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Author Topic: Keeping your smoker lit...  (Read 1472 times)

Offline Bob Wilson

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Keeping your smoker lit...
« on: December 19, 2020, 05:02:43 pm »
At Beefest 2020, I learned that I wasn't packing my smoker nearly well enough. After that, I pack in handful after handful of pine needles, however...
1. Does everyone use the breather plate that goes in the bottom of the smoker?
2. Do you light a small fire in the bottom and pack it afterwards, or do you use a propane torch and light the smoker from the outside by torching the side?
« Last Edit: December 19, 2020, 05:20:58 pm by Bob Wilson »

Online The15thMember

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2020, 06:19:33 pm »
I've used different fuels, and late last season I started using waste hay/straw, since we had a lot around, and I've really been enjoying using that.  Easy to light, free, and not acrid like pine chips/straw.   
1. I do use the breather plate, although with hay I probably wouldn't need to.  I just never bothered to take it out when I switched from pine shavings to hay. 
2. I light a small fire and get it really going.  Then I loosely fill up the smoker and let it continue to have a lot of air while I get suited up, then right before I got up to the hives I pack it down full.  I put some damp hay in as the final handful in the top to keep the smoke cool and help the fire to smolder instead of burn fast and hot.  I usually inspect 2-4 hives at a time, just for reference. 
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2020, 06:57:36 pm »
Packing the fuel tends to bend and collapse the legs of my breathing plate. I wondered if everyone uses it.

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2020, 07:15:04 pm »
Packing the fuel tends to bend and collapse the legs of my breathing plate. I wondered if everyone uses it.
Mine doesn't have legs, it's just a plate with holes that sits in an indentation right above the level of the bellows entrance.  It is so stuck in with burnt on gunk that I will probably have trouble removing it for cleaning. 
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Offline Beeboy01

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2020, 07:43:08 pm »
I keep the breather plate in all the time to help with air flow and stuff the smoker about 1/2 full of dry pine needles which get lit by a propane torch. I open up a channel down along the side of the fuel and really hit it with the torch till the fire flames out the top of the smoker. After that I add more pine needles or dry cut grass while running the bellows. As a final fuel I add a small piece of fat wood or resin soaked pine bark which really can put out a lot of smoke and lasts longer than just pine needles. Of course some days I just can't get a smoker lit even  with an atom bomb. LOL

Offline JojoBeeBoy

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2020, 08:27:05 pm »
I never even thought about taking the breather thingy out. I never pack mine to the point that it would bend the legs, but consistent smoker performance eludes me. I'm using pine straw now and I get a better result if I take a minute to start a paper towel or something in the bottom, then some pine straw (long-leaf needles), then let that all flame up and another small folded up bit, then more flames, then more packing, then close it up. Kinda have to twist the stuff to get the top closed.

I have my first hive sitting on a piece of OSB that's wider than the hive. I keep a hive tool and barbecue lighter stick lying on the OSB so it's handy. My smoker has seen better days as it spends much of the busy season outside. The bellows now consists of duct tape, but it works ok. The pine needles produce thick smoke but they cause a lot of caking of creosote on the inside. Sometimes have to chip some out. For the first couple of years I would grab a handful of tall sage grass out of the field, or clippings from mowing as both were within a few feet of where I was working. Again, I've gotten stung many times while pumping on a smoker that's gone out, so no expert.

Offline jimineycricket

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2020, 08:47:53 pm »
I leave the breather thingy in, light about half piece of wadded up paper, drop it into the bottom of the smoker.  Then drop a few dry pine needles on top of that.  I use lodgepole pine needles which are only 2 to 3 inches.   Pump the bellows, make it burn, drop in more pine needles.  Do that several times;  then put in a loose handful of pine needles and make it burn.  Do handfuls a couple times.  You should have a good roaring fire by now.  Stuff it full and tight and use it!
jimmy

Offline FloridaGardener

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2020, 09:39:16 pm »
Try gathering pine straw that has been shredded by being run over on a road.  It breaks down the needles.
 
