Dec. 30, 2021

New Year - New Equipment... Assembly Required? (054)

New Year - New Equipment... Assembly Required? (054)

You can buy all of your beekeeping equipment already assembled and if wooden boxes, already painted. They cost more than if you do it yourself, but you don’t invest any time in assembly. Or, you can buy everything unassembled; nail and glue all the...

You can buy all of your beekeeping equipment already assembled and if wooden boxes, already painted. They cost more than if you do it yourself, but you don’t invest any time in assembly. Or, you can buy everything unassembled; nail and glue all the parts and pieces together, then paint it. You’ll need the right tools of course, the room and occasionally have to get something that didn’t get packed.

Buying assembled boxes can be a good idea, as long as they are put together correctly at the factory, and as long as the wooden pieces are the correct size and not warped. Check out those boxes when you get them to make sure they’re square, and while you’re at it, take a look at the paint job. Is it good paint, enough paint, paint where it should be?

Frames can arrive in many pieces. There are the wooden parts and possibly the wire to hold the foundation in place, eyelets to pass the wire through the end bars and all the nails you’ll need to put all this together. Or, as simple as one single integrated piece of plastic: frame and foundation – complete. But wait, you can also get a hybrid. Wood frame pre-assembled, plastic foundation already snapped in and the whole thing ready to go right out of the shipping box. Fast, easy and usually in good shape.

Which is better? Listen as Kim and Jim talk about getting new beekeeping equipment and the pros, and cons, of buying it ready to go, or putting it together.

You can buy all of your new equipment (assembled or not) from our sponsor, Betterbee!


We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at


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Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2021 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 54 – New Year, New Equipment - Assembly Required?


Kim Flottum: Jim, I got to put some equipment together this year. Some of my stuff is worn out. I had some of my colonies blow over, and the boxes break. I'm going to have to put some things together this year, and I got to tell you, I am not even close to the world's worst woodworker, let alone a good woodworker. I know that you are. Can you help me out?

Jim Tew: I can talk to you about it, and I do enjoy working wood. I haven't done it in a while, but let's talk ourselves through it, if you think you're going to be doing this.


Kim: Hi, I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: We're here today on Honey Bee Obscura, and we're going to talk, probably, maybe ramble is a little better word.

Jim: Ramble's a good word.

Kim: We're going to ramble a little bit about equipment, assembling equipment, buying assembled equipment, and trying to figure out which is the best for my location, Jim's location, and maybe your location.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura, hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honey bees in today's world and engaging in an informative discussion meant for all beekeepers, long timers, and those just starting their journey with bees. Sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honey bees.

Jim: Kim, while you were talking, I was thinking what I should have been doing while you were talking was, I should have been hammering. I should have been banging something together in the background to add the ambience of what goes on here. Seven years, Kim, I keep reading, and have read over and over and over again that the average bee box even painted lasts about seven years. You're going to have to do something with this equipment sooner or later, either repair it, or use it ugly, or buy new stuff.

Kim: You just hit the magic word here, new stuff. All right. I'm looking in catalogs here and there's lots of new stuff out there. Some of it comes assembled and painted and with frames and ready to go, and some of it comes in a box in pieces. Take a step back. Where do you go with this, assembled, unassembled?

Jim: I'm embarrassed to tell you this and I've admitted before, I have always gone unassembled for no other reason than I'm old. Assembled options have only been available for how long, Kim, 20 years or so?

Kim: It's about right, yes.

Jim: I've just told you; I get 7 to 10 years out of my boxes. I've also said in other episodes that I've got a lot of deeps left from my dad's bee supply business. I keep assembling these materials and I know a lot about that. It's boring. You said you're not a woodworker. Well, putting up wood box together isn't really woodworking, that's wood banging, wood slamming, wood whatever. That's wood foul-mouthing, because when the pieces lay there unassembled, they shift, and then those box joints don't cleanly fit, and you got to have a chisel or something to neaten things up, to make them go together well.

Kim: See? I'm talking about assembly here.

Jim: It's not just boom, boom, boom, like a jigsaw puzzle where things snap together perfectly. These things require some fine-tuning at times. I don't mean to offend any equipment manufacturer. I fully believe when it leaves the manufacturer that it's precision, but it sits on my back barn for 15 years before I assemble it, and that wood moves. It absorbs and releases moisture. It changes dimensions just enough to be too tight or too loose.

