Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Instructions for Making Your Own Skep

1)      Introduction

Skep making is much like basket making, except the top is the bottom! Getting started is the toughest part.

2)      Tools

a)      Girth of plastic
b)      Awl of metal and wood
c)      Water and a tub

3)      Materials
a)      Straw, hand-cut, un-baled, 2-3 feet long. Foxtail is a good option.
b)      ¼ inch caning; split into 1/8 inch, in approximately six foot sections.

4)      Process
a)      Prepare the straw by cutting off the head and removing any parts that stick out and are not smooth on the straw, much like on an ear of corn.
b)      Soak your straw in the tub.
c)      Soak caning in the tub.
d)     Load your girth with damp straw.
e)      Make the straw ends even by pulling on the straw.
f)       Take a long length of 1/8” cane and wrap the ends tightly for about 1-2”.
g)      Bend the wrapped end so it touches back on the section before itself.
h)      Move the girth back so the there is room to work. Continue to move the girth as needed throughout the process. Continue to feed your girth as it gets less full.
i)        Begin wrapping the cane around the straw in front of the girth that is not wrapped at about 1-2” intervals.
j)        Begin to make a disk repeating step “i” until you have the size disk you want. This is the top of the skep and determines how big your skep will be.
k)      Begin to bring in the coils to form the walls, gradually making the walls wider and wider.
l)        Follow this process until straw is gone or you have the size you want.
m)    At the bottom of the skep on the last ring, you will make the flight hole. The flight hole is how the bees enter and exit the hive.
i)        On the final coil before the end of the round, stitch through the middle of the ring for about 3”. Make the stitches closer than on previous sections so that they are touching.
ii)      Continue stitching as normal for the rest of the coil.
iii)    Cut out the unstitched portion of the coil.
n)      Finishing the skep
i)        When you have reached the depth of the skep you want, stop adding straw to the girth.
ii)      Continue stitching until the straw lays flat on the rim.
iii)    Wrap the end closely and secure the end of the cane in the round above.

Sources for Materials

Straw: Start calling your local farmers in July or find tall grasses. Harvest is usually around August 1. Ask if you can come out to their farm and hand-cut it yourself. You will need a sickle, a heavy pair of shears, or hedge clippers to cut down the straw. Gloves are also recommended.

Caning: Caning can be obtained from any basket-making supply house. This is where I got mine:


1)      Alston, Frank. Skeps: Their History, Making and Use. 1987.
2)      Conrad, Ross; Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, 2007
3)      Crane, Eva; The Complete History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting, 1999
4)      Brekelmans, Toon; Skep-Making, 2005
5)      Butler, Charles; The Feminine Monarchie or A Treaties Concerning Bees and the Due Ordering of Them, 1609 (This book has only chapter numbers and no page numbers)
6)      Dictionary.com; accessed on 11/5/08
7)      Fraser, H. Malcolm; History of Beekeeping in Britain, 1958.
8)      Reddy, Mike; “Mike Reddy’s Skep FAQ”, found at http://homepage.mac.com/mreddygbr/skepFAQ/, accessed on 12/30/08

1 comment:

  1. The link to my Skep FAQ is now: