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Skep Making

Skeps have been used in the UK for hundreds of years for housing colonies of honey bees.

Constructing skeps would have been one of many rural crafts, but with the advent of moveable frame hives this has become something of a lost art. So we felt it would be a good idea to learn from someone who has been making skeps for twenty years or more.

Mick Male from Newton Abbott branch kindly accepted our invitation. Mick is well known to Devon beekeepers as he gives demonstrations at many of the local shows. Over two weekend sessions we learned how to prepare the materials, start the skep (most people found this the trickiest part), turn the corner to make the sides and finally to finish off in a professional manner.

The straw we used is from triticale wheat, an old fashioned, long stemmed variety that would have been used in the past. Thatchers still use triticale straw so it is readily available.

The binding was rattan lapping cane from Indonesia, widely used in furniture and basket making. The photos show the process from start to finish.

The first few stitches
The inside of the base
The base taking shape
Turning the corner
The Master tidies up the loose ends
Concentration required