Pine straw is low in cellulose.  But when shredded straw is lit, then a compressed handful on top will make some cool white smoke.

Mine will get blazing so fast, that to plug it/slow it down, I use a pine cone core that a squirrel has chewed away.  It's the perfect size.  The cone drops halfway into the spout.

Offline cao

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2020, 11:43:18 pm »
1.  Yes I use the breather plate.
2.  I put a couple handfuls of needles in smoker and light them.  Puff on bellows until I have some of the needles forming a "hot coal" base.  I ball up a bunch of needles and add it while continuing to squeeze the bellows as necessary.  Repeat until smoker if full. 

I do try to get in the habit of squeezing the bellows every so often just to keep it going well so, when I need it it is ready to go.

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2020, 01:20:22 am »
I don't have enough pine needles.  I use burlap most of the time.  Folded lengthwise, rolled up, lit on the frayed end and then packed tight.
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Offline Ben Framed

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2020, 02:32:06 am »
1.  Yes I use the breather plate.
2.  I put a couple handfuls of needles in smoker and light them.  Puff on bellows until I have some of the needles forming a "hot coal" base.  I ball up a bunch of needles and add it while continuing to squeeze the bellows as necessary.  Repeat until smoker if full. 

I do try to get in the habit of squeezing the bellows every so often just to keep it going well so, when I need it it is ready to go.

Except for choice of fuel type, I do basically the same. Difference is instead of worrying with squeezing the bellows every so often to keep it going, I simply flip the top open after each use, until ready for reuse. I have found this un-hinderous step will allow the (coals) as you put it, to stay lit just enough without wasting fuel. When again ready to use, puff a couple times, flip the lid shut and the thick cool smoke is ready to go. Repeat in between times of useage. 
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Offline Acebird

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2020, 08:19:48 am »
If you remove the breather plate you cannot pack the fuel tight enough and you will get an uneven burn.
I welded three strips of stainless sheet metal to the plate such that they reach the top rolled edge of the can.  This prevents the plate from flipping over when packing or coming out when I turn the smoker upside down to clean.  If I want to take the plate out I just have to  clear the three strips from the ridge and pull it out by grabbing one of them and pulling up.
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2020, 08:40:20 am »
 I think part of my dissatisfaction is that I am trying to make a cheap smoker burn like a more expensive one. I remember now that at Beefest, some of the guys joked about my junior size smoker, short and fat. :cheesy:
Thanks for all the postings.

Online sawdstmakr

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2020, 06:43:55 pm »
Here is a repost on how to light a five hour smoker. I teach this method at several bee clubs in this area.
How to light a smoker.
If you have pine trees, pick up a large double handful of them.
Take a small amount of the needles, roll them up and light the end. Use your hive tool to push them into your smoker, lightly. Puff it until it is shooting flames out of the top of the open smoker.
Take another larger handful of needles and roll them up real tight and push them in the smoker with your hive tool (HT). Then while puffing it push it down tight with your HT.  Do this again to pack it real tight.
Keep puffing while packing. Fill it full and close the lid. It will last for about 4 hours or more. At about 4 hours you will need to pack it tight again.
Jim Altmiller

Offline Dan D

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2020, 10:42:43 pm »
No pine needle supply here, but I have woodworking projects in the shop and keep planer shredded hardwood for the smoker.  Oak, maple, now to try cherry this spring, they sound like they work like pine needles.  With the vent plate in place I put a small amount of shreds in and flame it with propane torch till it's burning. I flame it up for a bit and add more, flaming it up again. When it has been flamed up a couple times after adding a bit, I pack it full and tight as I need to depending on my need. Packed tighter and full it will go for 4-5 hours.  2 big trash bags full got last year smoked. I am pretty much ready for spring with a new supply.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2020, 11:26:55 pm »
Jim, that's the way I learned from you. It is much better. I might buy a 10" smoker soon. With a 7" smoker, minus the amost 2" for the breather plate, I get a small cavity for fuel.

