Elements of a Good beekeeping Smoker

A good Smoker is worth its weight in beeswax. When you find a good smoker, it could last you for years. When your smoker falls apart with minimal use, it sucks. I’m going to show you what to look for in a good quality smoker to save you time, money and a few bee stings. Having a smoker in the apiary is a must.

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Look closely at the two ring-like pieces of wire that go around the smoker. That’s what is left of a crappy bellow bracket. Photo by Jontahan Hargus©

I still have my very first smoker that I bought in 2003. Why? Well because I have taken care of it and because it’s awesome. It also has the 6 elements of awesomeness (It’s not the one in the picture above;)

The 6 Elements of Awesomeness

Element #1

Stainless steel construction. The metal body of my smoker is a nice thick stainless steel. Cheap quality smokers have a much thinner body and do not hold up to the heat or usage.

Element #2

Heat Shield. Having a heat shield or finger guard, helps to protect your hand from the heat of the smoker during prolonged use. Now this is not necessarily a must-have but if you plan on operating more than 5 beehives than I highly recommend a smoker with a heat shield.

Note: Heat shields are not common. They are usually a modification made in areas where smoker fuel such as pine needles are used, due to the increased burn heat.

Here are some tips about making your own smoker fuel. You should never have to buy any. I have pine needles galore where I live and they do an excellent job. Check out this link to see the heat shield on a smoker by Dadant.

Element #3

Strong Bellow Bracket. The bracket is the cage-looking thing that wraps around the body of the smoker. This provides a nice sturdy frame to mount the bellows to the body. In addition, it offers further protection from burning your hand on the main body.

A flimsy, loose bellow bracket will result in a smoker falling apart like the one in the picture at the top of this post.

beekeeping smoker bellow bracket
Here is the back mounting base of the bellow bracket. This one has nice hardware, making for a sturdy bracing unit. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Element #4

Welded, rust free bottom panels. This is the bottom piece of the smoker. It’s also the part of the smoker that holds the ash as the smoker burns over time, so it gets pretty hot. The cheaper ones will start to color yellowish with minimal use.

welded bottom of a beekeeping smoker
You can’t tell from the picture, but this is a welded bottom. You’re welcome.
Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Element #5

High strength opening tab and commercial grade hinge. Okay, so that’s two things but they’re interrelated. The more you use a smoker, a buildup of gummy stuff coats the top lid seat, making it difficult to open the smoker. Therefore a strong opening tab is a must.

beekeeping smoker opening tab
Here is a great example of a nice strong opening tab. Notice the thick gage wire and the pop rivets that won’t be letting go anytime soon. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©
This is a good hinge pin and pop rivet hinge. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©
beekeeping smoker hinge
Here is the hinging system on my budget smoker. There is no pin. And it has spot welds instead of pop rivets, boo! Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Element #6

The Bellows. Although you want top quality bellows, you must know that even though my smoker is 17+ years old and still going, that I have replaced the bellows at least four times. They simply wear out with use. And let’s face it, that’s the part that gets used the most.

hole in a beekeeping smoker bellows
Eventually every set of bellows must go to a better place. The most wear and tear on a smoker happens to the bellows. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Note: When it comes to bellows, there are wooden ones and there are plastic ones. I don’t know which is better but I am not a fan of plastic so I go with wooden.

How to tell if a smoker is top quality

Well it’s great to know what elements make a quality smoker but how can you tell the difference between a good one and a low quality smoker?

The first thing to realize is that, like anything, there are high quality brand name products and then there are knock-offs. And unless you can see something in person, and actually pump those bellows, it can be difficult to make a decision.

My recommendation

To make it easy on you, I’m going to recommend to you the same smoker that I have been using for years. How does that sound? Easy I hope.

I will also give you some honorable mentions just in case you’re on a budget. I will offer links to them that lead to either Mann Lake’s website (of which I am not an affiliate) or Amazon.com. (of which I am an affiliate and appreciate any support that you may offer through a purchase).

My recommendation is the Stainless Steel Smoker with Wood Bellow by Mann Lake. They have two sizes: One is 7″ tall and the other is 10″ tall. I use the taller one because I work lots of beehives and it lasts longer without needing refueled.

The model above is the taller one by Mann Lake. As you can see it comes with the plastic bellow, which I have no experience with as to it’s durability.

The one above is a budget option made by Goodland Bee Supply. I have never heard of them however I did include this one because it has good reviews from previous Amazon.com customers.

Here is the 7″ (shorter) version of the first smoker listed above, also with plastic bellows. Mann Lake apparently offers what they call a ‘replacement skin’ for the bellows. The skin is the yellow plastic part of the unit.

Bonus option

I have one more final suggestion for anyone on a budget but still wants a smoker that’s going to last them a little while. I bought this beauty from Dadant recently. It’s a 7″ Domed Smoker and can be purchased here. (I’m not an affiliate with Dadant & Sons).

domed smoker for beekeeping
I have always wanted a smoker with the dome style lid because I think they look so cool. This one comes with a removable combustion chamber/ash can. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Although there is no manufacturer name to be seen, I have to say that I like everything about this smoker for durability. My only gripe is the hinge and the bellow material. But that’s okay, I’m going to use it till I can’t anymore.

Update: I am not impressed with the breathing system. It lacks a breather tube in the bottom of the fire chamber and makes it surprisingly difficult to light and get going. I’m going to recommend another one instead.

Final thoughts

Whatever your budget is, I understand that beekeeping is not a cheap hobby. There are places where you can save money here and there BUT do not try to save money when it comes to a quality smoker. It is worth it. I’ve seen smokers fall apart when it was needed the most. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

So, what smoker sounds best to you? You cannot go wrong with Mann Lake when it comes to good smokers. If you already have a smoker that you’re happy with then I would love to hear about it. Where do you get yours? Comment below and don’t forget to check out one of the links above for your next smoker.

Until next time remember,

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post – I’ve never thought so much about my smoker but all this is really good advice.

    1. Thanks, I’m glad it made you ponder😁 I usually don’t think much about them either until lately when one started falling apart like s puppet without strings.

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