Last modified 2009 DEC 01 02:47:49 GMT

I'm a cheap bastard. I also like working with my hands, and building things myself, so it should come as no surprise that I look at something and wonder why I'd pay $X for some quantity of it when I know I can make a similar quantity for only $Y in materials.

Here, I outline a procedure based on tools which I own, though you should keep in mind that there's usually more than one way to accomplish a task. In some instances below, I forsake efficiency for accurracy or safety (not that following proper safety procedures, you wouldn't be safe, but I prefer to keep a wider margin of safety when possible). Some things can be done with a tablesaw (or a circular saw mounted inverted in a utility bench), which can also be accomplished with a bandsaw, router, or a combination of these. I opt to use a tablesaw, router, and a compound mitre saw, though pretty much everything can be accomplished on a tablesaw alone, if you're willing to sacrafice efficiency or (in one particular case), precision.

Let's start with wood stock. virtually all of the frames I've seen are pine. Fir would be a suitable alternative (commonly used for 2x4 studs, which you can get for about $1.50-2.50 apiece at a home centre). A "2x4" stud isn't really 2 inches by 4 inches (they used to be, back in the early 1900's), but is rather 1.5" x 3.5". Yea, I feel cheated too, but for our purposes, this wood is just fine. A typical saw blade is about 1/8" thick, meaning that if you split a board in two with one, you'll have 1/8" less wood when you put the two pieces of wood together. When shaving a bit off of one face of a board by running a saw blade down the face, you can shave less than the 1/8", but when cutting through the middle, you're sure to lose 1/8" of wood. This number is significant because you need to keep it in mind if you're going to cut a larger piece of wood into multiple smaller ones - each cut leaves you with that much less wood to work with.

The top of the frame is 3/4" thick and 1 1/8" wide. for number of cuts (=extra work) and waste (=material lost to the saw blade), you're best off getting some stock that is as thick as what we need, so 3/4" pine planks are a good bet.

The bottom of the frame is about 3/8" thick and 3/4" wide. You can use the same 3/4" stock as you do for the top, and rotate them 90' after they're cut (i.e. thickness or width isn't a big issue here, and since they share a common dimension with another piece, it makes sense to get the benefit of that).

The end pieces are 5/16" thick and 1 3/8" wide (at the wider top part). For these, you're better off using 2x4 lumber and ripping it to width (or, since 2x4 are rounded at the edges, shaving half a blade width (1/16") off of one face, and then ripping the board to 1 3/8" in a second pass, so all the corners are a bit straighter), then cutting them to length (9 1/8" for brood, and 6 1/4" for the smaller honey supers), followed by cutting the rabbets (the notches at the top and bottom) and the tapers. The rabbets can be done with a dado blade on the tablesaw, OR you can use a router You don't need a router bit that is quite as wide as rabbet (in fact, you really don't want to cut it all in one pass anyway), but what you'd do is adjust the router bit depth to 7/16" for the top, and the fence to the gap between the edge of the ends and the cutaway (1/4" for the top), then run the wood stock over the bit (following all safety procedures), flip it around, and cut for the other face. Do this for the "top" of ALL the end pieces, then adjust the fence gap and cut depth for the lower cut and repeat for the "bottom" of all the end pieces (which have a different gap). Note you'd do this BEFORE you've cut the tapers in the frame ends, so the exact measurement differs from what you see on an already cut piece of stock. The taper can interfere with getting a precise cut because the edge may ride up unevenly on your saw or router fence (plus, when doing an end cut, the wider the wood is, the more stable it'll be).

The width of the tapered area is 1 1/8", and the full width is 1 3/8". 1 3/8" minus the 1/4" on either side for the tabs at the top leaves a 7/8" rabbet cut away, which is what we've done. At the bottom, the rabbet is 3/4" wide (the width of the bottom piece of the frame that will sit in there), but since the taper hasn't yet been cut, you need to figure out the centreline and how wide the sides are, despite the dimensions you see on an assembled frame...

