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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.

wood_hook_knife.jpg (123834 bytes)

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.

wood_hook_knife_blade.jpg (69898 bytes)

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.

The knife is inserted downwards between chosen combs with the shaft touching the inside of the box. Insertion is stopped at a marked distance where the knife is very slightly above the top bars of the box beneath. Then the knife is rotated 90 degrees and pulled upwards, cutting close to the box side and freeing the comb. It is important that the cutting is always towards the top-bar that the comb is on, avoiding any downward force on the comb that might lead to it detatching from the bar.

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.

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couche_comb_knife2.jpg (10480 bytes) couche_comb_knife3.jpg (10946 bytes)



The following video clip shows how Christophe Köppel (France) uses his comb knife:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27Wx4y1dv-U .

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/
This top-bar hive tool has the hooked knife at one end and a conventional hive tool chisel at the other end.

Patrick Marooney (Oregon); email: paintingeasel (at) gmail.com; phone (541) 726- 4084; Approx $20.00 USD+shipping. See illustration below.

marooney_hook_knife.jpg (17057 bytes)

marooney_hook_knife_blade.jpg (82169 bytes)

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

cutter_neighbour.jpg (79824 bytes)


1. Thanks to Bil Harley (Lyon) for spotting this.