Beekeeper Saws

Saws are a more and more commonly used tool in the beekeeper world. I use them in a wide variety of applications. whereas drills are common to assembly, saws are common to disassembly. I take all kinds of things apart with a variety of saws.

When I am building beekeeping equipment, from hives to stands and more, I use a circular saw for the most part. A standard circular saw is one of the most common tools for cutting boards down to size for use in an apiary. Of course, a Jig saw comes in very handy when building things as well.

Circular Saw
Jig Saw

When I am cutting down pallets and other wood that I use to make craft furniture and items that I sell to fund the Beehooligans project, I have really learned to love using a mini-circular saw. This is great for working with boards that are 3/4″ thick or smaller. That makes it great with pallet boards. I also use a reciprocating saw to get through nails and other tough parts.

Reciprocating Saw

Then I get to loving a reciprocating and/or an oscillating multi-tool when it comes to doing bee nest removals from building walls and roofs. They are often just the right thing for making specific or precision cuts without doing much, if any, damage to the nest.

Oscillating Multi-Tool

When I have the luxury of working in a shop or someplace that has electrical access, I have all of these tools handy in their corded versions. However, more often than not, I am in a remote area like a field, or outdoors, or in a place like an abandoned house, where there is no electrical access. Having had the need to come up with an answer to this, I have invested in not just battery operated saws and other tools, but a set that all make use of the same battery system so that they can be swapped from one to another for more efficient and practical use. For myself, I’ve really gotten to like the Worx brand.

Worx battery powered Circular Saw (left), Worx Oscillating Multi-Tool (top), Worx Combo Jig Saw/Reciprocating Saw (right, in Jig Saw mode)
Worx battery powered Mini Circular Saw (top left), Worx Oscillating Multi Tool (top right, again), Worx Combo Jig Saw/Reciprocating Saw ( bottom, in recip mode)

A lot of basic work used to be done with just a reciprocating saw and a circular saw. However, as time went along, I learned fast that different situations called for more specific or refined tools.

For example, in general, I find that bees tend to not get so excitable during a live removal when I use an oscillating multi tool. This works fine as it gives me more accuracy in cutting and less agitation of the bees, keeping the public area around me safer.

Worx battery powered Oscillating Multi Tool

Working with long boards to build hives makes using a regular Circular saw just fine. Working to take apart pallets and make more accurate cuts on those smaller boards means the Mini Circular saw is just the thing to fall back on.

Worx battery powered Mini Circular Saw

Ultimately, even the battery powered combo Reciprocating saw works a bit better for cutting bees out of a tree limb due to its easier handling. That can mean the difference of getting done by maybe a third the time faster just in having that tool alone.

Worx battery powered Reciprocating/Jig Saw

Having the right tool for the job is one of the best pieces of advice any handy person can have. When it comes to saws, one size definitely does not fit all.

Open Source Beekeeping Certification

The variety between Master Beekeeper programs can be so diverse as to be ridiculous. At one end is a program that is essentially a college degree in and of itself.

At the other end are programs in which a person takes a test, online or on paper, that is essentially a information regurgitation dump and if passed, one is “certified” the same as the previous.

Ultimately, this wide divergence makes the whole thing ridiculous and irrelevant.

However, there can be value in having something to show that one has demonstrated and learned information to the point of mastery. A third party certification can be useful in professional endeavors.

However, one shouldn’t need to spend hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars to attain that certification. The information is what it has always been. New research adds to that and can be included in an updated, generally available schedule.

There is the potential for a relatively inexpensive testing and skills demonstration based certification that does not require sucking up to a group of elitists or paying out the nose for something that needn’t be so.

It should be consistent across the board and give opportunity to anyone wishing to attempt to do so.

Using the model provided by CNG Farming and its Apiary certification section as a general basis, it is possible to take an online test for knowledge and submission of documentation showing successful demonstration of skills to attain beekeeping certification.

If you can demonstrate knowledge and that you have the skills , there shouldn’t be a society parade or one-upsmanship about which prestigious or not prestigious place one attained certification from.

That is only desired by those who use said certification as a wall decoration and bragging point.

Keep coming back and we’ll continue to flesh out this self driven and achieved beekeeping certification program that focuses on actual useful knowledge and demonstrated skills.

The goal is to provide a certification solution based on your needs and required outcomes. The knowledge testing will be able to be completed online, scored and reported in a way that is set against open and objective standards.

