3/4 inch rough milled wood, cherry in this case
Scrap wood, plywood
1/8 aluminum plate
Boos block oil
Threaded screw inserts
LED strips, warm white 600
Endlighten Acrylic .157 inch thick
Steel wool, sandpaper
Dust mask, eye protection, latex gloves
Tools and Machinery Used:
Omax water jet cutter
Epilog 120 watt laser cutter
Metabeam laser cutter
Saw stop table saw
Rotary power sander
All CAD work done on Autodesk Fusion 360- a free program for Makers like me
Step 1: How to Collaborate With Bees
I wanted to create art that compels, and I knew that it must be beautiful regardless of how the bees engaged the piece. I've included images of art that inspire me, and theses were the basic of my designs for this series.
Beeswax, when in the hive, is a remarkable material. It is lightweight, translucent, durable, strong, and completely perfect for the temperature and humidity in the hive. Comb in a hive can support about five pounds of honey per square foot when a colony is healthy. Outside of the hive, comb is ephemeral, becoming dark, dusty, and very fragile over time. I wanted to create a structure that could accommodate the weight of the comb, give it support, and could make some use of it, highlight its beauty and give it a platform to rest. I worked for several months to develop just such a structure before I landed on the light boxes I have shown in the following pages, and the ring idea is what lead me directly to the idea of a light box.
Step 2: Design Your Model
I first modeled Langstroth hive boxes using dimensions I found on the innerwebs. The I used those dimensions to model my light box.
This lightbox is a little different than most in that I've used a special acrylic called Endlighten, which diffuses the light from LEDs placed directly against the edge of the panel. It's a nifty invention, allowing people to use clear acrylic as a light panel, so when the lights are off you can see through it, but when powered the panel becomes opaque and glows from the inside out.
Using the Endlighten acrylic allowed me to design my lightbox very thin, like a picture frame. I set the dimensions and used one box to cut from the other to open the center and crate the ledge for the Endlighten panel. Then I cut at the corners to make the part for the wood frame, which I used four times for each lightbox frame. This single panel I sent it a print file and took with me to the shop when I made my cuts for the frames.
Then I built the Endlighten panel in Fusion and saved the cut file as a PDF for illustrator.
Next I modeled a diffuser to dissipate the heat for the LED's, which I made from aluminum. I imported CAD files from McMaster Carr for the fasteners, which I then used to cut pilot holes in my 1/8 in aluminum sheet.
The final pieces will be hung on a ferrous wall, so I used magnets to mount them. The magnets are also 1/8 in thick, and I modeled them and cut them from my aluminum. This part I then saved as a PDF to cut on the Waterjet cutter.
*Fusion 360 is a great hybrid solid and surface modeler that plugs directly into tool paths and a PDF generator, so it's easy to develop and make parts and projects all from within the program. Plus, it's easy to use and has my favorite feature- a history tab, so you can go back into your model and make adjustments that adjust all the other parameters in the model. I once used Sketchup but found it difficult even after more than a decade, and Fusion is such a great replacement.
Step 3: Select Your Wood and Plane It
I used a joiner and planer to get make it smooth and square before cutting the frame pieces. When finished the thickness of the cherry was 3/4 inches.
Step 4: Cut and Route the Frame Edges
I wanted the boxes to be substantial, so I made the frames 1 1/2 inches wide. Plus, I loved the grain and color and wanted to highlight it and not have it lost by the rest of the materials.
Then I routed the cherry to make the ledge to house the acrylic. For this I used a rabbit router bit that was wide enough to remove 1/2 inch of material. Start out cutting in smaller sections if the wood is prone to tear outs the way the cherry was prone to do. I routed all the frame pieces together and then increased the depth, routing again and repeating these steps until my self was dee enough to match my drawings.
Step 5: Miter the Frame Pieces
I saved all the scraps for testing and practice for the next step.
Step 6: Biscuit Joiner and Gue
I used corner clamps to join my corners while gluing, though I could have used a number of other types of clamps for this. I used elders wood glue and small biscuits for this set, then let it sit over night to harden.
Step 7: Cut the Aluminum Heat Sink Plate
My tolerances for the magnets were off my less than 2 tents of a millimeter, but it was enough to make it necessary to get out the pneumatic tools and fix them.
Then I drilled my pilot holes for the screws to fit, using a drill press, clamps and a spoil board behind the aluminum.
Step 8: Use the Aluminum to Pilot Your Holes in the Frame
The threads I pounded lightly with a wooden mallet, minimizing damage to the frame should I miss and hit the wood.
Once reassembled, I used the aluminum to guide my holes for the magnets, which I screwed directly into the wood.
Step 9: Sand and Treat the Wood
Step 10: Cut the Acrylic
Step 11: Building the Light Boxes
There are a few other cork gasket pieces I used to try and eliminate and light from washing over the surface of the acrylic and ruining the glow effect.
Here is an image of the first light box hanging on the ferrous wall after assembly.
Step 12: Procure Comb to Make the Collaboration Happen!
Step 13: Getting Messy
Step 14: Install in Hive
Step 15: Update #1, Progress and Stalls
The second sculpture isn't faring as well. The bees have seemed to ignore the coyote brush honey, perhaps because its crystallized. I decided to scrap the crystallized comb and go for some fresh nectar just collected from the eucalyptus trees on the hill.