For a long time, I have wanted to get into beekeeping. I find those little buggers to be quite interesting. As a result, last year, I acquired a hive box. For those in the know, it’s a ten-frame deep. This was enough to get me started.
A standard beehive has an iconic look. The construction of these boxes is joined together using stand box joints. Then boxes are stacked on top of each other, with a lid and a bottom board that looks like a little porch on the front of the hive.
Upon first inspection of the one I have, I noticed the joints are dovetailed together. I thought, Oooo, fancy, then I noticed that each joint had a staple driven through it, detracting away from the beautiful dovetails. Now, if you have been following me for a while, this standard of quality is not my style, so I will use this box to get the critical bee measurements and design my own style box.
Excited about a new design project, I posted my thoughts on designing my style of decorative beehives in a Facebook woodworking group. I hoped to spur a conversation about design and generate ideas for my project. Instead, the opposite happened. Most of the comments were about how I should not deviate from the standard design, and if I did not build mine as everyone else has, my hive would fall apart.
They pointed out all the problems I would have, from the wood splitting to the weight of the box, the joints coming apart, and the possibility the bees would not like the wood type I use. Not one comment was about overcoming these challenges, and not one contained any design ideas that would help build a beautiful to look at and functional beehive.
One commenter said I would be disappointed in a year because it would fall apart due to being out in the weather. These are typical responses from unsuccessful humans. It is the path of the least resistance and the least amount of work. It is easy to say it will never work, so don’t bother trying, and go sit on the couch with your phone and waste away being a Facebook commenter.
A good designer will consider these problems and work to solve them in their design. Some problems are not always problems but other people’s personal preferences. Let’s take maintenance; for example, the wood may need to be sanded and refinished yearly, depending on your wood finish. If you are not into that, maybe wood is not the material you should use. However, if you are Mr. Miyagi running a Karate Dojo, and you are using sand the beehive or a wax on wax off finish to teach karate techniques, this type of maintenance is exactly what you need in the design of your hives.
Yes, in the design process, you might have to make concessions and sacrifice a design element to achieve the functionality you are looking for to solve a particular problem. Conversely, you might have to make functionality concessions if the aesthetics are more important to you. These concessions on both sides are part of the design process, finding the balance of form and function.
Another part of this is the journey of design and building. What are you going to learn on your journey? In a previous post, I talked about learning from your failures. So what if the beehive I design falls apart? What a great learning opportunity to try to find the failure point. Was there a single point that failed that started a chain reaction, so the whole thing failed? Can I change something about that design element to help my success in the next iteration?
Japanese temples that date back over 1000 years are put together entirely with wooden joints. Could I use one of these same joints in my bee hive design, or could it be as simple as using a different glue type?
Facebook groups remind me of that old saying, “You become the company you keep.” Unfortunately, it only took the first comment to be dismissive to set the tone for the rest of the comments.
Be creative and find creative solutions to your design problems, don’t just dismiss the design because there are problems, be a designer who designs solutions, not barriers.