Bee Smoker: A naive build

Update: Although the bee keeping project has been shuffled further down the list of projects, I did pick up a set of baffles at a yard sale and so will be better equipped to build v2.0

In allowing our property to naturalize over the past decade, we have provided lots of opportunities for native pollinators. At certain times of year, the place hums with the sounds of bees and wasps. That being said, there is always room for improvement and that has me looking towards beekeeping as a possibility. I want to keep entry costs to a minimum and certainly do not want to expose myself to the beekeeping community. There will be no Langstroth hives, no extractors, no bee associations, no weekend seminars, no mentors. Instead there will be a lot of naive DIY where I build and learn based on what I can learn from afar using materials I already have on hand.

Bee smoker

DIY bee smoker built from scraps.

The first such build is a bee smoker. The main body is a piece of 4″ galvanized stove pipe. One needs to be cautious with galvanized metal and heat, but a bee smoker shouldn’t get hot enough to produce metal fumes and it does appear that many commercial smokers are made from galvanized metal. The build also used a couple steel cans from which the diced tomatoes had been removed. The cut top of one can became the fire grate and sits inside the rest of the can, which forms the bottom of the smoker. The other can was used for scrap pieces that were put to use here and there. The top of the smoker is an old mint tin, turned upside-down and with a hole cut in the side to act as the spout. It is held in place by a hinge (built from scrap metal and a bolt) on one side and a spring on the other. The lid of the tin already had a large hole in the center with a piece of transparent plastic, which I removed. Due to its construction, the top piece may eventually burn out, at which point I will fabricate something else. The entire chimney is surrounded by a scrap 2″x2″ metal fencing to avoid the hot sides of the chimney coming into contact with combustibles should the unit tip.

Bee smoker bellow construction

Composite flooring, the remanent of a piano hinge and a spring make up the rigid components of the bellows.

The bellows consist of two pieces of laminate flooring, a piece of piano hinge and a spring. The material was cut from a dog food bag and is held in place by screws put through sections of steel can which were cut to shape and the edges bent over. This distributes the force and should resist tearing the bag. Tuck tape was used to seal the bellows unit. The bellows and the chimney are connected using a piece of steel and aligned with the help of a short BIP nipple that was inserted through the side of the chimney and notched at the bellows end to form the required air gap and yet still allow for easy alignment of the two components.

After initial testing, there was what I deemed to be excess smoke leakage between the lid of the top tin and the chimney pipe. In response, I actually had to look outside of my own parts shed and purchase some stove gasket cement at the hardware store. Using the cement and the odd piece of scrap steel, I managed to create a reasonable seal and the unit now appears to work well. I will run some tests with different combustibles in order to settle on an effective stock and burn in the unit before spring arrives and I hopefully have the chance to use the unit on some bees. With use, I will inevitably build a second iteration to adjust for flaws I find. In the meantime, should I find a suitable smoker at a yard sale or flea market I may consider purchasing it.

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