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Abbé Warré's book
Top-bar comb knife
This tool was designed by Bill Wood (Eugene, Oregon, USA) for cutting comb free from the walls of boxes of Warré hives so that the combs can be lifted out intact by the top-bars for inspection etc. It is also suitable for use in horizontal top-bar (Kenyan) hives.
The 16 gauge (circa 1.25 mm) stainless steel knife blade is 3/8 inch (9 mm) wide by 1 1/4 inch (32 mm) long and is welded to a 1/4 inch (6 mm) diameter stainless steel shaft. Below: closeup of blade.
It is used from the top of a box to free comb-to-box
attachments in order to inspect an individual comb from within a populated hive.
When the knife reaches the underside of the top bar, the knife is further rotated, moving the end of the shaft away from the box as the blade is angled parallel to the comb. The knife is then extracted with the blade now pointing in the opposite direction to that when it was inserted. The blade undergoes a 180 degree rotation in the process of cutting one end of a comb.
This procedure only minimally disrupts comb cells. In cutting free and inspecting two full combs, less than 2 cc (<1/2 teaspoon) of honey from crushed cells spilled down to the bottom board.
Bill Wood suggests that the blade could be narrowed to 1/4 inch (6 mm) if the weld is good and the length reduced to 1 1/8 inch (28 mm).
Roger Couche suggests an offset blade for cutting the comb right against the hive wall. The following photos show his comb knife made from a barbecue skewer.
The following video clip shows how Christophe Köppel (France) uses his comb knife:
The vigorous jiggling up and down is unnecessary. A single steady upward stroke with the blade against the wall is all that is needed. Also avoid catching the top-bar at one end with the blade, as he does, in case the sudden blow 'unzips' the bar from the comb.
Shon Eilian Jones: http://www.shoneilianironworks.co.uk/. (He makes to order, so send him a precise and clear specification). Price approximately £20.00 including VAT and delivery (April 2010).
Bee Thinking Hives (Oregon) http://www.beethinking.com/ultimate-top-bar-hive-tool/
Patrick Marooney (Oregon); email: paintingeasel (at) gmail.com; phone (541) 726- 4084; Approx $20.00 USD+shipping. See illustration below.
A similar device is illustrated on page 66 of the first volume of Alfred Neighbour's The apiary; or, Bees, bee-hives and bee culture (1865).1
1. Thanks to Bil Harley (Lyon) for spotting this.