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  1. Ohio


    The amazing entomologist Marla Spivak (link is a pdf article from Apidologie) has done tremendous work regarding hygienic behavior in honey bees, known as Varroa Sensitive Hygiene or VSH. Unfortunately, breeding for VSH is a tricky business. There is a field test for showing hygienic behavior that involves liquid nitrogen, but we've never done it here. Anyway, if you have the bees with the behavior, a successive queen may not have offspring with that behavior because the genes connected to it are recessive. IOW, a VSH virgin queen may have the recessive gene but she breeds with drones (20 or more in her one mating flight) who come from all over the place and may or may not have that recessive gene. So you can try to select only these queens but she may not have daughters who have the behavior. There are breeders who have inseminated VSH queens and you can buy her daughters, bred with VSH drones, from them. You can also buy queens raised in an area where the breeder controls the entire breeding population. We've had mixed success as far as productivity and low-to-no success regarding varroa control with these queens. Adding insult to injury, we once paid $60/each for some VSH queens. Those $60 queens were the meanest bees I've ever dealt with and that's saying something. We live in the sticks so it wasn't that big of a deal until the septic guy came to pump out the tanks and they went after him. He was sixty feet away and standing in the shade. He actually screamed. Poor Patrick. He said we can pump our own SWEAR WORD from now on.
  2. Ohio


    Heh. Yeah. Drink it right after it's finished first fermentation and you'll be sad. But it is fun to make. Winemaking of any kind is fun to make. I think making wine is like waiting tables---everyone should try it at least once. You learn a lot very quickly, especially how hard it is to do it well. SLAG, those techniques are well known to most beekeepers I know. You don't have to do much to stop honey bee drift (when a bee goes into a hive not belonging to her) and robbing (when honey bees attack another, weaker hive, to steal food) because honey bee navigation is impressively accurate. The larger problem are people who decide to "help the bees" by putting a hive on their property but never check on the colony's health. Often these colonies fall prey to the viruses, many of which are carried by Varroa destructor, an amazing insect that has parasitized honey bee colonies. When that hive is weakened, bees from another hive sense an opportunity and rob out the dead or dying parasitized colony. And the varroa jump on the miscreant foragers and travel to the healthy hive. Varroa originated in Asia, but the honey bees from that region developed responses to manage the parasite themselves. Elsewhere, like here, varroa showed up a couple decades ago and apiarists responded with chemicals. The original varroa species evolved to become immune to those chemicals, evolved so much that it's a different species---Varroa destructor. We've written for Bee Culture, including an article doing a field test of a specific beneficial insect against Varroa destructor. Basically, we introduced into a hive an indigineous mite, Stratiolaelaps scimitus, that jumped on the varroa as the varroa rode around on the back of a honey bee. Imagine walking around with a dinner plate glommed onto your back, biting in and sucking your hemolymph. I mean blood, unless you have hemolymph, which is fine---who am I to judge? The strats were no threat to the honey bees but swarmed the varroa like a pack of sharks. Unfortunately, strats are ground dwellers and passed through the hive and out. While it was satisfying to find varroa body parts strewn about like a spilled bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, the strats made no appreciable difference to the varroa mite counts. This was a bummer because we're all looking for ways to mitigate the effects of varroa and take some pressure off, letting the honey bees survive. Unfortunately, it appears that Apis mellifera is going to have to develop a defense that evolves as they respond to this threat. There are some entomologists who suggest stopping all varroa treatments and letting the honey bees die, except those in select breeding programs. Projected colony losses in this scenario run in the millions of hives. My idea is to help the varroa evolve to eat food high in cholesterol so they all get fat and slow and can't jump onto bees anymore, then die of heart failure. This plan won't work because varroa don't have hearts, literally and metaphorically, the little SWEAR WORD I'M NOT TO USE ACCORDING TO THE TOS. Alas, varroa is only one of the threats to honey bees. And all honey bees who collect pollen, nectar, water, plant saps---basically, all the bees who do actual work are female. Yes, you read that right. The drones have only one job. They don't even feed themselves the little ANOTHER SWEAR WORD I'M NOT TO USE ACCORDING TO THE TOS.
