Bee Culture: Pneumatic Equipment: The Good and The Bad

Pneumatic staplers are reported to be four to five times faster than hand nailing and due to various adhesive materials coating the fasteners, pneumatic fasteners should provide considerably more holding power. In reality, when assembling frames, I have p ersonally found air staplers to be about 2-1/2 times as fast as hand nailing. An added benefit is that I donít tire as quickly when using a stapler so I can put frames together longer. For frames, beekeepers generally use a staple having a crown of 3/16″ – 1/4″ and a leg length of 1-1/8″ – 1-1/4″. The staples are made from 18 gauge wire.

Probably a bit more exciting, but still necessary, a staple should be driven through the end bar into the top bar as was described above during the hand nailing procedure. Though much faster, stapling frames can approach sloppiness. Be prepared for the oc casional wild staple leg to explode out of the top bar. Such staples are nigh impossible to pull back out. A pair of nippers can be used to clip the exposed leg and then tap flat with the hammer.

Except for an occasional errant staple leg, the pneumatic stapler sounds like the correct path to take toward assembly efficiency, but as one would expect, there is a catch. There must be a forced air supply in order for the stapler to operate. An air com pressor capable of producing around 100 – 120 pounds per square inch will provide enough air for one stapler. Such a compressor costs about $200 – $300. The stapler will cost about $90 – $300 depending on features. The biggest difference between the econo mical staplers and the more pricey ones is oil. Cheaper machines require oiling while the more expensive machines do not require lubrication. Electric staplers do not have legs long enough for frame assembly so they are not an option.

There it is. For most beekeepers, itís too expensive to buy air equipment for staple gun use only. There has to be other justification for the air equipment. Spray painting, pressure washing, and tire maintenance, are three other common uses for an otherw ise expensive piece of air compression equipment.

Is there an easy way around the cost? Not really. Years ago, I bought a “Spotnailer” staple gun that drove a 1 ‡” staple with a ‡” crown. I used it to assemble both hive bodies and frames. Rather than driving two º” crown staples with 1 º” legs, I drove a single ‡” crown staple having a two inch leg. The bee equipment lasted about eight years before the staples needed to be tightened back up. It was difficult at first to learn just where to place the big stapler in order to hit the narrow end bar, but we did learn rather quickly and we were able to get double use from the stapler. However, without some kind of a cross nail through the end bar, the big staple did loosen up after a few years, but it was easy to repair.

What about a pneumatic brad driver? Are two 1-1/4″ brads enough to hold a frame together? Yes they are, if glue is also used and if a cross brad is driven. But two brads cannot compete with two staples of the same length for strength and support. However , I think that a brad driver would be a better choice for the cross nail, but I am not prepared to suggest that one buy a compressor, a stapler, and a brad driver. But if the equipment can be justified for any other reasons, it really makes frame assembly faster and produces frames having stronger joints.

Frame assembly, either by hand or using pneumatics, gets to be monotonous. The same things are done over and over and over again. Several years ago, with the radio going, and me stapling frames by rote – tired and bored brainless, I casually completed yet another frame and tossed it toward my pile of frames. I recall being taken aback that the frame seemed stuck to my thumb. I instantaneously tossed the frame again thinking that it had a bit of pine pitch on it and was sticking to my hand.

This was a curious situation. As though lightening had struck me, I realized that one of the cross staple legs had come out of the top bar and had neatly run just beneath the skin of my left thumb. As I realized that I had stapled my thumb to the frame, t he pain hit. To this point, only a fraction of a second had passed but it seemed like an hour before I could pull that staple from my thumb. Suddenly, I was not bored nor was I tired, nor was I short of words. It hurt.

Pneumatic staplers are great for assembling bee equipment, but itís costly and can potentially hurt you. But then again, so can a hammer. One way or the other, youíve got to put frames together.

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