sustainable red cedar

sfi logo.jpg

We know you care about our forests and we definitely care about them too! That's why we manufacture our hives and accessories (with few exceptions) from kiln-dried, SFI (Sustainable Forest Initiative) certified red cedar. SFI certification means the boards we start with come from forests that are strictly managed using the SFI Forest Management Standard, which maintains healthy and sustainable growth in forests, while at the same time protecting ecosystems, the rights of indigenous peoples, the rights and safety of workers, water quality, and so much more. By using exclusively SFI certified red cedar, we maintain solid, environmental standards while also offering you a product of the highest quality. We believe red cedar makes the very best beehives. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Cedar does not absorb moisture from the air like other softwoods do. Drier wood feels warmer, is less heat conducive (insulates better) and is less likely to have condensation develop on it.
  • Cedar is lighter weight than other soft woods.
  • Cedar is more weather resistant and stable than other soft woods and does not require the protection of paint. Painting is expensive and time consuming and painted hives trap moisture.
  • Cedar naturally resists attacks from most insects.
  • The bees in our apiary seem to be more attracted to the smell of cedar than other woods. They are constantly climbing around on the shop equipment, scrap piles, and on us when we are working with cedar.
  • Cedar hives are absolutely gorgeous and look very nice in our customers' backyards.
  • The Cedar that we use is rough sawed on one side. The rough side is placed inward and will be propolized by your bees, helping to strengthen the colony's immunity to disease.

efficiency in manufacturing

In addition to using only SFI certified red cedar to manufacture our hives, as well as most of our accessories, our manufacturing processes are designed to best utilize every board we purchase. Whenever possible (which is most of the time), we start with 1x12 cedar boards. This ensures that we are not left with an excessive amount of narrow scrap material that would be difficult to make use of. Offering many hives and accessories that no one else does has allowed us to develop processes with which almost nothing is left over. Anything that is left over is either ground up into filler material for quilt boxes or utilized as starter wood for campfires or home heating (there's a large market for both here in Northern Michigan). Using every board to the fullest extent possible is not only good for the environment; it allows us to keep our material costs down, and therefore also helps to keep the price of our hives far lower than any other company offering comparable products.

highest quality craftsmanship

When it comes to quality, no other beekeeping equipment supplier even comes close to producing wood products that match the quality of ours, especially when we're talking about products that are assembled by us. Don't misunderstand me, our hive kits are the best in the industry, but when it comes to assembled hives, there is absolutely no comparing the attention to detail, quality or craftsmanship between our products and those manufactured elsewhere. Countless customers have described our hives as being "cabinet grade". I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that, but let me give you some examples of how we go above and beyond in order to produce products that are the best in the industry:

Clean and precisely cut edges

The first photo shows several boards with two specific defects. The first is that the edges shown are factory edges. No matter how high quality the lumber from the mill is, factory edges are unreliable. You will never see any products of ours that contain any factory edges. The second defect is that those edges are badly chipped from having had the rebates (where the top bars will rest once the boxes are assembled) cut on a router table. This chipping will occur no matter how sharp the bit is or how slowly the material is cut. So...how do we correct this?

We correct it by taking the time to perform two additional steps. First, each board is cut on the table saw in order to remove the unreliable factory edge, along with any and all chipping. This not only greatly approves the appearance, but it helps to ensure that the boxes will sit flat on each other and that the edges will be much more durable once the boxes are actually in use.

After the edges are clean and straight, each piece is ran across the router table again to restore each rebate to its correct depth. Since the rebate is already cut to about 80% of its correct depth, the chipping of the edges does not reoccur. Who else in the beekeeping supply industry goes to these lengths to ensure quality products?
I can assure you that no one else does.

No Gaps between boxes

By far, the most common and noticeable defect that you will see in beehives are boxes that, when stacked, have gaps in between them. These gaps are not only annoying and unsightly, but they make the hive less stable. The bees don't like them either, and must work hard to fill them with propolis in order to keep the light out and the heat in. I've seen hives with gaps in between the boxes that were so large, the bees were using them as additional hive entrances. That's a serious problem. So...why does this happen? Well...It happens because not all of the sides of the boxes are the same width. Next question is...assuming all of the parts were cut at the same time on the same saw, why are they not the same width? It's because the moisture content of each board was not the same or close to the same when the boards were cut. Regardless of kiln drying to 15% moisture content, when wood is bundled into a "bunk", the wood on the outside edges of the bunk will typically, over time, develop a notable moisture content difference from boards in the center of the bunk. If the bunk is opened and all the boards are cut to the same width within a couple of hours time, there could be (and usually is) a substantial difference in the widths of random boards within 24 hours. Although length will change very, very little, width can change a lot...up to 1/8 inch, depending on the moisture content change and the width of the piece. The wider and wetter the board, the more it will shrink when it dries out. In the photo above, you'll see the bottom edge of a box where the sides are different widths. Every other beekeeping supplies manufacturer in the country (and probably the world) will send you boxes that look like this, but we will not! But the box in the photo is one of ours, so how is it that it's going to be OK?

There is, of course, a method to getting this right. Now...Because we left all of the boards at their full width for 12 hours after cutting them to length and stacking them, and because we left all of the boards 1/8" too wide before assembling the box, and because we allowed the assembled box to sit overnight, we now have a very stable box that we can make four cuts to the bottom of on the table saw in order to make it perfect.

And there you have it. The box has even moisture content all over, is the exact specified height of 210mm, and will sit perfectly flat on top of another box...with no gaps. Of course, if you're assembling one of our hives your self, we can't make these final cuts to the bottom of the box. What we do in that case is to allow all of the parts to sit stacked together for several days, and then cut everything to its final width just before we ship to you. Again, who else in the beekeeping supply industry goes to these lengths to ensure quality products? No one.

BEST FLOOR DESIGN

The floor assembly is the foundation of the hive. Just like the foundation of your home, it must be very strong in order to support a lot of weight over many years. Our floor design may look similar to one offered elsewhere (ours has been imitated), but is superior for a few good reasons. First, we use Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue when assembling our floors, before also stapling the parts together. Second, every part of the floor (except for the pieces that determine the entrance size) is joined to every other part by rabbet and/or dado joining. Ours is the strongest floor in the industry and you'll not find this quality elsewhere. In the first photo you can see the basic frame of the floor. Notice, looking toward the upper left of the photo, that the back does not come all the way down to the workbench. This 3/8" opening is there so you can insert a sticky board underneath to check for mite drop, or to catch powdered sugar and mites while doing an organic mite treatment (your hive stand will support the sticky board). The sticky board we sell is only 3/16" thick, so there's plenty of room to remove it without disturbing any debris that may be on it.

Here you can see that the three screen supports are installed and the landing board is being put in place; all dado joined, glued and stapled. Notice the 10-degree bevel on the landing board, which allows for immediate water runoff. I came up with this design after observing that rainwater typically puddles up in front of the entrances of Langstroth hives. After short summer showers, bees returning to work often end up on their backs, with their wings stuck in these puddles and their feet in the air. They often die. The same thing would have occurred with the original Warré hive floor design (probably even more so), which is one reason we never made any of those floors.

Here is the finished product. Notice the width of the screen supports and the inward depth of the landing board. Unlike other screened floors on the market that are screened wall-to-wall, we've reduced the screened area to about 65% of the floor. Since bees can move large amounts of air through the hive (by collectively using their wings) when necessary, this is more than enough opening to provide adequate ventilation. Anything more is just unnecessary. Bees like solitude and darkness within the hive, so the smaller the screened opening is, the better. Of course, we still want enough screened area to effectively reduce and monitor varroa mites, which this design does. In mid to late summer, when mite populations are often highest, the outside edges of the combs are typically filled with honey, even in the lowest boxes. This means that the brood nest, where most varroa will exist within the hive, is concentrated toward the center. Therefore, the number of mites falling through the screen and out of the hive is only minimally reduced by having a smaller screened area. Lastly, rather than fastening the screen to the top of the supports, we fasten it to the bottom. This serves a very important function. During even mild winters, large numbers of bees will die and fall to the floor. With our floor, the entrance will rarely become blocked by the dead. When the first nice day comes along, you don't want your bees to spend hours trying to open the entrance. They'll need to get out for that cleansing flight!

Yes glue-no screws

When we assemble a hive for you, we use Titebond III and either staples or nails, everywhere that parts are joined together with rabbet or dado joining. The only place we use (8) screws is on the roof assembly in order to secure the roof planks, because those are simply butt joined. For those eight screws, we use coated deck screws that are about the same color as the wood, and we countersink them slightly below the surface. Other manufacturers of Warré hives have touted stainless steel pan head screws as the best means of fastening pieces together. We disagree for several reasons. First and foremost; they're ugly. Seriously...they look ridiculous. What other finished wood products have you seen that have stainless steel pan heads all over them? I sure can't think of any. In wood working the idea is to hide the fasteners or to at least make them inconspicuous. It's certainly undesirable to have them sticking out like sore thumbs.

That being said, some arguments for assembling a hive with these screws hold water, and some don't. For instance, they'll say if you are assembling your own hive, these are the easiest fasteners to use. That's probably true (for hive assembly instructions click here). Then they'll say that pan head screws will hold better than other types of screws, and without splitting the wood. That's definitely true. They'll say that these screws will hold your hive together very well even without using glue. That's completely false. The roof and floor assemblies might hold together fairly well without glue, but the hive bodies and quilt box definitely will not. This is because those boxes are just 4 sides and nothing else. There are no braces, nor is there a top or a bottom or anything else to keep them rigid. I don't care how many screws you put in; they will not keep the boxes square or rigid. Also, any areas above, below and between the fasteners will buckle and pull apart.

