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Basic hTBH construction question

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Nurse Bee

Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 43
Location: Lindsay Ontario

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:05 pm    Post subject: Basic hTBH construction question Reply with quote

Hey all,
This is my first post and I have to say I really appreciate this website and the knowledge contained within!
Many dedicated beekeepers making it easy for someone like myself, just starting off with my first hive, to get the insight needed to be successful, as well as the benefit of years of experience shared here!

I'm building my first hive shortly, and currently working out lumber dimensions in an attempt to make lumber affordable.

I'm working off Phil's guide for lengths, and have converted the metric measurements(unfortunately in Canada lumber mills still stick to imperial).

I'll be going with a 40" hive and adding a detachable eco-floor, perhaps putting in a small viewing window, and just maybe a small landing pad so I can watch them dance Wink

My question relates to the wood dimensions. I was quoted almost $400 for Western Red Cedar when I requested 12" wide boards for the body, so I've changed all the widths to 4" to lower costs. What I'm wondering is will I run in to any problems gluing 4" width boards together for the hive body frame, and the roof ends that call for 12" and 8" wide lumber.

Would someone who has taken this route of smaller lumber to build their hive have any insight or tips in to correctly gluing boards? Any specific glues I should look for? Are there any other materials used to attach them together aside from glue and reinforcing straps on the body lengths?

Thanks so much for any help!

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B kind
Scout Bee

Joined: 13 May 2013
Posts: 250
Location: Co.Wicklow, Ireland

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't help you with the glueing advice, I am still new to all this but I understand that wide boards are preferable because they reduce the area available for wax moths to hide. That said, the bees seem to propolise every nook and cranny anyway and there are a few people making hives out of re-cycled pallet wood and not reporting any problems.

We used Local Cedar and it cost 45 Euro for each hive, that was two 5 foot long boards for the sides, 1 inch thick, a couple of end pieces and a couple of thin pieces for the roof. The rest of the hive and the deep floor is made with scrap wood. Our local sawmill has dry cedar for bee-keepers and I guess there is enough old trees here that need felling to make the wood affordable, But I am shocked at your quote of 400$. I wonder is there any other wood that is local to you or that could be re-cycled to make it more affordable?

I definitely recommend a viewing window on a first hive. Sorry no help, Welcome all the same!
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Silver Bee

Joined: 29 Apr 2009
Posts: 882
Location: Stoke On Trent

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would someone who has taken this route of smaller lumber to build their hive have any insight or tips in to correctly gluing boards? Any specific glues I should look for? Are there any other materials used to attach them together aside from glue and reinforcing straps on the body lengths?

I build ALL my TBHs from small planks - usually pallets.


1. You can use dowels to ensure the joins are secure.. see

2. Ensure you have a level surface to work on.. and use verticals at the ends to ensure no movements...(these can be fixed to the end boards and make a more rigid hive).
3. I use Polyurethane glue.. which expands and fills gaps.. BUT you MUST wear gloves when using it and it is very messy when half dry: I use 5 minute PU glue - but it takes a long time - hours to reach full strength.. Gorilla glue is excellent.

Hope that helps.
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Manuel Robert
Guard Bee

Joined: 04 Dec 2011
Posts: 73
Location: Bischofsheim, Rhön , Germany

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glueing depends a lot on you wood working possibilities. If you can creat a smooth plane contact surface you can use white wood glue ( waterproof one ). If not you can go madasafish´s way. With 4 inch boards you can intergrate a 4 inch wide window and spare some wood.
You don´t have to use red cedar. I use mostly local larch, which can be very resistant, it has been used a lot on traditional wooden boats.
Just as well as douglas fir. Good quality pine is also fine.
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Carl and Petra
Guard Bee

Joined: 29 Jun 2011
Posts: 74
Location: Blandford. Dorset. England

PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Then i first looked to build my hive i went to the timber yard and was stunned at how much cedar cost. I then went and found a timber yard where they actually cut the trees to planks etc. I then got exactly what i wanted.

The price then dropped dramatically and i have since built a Perone and three Warre hives and three kenyan top bars to Phils design (ta).
Last i bought some it was £60 for 6 planks 3.6 m long by 9 inches wide by 26mm thick ( I know, i mix my metric and imperial) I was happy with that price.

I have used pva glue to make the sides up for the ktb and have had no issues. I just make sure that, prior to gluing the inner side is as flat as possible to make the use of the follower boards easier. (although even if the follower boards do not fit too well don't worry just have strips of wood you can lay along the edge to seal it and stop the bees creeping out) I then use two support boards on the outside. I do this to prevent any warping and it seems to work and i like the look of it.

Best of luck with it all.

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Golden Bee

Joined: 04 Apr 2009
Posts: 1681
Location: Canada, BC, Delta

PostPosted: Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Piecing smaller dimension wood together is fine but I don't use glue. All the jointed wood is with shiplap joints held secure with braces. If you decide to make any design changes you won't be able to as easily or to change out a board that has rotted over time.