In other words, you’ll be able to know what is tested, what the scoring requirements are and see for yourself if you met the necessary number of correct answers to pass. Anyone will be able to see the requirements information.

The demonstrated skills will be a matter of having any current Master Beekeeper from any program or any two not Master Beekeepers observe your demonstration, answer specific questions about how successfully you completed said skill, and submitting the observation form to the website to be added to the accumulated total of your certification requirements.

Once all tests have been successfully passed and all skills have been successfully documented and submitted, the certification will be listed on the website.

There will likely be minimal fees for testing and processing documentation to help pay for the web hosted site and service(s) pursuant to the process.

A membership will be available, but not mandatory for those successfully achieving certification. The membership creates, at minimum, a network of recognized peers to help continue making the certification process available and to provide a listing for those seeking certified beekeepers to be local observers for them.

The Worx Pegasus WorkTable In Review

Setting Up The Worx Pegasus

A portable worktable is always handy. Especially for those of us who work out in the field. Literally, out in a field. I, for example, visit my own apiaries as well as those of my clients whose hives I tend and apiaries that I maintain. Many of them are urban in back yards, on roofs, even out near a street. Many others are out in rural areas, literally in or near farm fields.

It’s inevitable that at least weekly, if not multiple times a week, I will have to do some kind of work that requires me, or really, really helps make it go better, that I have some kind of usable work surface. For everything from cutting, gluing, fastening and more, I repair hives, assemble frames on the spot, fix or build stands, etc…

Working on the ground or at a low level hive stand can be done, but I don’t prefer it. If small work is in order, I REALLY don’t want to be working on the ground, on my knees if I don’t have to. I do have shop space to work in but not always or not convenient.

Now, I’ve had sawhorses at hand for years. When it comes to gluing, nailing, stapling, sanding, painting, and many other detail oriented tasks, it is SO much better to have them at waist level and on a steady, stable surface that I don’t have to fight. Sawhorses aren’t always the most stable nor do they do much more than give a base for a sheet of plywood or a board.

I happened upon the Worx Pegasus portable work table about six months ago and decided to see if it was worth having. I picked it up at a local Menard’s for just under $100 bucks. At first look, it seems to be a relatively sturdy grade PVC type material with aluminum or steel parts in strategic places to reinforce it’s durability. I bought it anyway, the extremely high number of 4 star and above reviews on 3 different sites piqued my interest.

It’s REALLY easy to set up. It’s easier to set up than a TV tray, or at least as easy. It only weighs about 25 pounds and can hold up to 1,000 pounds or 300 pounds depending on how it’s used.

This is a versatile item. While it is sold and primarily pitched a a portable work table, it can also be used as a sturdy sawhorse. As a sawhorse, it can hold up to 1,000 pounds. It has 2 grooves at each end as a sawhorse that will fit a 2 by board on it’s side in it to run across to another sawhorse. Pretty darn handy right off the bat and we haven’t even used it as a work table yet.

As a worktable, just pop up the two “wings” that form the table on each side of the sawhorse beam and you are ready to work. The tabletop can hold up to 300 pounds. Actually, they can hold more than that if the material is across the center of the horse. The pop up table sides are only rated at 300 pounds though.

The table does have a locking “shelf” below it between the feet of the horse and that helps it stand very sturdy, assuming you’re not set up on very un-level or disturbed ground. The shelf only holds about 20 lbs but it’s handy to put small stuff out of the way.

Now that we’ve got the table up and ready, it’s important to tell about a few handy features that come with it that make it even more useful. The first is the connection grommets that allow the table to be combined with other Worx tables. This adds extensibility to that if you work on bigger projects, you can have reliable added work area.

The second feature are the lock-in clamps that fit into the grooves on each side of the table to hold your work pieces firmly and securely. The clamps not only lock into the table itself, but can also be used independently and can close on the sides of the table to hold items firmly down against the table.

In that vein, the third feature are the bench dogs, 4 or them, that work to surround a piece laying on the table or in tandem as a wider area against the clamp for bigger pieces. The bench dogs can be that extra pair of hands to hold something in place while you use both hands to operate a tool.

That’s it. That’s all of the parts of the table and what they do. Take down is simple as well. Just pull a couple of clips on each side, slide the table tops down (AFTER you put the clamps that are stowed behind them) away. Kick up the bottom section and fold the unit up. It stores away very nicely.

Using The Worx Pegasus

I’ve got some action shots below using beekeeping equipment and “stuff” to give an idea of how this is basically one useful work bench that’s not only a good place to work on but practically another set of hands at the same time.

