Getting into 3D Printing

I had been keen to try out 3D printing for quite a while and finally took the plunge and ordered the Prusa i3 MK2S.

Their printers get great reviews and I really like the ethos of their very open community.  There is a long waiting list for the kit version but it finally arrived after about 6 weeks.  The kit version is a lot cheaper but you would need to be confident you can put it together.

Prusa i3 MK2S kit

There are a lot of parts but luckily the manual is fantastic, probably one of the best I have ever seen and I do a lot of product documentation work for a living.

The hardest part is the first section building up the axis to mount the hot bed on.

Prusa i3Mk2S hot bed frame

You really need to get this square and level but once you are there the rest of the construction gets a lot easier.  Once you put together the z-axis and connect the frame to the base it all starts to take shape.

Prusa i3 MK2S Z-Axis

The hot end is a little fiddly to pout together as the little nuts kept dropping out but again the manual is excellent and guides you around the common pitfalls.  The only mistakes I made were using bolts of the wrong size at times and having to swap them.  There isn’t much difference between an 18mm bolt and a 20mm one so best to measure them!

Wiring it all up is a little tight, its best to check and double check everything.

Prusa i3 MK2S Wiring

Finally it was together and time to run the calibration process.

Completed Prusa i3 MK2S Kit

There is a great video to help you through the calibration process and the printer also guides you through it.  It takes quite a while but luckily I had put everything together correctly and it worked well.  I just had to live adjust the z-axis height to get the first layer height down correctly.  This is part of the tuning menu.

Nervously it was time to actually print something.  The included SD card comes with a range of objects already configured for the printer so I went for the Prusa logo as suggested in the video.

3D Printed Prusa Logo

It turned out well!

Prusa Logo

Its pretty amazing seeing it build up items on the bed.  Confident now that everything was working I decided to leap into a more complicated project and print a 3DLabPrint RC Spitfire plane!

That will be another post 🙂

Overall the printer has exceeded expectations and was running almost constantly in the first week after I got it.  There are cheaper (and much more expensive) models out there but I have no experience with those so can’t only comment on the Prusa.

If you are confident with a few basic tools and can follow instructions then you can definitely out together the kit version yourself.

Garage Roof Apiary – Almost A Disaster

We have wanted bees for a while now and after taking an evening theory course with Meon Valley Bee Keepers (click here for their website) and then starting a practical course it was time.  The big question though was where to put the hive?

Something that was appealing was the garage roof.  We have a large double garage and it has a very gentle slope on it.  The roof was strong enough and after discussing it with my father in-law (who kindly supplied my bees) we decided to go for it.

Bees seemingly enjoy being higher up (20ft is where they can be found building up their colonies in trees) and a big advantage is that they will fly off at the height they start at until they need to avoid an obstruction (fences, trees etc.) or come down to forage.  So, it seemed a great spot and would have sun most of the day.

The big issue was that the only access at the time was via a step ladder.  Not ideal in a bee suit while trying to carry a bee hive or tools etc.  The first step was to get access to the roof and to make sure it was sturdy enough to carry hives up and down as required plus access for fellow bee keepers and the family.  So, with permission from my wife Louise to build across the herb bed, the steps were constructed.  First the platform to cross the path,

Platform across the herb bed

And then the steps themselves under construction,

Apiary steps under construction

And the finished steps.  Have to thank my father Peter here, he helped put them together.  Thanks dad!


The finished apiary steps

The next stage was to build a safety barrier around the end of the roof.  The children and others would be up there so I wanted to make sure there was at least a visual barrier to stop people stepping off the roof.  I did not want to risk putting any holes into the roof so it would have to be free standing.  I was also very tempted to add a fireman pole should a quick escape be required but that would have to wait.

The solution was to use some trellis.  This would also give the bees a little protection from the wind and make the hives a little less obvious.  Not an issue but they would really have stood out just sat on the roof without anything around them.

A delivery later and a few hours work resulted in a nice barrier to the front and side of the hives.

Apiary Trellis

It all looked rather nice and you could barely see the bees coming and going from the front of the house.

However, disaster struck a week or two later.  It was forecast to be very windy (40mph gusts) so I got organised and strapped down the hives to the stands and ensured there were a lot of weights on the L-shaped supporting brackets for the trellis.  It was also attached to the house at one end.  It all felt very sturdy.

Well half way through the day when the wind really picked up my wife and I heard a huge crash.  My first thought was that the hives had toppled over.  We rushed up the steps and what had happened was that the trellis had been pushed back by the wind, one panel coming loose (the crash) and then the whole connected wall of trellis had pushed up against the hive stands and pushed everything back around 6 feet.

The garage roof is quite smooth so even weighted down everything just slid.  The trellis although full of holes was just catching too much wind.

It could have been a lot worse, the hives and bees were fine.  We quickly dismantled the trellis barrier and a few days later after a rethink version 2 was being installed.  I have to thank my dad again for his help!

The new version is much simpler with just horizontal bars made from 3″x”2 pressure treated timber.  It provides less of a visual barrier but that is a minor compromise as most importantly it does not catch the wind.

It goes all the way around the edge so its much stronger and I have sand bags on order to both weigh it down and stop anything sliding.  It should even be strong enough to stop someone falling onto it should that happen.

New apiary barrier almost finished

So I think I got away lucky but its amazing just how much windier it is only 2 metres up.  The apiary is now easily accessible and feels safe to use.  Yay!



Full family hive inspection

With their new bee suits the children were keen to get involved in the next hive inspection.  We had added a super to the stronger colony and it was good to see how the bees were quickly drawing it out with around half the frames already mostly drawn.

The gauntlet gloves are just too big though.  I will get them wearing the nitrile gloves next time, I’ll have to order some smaller ones.  Very calm bees (and children).

Drawing out the frames in the super

The brood box on the stronger colony was very full of bees and 8 of the frames had brood.

Opening the super

There is quite a lot of stores and pollen on the frames so some of the capped honey was raked to encourage them to free up brood space and lay down their stores int he new super.

Hive inspection

Louise brought the camera up so we were able to get some nice close-up shots.  Difficult to see the eggs but nice shot of the bees and brood at all stages.


Lovely brood pattern so far.

Brood and honey

The children were amazed to see the different colour of pollen.  We don’t know enough to tell what the different types are but it looks very nice 🙂

Honey pollen and brood

Mini Bee Suits For Children

The children have been fascinated by having bees and wanted to get more involved so we took the plunge and bought some small bee suits for them.  Very cute!

Bee Suits for little people

These came from Simon the Beekeper via Amazon and for around £25 each they are great quality.  We went for jackets as they are both growing quickly and have overalls they can wear underneath.  XXS for our 4 year old and XS for our 7 year old.  She is very tall for her age though.

Definitely a lot of growing room in there at the moment.

Collecting the bees!

After 6 weeks of theory classes, practical sessions and a whole day with my father in-law spent inspecting many hives I am finally heading off with two colonies of my own (thanks to my father in-law, Richard).

Travelling with bees

The drive home was about 2hrs from Gloucestershire to Hampshire and thankfully uneventful although there must have been around 20-30 bees by the back window so somehow they were escaping.

Getting back at around 10:30pm My wife Louise and I donned our bee suits to take them up to their new home on the garage roof.

Moving the bees to their new home

Very exciting although a little difficult to see everything in the dark.  The next morning though the bees were off scouting out their new home and seemed to be settling in.

Bees on the garage roof