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Nov 03

Honey Stick Machine, The Manual Version

Making honey sticks (or maple syrup) sticks is a straitforward and simple process. The basic steps involve filling a straw with honey and then sealing both ends. The difficulty arises in actually getting the honey into the straw and doing it efficently (so that the time it takes to make them isn’t more than the value of the honey stick itself).Plastic Syringe

Initally to see if they could be simply made, a sort of proof of concept, and so that we could make some as samples we used a large plastic syringe (pictured to the right) from US Plastics. The tip did need modified slightly to fit inside a standard drinking straw (available from any resturaunt supply store). The tip can be molded by heating it and molding it carefully with your fingers, being careful not to burn yourself. It does work reasonably well if the honey is warm, though is not really suitable for making large numbers because it needs to be refilled every dozen honey sticks, is relatively slow and can be quite a strain on the hand.
Impulse Sealer

Sealing the ends or the straw is a simple task using an impulse sealer (left). Again these are available from US Plastics, on ebay and from many other retailers. The heat is easy to adjust with the knob on the front of the sealer. You will need to adjust it by trial and error until you get a good seal. Do not adjust it by using an empty straw. You will quickly find that it needs far less heat to seal an empty straw than a honey filled straw. (I should also note here that the impulse sealer is also very usefull for sealing plastic bags and even making pollen patties, so it is usefull for more than just making honey sticks.)
Stainless Steel Tank

Making honey sticks in larger numbers requires a better setup for filling the honey sticks however. Instead of using a heated honey tank, hand pump and manifold that holds several straws, we have used a simple stainless steel pressure tank. This tank (right) is a surplus tank originally used for holding premixed soda (or pop). Mine was purchased on ebay. Honey is placed in the tank and an air compressor is attached to pressurize the tank to 90psi. The straws are then filled using a simple valve with a brass nozzle. It does work better if the honey is warm, though I do not like heating up the honey as much as other systems do and have found this system works resonably well at 90 degrees. Before we start the tank is placed in our honey warmer, but during use it’s placed in a 5 gallon bucket with a band heater to keep it warm (sold for heating up honey buckets by Mann Lake and others).

To make it easier to fill many straws at once, a plastic or wooden bar with holes (and split down the middle) is used to hold a dozen straws at once. This makes it relatively easy to fill and seal several at a time (below). It does make a bit of a mess, hence the newspaper for easy cleanup, but does not make as near the mess as the plastic syringe. Once sealed the straws ends can be cut close to the seal and washed in warm water to make the finished product. With practice you can get to the point where many of the straws are sealed very close to the end and don’t need cut.

Filling Honey Straws Sealing Honey Straws

I am building an automated honey stick machine as it’s simply getting to take too much time when making honey sticks by the 1000. But if you are looking to make some as samples, or even several hundred at a time, the above works pretty well with considerably less expense than a commercially available system.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/honey-sticks/honey-stick-machine-the-manual-version/

10 comments

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  1. Naseem Dawood

    I am a straw manufacturing, and printing company in Pakistan, and wish to introduce honey filled straws in Pakistan, for which purpose I require an automatic or semi automatic straw filling unit .

    Kindly quote your export price with catalogue.

    Thnx & Rgds.

    Naseem Dawood

  2. Tim Arheit

    I’m currently just working on an automated honey stick machine and it’s much too early to say when or if it will be available. I’m hoping to have a working prototype mid next year, but that depends on too many factors to speculate any further. Details will be posted on this website as I know more.

  3. Dale Rohe

    What type of plastic straws do you use for these honey straws and where do you purchase them from?

    Thanks.

    Dale

  4. Tim Arheit

    Your ordinary drinking straws will work just fine. The first ones I tried were just from the grocery store and then I got some from GFS. The only problems with the ones purchased there is that the only ones they had were individually wrapped and they are more expensive. If you are buying them by the case I’ve purchased them from ReStockIt.com (unwrapped) at a reasonable price.

  5. Dale Rohe

    I’ve been using your method for making just a few hundred straws lately. This has been just what I was looking for.

    Thanks!

    Dale

  6. Ahmad

    Have anyone found that magic machine? straws filling?

  7. tcrit

    What about getting a roll of tubing (say, 100') of an adequate type of straw and filling the whole thing at once, then use the heat sealer at ___ inch intervals to seal, then cut in the middle of the seal?  Is the seal wide enough to cut through and still be sealed?  M-in-Law has a hive and I'm always looking for ways to help store the bounty.
    Would that work?
    T

    1. Tim Arheit

      While you certainly could get a sealer with a wide enough seal to cut though, filling the long thin tube is a problem. The honey is so viscus that it would need considerable pressure to fill it. You may also need a straws made of a different material. The typical straws are not very flexible and would kink if you tried to roll it up.

  8. Allan

    Tim,
    Any more info  on your automated machine? Please let us know how it coming and if you have anything for sale yet? Your info is very informative.
    Thanks,
    Allan

    1. Tim Arheit

      Sorry, the day job and bees haven’t left much time for playing with the machine.

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