Keep those boxes and items firmly in place with locked in clamps
By locking into the table, when these clamps get a grip, that work isn’t going anywhere
Holding items together while the glue dries or you get your drill bit in is part of what these clamps and dogs work together
bench dogs make a handy backstop to prevent sliding across the top

The Shakeout

The Worx Pegasus is not a powered tool. However, it makes using powered tools and any other work you need to do onsite much easier. It’s relatively light-weight and not hard to carry, although, you have to carry it like a suitcase without a handle because it doesn’t have a handle. So, portability I give a solid B+.

Stability is important in any work bench. While, yes, it is made mostly of a high strength plastic with metal reinforcement, it is much sturdier than I expected. I can actually stand on this thing without a problem and I weigh about 315 pounds. This is very sturdy. The legs are kept from being unstable or wobbly with the stabilizing shelf below. A lot less shakiness or movement than others without the extra stabilizing. I have yet to have it even act like a problem. I give the strength and stability an A.

I love when I can do more with less. The versatility of this work bench is amazing to me in that not only is it a sold work table but a highly durable sawhorse as well. Not to mention it/s connectibility to other Worx worktables (they have about 3 kinds of other work tables besides this one for different purposes). Using the grommets expands it’s functionality and extensibility to do bigger jobs. It’s a work bench, it’s a sawhorse, it’s part of an extensible system. That’s an A right there if I ever saw one.

It’s easy to set up, it’s easy to store, it’s lightweight and easy to take it along. It carries all of it’s pieces and parts connected to it instead of having to have them carried separately. Portability is an A without a doubt.

This rates an overall A- with me. I can’t, as a handyman or a beekeeper, see myself not using this most of the time.

All said and done, this Worx Pegasus portable workbench is not only a contractor’s buddy, it’s a busy beekeeper’s best friend. It’s handy for building and repairing on location. It.s dandy for having a table or show stand at a presentation or class. I’ve used it to process honey and put heavy pails full of honey on it it to pour it into bottles waiting on a crate below it.

If you’re interested in more information on this work bench, please feel free to visit the Worx Pegasus web page to get all the details. Whether you buy it from the website, from Amazon, Menard’s or even Westlake Ace, you won’t regret finding out more about it at Worx and then getting one for yourself. You can buy me another one if you like. I can always use a couple at the Rescue and Teaching Apiary at Scatter Joy Acres. heh heh.

Bee Useful Tool and Equipment Reviews Are Coming

I have been planning a new video series on YouTube about reviewing tools and beekeeping equipment. This has resulted in mixed advice from those I’ve been talking to. Apparently, they want to hear my views on using tools and equipment, but they don’t think I should frighten the public by putting myself into videos again.

So, I’ll compromise. I’ll do the reviews here on the blog on the website here BUT, I’ll also try to add plenty of photos and video clips of the items being reviewed and in use to give you al the best of both worlds.

I have been a handyman doing everything from home repair to building fences and decks and all the way over to building and assembling hive stands, hives and other equipment for, well, a long time. Over thirty years and still going.

My plan is to present tools and equipment that beekeepers will find useful not only in their beekeeping endeavors, but in any general way. I will do my best to show the tool or item, how it’s supposed to be used, ways that it is used specific o beekeeping, and the pros and cons as to how good it actually is.

Not only will I be showing you power tools, but non-powered tools and equipment as well. What is non-powered tools meaning here? Mostly support and assistive things like carts, worktables, stuff like that.

You’ll learn that I am a fan of the “Worx” brand but don’t let that stop you from checking the reviews out because I believe in providing information so that you can decide if something will be useful for you, the way you work. So, I will, objectively as I can, give you all the pros and cons.

I plan to give you a new review on a weekly basis so please come back often to see what cool things we’re looking at. I’ll bee getting more active around the website in other ways as well to cover various topics outside of tools and equipment but the main point here is to provide useful information that you can use to help yourself be more successful.

Homestead Beekeeping, Beekeeping With A Purpose

There are various purposes for beekeeping. Commercial beekeeping, which largely focuses on crop pollination and large scale honey production, and hobby beekeeping which is a typically local and personal scale mostly focused on honey production for personal satisfaction.

In between those are are “sideliner” micro or small business types and “homestead” beekeeping which could be seen as a variant of sideliner, but more personal.