Offline Oldbeavo

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2020, 05:34:32 am »
read reply #6, it how you start the smoker that counts.
Bob, haven't you been told "size doesn't matter, its how you use it that counts", that includes smokers.
My smoker is 6 1/2" high with a 4" dia barrel, if lit properly will run all day, keep it fuelled to keep the smoke cool.
Fuel, anything, hessian, eucalyptus leaves, pine needles, dry cow manure, hay but burns too quick. Best combo is pine needles and cow manure. The cow manure smoulders slowly.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2020, 06:47:03 am by Oldbeavo »

Offline paus

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2020, 02:33:55 pm »
I start the smoker like Jim but about 1/2 full of pine straw I finish with Pecan Hulls, it smells good and last several hours.  I am fortunate to have an unlimited supply of the pecan hulls, for those that don't know what Pecans are, it is a delicious nut that is plentiful in my area, actually the smoke last longer than I do.

Offline JurassicApiary

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2020, 08:12:04 pm »
Yes, I use the breather plate.  I burn wood pellets used for grilling.  I'm in a tropical environment, so there's not a lot of our foliage burns.  I light it from the top, shake it, light more, and do it a third time to ensure enough pellets are lit.  Only downside I've encountered is the compressed pellets burn hotter than other materials, but so long as you're mindful of this, it can be taken into account when using.

Offline Ben Framed

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2020, 08:44:52 pm »
No pine needle supply here, but I have woodworking projects in the shop and keep planer shredded hardwood for the smoker.  Oak, maple, now to try cherry this spring, they sound like they work like pine needles.  With the vent plate in place I put a small amount of shreds in and flame it with propane torch till it's burning. I flame it up for a bit and add more, flaming it up again. When it has been flamed up a couple times after adding a bit, I pack it full and tight as I need to depending on my need. Packed tighter and full it will go for 4-5 hours.  2 big trash bags full got last year smoked. I am pretty much ready for spring with a new supply.

Don D Welcome to Beemaster!
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Offline Dan D

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #20 on: December 22, 2020, 12:06:24 am »
Thanks Ben.  I came from another beekeeping forum and checking out this place. 

Online sawdstmakr

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #21 on: December 22, 2020, 08:51:26 am »
Welcome to Beemaster.
Jim Altmiller

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #22 on: December 22, 2020, 09:01:04 am »
Hello, DanD. Glad to have you.

Offline Brian MCquilkin

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #23 on: December 22, 2020, 01:01:01 pm »
I always use the breather plate. My favorite fule is my old denim jeans once lit it seldom goes out
Despite my efforts the bees are doing great

Offline Ralphee

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2020, 11:01:40 pm »
I leave the plate in as i assume it served a purpose....
But then again i got talked into buying an electric smoker... (it was worse than it sounds, don't do it!)
I have a bunch of shrubby trees that drop what look like pine needles, a handful of them, light them and get a good fire going in the smoker, pack in a bunch more of them, get it smoking nicely and then pack it until reasonably full.
I don't pack it down really hard as i only have 3 hives to inspect and it normally doesn't go out on me.
And my bees are pretty calm, so even with it going out i can complete an inspection - but boy do they let you know when its time to close up! (noise, maybe a few bumps)

Online sawdstmakr

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #25 on: December 23, 2020, 06:40:04 am »
The plate in the bottom is important to keep in and make sure it hasn?t burned a big hole in the middle.
It helped s keep the lit embers from blowing back out of the bellows hole and starting a fire in your apiary. I have had the make new bottom plates out of stainless steel because they have burned up.

