joint.  I have built many a utility project with either pocket holes or glued butt joints and they have held up fine.  I am going to take it a step further and start making spline joints for my beehives, but that is a subject for another post.

How To Make Creamed Honey

The short answer is to add creamed honey to your liquid honey and it will serve as seed crystals and converting all of it to creamed honey.  If you don’t already have some creamed honey you can take crystallized honey and grind it up into the smallest crystals possible.  Either way you get your seed honey you need to mix it thoroughly with the rest of the honey and store it in a cool place.

I accidentally made it one year when I harvested honey from a hive that didn’t make it through the winter.  There must have been some crystallized honey in it as it turned into something as smooth as butter and tasted amazing.  Unfortunately it’s now all gone.

A Prof. Dyce from the University of Cornell did research on this to produce a more controlled process and his write-up can be found here.

Give it a try, if you don’t like the results you can always warm the honey back up enough to melt the crystals.

What To Do With Crystallized Honey

First of all let me make it very clear that crystallization of honey is natural and except for those rare honeys that do not crystallize (like acacia) honey not crystallizing, or taking a very long time to crystallize is actually an indication that your honey may not be 100% honey or it filtered to such a high degree that much of the good stuff that we want in natural honey is gone.

For most things I actually prefer crystallized honey.  Keeping it in a wide mouth mason jar means I can just spoon out what I want and it doesn’t run all over the place.  In fact I add crystallized honey to the stuff that hasn’t crystallized yet to seed the crystals into growing sooner.  My favorite is something called spun or creamed honey.  The crystals are very small and produces something that is smooth and spreadable like butter.

However if you want your honey liquid all you have to do is warm it up.  Keep in mind if you get it too warm you destroy some of the components that make local raw honey so good for you.  If you keep your honey in glass jars it is easier to warm it up if you feel it is needed.  Just heat up some water (or if your tap water is hot enough just use that) and put the jar in that.

How I seed honey crystals

Stir up crystals
Stir up crystals
Add more honey and stir again
Add more honey and stir again
Wait
Wait

Harvesting Honey Using Crush and Strain

20160320_212055.jpgWhile my bees did not survive the winter they did leave several boxes completely full of honey.  At this point I cannot justify an extractor so I’m doing what is called crush and strain.  Further I do use beeswax in other things so I’m OK with cutting comb out of frames of honey.  And since I use foundationless frames it is easy to just run a knife around the frame and cut out all the comb.

20160321_221403.jpgTo make a crush and strain setup you need two buckets with lids and a 5 gallon paint strainer bag.  Cut the middle out of one lid and drill several holes in the bottom of what will be the top bucket.  Put the paint strainer bag in the top bucket and the lid with the middle cut out on the lower bucket.  It does take several days for the honey to flow through to the bottom bucket, I’ve got this in my basement so it is on the cool side.  It works better when it is warmer.

20160321_221411.jpgYou can crush it by hand or use a potato masher.  The more it gets mashed up the better it will allow the honey to drain out.  This leaves you the wax which will still have some honey on it.  You can heat it up enough to melt the wax which will float to the top and leave what is left of the honey in the bottom.  This honey will not have all the goodness of raw honey and will need to be strained again, however it can be used in cooking since it will be heated during cooking anyway.

Unless you have a significant number of hives spending something like $1000 for an extractor is probably not cost-effective.  While it has been quoted on the internet that it takes 8 lbs of honey to make 1 lb of wax, I have never found the study that actually show this to be true.  In my limited experience bees have no problem building comb so I’m not concerned with trying to save honey comb and re-use it.  Plus I want the wax