I’ll focus on homestead beekeeping in this post because it pertains most and most closely to craft/trade beekeeping observed most familiarly throughout history. what is now referred to as “homestead” beekeeping is the same as those people who lived the “beekeeping life much as a carpenter or blacksmith spent their entire lives working with bees and products of the hive to make a variety of items used not only in their own homes but as products to trade and sell in their community.

These are the people who went beyond honey, pollination, and beeswax candles. These folks refined all of those things and added soaps, health and beauty products like beeswax skin creams, lip balms, and propolis toothpaste, and tinctures.

They are a specialist in animal husbandry, a unique apothecary, and artisan all rolled in one. The honey, beeswax, pollen, and propolis they collect are used to make healthcare items, artistic crafts, housewares, and foodstuffs. They benefit their own and neighboring gardens, small farms, and orchards with pollination.

These are people who engage in trade, barter, and direct sales with the myriad of things they make from their bee hives harvest. They know about markets and marketing. They are experienced salespeople and neighbors who always come bearing gifts and useful things to trade.

They take a professional approach to apiculture, making the most of every aspect of it. They live and breathe beekeeping and every aspect of it. Often they become experts in one or more aspects of their craft.

I engage in apiculture this way and I train others to become apiarist as well. It is my goal to bring others into the small and unique craft of apiculture that has come down to us, becoming more refined and more well studied over what is literally centuries.

I think it’s great that more people are interested in beekeeping as a hobby. I think it’s important that we have enough people involved in commercial beekeeping as well. However, I think it’s a special calling and dedicated person that is one of the very few craft/trade Masters of what can be called “Homestead” beekeeping.

The Best Time To Take Beekeeping Classes

First of all, why are you taking beekeeping classes? what is the point of them? People take beekeeping classes to learn about the facts and details of bees and beekeeping. They learn about biology, behavior, and so much more.

Most of the things in beekeeping classes are best as lecture based classes. They are more for discussion and general presentation of information. There really is no need for live bees in a class. If demonstration is useful, any instructor has more than enough access to videos and photos to show you what it is that is est presented visually.

So a class can be taken really whenever, at any time of year and during any season. In regards to beekeeping, most classes historically, perhaps even to say traditionally, are offered in the Spring or in the very last weeks of Winter just before Spring to take advantage of when bees become active so as to have classroom days and field days be close so as to keep information fresh in new beekeeper’s minds.

That’s all well and good but in the final weeks leading up to Spring, beekeepers really ought to be focused on the hands-on parts to be best prepared for early Spring activities which will set the stage for a successful season. Time is best used on prep activities.

Late Fall and Getting into Winter is the best time for the classroom based learning of beekeeping. There are much fewer practical, hands-on demands of the beekeeper’s time and it’s much more pleasant and reinforces learning to sit in a warm classroom where you can focus on the information instead of being cold and ask questions and listen to the answers of the questions others have asked.

Because that’s the real value of taking a class. Being able to ask questions and hear what others ask and discuss. Otherwise, you might as swell just read a book. It’s the opportunity to interact and engage with an experienced instructor and pick their brain while you have the chance. Pick up on nuance and information that a book can’t easily communicate because of being there in person offers more information than just seeing words.

However, when do most people take classes, or even offer beekeeping classes for that matter? In the Spring, as always. That’s the tradition and when most people think about it, as they see the weather improve and they get excited by the prospects.

I will be offering the complete beekeeping course I have been teaching at MCC and other places this Winter at the Rescue and Teaching Apiary at Scatter Joy Acres in the Bee Barn to help those early birds get a headstart on learning so that they can get the most useful work done assembling equipment, setting up the apiary, and so on in the early Spring to be prepared.

2020 Apprenticeships

The apicultual apprenticeships beginning in 2020 are designed to be a two (2) year program. The only costs associated to be an apprentice are those to obtain one’s own equipment, tools, gear, materials, etc… as needed ongoing.

Accepted apprentices will not only engage in scheduled apiary duties, but attend scheduled classes and workshops as assigned as well, at no extra cost for registration except for materials costs, as they apply.

Apprenticeships for 2020 will be selected by March 1, 2020 and begin activities immediately. Please submit your registration by January 31 to be considered for selection.

Most activities and classes will be held on Saturdays anytime between 9am and 5pm, as scheduled. Be prepared to give up your Saturdays to the bees. Treat it like a new job, it is work that needs to be done and if you aren’t serious about seeing that work done,and doing it right, please consider registering for an apprenticeship only if you are really able to follow through with it’s requirements.

Veterans are welcomed, encouraged, and given priority to participate if they are able to.

Please begin by filling out the form on the “Join The Team” page.

