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Thread: Making beehive boxes

  1. #1
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    Making beehive boxes

    Does anyone make their own beehive boxes? If so, where did you find plans?
    I plan to get into beekeeping in the next year or so.
    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Bukovec View Post
    Does anyone make their own beehive boxes? If so, where did you find plans?
    I plan to get into beekeeping in the next year or so.
    Thanks
    I've made some from Eastern Red Cedar and Yellow Poplar. (Don't use poplar, it's heavy!) The typical wood is pine. BTW, the precut pieces for both the boxes and the frames are pretty cheap from beekeeping supply houses and sometimes from local beekeepers who buy in quantity to resell. If nothing else, the precut pieces save a huge amount of time when you need dozens of frames.

    I simply found the dimensions of brood boxes and supers in a book and verified with a google search. The size is standardized.

    I have several books including this one: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1612120598
    It's by Tony Pisano, a woodworker and Creeker who used to post here. There are others.

    JKJ

  3. #3
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    Iíve found plans and dimensions for boxes and frames and other helpful equipment at https://www.michiganbees.org/beekeep...pers-workshop/

    Peter

  4. #4
    I make all of mine. I use pine and then paint it. They're very easy to make and the dimensions are readily available - you certainly do not need plans. I use dovetails to join the sides but that's because I'm pretty experienced with dovetails. Commercial boxes use finger joints.

    But there's more to decide. Do you want to go 8-frame or 10-frame? Do you want to stick with one sized box or use a different size for the brood box than for the honey supers? Each approach has it's advantages and disadvantages.

    I use 10-frame and use larger boxes for the brood boxes than the honey supers.

    Buy your frames - they're cheap from people like Mann Lake and difficult to make at home.

    Mike

    [But, beyond learning to make the equipment, there's a lot to learn about bees. Varroa is a very serious problem and can destroy a hive. I keep hybrid bees which are able to keep varroa in check but they may not work in your area. They don't do well where there are long cold winters.]
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 03-29-2020 at 12:39 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  5. #5
    I made mine out of pine and as long as you touch up the external paint once in a while they will last for years. I made a jig for the finger joints and it works well for the deep and shallow boxes. Frames are better purchased than home made. I also made the bottom boards, inner covers and outer covers. I covered the outer covers with thin aluminum sheet material. For the finger grips I cut blind slots in the center of each side by raising the dado blade up into each piece and the lowering it down by the same number of turns. The pieces were locked in place on my table top with stop blocks front and rear. Don't try lowering the boards onto a moving blade, it is extremely dangerous.
    Lee Schierer
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    But there's more to decide. Do you want to go 8-frame or 10-frame? Do you want to stick with one sized box or use a different size for the brood box than for the honey supers? Each approach has it's advantages and disadvantages.
    Those are good points. I use two deeps for brood chamber and shallows for honey supers. All are 10 frames but I only put 9 frames in the honey supers - they fill the space with extra honey which sometimes makes uncapping easier.

    JKJ

  7. #7
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    I started bee keeping last year, initially bought two, 10 frame hives. Both my apiaries made it through the winter, we have about 50% fail rate, this winter, in TN.

    Unless you have access to cheap lumber, it's cheaper to buy the kits and assemble them.

    Next year I may add a couple more hives, this time I will go with 8 frame with all medium supers.

  8. #8
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    If you really want to make your own, there are some plans available through the Beesource dot com forum site, among others.

    I do have some experience with this and I will tell you that unless you can buy material at incredibly low cost, don't build boxes because you think you can save money. It's not going to happen when you can buy knock-down, finger jointed boxes from Mann Lake, Dadant, etc., for less than the cost that most people can buy the material. Building the accessories is a different situation as there are quite a few items for a typical "hotel" for a honeybee colony that you can easily make from shop scraps and those are often more pricy than buying boxes. Bottom boards, shims, telescoping covers, migratory covers, etc., are all great fodder for the shorts bin in your shop. Out there in the world, the only folks that benefit financially from making their own boxes are larger operations that can buy material in bulk or someone who can either saw their own logs and dry or have close ties to the same.

    Professor Dr. SWMBO has been a beek for over four years now and I handle the woodenware from the standpoint of build and/or assembly and finishing. I made a few boxes just to enjoy the experience. I also make the smaller NUCs because I can use scrap for that or cut out of Advantec on my CNC machine. But other than the few I made "just to do it", we buy knocked down boxes from Mann Lake and I assemble them and paint them.