  3. Ohio


    Yeah, this year was catastrophic. We had 40% losses---the worst season we've ever had, and the way the colonies were lost was pretty weird, too. There are some of the industrial migratory apiaries that were hit by the floods in CA. We can't even look at the pictures. One of them we've done business with in the past and it looks like he lost pretty much all of his colonies---we're talking hundreds if not thousands. Nobody Special, interestingly, honey that ferments isn't honey---it's nectar. Honey must be below a certain moisture threshold to be honey and once it is, it will last pretty much forever. They got honey out of one of the tomb of one of the pharoah's recently. But you are totally right that fermented nectar is usually horrible and stanky, though it gives you a pretty good idea of how people figured out mead. Alcohol depends on fermentation, fermentation needs yeast, and yeast is local (unless people intervene). Some indigenous yeast yield a great-tasting beverage (or other yeast-dependent thing) though most give you something that smells and tastes not great. I've made mead and have a batch aging now that is very dry because sweet mead is ick, gross. I actually make melomel, honey and fruit wine, with blackberries as the fruit. It's a lovely color but the seeds in the berries are full of tannins and the fresh wine was, well, let's just say it was a bit astringent. One sip and every part of you puckered to a degree you didn't think was anatomically possible But the melomel has been sitting for several years, which makes me think maybe I should crack open a bottle and try it now. I don't recall us getting a mouse into a live hive though we did get one in a stored collection of hive boxes and that was gross enough. I have seen pictures of mice caught in a hive that have been stung to death. The corpse is too big for the bees to move, so they coat it with beeswax and propolis. Propolis is plant saps the bees collect to use to fill gaps and entomb mice once they've evaporated some of the moisture out. Interesting stuff, and like honey, is different based on micro-climate. We use it as a wood finish and I've developed an incense with it. Some people use it in a tincture, basically dissolving it in vodka and either swishing out their mouths or just drinking it. Not for me---why ruin vodka? what did it ever do to you? The propolis we get from the bees is monumentally sticky, iron red (like, when you see it you think there was a gunfight), and smells amazing. There's also a theory that Stradivarius used propolis from local hives as the ground for the instruments he was making, which was more yellow than massacre-red and could account for the description of the instruments being gold or golden. We did find something corpsified in one of our surviving hives early this spring, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a mouse because it was too small. I just scraped it out. Now, where did I put that corkscrew...
  4. Ohio


    We have an apiary and have captured swarms that the neighbors had in their low trees and shrubs. We were just working some of the hives a couple days ago. And in with all humility I am famous for, the honey from our hives has won prizes, mostly because we wait until the honey is fully cured before harvesting and that we have a small lavender farm that some of the foragers work during the season. One reason the bees were on the outside of that thingie is that they may have gotten hot. Honey bees will set outside if it gets too warm inside the hive, or if there's a weird smell in there. In the third photo, if you go up from where the two red cables are, you'll see some cells in the honey comb that are covered and pouched out a bit---those are brood cells, where pupa are turning into new bees. "New bees" = newbies. Get it? FYI, new bees are adorable. They can't sting yet and they don't have all their fuzz, so they kind of stand there while nurse bees feed them and take care of them. A nurse bee will then go to the next stage of her life and the new bee becomes a nurse bee. At some point, they'll be sent out of the hive to take an orientation flight, where they literally fly around the hive getting their bearings, and then they'll fly back in. We don't capture swarms way up in trees or in structures, but I do know a guy who tore the drywall off two bays in a ceiling that was jammed with honeycomb. They figured the colony had been there for several seasons---the homeowners knew they were there and didn't really care. The roof was high and the bees never went after anyone. Then a couple years ago, honey started dripping into the house. The said part is that he couldn't find the queen, so while he removed the comb, the colony was lost. It was just too big with too many bees for him to find her.