If you use denim jeans, bee careful. Some manufacturers add toxic chemicals to the cotton and when you smoke it, it will kill your hives be.
Jim Altmiller

Offline Acebird

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #26 on: December 23, 2020, 09:24:34 am »

It helped s keep the lit embers from blowing back out of the bellows hole and starting a fire in your apiary.
Some of this occurs because of technique.  There is no valve in the bellows.  It sucks as much as it blows through the same hole.  Pumping the bellows vigorously is the problem.  Pump with a controlled squeeze and release.
The plate has two purposes.  It allows you to pack fuel and still have a void under the fuel like a fireplace grate, and second like a fireplace grate it allows oxygen to get to the whole bottom of the fuel charge.  Fuel burns evenly from the bottom up instead of burning a hole up one side of the can bypassing most of the fuel charge.  It is not a good thing to remove the plate for any reason.
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Offline DoraFargo

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #27 on: December 24, 2020, 01:51:52 am »
I've used different fuels, and late last season I started using waste hay/straw, since we had a lot around, and I've really been enjoying using that.  Easy to light, free, and not acrid like pine chips/straw.   
1. I do use the breather plate, although with hay I probably wouldn't need to.  I just never bothered to take it out when I switched from pine shavings to hay. 
2. I light a small fire and get it really going.  Then I loosely fill up the smoker and let it continue to have a lot of air while I get suited up, then right before I got up to the hives I pack it down full.  I put some damp hay in as the final handful in the top to keep the smoke cool and help the fire to smolder instead of burn fast and hot.  I usually inspect 2-4 hives at a time, just for reference.
I never thought about it...

Online sawdstmakr

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #28 on: December 24, 2020, 06:24:44 am »
Dora,
Welcome to Beemaster.
Please add your location to your profile. USA has a very wide range of climates. Our states even have wide range of different climates. This helps us to answer your questions about your bees.
Jim Altmiller

Offline beesonhay465

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #29 on: December 24, 2020, 07:43:25 am »
being a really cheap and old i never bought a smoker. i smoked myself with a small fire and whatever would make lots of smoke. the bees ignored me.the lifting was hurting me so i sold my 3 hives. $800.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #30 on: December 24, 2020, 08:54:02 am »
Beeson. I'm not sure how to respond to that. You built a fire... and smoked yourself? Beeson beek jerky? I have an image of you, standing over a fire, rotating yourself around in mesquite flavored smoke.  :grin:

Online sawdstmakr

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #31 on: December 24, 2020, 04:54:51 pm »
Bob,
When I do bee removals, I use my smoker to smoke my hands arms and head.
It really makes a big difference on how the bees react to you.
Jim Altmiller

Offline Ben Framed

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #32 on: December 24, 2020, 05:23:22 pm »
Bob,
When I do bee removals, I use my smoker to smoke my hands arms and head.
It really makes a big difference on how the bees react to you.
Jim Altmiller

Jim what is the main ingredient that repels bees in bee quick? I wonder if there is a repellent that one could wipe on face, arms, and hands that would be effective as well? Yet not harm man nor insect? I have often wondered if JP and Schawee have such a trick. lol
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Online sawdstmakr

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #33 on: December 24, 2020, 07:53:25 pm »
Ben,
JP and Schawee both smoke themselves before doing removals.
Beequick doesn?t seem to help much to stop stings. The main ingredient is alcohol. It also has tee tree oil and almond extract.
Jim Altmiller

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #34 on: December 24, 2020, 08:51:15 pm »
Jim. I agree. I learned to smoke my hands, especially after a sting, from watching you.
I just thought it a humorous idea of Beeson smoking himself up over a campfire.

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #35 on: December 28, 2020, 05:41:40 pm »
I use pine cones, staghorn sumac flowers, pine needles, dry grass, burlap, twine. I find most burn fast and gum up my smoker (except the sumac and burlap, twine). I have a large smoker and it takes a while to get it going for longer times..lit with newspaper, pine needles, whatever and matches. I used to use corrugated cardboard that was wet then dried and wrap it around whatever fuel and tie it w twine, worked very well after the smoker was initially lit.
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Offline Hops Brewster

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #36 on: December 30, 2020, 11:23:44 am »
Hey Bob, the density of your fuel has a lot to do with keeping it smoldering.  I used to use pine straw  in my smoker until I discovered chipped hardwood. 
I have plenty of pine needles in my yard and it seemed a natural solution, but I also had a hard time keeping it lit and ran into the same problem you have with the breather plate.. bending because I had to compress the pine needles to get the required density.  I also found the smoke to be extremely irritating, but I eventually learned to keep the thing lit. 