To find the centreline, take the width of the stock and divide by 2: 1 3/8" / 2 = 11/16 to centreline. A handy tip for dealing with fractional math: dealing with odd fractions, simply double the components of the fraction: 3/8 = 6/16, then divide the whole number portion and convert it's fractional remainder to the same base as the original fraction: 1/2 = 2/4 = 4/8 = 8/16, then add half of the original fraction (which is the original dividend over the doubled divisor): 8/16 + 3/16 = 11/16"

Okay, so the centreline of the stock is 11/16", subtract half of the width of the desired rabbet (or, one could have subtracted the entire width before dividing the stock width): 11/16 - 3/8 (=6/16) = 5/16". This is how wide you need to set the fence up on the router to cut the lower rabbet BEFORE you've tapered the boards. The BOTTOM cut should be to a depth of 3/8"

Now, you have a bunch of pieces of wood with a rabbet in the top and bottom, but they're WAY too thick for your endpieces.If you're going to bandsaw or jointer-cut your taper, you might do that now (though with a router or bandsaw, you can still do it after the width cuts). Set your tablesaw (or bandsaw) up to cut 3/8" inch strips, and set the blade high enough to cut through the wood when it's down on it's face (so to start, the wood is about 3 1/2" wide facing down on the saw). USE A PUSHER STICK, NOT YOUR FINGERS, to push the stock through the saw to shave off each 3/8" thick piece.

Eventually, you'll have a pile of end pieces that look 80% done.

Ideally, you have a router, and can make a template to cut the tapers with. This will provide you with the smoothest tapers, and since you're using a template, they'll be nice and consistent. However, if you don't have a router (and instead, were cutting the rabbets above using a tablesaw), you can set a stop on your tablesaw

Alternatley, you could set your router up as a vertical jointer (you need to set up a close clearance fence with a 1/8" offset) and run the pieces across that to a stop block. For the taller frames, the run of the cut is 5 3/4" from the leading edge of the blade. A tablesaw cut will provide a less than perfect result, but it won't affect useablilty. Because of the length of the taper, you can't successfully cut it on a typical 10" tablesaw blade (which has a max cut depth of something less than half of the diameter), and you'd actually be hard pressed to manage it on a 12" blade as well. A bandsaw could do the job, but it's more tedious than just using a router or jointer (both of which would give you repeatable precision). You can set up a jig, a pushblock set to 5.75 - 6" behind the leading edge of the blade, and run the edges of the end pieces across this (with the fence set to 1 1/4", which will shave 1/8" off the edge), then either accept the blade taper on the edge of the frame, or finish it up on the bandsaw.

If you want pin holders for your foundation, you can drill holes for those down the centreline of the stock using a 3/16" drill bit. If you have a drill press and a long enough drillbit, you can do this BEFORE you cut the stock into the final strips. You can make a simple position template to mark the holes with, or if you're using a router, you can make a template that holds the pieces which has holes in it spaced where you want them, and you can use an appropriate bushing and a plunge bit. These holes don't need to be ultra precise (though you do want them along the centreline) -- a simple marking template and a hand drill will handle it easily.

Okay, the end pieces are complete. The bottom piece is simple, though involves a few steps: I'm going to detail the repeating steps approach because it provides you with a safer cut. Se the saw blade to 5/16" deep, and the fence to 5/16". Take the stock board and lay it with the large flat against the face of the fence. Fire up the saw, and rip a groove into the edge of the board. To double up, flip the board on end so that you can do the same to the opposite edge of the board. Shut down the saw, adjust the depth to about 1" (suitable for cutting through the 3/4" board thickness), and the fence to 3/8". Using an appropriate push stick device, feed the stock through the saw, netting you a 3/4" x 3/8" strip with a rabbet cut out of one face. Fip the board and cut off the other edge with the rabbet. You can set back up to make more of these strips, or proceed to cutting them to length: 17 3/4" (which if you have one, is easily done on a mitre saw so you don't have to dramatically change the tablesaw setup). Note that unless you're using ALL of the stock for bottom pieces, DO NOT cut the stock to length first, or you won't be able to use it for top pieces, which are longer). Depending upon the width of the boards you get, you may be able to get so many bottom pieces and so many top pieces from each, or just use one set of boards for tops, and another set of boards for bottom stock. With the loss to the blade, and the differences in widths between the bottom (3/8") and the top (1 1/16"), you may not get an equal number of each if you try to use one board for both types of stock. Do the math on what you've got and sort out what the most efficient cuts are. Something else to consider: you don't need to have an equal number of component parts when you're done - all the odd counts can go in a parts bin for the next time you fabricate frames.

Okay, we've got the sides and the bottoms. Technically, all the easy bits are done: the tops are by far the most complex. But, they're not VERY complex: just take them a step at a time.