  5. Hefty, the JABOD is just great---you're learn so much so fast, with the reward of heating up steel and smashing it with a hammer and making it move. Here's a link removed due to language on that site. that explains different kinds of firebrick and what it's for. Right now in my JABOD, I used "splits" I had lying around for replacing busted firebrick in my woodstove. When I go to build my next forge in the Wonder Hut (my metalworking shop), I'll probably used insulating firebrick (IFB) to see if I like that better. My blacksmithing neighbor (who is in the hospital because he set himself on fire while welding and no, I'm not kidding, but he's going to be ok) uses IFBs on his rather neato forge table. He stacks the bricks to shape depending on what he's smithing and uses propane burners as his heat source. This is a clever design as it gives him a lot of flexibility, which he'll need once the skin grafts heal. Honestly, I love the guy but setting yourself on fire should only be done when I am there to 1) put you out and 2) video it so I can put it on Youtube. Hope this helps---if I am wrong, I'm sure someone will be by to correct. Best of luck to you. Charles's generosity is matched only by the simple usefulness of the JABOD. As a measure of my gratitude, I will make him a batch of delicious cookies and then eat them in his honor.
  6. Ohio

    Cutting tools

    Enco, which appears to now be mscdirect dot com, sells HSS blanks. I bought some for my mini-lathe. I use both carbide and HSS and have a copy of the South Bend book soaked in machine oil because someone spilled the bottle on it but won't admit it. I also watch a lot of videos on youtube by tubalcain about lathe operations. I also read a bunch on mini-lathe.com (he has some retail listings as well) and Little Machine Shop (they sell an Atlas kit that includes cutters as well as blanks) that show how and why behind sharpening HSS. LMS isn't the cheapest, but I like retailers who share info. As I recall, Enco was the least expensive of the online retailers and the products I purchased were exactly as described. That was a while ago and there may be others selling for less now. My experience is that HSS blanks are inexpensive and it's not hard to learn how to grind the cutters to the shape you want. I have a Rikon grinder with some nice wheels on it so it doesn't take too long and it's kind of...zen, maybe? But I also grind woodturning and metal spinning tools---and may very well be making a bowl gouge for wood carving---and for me, that's part of my process. There are days when I use carbide because I want to get one step completed a little more quickly or, for example, I want to rough out a bowl from a gnarly chunk of wood and carbide tends to be faster and seems to catch less on the material. But for other stuff, HSS works best for me. Grinding the HSS tools has also helped me understand why certain tools do a certain thing and to learn how to choose the right tool for each operation. That, and safety, is important to me.
  7. I have a 16x16 with 10' high walls metal shed called the Wonder Hut for metal working activities. I'm finishing the interior now, which includes insulation, FSK paper, and nonflammable interior siding. Electrical is already onsite as I had my dome with the lap pool in the same spot---dome and pool are gone with half as much swearing as I estimated. Insulation includes the ground as well as vapor/water barrier. We deal with a lot of water and this is a useful way of keeping moisture out. I got some reclaimed mineral wool batts in the walls and I'll be stuffing more of those in the ceiling to go along with the some leftover polyiso sheets from a commercial cooler factory in the next town over. I have worked with rammed earth, cob, and lechthelm (light clay-straw rammed between forms) and our house is loadbearing strawbale with exterior walls 2' thick and rounded to create a waterfall effect with natural light. I designed and built it with help from various tradespeople. Strawbale is not hard to build and if designed and built correctly can be viable. But it isn't cheap---contrary to what people say---to build it to be fire and water resistant. I helped build a tire and earth wall for an earthship-style structure. It's not hard, but the trick is to get those tires completely covered either with earth/clay or some kind of plaster. I didn't really enjoy it as much as other types of building. Lechthelm is pretty interesting. Essentially, you have post-and-beam (or something similar) structural members and then build forms. You mix straw with a clay mix and then fill the form and ram in the mix with a 4x4 or something similar, moving the forms up as you go. I did this on the north wall of a stone chicken coop I built years ago and it was pretty easy. It takes some time for the moisture to evaporate out of the rammed walls, but it eventually does, especially if you don't go overboard with the water. I left the wall bare in the coop, but as I recall (but don't quote me), the walls can be plastered---lime plaster is VERY easy to work with if you're good at troweling. I suck at troweling. And I can't back up a trailer. My only two flaws. The walls end up thick, and they dampen sound and don't burn. I can't remember how well the walls insulate, but because of the straw, lechthelm insulates better than the clay/rammed earth, but not as well as bales. I didn't do a lechthelm structure for the Wonder Hut because I had a limited area for the structure, but I seriously considered it. I may still do such a structure in the back beeyard to store stuff because I'd like to see how it would do in this climate. I'd make sure the lechthelm wall is off grade, well-drained, and protected from rain, and would have to pre-install window/door bucks and nailing members if I want to put in shelves or hooks, but that's all do-able. So there's another option. Edited to add: And swamp coolers are the worst.
