I was intrigued by a recent article in the American Bee Journal entitled, “The Beekeeper’s Wood Shop: Empowering Women” by T’Lee Sollenberger. Okay, it was a tad sexist, but I enjoyed it because I recognized a kindred spirit. The fact is, working with wood is one of my favorite aspects of beekeeping.
To clarify things right off the bat, I am not a woodworker. Actually, I don’t know the first thing about it except what works for me and what doesn’t. But I do know the pure joy of opening a box of woodenware from one of the bee suppliers and inhaling the aroma of freshly milled lumber. I like to sit in the driveway on a balmy spring day and align all the parts in piles and gaze at them for a while. It’s like Christmas, except its warm and sunny and doesn’t get dark at two o’clock.
It’s on the dark days of winter that I peruse the beekeeping catalogs looking for the word “unassembled.” The word itself sends a tingle up my spine: if it comes unassembled, I simply must have one. Or several.
I agree with most of the advice in the ABJ article with a few minor exceptions. Like T’Lee, I use screws, not nails, for all my boxes. This is the hallmark of the hobbiest. A commercial beekeeper would go broke (or go crazy) before getting all those boxes put together. But like I say, beekeeping is a personal thing, so do what makes you happy.
I also use a combination countersink/drill bit to get a nice flush finish without splitting the wood. If you make deep brood boxes, they eat up 36 screws per box. This sounds implausible, but it’s true. So if you’re going to drill 36 holes and insert 36 screws, you better love it. I generally don’t use glue, however. The manufacturers tell you to, but they expect you to use nails. If you use screws, I really think the glue is unnecessary.
T’Lee prefers a portable electric drill/screw driver, but I much prefer the pneumatic kind. The pneumatic ones are a lot smaller and lighter, and you can get a portable air tank if you need to work in the field. I try not to work in the field, however. If I need to repair equipment, I just swap the damaged piece with another and mend it later.
In my next woodworking post, I’ll write about squares, clamps, and planes.