After I used a cheap HF chipper/shredder to clear up some prunings from an apple tree, I decided to try the chips in the smoker.  I lit some paper with some chips on it and once the flame burned out I used the bellows a few times, added another handful of chips, bellows, more chips, bellows until the can is full.  I found I didn't have to compress the fuel because it was already a more dense mass of chips than pine straw, and the smoke from fruitwood is much, much more pleasant.  A can of hardwood will smolder for hours and develops thick clouds of sweet smoke.

In my experience;
Pine straw, fluffy.  Hard to keep lit unless compressed. Acrid smoke.
Wood chips, denser. Easier to light and keep lit. Pleasant smoke. My go-to.
Denim, dense, easy to light and keep lit.  unpleasant smoke.
Burlap. dense when folded tight, lights easy, smolders well. unpleasant smoke.

I quit tobacco a long time ago, but the old European beeks frequently used it.
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Offline Acebird

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #37 on: December 31, 2020, 09:33:17 am »
Hops, how long did you dry the wood chips?  I just ground up 6 yards of branches and yard waste.
Oh I have another question: Do you have to fill the smoker if you only need smoke for a short period of time?
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #38 on: December 31, 2020, 10:03:18 am »
Hops. Thanks. I have been wondering about wood chips. They are easy to get, cheap, and dense.

Offline Hops Brewster

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #39 on: January 07, 2021, 05:02:37 pm »
Hops, how long did you dry the wood chips?  I just ground up 6 yards of branches and yard waste.
Oh I have another question: Do you have to fill the smoker if you only need smoke for a short period of time?
The first time I tried it, it was mostly dead wood, so right off the bat.  Spring/autumn clippings ware usually dry enough in a couple months.  I don't know what you chipped up, but if it's not soaked in FL rain try it out in a few more weeks.
A half can of chips is enough for 5 or 6 hives IME.  Leftovers light fairly easily with a prpane torch and once a good ember is burning can be topped off of just used for quick peaks.
I have some apple chips and some plum.
I've also had good experience with pellets for my pellet smoker.
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Offline minz

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #40 on: January 08, 2021, 03:03:49 pm »
I had a partial bag of cedar shavings for animal bedding that I have been using the last couple of years. Start a piece of newspaper with a lighter, drop it in the bottom as stated in post #2. My burlap was always wound too tight so took a bit of time to fray the ends to get it going and it was nasty smelling. My pine needles were usually wet since I live in a rain forest. My scrap wood pieces took too long to start and burned too hot when they did.
Wait a second! Am I seeing bee keepers actually across the world coming to an agreement on how to do a task.
 :cool:
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Offline LawyerRick

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #41 on: January 12, 2021, 09:01:23 pm »
Started using dried hops in the smoker this summer & it seemed to really calm the bees.  My buddy gave me 10 lbs of hops to dry so it was free.  Anyone else use hops as smoker fuel?  Like to hear your observations.

Offline Oldbeavo

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #42 on: January 13, 2021, 04:57:04 am »
Use the hops to make some beer for after a hard day on the bees.
You can burn anything that you can stand the smell of, dry horse poo is good, nice size pieces, compact, burns slow.
remember it only grass with the running taken out of it.

Offline Hops Brewster

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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #43 on: January 20, 2021, 01:14:55 pm »
I agree, the hops (in conjunction with some malted barley, water and yeast) would be much better used to cheer yourself up after a hard day of beekeeping.  But that's just my personal opinion.
Cheers!
Winter is coming.

I can't say I hate the government, but I am proudly distrustful of them.

Offline FatherMichael

  • House Bee
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  • Posts: 400
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Re: Keeping your smoker lit...
« Reply #44 on: January 20, 2021, 06:23:55 pm »
being a really cheap and old i never bought a smoker. i smoked myself with a small fire and whatever would make lots of smoke. the bees ignored me.the lifting was hurting me so i sold my 3 hives. $800.

Awesome!