At this point, the only thing you should be making with the wood is top pieces (if the dimensions are not enough for a full multiple of top pieces after you factor blade loss, it could still potentially accomodate one or two bottom pieces, which you should cut off beforehand as per the above directions, even if not currently needed). Se tht tablesaw up to a 1" cut depth (through the 3/4" stock and then some), and the fence to 1 1/16". Cut the stock into strips. Now, set the tablesaw blade to 1/4" cut depth, and the fence to 1/2". Cut the board with the wide face down. You've just cut the groove for the foundation to mount in at the top. Ideally with a chop saw, or reset your tablesaw to crosscut, cut the pieces to length: 19" exactly.

You should now have a pile of 19" long boards with the proper outer dimensions and a groove down the centre of the underside. With the blade still set to 1/4", change the fence to 7/8" (1" minus the blade kerf). Take several of the boards together with the groove facing down, and run the ENDS across the blade, then rotate the collection and run the other end across the blade.

The rabbet is best done with a router, though you could do it with a dado blade on a tablesaw, or multiple passes over the tablesaw blade with a stop block mounted on the tablesaw (or in a mitre carrier). 5/16" width groove (or 3/8", but it'll be sloppier when you go to fit the sides), with the fence set in 7/8" from the end of the stock (1" minus the blade kerf). Depth of the groove is 3/16" on either SIDE of the top piece. Repeat at the opposite end.

Two more cuts with the tablesaw - but these are a bit more involved because you have to set the wood vertically. Here, it would help to fashion a simple jig: a piece of plywood, say 3/4" (whatever it is, you need to factor it into the fence offset when you go to cut later), a follower placed ABOVE the blade height,to retain the back side of the boards, and a retainer/clamp across the front to hold them all in place securely. Then you'd run them on edge across the blade set to 1", with the fence at 7/16" PLUS whatever the thickness of the jig board is. The TOP edge of the stock should be facing the fence. Then, adjust the angle of the blade to 6 degrees and the distance to the fence to 3/8 (PLUS the thickness of the jig board) -- basically, 1/16" towards the blade from it's previous position. While it'd be nice to have the carrier jig offset and angle, the height of your fence is going to affect the angle which the carrier fence would tilt at given an offset (like a dowel) between it's base and the fence. A previously cut taperslipped behind the carrier jig would work, though you'd need to compensate for the offset produced at the base of the cut. It is most easy to use a mitre with a fence, and clamp a 90' helper to that, sandwiching the frame top between the helper and the fence.

Finally, with a chop saw set to 45" and a stop block positioned accordingly, nibble off just a small bit (3/16" inset) off of each corner of the frame tops.

Actually, quite a lot of the cuts could be accomplished by fashioning some jigs (say, out of MDF) such that you would set the blade height once or twice during the entire process, and the jigs would slide against a preset fence, holding the stock in the necessary position. I may at some point progress to doing this myself, since the process would be pretty foolproof then, and there'd be very little time lost in doing setup and adjustment.

Okay, you're all done - you've got raw parts stock for foundation frames.

I bet some of you are wondering how much yeild you'd get from some example lumber.

Well, a 2x4 typically comes in an 8 foot length (though you can certainly use some castoffs from other construction projects). You're going to lose a tiny bit to chopping the ends off to square them, and of course, you want to select wood that doesn't have knots and warpage. The end pieces of the larger frames are 5/16 wide, and you lose 1/8" to saw blade cuts (less to a bandsaw, but that's not what I'm using), so the 3 1/2" width of the raw stock would yeild 8 endpieces for each 9 1/4" (9 1/8" for the piece, 1/8" for the cut) in board length, which is 10 sets plus a 3" or so scrap (note that if you mix sizes, you can more efficiently use a board). That US$2.50 (at the more expensive prices) 2x4 will yeild you *80* 9 1/8" frame endpieces, or enough endpieces for 40 frames, or 4 complete large hive bodies. More if you're making endpieces for smaller supers.

