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Uncapping traditional frames with heat gun


I wonder if any experienced beekeepers have thoughts on the use of a heat gun for uncapping traditional frames. Of course, the Flow extraction process is the ideal; but I also have a hybrid hive (3 flow frames plus 4 traditional deeps) that requires centrifugal extraction. I also put on a standard honey super on top of my Flow Box earlier this summer because I was afraid of the hive becoming honey bound when I was away on holiday.

Glad I did that because that super is totally capped. The Flow box is almost ready for it’s 2nd extraction of the season, likely in early August.

I am NOT looking forward to the centrifugal extraction process because I’m spoiled with the Flow experience AND because it is so very messy and seems to be so wasteful. I have been looking at some videos on using a heat gun to melt the wax capping in lieu of using a knife or scratcher. Has anyone done this and what are your thoughts. I love this forum because I always get good advice from people I trust. Thanks!



I have only done the traditional extraction process once but thinking about your question a little bit I have a feeling it will make more of a mess than using the knife to remove the cappings. The heat gun will also melt the rest of the comb. If it gets weakened and then you put it in the extractor the wax could break loose while spinning. Not saying that hasn’t happened to others but I think using the heat gun would likely cause this to happen more often.


I tried a heat gun once & it works fine. The reason I prefer the steam knife is that it squares everything up again. Squaring things up again can easily be achieved with a 2in. broad knife, for example, if you were to use a heat gun.

Why do you say that extracting with a centrifuge “seems to be so wasteful”?

I’m going to be extracting with a centrifuge on Saturday & I’m looking forward to it. It’s not messy & it doesn’t have to be. The good thing is, any minor honey spills is easily cleaned up with warm water.


Hi Louise, I have used a variety of methods and loved the electric uncapping knife in the 1970’s. Beautifully made American tool but long gone to a new owner now (probably still working!). I have tried a heat gun too more recently (but am not good with it) but for a small number of frames I find a comb scratcher is fabulous (inexpensive too). I find using it more like a fork than a scratcher is best, and then wiping the wax on the sides of a container after each sweep works well enough. This is a beaut little video showing how to do it…



Hi Louise, I have tried a heat gun, it is the fastest way of uncapping and it is easy to apply too much heat and make a bit of a mess. Any way of de-capping using heat will result in a darker honey.
My recent extraction and trimming of the frames was done by just using a kitchen serrated bread knife. I was happy enough with the result. Sure, it will be messy compared to a Flow Frame, but if you work over a large container the clean up is at least contained.
Don’t be frightened of trying the heat gun but beware it is wacking out a lot of heat.


It’s not the extraction process that I meant was wasteful, Jeff, it is the uncapping process. I have mostly used a scratching fork and get a lot of honey and wax all mixed up together which seems to be the wasteful part.

Looking at Dan2s response, though, I see from the video that I have been using the “uncapping tool” AKA scratcher WRONG all this time. I was also frustrated with the amount of wax cappings that ended up in the honey after going through the extractor. That, of course, had to be filtered out and seemed to create a lot of “waste”. I normally end up putting that in a solar wax melter, but there is always a lot of honey that gets mixed in with that.

I’m going to try the RIGHT method of using that uncapping tool and maybe that will solve most of my issues.


OMG, I have been using this tool completely wrong all this time. THANKS. Looks so much better than my result!


I also used the tool wrong. Now I use fish fillet knife. I leave one frame out on my supers for wider spacing and wider comb. Makes filleting easy. You can feed excess waste honey back to bees.


Hi Louise, after straining most of the honey out of the cappings, I put them into a 4L ice cream container, then warm it up in the microwave so that the wax melts & comes to the top. After it cools, I pour the honey from beneath the wax into my fine bucket strainer, which is ss Termimesh. The honey from the microwave doesn’t change color or flavor, as long as we don’t overheat it. Also importantly, it still crystallizes the same as the rest.


Hey Louise - you could also consider buying nice little boxes and packaging up some cut comb instead of extracting it all. People enjoy it as a special & rare treat :yum::cherry_blossom::honeybee:


Thanks for the suggestion, Eva, but I use plastic foundation and don’t sell my honey except one-to-one. I might consider getting some appropriate foundation in future however.


Jeff, seems like it might get bit tricky using the microwave. Isn’t the temp required to melt the wax higher than what is considered safe for honey if you don’t want to destroy all the enzymes? It could be a cleaner way to melt off the wax than my solar wax melter, if I assume I will just throw out the excess honey though.


Hi Louise, I use the fact that the honey still crystallizes as a guide as to whether the vitamins & enzymes have been destroyed or not.

The rule of thumb being: If you overheat honey, you destroy the vitamins & enzymes. When that happens, the honey wont crystallize. This is why supermarket honey wont crystallize, because it has been overheated for an extended period so it wont crystallize on the shelves. However that destroys the vitamins & enzymes in the honey.

Even the small % of my honey that has been warmed in the microwave is superior to shop bought honey because it still crystallizes.

I hope that clears things up. cheers


Me too! thanks for that video @Dan2 . I have been doing exactly what he showed at the start of the video- trying to scratch and stab all the cells. It mangles the comb, leave many cells unstabbed, and creates a lot of wax/honey that needs to be dealt with. I had decided that the scratcher was pretty much rubbish… Now I am looking forward to using it properly.


not only do people enjoy it- it can sell for as much as 4 times what regular honey does… :wink:


Exactly! Your results @Semaphore are the reason I was looking for another uncapping method. Like the videos I’ve seen on the heat gun; but uncomfortable about how that might affect honey quality. So, maybe knowing the correct way to use the uncapping tool will resolve my issues.


for myself I don’t think I’d want to use a heat gun. You can buy electric hot knifes relatively cheaply- if I planned to do a lot of uncapping I would probably try one of them or even better a proper steam one. When you watch one of @JeffH videos of uncapping you see what a joy it can be as an entire face of a frame rolls off in one lovely piece. that’s the gold standard of uncapping right there. Then you see how he effortlessly cleans the top and bottoms bars- a joy to watch.


Heat uncapping works well once you have the hang of it. It doesn’t alter the colour of the honey. If you are caramelising the honey you are doing it wrongly. It works on pale cappings with an air pocket underneath but won’t work on wet cappings. I use wax to make candles and you don’t get any with a heat gun so I don’t use one for that reason