Excerpts from correspondence

about Hive Loaders

Thanks for your encouragement.  I'll likely do a bit more about it as 
time permits.

Here is a copy of part of a conversation with the drawing...

> Hi Allen:

>         Well, I think I have it all quite clear now!
> Now that I know what I am looking for I think I can see just a touch
> of the curve of the hold down protruding under the cross arm in the
> picture which shows the complete cradle in side view.  I can also
> see the very end of it where it hits against the back mounting pin
> of the gas spring.  Would I be correct in assuming that the hold
> down lever is more strongly curved at the tail end than closer to
> the pivot; or maybe is even straight for about 5 or 6 

Make that 7 or so.

> inches after
> the pivot before it starts to curve?

It is 2 inches from the lift point to the main pivot and about
another 10 inches to the very end.

Yes, the latter. 

Here's another picture -- not to scale. You'll need
to use a typewriter font to see this.  Top is the protrusion from the
cradle upright.  Directly below is the lever.  Just line up the pivot
point holes and stick a (mental) bolt through.

                                          Compression Gas
             Pivot Point Hole           Spring Mounting Hole
                    |                             |
                    V                             V |~~~~~|
                 ___________________________________|     |
                |                                 o       |
                |   O         Cradle                      |
                |                                         |
                |___________________________________      |
                                                    |     |

      Spring Mount Hole(s) -- Pick one that works
     ~2"     V    ~1"            9"            
          | ooo |
          | ooo |                                
          |     |                               _
          |     |                              | |
__________|     |_____                        / /
                      |_____________________/ /
 O                 O  |_____________________/
 ^                 ^                  Exponential curve
 |                 |
Lift Point      Pivot Point Hole

Compression gas springs are $4.50 or so each from Princess Auto
(surplus).  They last a year or two.  Could send you one, or you can
design around it.  I originally used a pully and a bungie strap!

> Do you have any trouble with it damaging hive covers? 

Never. Or frames in open stacks of supers either.

> It would seem
> that the pressure on the hold down would be related to the weight of
> the hive.  I lifted one hive last fall that was over 400 pounds.

The ratio (leverage is -- just guessing-- about 5:1 when the lever is
horizontal.  As it activates, the force diminishes, so for your 400
pound hive, the max force is 80 pounds, and in practice more like 40.
If you set the cradle for too much height, there is no force at all
because the lever never makes contact.  And the spring counteracts the
pressure, too.

Besides our boom maxes out at 150 kg capacity at the end and we 
restict use to the 100 kg range usually.

You can just lift the supers off and move them separately if 
necessary, using the other device with the flappers that grab the

We used to pull honey that way -- lift all the supers by the box
above the excluder, pry the excluder & BCs off and let them drop
(maybe an inch or so), and set the supers on a neighbouring hive
until the bees left in a day or so, and later load them on the
truck.  That way, I never separated or lifted any the supers manually
until they got home. Of course it would only work during a flow. > > I
am definately going to build one.  It looks like a great labour >

And then there are forklifts...

That's the next step up after boom loaders...

From:                 Self 
To:               BEE-L@CNSIBM.ALBANY.EDU
Subject:          Re: bee moving!
Send reply to:    Allen Dick
Date sent:        Fri, 3 May 1996 04:16:30 -0600

> 2500 by hand!  You remind me of a friend of mine that runs 200-300
> hives and loads by hand.  I've been trying to get him to let me help
> him in designing and building an electric boom so he's able to enjoy
> his "golden years" without wearing a brace.  If you can weld or
> invest in a little shop time it's well worth the time and money. 

FWIW I still have a few pictures of some details of my loader at 

That I put there for a fellow to use in building one.  Unfortunately 
the second roll of film didn't turn out, but I do have an ascii 
drawing of the hold-down construction that I'll send to anyone 
interested (email me privately).

The cradle design came from California originally, I believe, and it
is very handy, because one can pick up a standard hive from two to
five boxes high, and when it is in the air, it is very secure and
unlikely to come apart or fall over, etc.

We were using the loader much less since we went to four hives on a
pallet, but we are now moving 1,000 such hives (packages) out using a
forklift to load, and the loader to unload, since this saves hauling a
forklift up and down the highway.  We might start using the loader for
loading too, because it looks faster and less likely to damage
pallets, but it is more work -- and less fun -- and requires careful
levelling for such weights to be easily manoeverable.

We were only able to lift single hives previously, but I just
(several days ago) built a larger version of the cradle shown (but
with no hold down) that lifts 48" X 40" pallets.  The (homemade)
loader shown on the site listed above lifts 250 pounds or so at the
*end* of a 19 foot boom, so that is enough for four singles -- and
possibly hungry doubles -- on a pallet. 

If we pin or chain the boom so that the trolley cannot accidently go
past 3/4 way out, we can get the load up to 330 pounds or so. 
Pallets weigh 50lbs each, so that leaves 280lbs to be divided between
4 hives. At the 1/2 point, we get 500 pounds -- but of course, we are
getting to a pretty small circle -- 19 foot diameter, 9.5 foot
radius, and that is good only for putting things from the front of
the deck onto the ground right beside the truck and vice versa. 

At such distance, we are able to safely lift drums of honey, but
only by using a 2:1 pulley setup I built that works at a fixed point
on the boom.  We loaded semis of honey using that before we got a

I have a Kelley loader sitting around unused, and it would lift the
same as a small forklift, but it weighs over 1,000lbs and needs a
three ton truck.  We run mostly stretched one tons (10 foot cab to
axle) with 16 foot decks -- and 16 foot trailers when required.  I
think there are lighter models out there.

I paid $500 Canadian for my Kelley and the motors alone (3) are
worth that and more.  I imagine there are quite few Kelly loaders
sitting around behind honey houses and a $20 ad in Gleanings, Speedy
Bee, and or ABJ would likely bring a flood of response with prices
from $250 and up.  The motors on them alone are worth finding, since
they are efficient, powerful, reversable, and 12 volt. 

If you are building your own, you can get motors direct from Kelley,
but don't forget you need their solenoids too if you want reversing
action and remote control using light wires.  I used to wind my own
reversing motors on an old Ford starter (1956) frame, using two
fields, but gave it up in favour of Kelley motors.

For those who have never seen a boom loader work, they are like
having an overhead shop crane that allows moving hives, (and supplies
on 16" by 20" pallets) almost effortlessly anywhere within a circle
defined by the boom length -- in my case a 19 foot radius. This of
course includes the whole truck deck itself. 

The boom rotates around a centre post that must be vertical, and is
adjusted -- if necessary -- either by shimming the wheels of the
truck, careful selection of terrain, or preferrably by built-in
adjustments that tilt the post a bit.  On mine, the end of the boom
can actually come within 3 feet of the ground at full adjustment each
way.  I have no front/back tilt and seldom need it.  Kelleys have
both front/back and side-to-side tilt.

> Check
> out the newest issue of ABJ there's an article about a loader in the
> letters to the editor section.

Thanks for the tip.

If folks are interested on keeping going on this thread, I'll be
glad to add some more construction and use tips and details.  But I
need some encouragement to take more pictures, do drawings, write
instructions etc.  The pix on my website were to be temporary, but
perhaps we should enhance it a bit with better pictures, other
peoples' pictures and info, etc. and make it permanent?

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