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Meet our hive-builder

Magicking used wooden pallets into state-of-the-art hives takes a special sort of craftsperson. Luckily for us, Chris Schubert of Essex workshop Maken fits the bill perfectly...

When Eat Natural went looking for a skilled craftsperson to build our fleet of Pollenation hives, the checklist was simple. Someone local, passionate about our exciting project and with the skills to make sure every hive meets the high standards of the European honeybee. Local maker Chris Schubert was a perfect fit. From his Wickford workshop Chris is accustomed to constructing scenery, making elaborate shop displays and generally turning pie-in-the-sky ideas into reality. "I'm always looking to learn new skills," says Chris. "When I'm learning something new I fully immerse myself, and explore as much of the subject as possible." Luckily Eat Natural had the perfect challenge...

The design

Pollenation's unique hive has turned a few heads in bee-keeping circles, but for Chris its function is more important that its form. "For me the most challenging part of the build was understanding the actual functionality of the bee hive," says Chris. "Previous to this project I knew next to nothing about bees and beekeeping, but I felt it was important to understand the whole process as much as possible for the build to be a success. It was a bit of a learning curve. Although the final hive was designed by Something & Son, I redrew their plans in CAD [computer-aided design] to get a greater understanding of how the whole thing was going to work," he explains. Once a digital model was perfected, Chris could programme a laser-cutter to slice metal components and use templates to saw the reclaimed planks.

The wood

Ever wondered why more crafts people don't work with reclaimed wood? 'Upcycling' may sound glamorous, and at Eat Natural we had long looked for a way to make the most of our waste materials, but in truth re-using materials is a tricky business. With salvaged wood often dry, split or bearing fragments of nails that can damage machinery, extreme skill is required. "Each and every plank from a pallet needs to be de-nailed, planed, 'thicknessed', trimmed, box-jointed, tongue-and-grooved, glued and assembled," says Chris. "On average each hive is made up of 24 planks. It's a lot of hard work, but somehow once the material is machined and stacked up in perfect order, it's all so worth it."

The final hive

"This project is unlike any I've ever worked on," says Chris. "I've always struggled with the temporary, ‘throw away’ nature of some of the commissions I've worked on. This project has a lot more purpose and longevity. It's been a struggle at times, but is so rewarding – every single hive that is made will potentially house a colony of bees – and I've learnt so much throughout the process. My workshop is based on a farm, and I'm looking to site my own hives early next year, becoming a beekeeper myself! I can’t wait to have a more hands-on approach and continue learning about bees."

Find out more about Chris's work at Maken.co