Titebond III is stronger than wood. When applied properly during assembly, it creates a solid bond along the full length of every joint. It will hold your hive together better than screws, nails and staples combined. In fact, the nails and staples that we use really only serve one purpose; they hold the joined parts tightly together until the glue has cured. After that, they are pretty much irrelevant. All high quality wood products are assembled using glue. I know of only one company who ever advocated assembling beehives without using glue, and their argument was that the glue contains chemicals that are harmful to the bees and/or the environment, which isn't true. The cured glue has no chemicals that will hurt the bees, and the wet or curing glue is very low VOC-emitting. A gallon of typical house paint will, when applied, emit between two and ten times as many VOCs as will all of the glue that my company uses in an entire year. One might wonder if using screws and glue would be the strongest of all. It definitely would be, but it isn't necessary, and going back to my first point, the screws are ugly.

Precision without CNC

So often these days manufacturers are touting CNC machines as being able to produce wood products with greater precision than real craftsmen can. Well, it's a bunch of nonsense and I'll tell you why. First of all, nobody is using CNC machines to do every, or even most of the operations that are required when building a beehive. CNC machines are used to make specialty cuts into particular pieces, or to make hundreds of identical pieces. Examples would be carving in logos, or making complex angle cuts that are done over and over again. Top bars and box handles are often made by CNC machines and they usually come out pretty nice. But think of what were talking about here; wooden beehives. We already know that wood expands and contracts with humidity and temperature changes, so does anyone actually think that a machine's ability to make precision cuts to within .010" matters at all? I can assure you, it doesn't. We work to the tolerance of 1mm (0.039") when we build our hives and I guarantee that in the end, ours are superior to any being built using CNC. The truth is that once you take away the human factor, quality will actually go down. There's a very simple reason for this. Computers, when functioning properly, are perfect. The CNC cutting mechanism is close to perfect. But wood is not perfect nor is it often even close to perfect. Therefore, plenty of imperfect pieces will come from a CNC machine.

When we are working at our compound miter saws cutting raw material to length to make a certain piece, we inevitably come across sections of stock that are undesirable for the piece we are making. We can discern that a particular section will not work well for what we are making at that moment and we can cut out that section and put it aside to be used for something else at a later time. A CNC machine cannot do this. Once the stock is loaded into the machine, it does it's work without prejudice. It then becomes a simple case of "garbage in-garbage out". Of course, parts that are less than perfect, or even fairly defective, are likely to end up in the finished products, either due to lack of inspection or an unwillingness by the manufacturer to "eat" the loss. This is just what happens when you let machines do work that skilled human beings should be doing. It's important to remember that the main reason for using CNC machines in mass production is to save labor costs; it's not to improve quality.

Out of all the wood products offered from our beekeeping store, one is made for us by another company using a CNC machine. That part is the V-shaped top bar, and the only reason we buy them from elsewhere is because we need about 20,000 of them a year and it just takes too much man power to do them here. About 5% of the parts that we receive are defective. We cull out these defects when we wrap the parts into sets of 8, and I usually just eat the loss. Occasionally, we run out of these bars and the supplier is slow in getting them to us, so we make a couple hundred pieces here in our shop using the table saw and router table. We produce no defects, and our bars are generally of a higher quality than the ones we buy. They are more consistent and uniform, and the cuts are often more accurate when compared against the specifications. That's just a fact.

With or without windows

In today's market it's getting next to impossible to purchase a Warré hive that doesn't have windows in the boxes. And why not? They're really great, right? No! They're not! The truth is that windows are bad for you, bad for your bees, and bees absolutely hate them. Please learn the truth about beehives with windows by clicking here before purchasing a hive.

Innovation and design

We're not only continuously improving our products by testing them ourselves and receiving feedback from our customers, we are always working to come up with new products that will help make beekeeping with Warré hives even easier. The following is a list of innovations that were first introduced into the market by us, and then imitated by others:

  • Genuine copper roof for Warré hive
  • Beveled landing board
  • Rabbet joined Warré components
  • IPM screened floor assembly for Warré hive
  • High pitch Warré roof
  • Canvas on quilt box (instead of burlap)
  • Sloped handles

And here is a list of products that were invented right here at The Warre Store and are not offered anywhere else in the United States (or possibly in the world):

 

Experienced and Dependable

I started this company as a part-time venture in 2008 and it quickly grew into a full-time job. The Warre Store has been my sole source of income since January, 2011, and I firmly believe that I am the foremost authority on Warré beekeeping in the United States. I have worked very hard to share my knowledge on this website, for free, with anyone who wishes to acquire the same. I strongly encourage you to learn about the history and reputation of any supplier that you consider doing business with, before you buy. As for us...we will be here to serve you, guide you, and help you with all aspects of your beekeeping venture, and we look forward to doing just that. Thank you.     

-Chris Harvey