Top Bar Hive Design

Rough Cut Apiaries hive design notes

One 1×12 pine board, 16 feet long, will make a hive body for a 4-foot long hive and most of the about 35, 19-inch long top bars you’ll need.

Board makes: Two hive body sides, each 48 inches long; two end boards, each 18 inches long; one hive bottom, 7 inches wide and 48 inches long; two follower boards, 17 inches wide at the top and 7 inches wide at the bottom, which allow you to adjust the size of the hive cavity and form a partial jig to build the hive.

Bars: You will need a total of about 35 top bars (a dozen extras is a good idea), which should be cut 1 ¼ inches wide and have a triangular guide, made of 16-inch piece of chamfer molding that is glued and tacked to the bar. About 70 feet of chamfer molding cut into 16-inch long strips will make the comb guides for a hive.

Make a couple of dozen ¼-inch wide, 19-inch long spacers to allow bees to build thicker honey combs, and provide space at the front and back of the hive to prevent bridge comb. You will get a lot of these spacers as you saw your top bars.

Notes: I use a premium waterproof wood glue (not Gorilla Glue) and 3-inch coated decking screws to assemble the hive bodies. To attach guides to top bars, I use 18-guage, 1 or 1 ¼-inch long brads installed with a manual staple/brad gun or a compressor and pneumatic brad nailer. The boards and molding are available at Heavener Hardware in Blacksburg – they’ll do the gross cuts on the 1x12s for you!

I use 19-inch top bars to allow some standardization with Langstroth parts – you can cut down regular Lang frames from a nuc to install into a top bar hive. It’s a pain, but it works well. Swarms are your best bet and my first choice. Packages are a distant third, in my view.

Entrance: Drill six 1-inch holes in one end of the hive using a 1-inch spade bit or a 1-inch hole saw (these fit your drill). Holes on the sides and in the middle cause myriad problems and reduce honey production.

Extra tools you will want: Old serrated bread knife to trim comb and cut strong side connections; and a wide putty knife for cleaning bottom boards.

Find Philip Chandler’s original design here (but I don’t recommend his book): www.cbrp.org/SDBluebirds/PhilChandlerTBHPlans.pdf or www.biobees.com/build-a-beehive-free-plans.php

Click here for a comparison of expenses between Langstrom and Top Bar hives

Questions: Tonia Moxley, tonia.moxley@gmail.com

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