For the pieces fabricated from board stock, a 1x4 is actually 3/4" x 3.5", and they can be had for pretty cheap. 1x12 is a bit pricier, and is 3/4" x 11 1/4". I don't have pricing right now (next time I go to the hardware store, I'll try to note them). Let's assume you're using a 1x4 by six foot, you can get two 19" lengths for the tops, and one 17 3/4" length for the bottom, and a big chunk of not-quite 17 left over, or three 19s and a similar sized chunk. An 8 foot board would net you five 19" lengths, or four 19s and one 17. Each bottom piece is 3/8" plus the 1/8" loss to the blade, and each top piece is 1 1/16" plus 1/8" loss to the blade. Basically, that width is ideal for three tops, plus the 2/8" lost to the blade, and a tiny bit shaved off to make the final piece the same width as the other two. Or, two tops, and two bottoms (but with more waste, though not a lot). So, figure an 8' plank will net you 2x5 = 10 tops and 10 bottoms. Or, 9 tops and 14 bottoms (3x 3 across, then 2x 7 across). It's all a matter of math. A 1x4x8 doug fir select is $6.35 as per a home centre website. A better deal might be "whitewood resawn trimboard" (lowes = US$4.22 for a 1x4x10') or "whitewood trim & facia" (lowes = US$2.60) This is the wood (generally pine) which has been rabbeted (with LONG tapered rabbets) and glued together to form long pieces out of small stock. it's generally painted for baseboard trim in the house, but in your beehive you wouldn't paint it and the interlocking pattern won't be much of an issue once your bees have had a go at the hive for a while. Home centre websites don't often list wood product prices, so I'm having a bit of trouble getting real figures for regular pine planks. Figure at the US$2.60 price, 10 tops and bottoms works to $0.26 a pair, plus the about US$0.07 for the endpieces, you're looking at a materials cost of $0.34 per brood (large) frame, and just nominally less for the super frames.

They're even cheaper if the wood you have is scrap and would otherwise be tossed because it isn't suitable for regular construction projects. In that case, the materials cost basically drops to nothing.

Yea, you're going to spend some time (and a tiny amount of tool wear, and some electricity) fabricating them, but if you've got the time, and working with tools is therapy (or just fun), making your own can be rewarding.

Assuming you're buying the larger frames by the economy 100 pack from Dadant, they're US$59.00 a crate. Yea, that's a whopping US$0.59 (fifty-nine cents) for a whole frame. C'mon, where's your pride of craftsmanship? How about knowing that if you need some, and have some suitable lumber sitting around, you can always make them yourself - this is especially rewarding if the nearest supplier is a few hours drive for you (time offsets your own investment of time, nevermind the petrol and potential for traffic issues).

Supers are perhaps somewhere you're more likely to see a cost benefit from, since fabricating those is a LOT easier, though the materials cost for the pine planks is a bit higher. A few cuts with a tablesaw and some router work to cut the rabbets or dovetails in the ends of the planks using a dovetail jig, and you're all set. I have a bunch of pine shelves I got from a neighbour some time back, and some of the shelves were broken - unsuitable for being used as a shelf - 3/4" stock, 46 3/4 x 23 7/8 (when whole). The shelves are already made up of multiple pieces of pine, so they're less prone to warpage than a single plank of wood. The cracked ones can be used as stock for frame pieces (being 3/4" thick).

Hive bodies from Dadant are US$15 for select, or $8.50 or so for the economy ones. Problem is, you've got to order quantities - the economy ones have a great price, but if you're a hobbiest, do you REALLY need 50 of 'em (that's over $400, not including shipping)?

If you have a hive body that rots on you, you can (if you KNOW you haven't used nails in constructing it), run it across a tablesaw to chop the bottom flush, and again, to chop the top flush and to width, making it a honey super. A quick jobber with a router will restore a ridge for the frames on the top of the box (though if the top wasn't damaged originally, you're best off just cutting the bottom to height).

Imririe Shim - this is very basic spacer developed by George Imirie. Construction is trivial: build a 3/4" high "picture frame" the same dimensions as a hive box. I used joinery and glue for the corners, but one could easily use a block of wood in each corner to add rigidity.