    I'll also note that honestly, the woodenware is the easy part. You have a LOT to learn between now and when your first colony gets established. (two is better to start, too) Make sure you join your local beekeepers' association, read all you can and consider taking a course. The latter is a bit difficult right now because of the pandemic, of course, but hopefully that will smooth out over time. Find a mentor if you can, too.

    Relative to something Mike brought up...we started with a couple of colonies that had the typical two deep boxes with medium boxes above. All ten frame. We've phased out all the deep boxes and only run medium boxes for both brood and honey. This is much easier for The Professor to handle, especially when things get taller during peak honey production periods. Brood boxes have ten frames, but honey supers get 9 using a spacer jig so that each frame of comb can be built out wider by the bees for honey storage. That all became our personal standard by the third year and it's working for us.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 03-29-2020 at 2:16 PM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    To build a standard Langstroth hive body doesn't really involve all that much. The internal dimension is rather critical though. Your frames require "Bee space" between them and the hive body walls.
    8 or 10 frames is a personal choice.
    Alternatives to the standard Langstroth hive are the Top Bar Hives, TBH's) and the Kerkhoff design, 2 queen design. I don't know that the KerKhoff's are made any longer, but if you need the dimensions, let me know. My last one has been sitting in storage for many years now. The Kerkhoff uses only medium depth frames.
    I would buy your first "Hive Kit" so that you have a template and model to work from. Standardization of equipment is a pretty key element.
    I used to have 14 hives in the backyard, but stopped a few years back. I miss my bees and will be starting again,now that I have more time. I'll probably do TBH's with standard Langstroth shallow for supers.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Cutler View Post
    I would buy your first "Hive Kit" so that you have a template and model to work from. Standardization of equipment is a pretty key element.
    This is good advise that I forgot to mention up above.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
    Back when I was keeping bees, I had fifty hives at one time. I made a small fortune removing bees from structures. That's how I wound up with so many hives. Built my own hive bodies, but bought frames. My bodies featured rabbeted ends to the sides. Glue and nails. At top, where bars rest, I added a 1 X 2 cleat to the outside of hive. This reinforced the area, plus added a needed handle for filled supers. Made both tops and bottoms, with tops being a single layer, without inner cover. Tops had a 1 X 2 both on top and end, so they were the same size as supers. Made my own extractor, along with solar wax melter. In the eighties, this time of year, I would be booked for weeks in advance to remove bees from structures. Finally started giving bees to begining beekeepers. Only condition, was they had to help remove bees from structure. None of my hive bodies were painted white. Most were some kind of brown that local Lowes had mismatched.
    Last edited by Bruce Wrenn; 03-29-2020 at 3:35 PM.

  12. #12
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    Yea, a lot of folks use "oops" paint because the price is right. I'm too anal for that...we picked a color and bought a gallon of reasonably priced exterior paint from the 'borg...

    Old photo, but shows our choice

    Hives.jpg
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    ...Out there in the world, the only folks that benefit financially from making their own boxes are larger operations that can buy material in bulk or someone who can either saw their own logs and dry or have close ties to the same.
    That's the only reason I made some boxes: the sawmill behind the barn and some cedar and poplar logs. The cedar is my favorite - I used a router to make the recessed hand holds.

    JKJ

  14. #14
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    Thank you for all of your help. I plan to join the local beekeepers group so I will have some knowledge before I set up a hive (or two). I already have some pine drying, courtesy of a four foot diameter pine that dropped a couple of years ago.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Yea, a lot of folks use "oops" paint because the price is right. I'm too anal for that...we picked a color and bought a gallon of reasonably priced exterior paint from the 'borg...

    Old photo, but shows our choice

    Hives.jpg

    With fifty hives, they were scattered about in several out yards. The brown blended well with surroundings. Had one caller ask when I had put bees near his house, as he had just noticed them. They had been there over five years. The brown was doing it's job. Another beekeeper who had out yards, would place an old washer or dryer next to yard. This way when some clown wanted to "scope in his rifle," he could shoot either washer or dryer instead of bee hives. Same bee keeper lived between Fort Bragg and Camp McCall. Rangers would have to traverse between post and camp. His bee yards were marked on their maps as "mine fields."

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