  8. I think I'd rather be an Intra-Nodal Diaphragm Fluids Tester as a sushi place I know of serves excellent saki in bamboo. To avoid the Glenn's Steam Explosion Extravaganza scenario, I can see prepping the bamboo in two ways---1) bundling 3' lengths crushed a la Frosty's run-it-over-with-the-truck-method and 2) chopping it in very short lengths with one or fewer nodes in each. I did send a bunch of bamboo into Chippy as a test but it came out either very small or in long wiry lengths. I ended up having to clear out the bamboo strips that wrapped around the axle holding the bit with the chipping blades on it. This is not the first time I've had to do such a maneuver---the Himalayan/Everett blackberry canes that have invaded out here will destroy a chipper if they're not cleared out regularly. But you don't want to chip these canes when green because the chipped bits ill start to root if they fall in the dirt. Plus, these blackberry canes have massive prickers and, I am positive, are sentient. I am pretty sure they mutter to one another as they plan my demise. Ask anyone who has had to clear them and they will confirm---once you are identified as an enemy, these blackberry canes mark you for death. They're strong enough, and wily enough, to plan and execute a murder. Yes, macabre, but not off-topic as these types of blackberry are related to bamboo (as are roses). I will probably try charcoalizing blackberry canes as they are common, a pain xxxxxxxxxxx, and grow so fast. I watched a video using a very simple method of making charcoal using local grasses as a way to slow down deforestation, and some using plants like this to make charcoal bricquets by crushing it all together and then sending it through a pyrolization process. In sum, there are lots of ways to make charcoal.
  9. Interesting. Very interesting. So now I get to add "crushing things" to "setting fires," "melting things," and "hitting things" to my list of Why I Enjoy The Blacksmithing.
  10. The christening was done with Tom Collinses, the number, strength, and deliciousness of which will go unmentioned as anyone reading this will be seized with jealousy. People here plant bamboo and forget that it suckers quickly. After a bit they have big screens of rather large pieces that's out of control. My neighbor had 200# of cane bundles he hauled over for me. I still have to strip the canes and cut to length, but I probably have enough for three Burnie loads.But there are people who give canes away and not too far away is a bamboo nursery that after a storm will let you go in and cut damaged canes for free. Just need a very very very sharp machete and a way to keep it sharp. I freely admit that stripping and cutting the bamboo canes is a simple and easy task, perfect for doing while listening to an audiobook by, in the cool of the evening followed by a Tom Collins. I miswrote the thing about my chipper, Chippy. Chippy chips too small, I think. The tree cutting contractor for the utility company will dump a truckload of chips that in the yard that tend to be a bit bigger. I can rig a pitchfork with a basket to screen the pieces and shovel them into the back of the UTV until I get enough chips for a Burnie load. Right now I have material ready for charcoalating, but I have to finish the Wonder Hut, move in my tools, and then build the forge.
  11. Like Dave Budd, I have a woodlot and a lot of raw material for charcoal. I'm in the midst of building the metal working shop---christened the Wonder Hut---and will build the smithy in there when I get done siding the thing. Last summer I practiced smithing using Charles's most excellent side blast JABOD designs and charcoal I made using this retort: I load the 55-gallon drum and seal up often with clay. I build a scrap wood fire on the rocket stove, which bakes the wood in the 55-gallon drum. After about 45-60 minutes, pyrolization takes over and the burn feeds from the flammable products being baked out. It's pretty cool to watch. After 2-1/2 to 3 hours, I start feeding the fire again with scrap. I was running about 3 hours but 4 gives me a completely carbonized load. At the end, I shove a piece of rockwool into the rocket stove entrance, let it cool down over night, and empty the following morning. During unload, I wear a respirator, nitrile gloves, and a dedicated set of clothes because it is spectacularly messy. I usually end up breaking any larger pieces with a rubber mallet before chucking in the charcoal bin. This season, I have bamboo (from a neighbor) drying and I may try using chipper chips---my chipper yields pretty chopped up material so I may have to find another way of getting the pieces smaller. What I like about this smallish design is that I am getting familiar with the process as I learn forging with charcoal. I may build one of those English-style kilns/retorts whose name escapes me right now in future, as a permanent installation. Then again, I may build something similar to what I have now, but on a trailer and a trunnion-y mount to make emptying the retort easier.
  12. I don't think they're open on the weekends, but If you're willing to come north (I'm outside Monroe), you can visit the amazing Whiteside Steel, 17706 State Route 9 SE, Snohomish, WA 98296.
  13. Thanks, Irondragon. I've got it.
  14. I have credentials at NARA, work with archivists at LOC, have done research at state archives, have contacts within specialty and local history groups here and around the country. I've also handled digitization projects of oral histories, print, and photographic holdings for various archives and libraries in this area, so I have a pretty good grip on what sources are available and I've been through most of them. I also have a neighbor who started blacksmithing with his stepfather when he was seven or eight who keeps giving me blacksmithing equipment (I still need to go get the swage block he gave me) whose been generous with his knowledge. Thanks again everyone for the book recommendations.
  15. True that +10. Actual experience is of interest to me often there's a backstory that can be really revealing. For example, I'd like to know what people got paid for certain kinds of work, how many hours, how'd they rip off or get ripped off, what was the price of bread and shoes, stuff like that. I was just reading an article by someone advocating going to a piecework rather than hourly wage system for blacksmiths in industrial shops (I can make a pretty good guess why he's advocating that position, but anyhoo...). I don't repro that article in fiction, but it can be part of a character's world view, or to help show how a character believes one thing and says another because his job depends on it, which puts him in conflict and conflict is interesting---stuff like that. It allows nuance grounded in real experience. That soft-focus B.S. doesn't interest me much. I have other characters working at other jobs and some of them are just excruciatingly dangerous while being dull. Most jobs are dull and most jobs are filled with drudgery. I don't run away from the drudgery in my writing. In real life, I run away from drudgery like I'm on fire, which, at the forge, has happened only once. It wasn't a very big fire, so it hardly counts.
  16. I write pretentious literary fiction, Frost. And no galleys, not on this project. Mostly I was looking for research material that will help me with existing characters. I've had four books published, three novels and a textbook on filmmaking, and I'm pretty comfortable with more challenging narrative forms, which this project has. Think something like Rashomon but then take the characters back 6 years to understand the choices they made to get to this one specific place and time, and then get all William Faulkner on it. Toldya, pretentious literary fiction. I got xxxxxxxxxxx references from folks here and have already started reading selections. And TP suckered me into the Sears catalog, so I just paged through two of them on archive.org---dang it, I had stuff to do today---and now my eyes hurt from the teeny tiny type. Can you imagine typesetting all that? Yowza. Is this referring about a load of Manure ? use a different phrase next time
  17. I'll have to ponder on the location part as this character moves around quite a bit. I'm fairly familiar with the change from man power to steam power to electricity, esp. out here, and have a collection of articles about on-the-job accidents that are pretty gruesome many of which involved new power sources that someone didn't quite understand. I'll look up some more about acetylene. That's interesting and would apply to lots of industries. I'm pretty focused on 1910-1917---I just asked about a wider swath of time because this character isn't just starting out, so I need to ground him in smithing knowledge. I just downloaded a load of AMERICAN BLACKSMITH volumes for a bit of help. And I'm starting to love the Sears catalog idea. A lot. Maybe too much.