According to George Imirie, the intent of his shim is to allow for faster unobstructed entry and exit to uper supers for bees when MAKING DRAWN COMB. The shim is not intended for use in a hive where you're using foundation, because the bees will end up building into the space made by the shim. The irony is that those using foundation are making it easier for the bees to produce because they don't have to produce as much wax to get going, and therefore they should be able to build comb more rapidly with the additional supers - but you can't use the shim because they'll fuse the supers together with burr comb. I believe there is a solution - the shim needs to have slats across it, ideally situated such that they fill the gap and have bee space in line with the frames which would be in your supers. This displaces the air space so that the bees don't have some space to build burr comb, and at the same time it makes the shim a LOT more rigid - which I believe would then allow for cutting the shim thinner, which would compensate for having to use more wood. If you were so inclined, I suspect you could utilize poly foam for the slats, which would keep the unit light, but cutting foam can be tricky (IME, the best way is with a heated nichrome wire element). If using on a foundation hive, I'd cut the entry notches at positions equal to the openings between frames, and drill a hole into the wood just below the opening to insert a dowel to act as a landing spot. I'd insert the shim with the hole on the top side.

On 13th March 2005, I headed to Ikea in Emeryville to look for some shelving, and while there, spotted some white plastic trays. I can't really say what the heck they're for, but there's one size that should just fit within the bottom of a hive box, say to catch debris. Cost is US$2 apiece. I'll post a photo at some point.

Let's get jiggy

Making the frames and hive boxes don't require a lot of jigs, though for some of the cuts, it's a lot easier to line things up and hold pieces with a jig that allows you to keep the wood held securely, and keeps your fingers away from the blade.

I fabricated a simple jig for cutting the frame endpieces, since they're thin stock; for cutting the tapered bottoms of the frame endpieces (where they are narrower than the top); for cutting the notch in the top and bottom of the endpieces; for cutting the angled bottom half of the frame tops; for aligning the handles on the assembled hive bodies; and for running the centre groove in the top and bottom of the frames.

Okay, so I made several jigs. None of them are particularly complicated, and all of them were produced with scrap lumber - cast off bits not suitable for building anything else with (the one exception is the jig for cutting the angled ends on the frame tops, and that's just because it's a larger piece of scrap).

I have some pointers on making jigs. Try to make the jig so that it retains the wood while it is being cut - by that, I mean does more than just an initial positioning, but actually holds it so that it doesn't go flying someplace when the blade contacts it. If there's anywhere the blade is likely to cut into the jig (such as the follower on my end cutter), try to design in a replaceable block, so when it gets thoroughly eaten up, you can tack on a new one without having to construct a new jig. Be wary of the location of fasteners and how they relate to the blade. That includes the depth of fasteners, not just the head. For this reason, cut-through type jigs (or the push followers I make here and there) should be wood and glue only - no nails or staples. Whenever you do use nails, staples, or screws, it is crucial that you ensure they're only in locations the blade will not enter. This is easy enough for jigs that are used for fixed-position cuts, but is a lot more difficult to ensure for adjustable jigs. Write the name/purpose of the jig on the jig with a magic marker, and also note blade height and angle, stop location (as appropriate), and fence offset. If you have a lot of things to cut, and several jigs to use, it can pay off to design them such that the jigs deal with offsets from the fence and provide a specific height adjustment from the table surface such that many of your jig-assisted cuts can be made without changing the tablesaw settings. This is especially true of blade angle - it's a lot easier to make a jig that secures your workpiece at a specific angle allowing you to run it across a 90' blade than it is to change the blade angle and then bring it back to a TRUE 90'. Leave it at 90' and work from there. When making handles for your jigs, be sure to elevate the hand above the blade Handles that run adjacent and at 90' to the fence allow for keeping the jig steady while pushing through the cut. Don't forget that some jigs can be reversed - if you make a jig, it may be possible to use one side to make one cut, and then rotate it 180' to use the other side to make a different cut (or as with my end cutter - to provide a spacer to accomodate the already cut out notch). Used sandpaper is useful for adding grip to a jig - no need to use NEW stuff - those lightly used, but still clean and intact sandpaper bits from your palm sander can be quite handy. I have a package of a few adhesive pads (I didn't buy them - I sort of inherited them), and the self-adhesive backing is great for just cutting off a piece and tacking it to the bottom of a pusher jig.

Building Hive Boxes

In mid-March 2005, I decided I needed to construct some new hive boxes -- I still don't have a colony (though I'm hoping to catch a swarm), but the old apiary I received from a friend simply isn't in the best of shape. I have a suitable quantity of 3/4" pine boards of approx two feet by four feet in dimension, which is suitable to construct one large (brood) box, or two of them can construct three medium honey supers.