Kim: The next part of this is cost. I chased this a little bit a while back, and I can comfortably say that if you take a deep super and you buy it unassembled and unpainted, it's going to cost you whatever it's going to cost, say, $25 or about $20 across the board. An average of about $20 for a deep super. If you buy that deep super assembled, just nailed together, or screwed together, different companies do it different ways, it's going to cost you about $5 to have them do that. You're going to get it for $25. I don't know the difference in shipping. If you put an unassembled super in a box and ship it to me, it's going to weigh the same as an unassembled super, but it's going to be a much bigger package. There's that to consider, too.

Jim: Right. I was wondering what do I have, a trailer or a truck, a pickup? Am I paying shipping? Yes, on one hand, this is really convenient, but on the other hand, I can only get 50 on my pickup and knocked down deep super box could have gotten 300 or 400 knocked down. Transportation cost, I would have to factor in. I love woodworking, I've done it all my life, but putting those boxes together, assembling those frames, your eyes glaze over. You just go bonkers after a while with this thing over and over again.

Kim: You mentioned frames. I got to tell you, I wouldn't assemble another frame in my life, I can guarantee you that. I can buy a fully assembled frame with whatever kind of foundation I want, plastic or whatever. It arrives in a box, and I take it out of the box, and I put it in my hive, and it's ready to go. Assembling of frames, there is no way that I can save money by assembling my own frames, and it won't be assembled as good as the people that I bought it from already did.


Jim: All right, I don't disagree with any of that. Those companies now have, to my knowledge, devices. I don't think they're people, I think they're machines that snap, snap, snap, put those things together, a little dollop of glue. I like being a woodworker because you can always be critical. You can look at those frames or you can look at that box and say, "Whoo, they didn't use spiral-shanked nails, and some of these staples have popped out." If they were using pin nails, some of those pin nails popped out. You can monitor, you could observe, you can analyze the quality of the assembly job you did get.

If I can just keep being Mr. Know-It-All here, my dad had a paint supply business, so I still know paint inside and out. I want to know, was that two coats, one side, latex? Is that really going to be the most minimal paint job they can put on? Or is that a reasonable, high-quality product that's going to last 7 to 10 years before that paint finish fails? All of these things, we don't know until you test-buy, or get someone else's opinion, or look at the equipment at a meeting and begin to appraise this. Do you want to buy this stuff yourself, put it together and paint it, or do you want to pay them to do it, and this is the job you'll get? Is it worth it?

Kim: If you're going to do this yourself, one of the things you got to know is how to do it. What you just mentioned, some kind of nail that I don't know anything about. What kind of nails do you use, or do you use screws? Whatever do you use? You can go online, and there are people who are more than happy to show you how to do it exactly the way that they want. With everything else that's going on online, if you don't know where to start, I guess what I would do is I'd take a look at sites that end in .gov, .edu, or maybe the site from the company that you bought the box from if they've got one up there.

That way, you at least have a good feel for what makes a good video, and you can start looking at these other ones, because there's people out there that got better ideas. There are people out there that have equipment that you don't have, that you won't be able to use, and there's people out there that are as marginally capable of working wood as I am. You get a good one and then you can look at the rest of them.

Jim: I completely agree with you, on the web, everything is there, and the viewer has to decide which ones are worthy information and which ones are not providing information that they wanted, but boy, that web-based video thing, that's a meaningful tool now. That is a solid tool.

Kim: Yes, it is.

Jim: Good suggestion.

Kim: If you're going to assemble your own equipment, then either go to a class and have somebody show you, and then have somebody else show you how they do it, because if you get two beekeepers, they're going to have two different ways to put these things together. Then you've got to compare and contrast and maybe take a look at a couple of these videos, so there's yet another way that somebody is doing this. You can pick the way that fits the equipment that you have, the space that you have. I don't have a woodshop. I got half of a garage that's full of straw for my chickens and stuff for the rest of my life. I don't have a lot of room to do this. There's that, too.

Jim: There is that. Of course, I have a shop, but it's crowded and it's dusty, and it's not like I have limitless room. Even though I have a decent woodworking shop, I don't have unlimited room to assemble everything here.


Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Honey Bee Obscura podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers serving beekeepers. See for yourself at


Jim: Kim, this is going to be heresy. We keep talking about wooden frames, what if you just bought plastic frames?

Kim: [chuckles] That's all I own.

Jim: I mean, forget wood and the whole thing, you just buy big boxes of plastic frames. They rack (twist) easier in my experience. They twist when they're full, and when they do that, they'll crack the cappings and honey will seep out. They're lightweight, they're cheap, there's no wood, you drop them in. From a woodworking standpoint, from an old bee guy, good grief, Kim, they're plastic.


Jim: How fake can this bit get? What happened to the wholesomeness and naturalness of woodworking? Plastic frames are there, I use them, I curse them, and then I buy more of them because you just open the box and put them in.

Kim: If you want to go somewhat traditional, you can buy assembled wooden frames and get plastic foundation that you snap in. The good thing about that is that once you get that plastic foundation after two or three or four years, you can pop it up pretty easy, put in new, and you get rid of all that wax. It's got stuff in it you don't want your bees coming up with. You can either save the foundation, you can go a lot of different directions but wooden frames and plastic foundation, it's as good as it gets, I think. It keeps you happy because it's got wood on it. It keeps me happy because it's got plastic in it.

Jim: We're getting out of time. I want to finish on one of my old stories, senior citizen, because I have to do this, because I remember when-I-was-a-boy kind of thing. [chuckles] When I bought my first pin nailer, my first Senco pneumatic pin nailer, I thought I just have the ultimate piece of wood assembly equipment. Before that, you hammered those frames together, Kim, with a little inch and a quarter wire nails to through the top bar, and then there was that, a cursed nail that went through the end bar into the top lug of the frame from the end, and it took years of practice to drive that nail through that in-bar from the side and not hit the nail that you had just driven through the top bar.

Now, having said all that, you get this frame put together and it could never be repaired because it was cross nailed like that. While you did a superb job, if you pop that frame top bar off, it couldn't be fixed because you have this morass of nails there. That's why we're having this discussion today. You don't have to do any of this, none of that eyelet business, none of that wiring stuff, none of those nails that would bend over so easily and work, work, work through Christmas holidays assembling those frames, getting ready for spring. You just buy them, they come together put together, boxes are put together if you want it. It really is an aspect of beekeeping that's modern and convenient for those people who want modern convenience.

Kim: I can hear A.I. Root rolling over in his grave right now.

Jim: I can hear A.I. Root a lot. My uncle Auby, who taught me beekeeping. would be snarky right now and would be buying up that wire before they stopped carrying it in the bee supply catalogs because there's not but one right way to do it. I've named that Classic Beekeeping, Kim. That was Classic Beekeeping because it's no longer traditional. Traditional Beekeeping right now is exactly what we're talking about.

Kim: Yes.

Jim: Buying the stuff already assembled plastic or not, but Classic Beekeeping was when you embedded foundation and did the whole thing yourself. You basically built the frame; you knew it personally.

Kim: Well, I don’t, and I don't want to, how's that?

Jim: Well, I actually feel your pain, I don't want to assemble thousands of these things anymore either. As a young guy, I enjoyed it, radio going, but I'm done, I don't want to put together all those things and struggle with them. If I had to buy a good number of these, a good number is 15, 20, 30, 40 deeps and frames, I would just check into getting a trailer and hauling this stuff home put together and be done.

Kim: That and the fact that it comes down to what your time worth. If you've got time to do all that other stuff and you enjoy doing it, then more power to you. I don't have the time and I no longer have the fingers that can hold those nails.

Jim: At 73 and a half, you cannot buy my time, wow! It is too valuable.

Kim: Yes. Well, there you are on assembling equipment.

Jim: I would suggest you check into just getting it turnkey, just having it done for you, don't worry about.

Kim: Yes, that's my advice. Check it out, doing it the hard way, and see if maybe that simple isn't better.

Jim: Good deal, thank you.

Kim: All right. Thanks, Jim, talk to you next time.

Jim: To everyone, thanks for listening this long. If you hung in there with us, thank you for doing that. Talk to you next time. Bye-bye.

[00:16:06] [END OF AUDIO]