  18. Excellent. Thanks, TP, Al, and JHCC. Here's the dealio---I have a character (yeah, okay, I write books, don't make fun of me) who is a blacksmith during the later end of the time period. As part of the narrative arc, I'd like to convey what his day-to-day job is. Characters often live and breathe in the gap between getting it right and getting it wrong. This character is one of a cast of thousands and I want to explore the hands-on aspect of the actual work across a variety of jobs, trades, and crafts for pretty much all of them. This is a multi-year, multi-volume project with fiction and nonfiction sides that only an insane person would attempt, but I've always thought sanity was overrated. Seriously, this is a crazy effort but we all have our obsessions and I won't make fun of yours if you don't make fun of mine. Scratch that---I will totally make fun of you. Like, totally. Anyhow, I really appreciate the help. Now I need to go outside and make some hooks for holding material. Imagine that---I can actually make the hooks I need because I can blacksmith. That is awesome.
  19. CRS, I have yet to run across a post of yours where I didn't understand what you were trying to communicate, a real mark of brain power. And like a lot of people, it was your JABOD effort that inspired me to jump in to the craft. Lupercal, Charles's JABOD efforts really are worth following. He combines deep knowledge of smithing with down-and-dirty (literal) tips so you end up not just hitting up metal and moving it with a hammer (which is amazing) but grasping the basic principles of forge design. A generous gift from that fellow---the typos are just a fringe benefit.
  20. Ok, was I the only one who giggled when I read this? That gosh darn new dangled fuel. If only it was "new dangled fool." That would've been perfect. Lupercal, seriously, Charles's JABOD III is a great place to start because it's cheap and it totally works. Build one and you'll find out quickly whether blacksmithing is for you.
  21. I'm looking for a book or articles about historical blacksmithing in the U.S. circa 1900-1920. Specifically, how blacksmithing was changing with the onset of other industrial processes. I'd be particularly interested in what happens to general smithies in small and medium-sized towns during the period, but even an overview would be helpful. I'm not afraid of challenging textbooks and academic papers. Come on, ThomasPowers. I bet you can think of something.
  22. BryanL, this looks really good. I think, though, that since you're leaving in a few months for work, you should send this to me to keep for you. I won't even charge you rent. I am offering this out of the kindness of my heart as I am all about generosity and not merely covetous. Srsly, thanks for sharing the pix. It's fun to see your progress.
  23. Frosty, dude, you're so literal. I was going for the idea of the poem, not the sculpture---how you look at something you think will last forever and how...not so much. So, MotoMike, whatcha think? Know what you're going to do with it?
  24. I'm with Das. That's neat. You could always write up what you have here to give it a provenance and tuck it away somewhere, maybe in a waterproof container kept near wherever you put it or engraved, mounted, and set nearby. Or not. Is anyone else reminded of the Shelley poem, "Ozymandias?" (This moment of artsy pretentiousness brought to you by six of the seven liberal arts.)
  25. I don't care what anyone says, JHCC, I think you're funny. MotoMike, there are responses above from several people regarding baja's original question, including concerns about the approach---trying to get the MIG gun into the space, how to deal with the s7 warping, etc. BigGun and Frosty also suggested a different approach using brazing that really seems do-able. A quick review of the thread gives details on both the OP and this other approach. Frosty, I use my mini-lathe with stick tools. I know a lot of people who use Powermatic wood lathes for spinning, but if I get a dedicate spinning lathe, 24" with scissor tools would be my absolute maximum.