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Scout Bee

Joined: 17 Jul 2011
Posts: 447
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 7:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like playing with wood and thought it would be good to use "good" wood. Compared it to pine and the price difference is dramatic. Ended up using pine which is finished with either white paint or beeswax and linseed oil and they have lasted years.

My point is that making a box is easy so why make it expensive?


P.S. But jointing narrow strips does work, I do this if I don't have any timber the right width. SOP.
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Nurse Bee

Joined: 08 Jun 2014
Posts: 43
Location: Lindsay Ontario

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you very much for all the advise!

Apparently my local lumber mill only buys wood when he can get it at a discount, and sounds like most of the lumber there will be pricey.

My local home hardware has deck building lumber that sounds promising. It is Western Red Cedar, and measures a full 1" width and 5 1/2" wide. It comes in 10' up to 16' lengths, and the 10' pieces are only $13 plus tax.

I suppose my only option will be to go check out the boards, and shop around to find what I can.

If I use the 5 1/2" lumber for my hive I could either glue 2 widths together and modify the plan to accommodate an 11" body instead of 12", or I can cut 3 boards to 4" to get the right width, and then use the 1 1/2" leftover to make my top bars and other various odd lengths.

Is it a sound plan to buy lumber like this and just cut it to my required dimensions?

What say you?

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New Bee

Joined: 15 Sep 2013
Posts: 7
Location: Oregon USA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It depends on the look you want. If it is a fine decoration for your yard the lumber anywhere can get expensive. If you are building a home for bees there is rough cut garden bed lumber available at affordable prices from independent garden centers. I can get rough cut 2x12x10' pieces for $13.00 US. It takes a bit more work to mark out and cut, you get some waste but the price is less than 1/2 of what quality red cedar costs here in the north west US.
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Foraging Bee

Joined: 01 Apr 2012
Posts: 201
Location: Upper Northwest Georgia, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, one of the nicest things about the hTBH design is that you can adhere to "such beautiful woodworking" as much or as little as you like. There are no "right" answers. For instance, all of my hives are made of "found wood" that was already on the farm: a building that had been torn down, stalls and such. The only requirement was that the wood was weathered, solid, dry and straight, and that it wasn't chemically treated nor previously exposed to any chemicals. My hives are of varying length, therefore, and each one has a nice metal carrying-handle at either end. Instead of piecing together boards to achieve a certain length, I simply made some of the hives shorter. (And I happen to like the shorter ones, since I can lift them myself.)

The side panels are continuous boards, glued together with Elmer's. (A white-glue brand common in the US.) I briefly thought of doweling them together, but never did. The wood, of course, was already thoroughly dry and weathered, so I simply clamped them for a day or so.

The tops are nothing more than thin plywood flat panels, with boards on the bottom that fit just outside the sides of the hive, and between the end-boards so they're secure in both directions. They actually sit on the end-boards, so there's a gap between the top and the bars, and between the sides and the side-boards. Air circulation is therefore unobstructed, and even a blowing rain can't get in to mess with the bars, which remain quite dry. A couple of bricks on top. They make handy work-tables. The entrance holes, in the center are just the right size for wine corks. (It's fun to watch the bees land on the sloping board, then walk across it past the guards to disappear into one of the holes. Sometimes, the "outbound flights" do the reverse. It's also fun to watch the cats sitting up there, watching the bees come and go. They never seem to get stung. Yet another form of "Kitty TV.")

Wood screws from the end boards hold the whole thing together. The only dimensions that I paid close attention to was the slope of the sides and the height of the box. (The side profile, in other words, matches the plans.) One is painted (latex paint); most are not.

The hives are sitting on cement blocks, shimmed with wood boards so that they are level in both directions. (This seems to be important.) There's something "distinctively different" about each one, as a vague nod to helping the bees find their way home.(?) "There, uhhh, are no legs!"

Each hive is treated, outside-only, with one coat of Thompson's Water Seal. (The lid is treated on both sides.) Nothing on the bars, follower-boards, or insides.

The bees seem to be perfectly happy with it, now in their third season. The bee yard is in the middle of a pasture above the house, nestled under trees, such that they do get some direct sunlight each evening. During the daytime, they are completely shielded from the sun. The hives are arranged in a semicircle, all facing outward, to create a convenient work-space. All the bees can come-and-go without encountering me. (The trees are also one reason why I could so-easily get away with flat roofs.)

To assure a supply of water in our Northwest Georgia (USA) summer doldrums, I have a large metal chicken-waterer, with large rounded rocks set in the trough so that the bees can land on them to drink the water. The rocks greatly reduce evaporation, also.

So ... my entire setup is "nothing to look at." No, it will never win awards in shop class. However, the only expense that I actually had in building it was to buy the metal handles and a quart of Water Seal. (Since I live very close to one of the more-obnoxious Rolling Eyes beekeeping-supplies distributors in this part of the States, I take perverse pleasure in this ...) And the bees are perfectly happy to live there and to give me the small amount of honey each season that I choose to take from them. Honey, to me, isn't "a crop." It's a delicious gift of nature, and different every year.
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Quality Top Bar Hives by Andrew Vidler

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