I started by cutting the lumber to dimensions for the exterior of the boxes I already have (though they're OLD), and setting up a cheap dovetailing jig I purchased on eBay around Christmas. I knocked out a medium 5-frame box to which I screwed a plank to the underside and attached a plank on the top with latches and put a handle on it. This is my swarm catcher. I still need to cut a couple of holes in the top and tack fine wire screening to the inside. I'm thinking something the size of a jelly jar ("Ball" mason jar), so that I can use one as a feeder port if necessary.

I fabricated one brood box as well. The following day, I made two brood and two honey supers, going full tilt on the fabrication process - no nails, just wood and glue. I still need to paint the lot, and make an additional top and bottom so that I can plant these out in the field. Oh, and of course I need to populate them with foundation.

On Saturday, I had a variety of other things to attend to, and thus didn't spend much time working on the hive bodies. Early in the morning (okay, about 4am), I applied a coat of the yellow exterior latex paint to the swarm box and also replaced a top on one of the frames I have placed in that box. One of my tasks for the day was to head up to WoodCraft in northern Santa Rosa to pick up some tools and materials, including about 300 5/16" dowels. When I returned, I quickly fabricated a simple offset jig for setting the gap for the handles at the tops of the ends of the hive bodies (so the TOP of the handles are always exactly the same distance from the top of the box - thus, they're the same for large brood boxes and medium honey supers alike). I drilled holes for mounting dowels through the handles and into the ends of one of the brood boxes and glued up and clamped the handle on. After it dried, I flush cut the dowels and sanded the face of the handle. I marked and drilled the remaining handles and boxes, and glued up one honey super before going to bed. I'll complete the rest tomorrow morning. Note that I used tape on the drillbit to set the depth, but the first couple of hive bodies, I drilled freehand for depth and managed to pop a couple of holes clear through, so those dowels had to be driven through into the body, and will be cut flush and sanded when all the glue has set. Tomorrow AM, I'll glue the rest, and by early afternoon, I'll be able to paint the lot and be done with this phase of setup.

Some photos:

