Updated: Dec 2, 2021
You probably know, our world on micro-level is even bigger, more complexed and also very very interesting. Yes! Interesting!
We are excited to invite you to observe with us the transformation of clay into a stone-like solid body and to understand what makes ceramics such a good material for making beehives.
So let's jump into the micro-level with our new microscope (all pictures are original).
Clay can be found in abundance in nature. Humans understood that when they mix it with water, they can shape and bake it and can produce amazing tools. This was the beginning of the ceramic industry - one of the oldest industries in the world dated back several thousand years BC.
So there are those clay deposits from where we obtain the clay for the beehives. It is nature, pure nature in its beauty so there are no two same-content clay deposits in the world. Here is the picture of the structure of the pre-processed clay of our ceramic beehives just after it was collected from the deposit.
Yes, it looks very rough and very non-homogenous which on the macro-level will look like a very rare substance that can not be used for anything but gardening.
This is why there we start mechanical processing of the clay in order to mill it into small parts where there is no unit bigger than 1 mm. And here is the result:
Now it starts looking more like a dough from which we will start the creation process. To improve the content, together with the water we add kaolin and SiO2, mix it well, and... Voila!
Here is the homogenous mixture under the microscope:
Time for drying and baking. In order to obtain a strong solid shape, the clay should be baked at a temperature of around 900C-1200C. It is just approximate because the baking temperature depends much on the content of the clay.
And the result is beautiful and shiny (see below). The left picture is backed white clay and on the right - backed red. This is how the tiles of the ceramic beehive look like zoomed 1000 times.
Here is probably the place to make clear that there are three major types of ceramics - earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. One of the basic differences between them is the "pore structure".
Our beehives are earthenware. This kind of structure has more pores through which it "breaths" but the water absorption after baking is far far less. There is also that simple rule - the less water is absorbed, the higher durability and strength are.
Because we often compare the ceramic beehives with the wooden ones, we take the challenge to picture wooden hive under the microscope:
Wood is an amazing material but as the living tree, it hosts millions of small bacteria and microorganisms which continue living inside after the cut of the three. There is also that inevitable process of wood decay. Over time, the wood lignin (which gives the strength of the material) starts dissolving making the wood crumby, brittle and weakened. And now comes the place of the wood-inhabiting bacteria who have an indirect impact on the decay. They also may cooperate with other bacteria or soft-rot fungi making the wood predisposed to fungal attack. Of course, humans created different ways to treat the wood and preserve it for longer periods but the quality of the tools decrease over time. This is one of the reasons we believe that ceramics is a far better material for the construction of beehives.
Lastly, we would like to draw your attention to the structure of the wood and the ceramics in the pictures. The natural structure of the wood is highly water absorbent. This reflects not only on the humidity in the hive but also on the temperature because the water saturation in different parts of the wood is not even. So what happens then? You can check our article on thermal conductivity.
We hope you enjoyed the micro-level journey and if you are keen on the process, we invite you to our macro-level onsite workshop to enjoy ceramic beehives creation together.