Sunday, May 13, 2012

Top Bar Bee Hives

So this is how much cedar you need to make two 
top bar hives. Actually I messed up my calculations 
and had to buy a few more boards. =) 

I couldn't find 12 x 1 inch boards so I had to glue 8 x 1 & 4 x 1 
inch boards together to make the sides and ends.

I brought them in over night to dry while clamped.

These are the follower boards. I cut them out of a single board 
I had previously glued together. I used a hand saw because I 
wanted to make sure my cuts were precise. I used a piece
 of wood as a guide so my cuts would be straight. 

Here are the follower boards clamped and glued to a top bar. 
The plans for this hive are free on the internet here. I highly recommend this 
site and the information available on it. 
The forum alone is worth its weight
 in honey.

Here I am screwing the ends to the sides. This is relatively easy 
if you any wood working skills and you follow the suggestion 
of the plan designer by using your follower boards as guides.

My life became much easier once I received my birthday present!
How did she know I wanted this specific portable table saw.
I have a very nice, beautiful and caring fiance who understands 
the value of good machinery at the end of my outstretched arm
 pointing at my soon to be birthday present when 
I drag her to the local box store. =)

The table saw sped up the making of the hives so much. In fact
 I don't think I could have made the top bars the way 
I chose to make them, without it.

To seal the bottom I bought translucent plastic crochet sheets from 
a craft store. You need to make sure whatever you use has small 
enough holes to keep unwanted pests out of your hive. The
 recommendation is something with 8-10 holes to the inch. 

Here are the hives with legs. The front hive has the skeleton of the 
roof, it needs cedar shingles to be complete. The back 
hive has the top bars laying on it after I cut the 
1/8 inch groove in the center of each for wax.  

Here is one of the roofs with the cedar shingles in place. I place
 a plastic sheet over the top of the hive before I put the roof on.
 This water proofs my hive. If you opt to make your roof 
completely water proof you can skip the plastic sheet. 

Here are the top bars. Note the center of each bar has
 a 1/8 inch groove cut out. This will be filled with 
wax so the bees can use it as a comb guide.

On the left are freshly filled top bars. The bars on the right
 have been cleaned up so only the wax in the center
 is left. Note because I cut the groove straight through 
the top bars some sort of stop needs to be used to
 keep the wax from spilling out of the ends when
 you pour the wax. I opted for duct tape, of course. =)

This is what 10,000 bees look like. The queen is in the 
center in a segregated box so the newly acquainted 
worker and drone bees don't kill her right away.
It is interesting that in a couple days the queen 
bees pheromones will convert the ravenous
 queen-blood thirsty bees into a complacent hive
 ready to defend the her to the death. 

Here I am shaking the bees out of their holding cell 
and into their new home. I did not get stung on 
hiving day, although I had a bee crawl up my 
leg because I forgot to tuck my pants into my socks. 
Luckily it was a drone and couldn't sting me. =)

So here is the finished project. Every piece of wood on the
 hive is cedar even the legs. You could make a hive 
much cheaper than I did, but I personally did not 
want to use pressure treated or chemically
 painted wood for my hives. 


  1. Thanks for putting this together. I've read Phil Chandler's book and been to, but seeing all the steps in pictures really helps me wrap my head around the process. I plan on making a TBH, actually I planned on making on this Spring and never got around to it.

  2. Hello, I wish I had these pics before I started to make them too. =) I learned a lot in the process and the next ones I make will be much easier. My advise is make sure you have good tools and don't worry to much about dimensions as long as they are approximate. I found a 12 inch board in the United States is really only 11 1/2 inches or so. So my whole hive is marginally smaller than the blueprints. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.