[JPEG IMAGE/90071 bytes] This is my inexpensive dovetail jig which I purchased new on eBay for US$40 or so (plus shipping). Made in Taiwan. I'd prefer a Leigh or Akeda for regular woodworking projects, but this little bugger does the job and can be dedicated to the task of building hive boxes. Setting the router bit depth is easy enough: the rail cut I make in the front and rear panels defines the necessary cut depth.
[JPEG IMAGE/48310 bytes] This is a closeup of the MDF strip (actually cut from laminate flooring scrap) which I use as a reinforced frame rail (rather than metal). it's much denser than the pine, and should hold up for a LONG time without deterioration.
[JPEG IMAGE/54364 bytes] This is a wider shot of the rail piece and installed.
[JPEG IMAGE/41943 bytes] I use dovetail joints (specifically "half blind" dovetails) for the box joinery. These are VERY strong glued up joints, though not nearly as trivial to cut as the simple box joints on a typical hive body. The reason for their strength is the surface area afforded to the glue, coupled with the angular tooth pattern of the dovetail, which "traps" the teeth - a simple box "finger" joint doesn't have this feature. Multiple small dovetails (or fingers even) afford more strength than a few large ones, because the two pieces of wood are bonded at more points. I used no nails in the construction. Note the top dovetail is extra wide - this is accomplished by simply not cutting the final dovetail notch on the side piece which mates to the top of the end piece - this allows the side piece dovetail to take up the space left vacant when the rail was cut in the end piece, not terribly different than how the finger joint on a conventional hive box has the topmost fingers cut short on the sides.
[JPEG IMAGE/59653 bytes] Gluing the frame rail reinforcement strips is easy - just put the hive boxes UPSIDE DOWN, with the reinforcement strips sitting on some 3/4" scrap stock and apply weight to the lot. No clamps necessary.
[JPEG IMAGE/57030 bytes] Gluing the dovetails on the boxes is also pretty simple - since this type of joint "traps" the ends onto the sides, if the boxes are sitting on their sides, all you need to do is apply some weight to the sides to keep the dovetails pressed together. Additionally, a properly cut dovetail is reasonably snug, and if you've cut everything square, the box is going to be square just because it's been tapped together - no need for external clamping aparatus to keep it square while drying, or nailing it together. Here you see a couple of boxes rotated so that the glue joints don't come in contact with one another. There's a spacer board between the side of the bottom one and the floor.
[JPEG IMAGE/60669 bytes] Nothing particularly stellar here - just some boxes sitting for the final cure of the poly glue (it isn't particularlt tacky at this stage, and the joints are set, but I wait until the exposed glue is hard before I do the cleanup work). The polyeurathane glue I use ("Gorilla Glue"), is pricey stuff - it's not Elmer's white glue - but a small amount really goes far, and it's ideal for outdoor use (any glue you use on an apiary should be weather rated). The polyeurathane glue actually "foams" up when it is curing, which is accelerated with the presence of moisture (a quick spritz of water) on one of the pieces to be joined. You can see some of the foamed up glue in the lower right corner of the topmost hive body. The whitish blob about a third of the way over in that same hive isn't glue - it's the flash reflecting off a bit of airbourne dust. When the glue has dried, it is easy to shave out with a sharp chisel.
[JPEG IMAGE/47310 bytes] If inverting the boxes and stacking them isn't your thing, a standoff board and a clamp will hold them in place while the glue sets. An even better way to clamp up the rail reinforcement strips would be to cut a notch into the pieces of wood being used as standoffs so that they trap the rail, and then clamp the wood to the side of the box.
[JPEG IMAGE/52197 bytes] I built this simple swivel table ("lazy susan" or carosel) from some scrap and a 6 inch lazy susan mechanism which cost US$2.50 at WoodCraft. This provides a convenient way to rotate the hive body when working on it - either gluing on the handles or subsequently painting it. And, the table can support a lot of weight (the 6" one is rated for about 200 lbs, though the particle board scrap I used would probably sag before then), so stacking multiple boxes isn't a problem.
[JPEG IMAGE/44005 bytes] Positioning the swivel at centre is important, since it keeps the weight properly distributed, and the workpiece will then rotate around a predictable centre.
[JPEG IMAGE/66491 bytes] here, I identify how the two cutoff strips which are screwed to the carosel top act as keepers on the INSIDE of the hive body.
[JPEG IMAGE/40668 bytes] Hardly a novel trick, but just in case you're not aware of it - simply wrap some tape around the shaft of your drillbit to provide a depth gauge when drilling holes for dowels you don't want passing all the way through.
[JPEG IMAGE/44855 bytes] Since I was freehand drilling the dowel holes, each handle was unique to the specific hive it was drilled on, so I marked them. The slightest difference in drillbit angle or centering would render two handles different. If I were drilling these on a drillpress with a positioning jig, it'd be a different story.
[JPEG IMAGE/49228 bytes] Using some scrap, I tacked together a simple positioner block that allowed me to ensure that all of the handles were at the exact same offset from the top of the box (which is better than from the bottom, since different hive boxes are different heights).
[JPEG IMAGE/55536 bytes]
[JPEG IMAGE/55431 bytes]
[JPEG IMAGE/68302 bytes] Gluing the handles as a pair on each box is simple - use some long clamps to bridge the length of the box and hold the ends of the handles inward, and either a third long clamp or a couple of shorter ones to keep the centre down as well.
[JPEG IMAGE/49297 bytes] I flushcut the dowels from the face of the handles using a saw with a kerf facing away from the wood.
[JPEG IMAGE/58336 bytes] After ripping stock for some of the other boxes, I had cutoffs sufficient to build a short box (about 4" tall). If I'd done it earlier while I still had the dovetail jig and router out, I'd have dovetailed it, but instead, I fabricated it with a simple lock joint (most clearly visible in the lower left corner of the box here). Building a box and then cutting it down into 3/4" shims is easier - and more structurally solid - than fabricating the individual shims. Note that when cutting the box into shims on the tablesaw, you should make use of a small spacer wedge to keep the wood from closing down on the sawblade.
[JPEG IMAGE/58657 bytes] I've primed some of the hive bodies. I use Zinser's.
[JPEG IMAGE/49020 bytes] Last shot of the handle joinery before the priming coat covers it and obscures it from view.
[JPEG IMAGE/48898 bytes] My short run of from-scratch hives are complete.
[JPEG IMAGE/36033 bytes] Here, my small swarm catching box is painted. Note that I don't have the top cut for accessories yet - an adjustable entry/breather/feeder hole, but I'll add that once I've settled on the appropriate hardware.
[JPEG IMAGE/43482 bytes] This shot shows the swarm catcher filled with it's complement of five frames.