Hot knife vs fork honey decapping

Hot knife vs fork honey decapping has many pros and cons, especially for the beekeeper wanting to advertise a truly unheated, raw product.

I feel a bit of a turncoat, having used only the hot knife for close on sixty years, and now abandoned it in favour of the fork for decapping honey combs.

Hot knife honey decapping.

This page was last updated by Dr Bernard Preston on 20th November, 2018.

By Bernard Preston

Humans like bees are creatures of habit, and they aren't always good, but somehow we get stuck in our ways. Then when someone suggests a different manner of doing it, a new innovation, we then defend our tried and tested method.

Well, change is not always for the good, so a certain conservatism is not all bad.

The death of my trusty decapping knife after sixty years of service was the stimulus to consider the change; and a visit to another beekeeper's honey room.

The decapping fork was a lot cheaper than importing a new hot knife.

Hot knife vs fork honey decapping

Decapping fork

Hot knife vs fork honey decapping is a matter of personal preference.

The issues involved are:

  1. Do you want to market a honey that you can truly call raw and completely unheated?
  2. How long does it take to decap a frame?
  3. How much honey is wasted? The gleanings usually have to be heated.
  4. When comparing the knife vs fork, does one foster better extraction?
  5. How much wax is produced for new foundation?
  6. Does either method produce more cappings that clog the filters?

There are no doubt other factors that may be of importance.

I proudly market a raw honey, lightly filtered and rich in pollen, but Jiminy Cricket was forever pricking my conscience; a small proportion was exposed to the high temperature of the knife. Perhaps it was only 5% but it meant that the final product could not be described in all honesty as absolutely unheated.

The only way around that, and it was irksome, was to keep the gleanings completely separate from the bulk of the honey; even then some of my best raw honey would have been exposed to the hot knife.

I soon realised that when comparing hot knife vs fork honey decapping that the former, my long tried and tested method took a lot longer; that alone gave considerable impetus for change. I'll do some measurements in the future, but I'd estimate twice the time. 

The fork removes far less honey in the gleanings.

At this stage I am still uncertain about the effective extraction when comparing hot knife vs fork honey decapping. Measurements to follow at some time in the future.

Likewise the fork produces less wax in the gleanings. In fact there may even be a shortage for new foundation. The fork does allow for deep stripping of the frame should one have a need for more.

The unexpected was that the knife butchers the combs and produced a lot of fragments that blocked the filter. However this was easily surmounted manually with a flat wooden pancake spatula.

Whilst my original hot knife was quite light, the newly purchased item was much heavier and tired out the forearm; it is also a good deal hotter resulting in more damage to the honey, and frequently having to turn it off. But I don't particularly like the shape of the handle of the fork either, and will try some others.

In short, at the end of the day, both schools have their ardent enthusiasts who will stick to one or other of the hot knife vs fork honey decapping debate. I'm the turncoat who for the present has swapped sides but old habits die hard.

I will not be totally convinced until I'm sure as much honey can be extracted from the forked honeycomb, as from the one stripped with a hot knife.

Next will be to consider the plastic or steel needle roller tool for honey decapping; some call it uncapping. I hear that's better still.

Useful links

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. How to start beekeeping
  3. Hot knife vs fork honey decapping

Do you have a question on beekeeping

Italian bees are relatively docile but but keeping those from Africa is a bit like having a pitbull in the garden. It's wise to do plenty of planning before rushing into beekeeping.

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