Category Archives: Big Bear’s Workshop

Mind Your Beeswax at Mangelsen’s

I will teach my first beeswax craft class at Mangelsen’s on the last Saturday of June.

I am pretty enthusiastic about teaching beeswax crafts classes at Mangelsen’s.

As for now, the schedule looks like beeswax crafts classes will happen there once a month on the 4th Saturday at 11:30 am.

What’s up for the very first class?  Think picnics and packing lunch to go.

More details coming very soon.

Bee Tech Review: Skil RAS900 Router Table

A router table is beekeeping tech?

Yes, yes it can be.  I use my router table to cut rabetts in my end boards of hive boxes.  I use it to cut dadoes in bottom boards and other hive parts that need grooves.

Just after cutting frame rest in hive box end board.


  • Legs fold underneath for easier storage.
  • Not too heavy allowing it to be portable to worksite.
  • Comes with accessories like detachable fingerboard 
  • Top is sturdy and lines are well marked for accuracy.
  • Good price range.  $90 to about $125 on average.
  • My older router fit in like it was made for it.
  • Router attachment system is very good.


  • Power cord to table switch is way too short.
  • Access to router for bit changes and adjustments isn’t convenient.
  • Need a converter piece to adapt large vacuum port to smaller vacuum hose.

Router Power

I have my old Craftsman 1.5 hp 2500 rpm EZ Router attached (I love that router) and the four “finger” attachment system fits beautifully with it.  The underside of the SKIL RAS900 router table has two “template” circles to help center the router in the hole.

The whole router attachment system on this table makes it so easy to swap routers in and out.



I score on a 1 – 5 system.  1 being worst. 5 being best.

Presentation: 4 – It’s a sharp looking table that doesn’t look or feel “cheap”.  The markings are clean and clear and easily visible and easy to understand.

Usability: 4 – It pretty much comes with all the basic parts to install a router and do simple, repetitive cutting out of the box.  I was cutting wood within about 20 minutes of opening the box.

Functionality: 4 – The legs fold in under the table for stowage and fold out to use it.  It has holes in the feet for screwing the table to a surface and there is a bottom “foot” on each corner to use clamps instead of screws.  The table is stable on it’s legs and doesn’t have any real movement once fastened in place.

Overall Score

4. I like this little router table very much.  Easy to set up, easy to use.  Fits in small, limited space workshops.  Easy to store, easy to take along.  Great for a beesy beekeeper.



You Bee You

My job is to help people bee better.  By that I mean to facilitate successful beekeeping through education, skills training, access to useful resources, and experienced assistance.

My goal is to help each beekeeper I work with to be as successful as they are able to in their own environment, with their own bees, according to their own goals and objectives.  I don’t intend to teach you to be the beekeeper that I am.  I want you to be the best beekeeper you can be.

Every colony has it’s own “personality”, it exists in it’s own micro-environment.  Your goals are going to represent you as an individual and what you want to achieve along the lines you need and want to operate in.

If I only taught people what I prefer or think of as best, I am not helping you to realize success on your terms.  I’m essentially teaching you to be successful in my terms or those of some group I associate with whether you agree with it or not.  Whether it is appropriate for your Apiary needs or not.

I teach best practices, pro’s and con’s of approaches and techniques.  I work to make sure people understand what they are doing, why they might want to do it or not, when, how and exceptions to it.  That way, armed with the knowledge and experience of different methods, approaches and materials, you can best decide whether it will bee appropriate for your beekeeping.

Sure, I have personal opinions and biases that affect my own beekeeping.  If you ask me about the how’s and whys I do things, I’ll tell you.  Not to influence your choices but as an example of one beekeeper putting it all together for themself.

In the end, it comes down to you and your bees.  I’ll bee me and you bee you.


The Big Bear Special – My Custom Bee Hive Part 1


I loved working with the hive designed by Abbe Smile Warre.  He called it, “The People’s Hive”.  I find that it fits very well into my Organic beekeeping practices.  However, it didn’t do exactly what I need it to do mostly because I tend to be a tweaker.

In terms of economy, ease of building and structural needs, I came up over time, after a long line of tweaks that took me out of a Warre hive proper, with this hive that I prefer to build and use now.


With modern materials and hive parts that are in my case, easier bought than built, prefer to use the standard deep wedge top frame conventionally used in Langstroth hives.    I use the complete foundation-less frame as well as just the top bar for a more Warre-like top bar vertical system.  


It’s essentially a 5 frame Nuc hive deep box system.  Half the size of conventional hives yet a bit bigger compared to the Warre.  I get more boxes for the rough same amount of wood.  I also use butt joints with frame rails instead of cutting rabetts or finger joints.  Much easier and faster to build. 


Through stress testing done by nearly every wood working journal over the past 50 years, we have learned that the simple butt joint, glued and screwed, can withstand about 75 to 110 pounds of stress on the joints.  A full 5 frame box of honey might weigh about 55 pounds at most.  I have dropped these boxes, full of honey, from heights of 6 feet with no damage to the boxes.  Butt joints hold 5 frame boxes together just fine.


I think that 3/4″ thick wood is thin enough as it is.  I don’t think it useful or necessary to cut frame rests and handholds in making the boxes even thinner in spots.  Internal environment is important.  Fewer places that “might” cause more heat loss is better in my opinion.

I also like keeping the bees in a voidspace that is easier for them to have a greater population to space ratio with smaller numbers giving them, in my opinion, a better chance to manage the nest space more successfully on their own.

While this requires me to keep a closer eye on absconding and swarming, I think it’s worth it.  Bear in mind, one of my main principles of organic beekeeping is that my job is to manage the hive and the colony’s job is to manage the nest.  I see it as my job to set the colony up for success in their efforts to manage the nest, not to do it for them.

In Part 2, I will post pictures of the hive as I build one and provide the dimensions and measurements should you want to try it out yourself.

What’s The Buzz In Big Bear’s Workshop

As some have noticed, I use this website here at to present information about the services and products I provide directly.  Things that I “Do” for people.  I present a mixed media focus on the the things I want to share and facilitate for others on the Bee Smart website ( Between the two, I am busier than a one legged man in a hop frog contest.

This is the time of year I focus on three primary aspects of beekeeping leading up to the super busy Spring.

  • Performing Apiary/Apiarist planning sessions
  • Teaching beekeeping classes at Metro Community College
  • Building custom order hives for people interested in the Big Bear Special Hive (my version of a production organic hive) and assembling hives for those wanting to use conventional hives.

Though I focus mostly on those three areas this time of year, I also still do my R&D wax work designing and producing different kinds of candles (such as my ultra, super-awesome Shotglass Candles).

I had been selling my candles but I think no more.  I like to make them.  But as beekeeping is my business and day to day work, (which I LOVE, by the way)  I think I want to keep my wax works as a hobby.  giving them away as gifts, using them at home when the power goes out or whatever other reason I can think of to burn a candle or make lip balm or skin salve or wood protector.

I can make soap and all kinds of stuff out of beeswax.  I teach classes on how to do it at MCC.  But for an “regular” thing as part of my business or the like, I don’t want to make them for the purpose of selling them anymore.

I have to admit, my shotglass candles are very exciting to me because they make FANTASTIC gifts when matched up to a custom shotglass with a design on it that has a special connection to the person it’s given to.  You should see my new set of shotglasses I got just for around the house.  These are for me but I will will show you all a picture of them with the candle in it beecause it’s just TOO COOL!