2020 Classes and Workshops

I will be teaching beekeeping classes and workshops at different locations throughout the Omaha/metro area throughout 2020. Some may be at Metro Community College, some at Lauritzen Gardens and others at Scatter Joy Acres or at Omaha Permaculture.

The classes at Scatter Joy Acres in the Rescue and Teaching Apiary “Bee Barn” will be considered the core of activity. All classes will be available to the public and will have fees associated with them to offset the costs of making them available.

Those registered and accepted into the Apprenticeship will be able (and required) to participate in some or all of the classes or workshops offered at the Bee Barn at no registration cost as part of their apprenticeship activities.

Classes will be listed on this website in a post and on the schedule on this website and on the Facebook page as they are planned.

Beekeeping Classes and Hands-On Workshops Coming Soon

With the new Bee Barn being completed soon at the Rescue and Teaching Apiary at Scatter Joy Acres, the ability to offer special niche classes on site dealing with beekeeping information best done in a “Learn By Doing” environment, will be started.

Beekeeping is an experiential activity. That is to say, one learns best by actively participating in it’s activities so as to best be able to put together all the aspects simultaneously.

I teach the “general” beekeeping classes at Metro Community College, most of which are lecture based classes focused on intellectual topics that don’t necessarily require live bees or hives to be present in order to learn and discuss about them. These general beekeeping classes will continue to be based and offered through MCC for the foreseeable future.

The things that will be focused on in the classes and workshops to be offered at Scatter Joy Acres will involve more hands-on skills and education. Workshops in participants learn how to build Horizontal Top Bar hives and Langstroth hives or how to build hive stands are going to be scheduled. Also there will be classes specifically focused on the setting up and managing the grounds of an apiary will be offered as well.

Tickets and scheduling of these classes and workshops will be made available using the Brown Paper Tickets website and app. I intend to keep ticket costs down by setting a base price of $15.00 per person. That will be the total cost (other than taxes, fees, etc… collected by BPT) of most of the classes and workshops offered unless there are extra materials, etc… involved.

All tools, materials, etc… are provided onsite in the case of workshops. All materials for these classes are donated and we will gladly accept any materials donations if one would like to offer them.

All of the projects, items, etc… built in the classes are the property of the Rescue and Teaching Apiary and will be used in the operations of the apiary and rescue activities. This helps keep the cost of the classes and workshops lower. The workshops/classes are offered to help participants learn and achieve new skills while helping meet the operational needs of the rescue and teaching apiary.

I look forward to welcoming future participants and being able to provide a place to help beekeepers practice and learn in a “learn-by-doing” environment.

The Blackburn Bee Barn Is Under Construction

The new large shed, is to be the newest fixture on the site of the Rescue and Teaching Apiary at Scatter Joy Acres. It’s to be built in the shape of a barn measuring 12 foot wide by 16 foot deep and 7 foot tall at the ceiling and having a gable roof above that for a storage loft.

The large shed will be used as a multi-purpose building. Chiefly for storage of apiary tools, equipment and gear related to the operations of the apiary itself. The designated “Bee Barn” will also be used as a combination classroom and workshop to be able to offer specific niche beekeeping learning opportunities that go beyond the typical beekeeping classes.

Plans for the future include an observation hive attached to one of the inner walls to allow observation of honey bees activities all year round. It will also eventually add a water catch rain barrel system.

The Bee Barn will officially be dedicated and named the “Blackburn Bee Barn” to honor the years long support of beekeeping and bee education supporting efforts of the Sharon and Randy Blackburn family of Omaha, NE.

Tremendous support has been provided to getting the Bee Barn built by the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District (much to the efforts of Manager John Winkler) as well as Dyer Law Offices in the form of Mike Dyer. The Bee Barn is being constructed on-site by David Peterson, a local and long time Omaha area shed and garage building craftsman.

Each of these individuals and organizations, and future supporters to come will be prominently displayed on the “Bee Thankful” Wall of Honor at the front of the Bee Barn. A press release and official dedication ceremony will take place soon after the Bee Barn is completed.

I would personally like to thank Papio-Missouri NRD, Dyer Law and Davic Peterson for their involvement in making this a reality. This is the beginning of realizing a long time dream of making hands-on beekeeping education and training a reality for the Omaha metro area.

I also would like to thank Joy Bartling and all of her amazing team of volunteers at Scatter Joy Acres for collaborating with me to make bee rescue and apicultural education and training a reality and at home at Scatter Joy Acres.