It’s been pretty darn cold up here in Southern Ontario this week and I can’t stop thinking about honeybees. Maybe it’s because the Winter allows for time to finally get around to some other interests that seem to get crowded out during the warmer months. Anyways, this winter I am bound and determined to make 2 Langstroth honey bee hives from scratch. The drive to do so comes from 2 forces. First, I’ve been working with wood for the better part of 25 years and secondly, I definitely became smitten with “the bees” last year when I got my first introduction to beekeeping up near our cottage. So….over the next few months, I’m going to post different segments on how to build your own hive. I don’t mean assembling purchased parts. I mean building the real deal. By the end of it all, I’ll have built 2 complete hives. I hope that I’ll inspire you to do the same!
Making your own honey bee hive can be rewarding on a number of fronts. First, there is a cost savings (around 30 %) which will really add up if you want more than 1 hive. Second, there is the personal satisfaction in knowing that you built your own beehive. But, if you acquaint time with money and/or have little or no basic cabinetry skills, than purchasing a beehive may be the right choice for you.
My version of the Langstroth hive differs from the traditional hive body in that I do not use a box joint or notched hive handles. Instead, I use a rabbet joint and screws to assemble the boxes and “homemade” handles which are screwed onto each box. It’s a whole lot easier, a whole lot safer to make and requires a lot less experience for the “home-hobby” guy or gal.
So…..lets get started. But first, lets talk about safety. Make sure that you read and understand how to SAFELY operate your power equipment. In some of the pictures below, the safety guard has been removed so that you can get a better understanding of the photo. NEVER operate your equipment without a guard in place!
The only difference between the honey bee boxes is depth. For the purpose of this post, I will be making a box which is 6 -5/8″ deep. If you want to make a shallow box, it will be 5-11/16″ deep and a deep box will be 9-5/8″ deep. All parts are 3/4″ thick.
Now cross-cut your pieces to length. This can either be done on a table saw with a miter gauge or a miter saw that is larger than the 10″ standard saw. Either way, make sure to use a “stopper” so that every piece is exactly the same. For the fronts and backs, cut them at 15-1/2″. For the sides, cut them at 19-7/8″. Note* When using the table saw, never butt the lumber up to the rip fence when cross-cutting. Make sure to have an axillary fence or scrap of wood clamped to the fence for this operation. This will definitely prevent the wood from binding between the blade and the fence preventing dangerous kick-back.
Now, cut the rabbet joint in the sides. The rabbet will be 3/8″ deep and 3/4″ wide. This can be done with a router and rabbet bit or 2 passes on the table saw. For the purpose of this post, I am doing the rabbet on the table saw. First, start by cutting the rabbet to its correct depth with the workpiece facedown on the table saw. Once again, use an auxiliary fence or a scrap of wood clamped to the fence in order to prevent kickback. Next, stand the piece on edge to cut the rabbet to width. Make sure to use a feather board to help keep your piece straight and cover the exposed blade.
In the picture below, the feather board was only removed for the benefit of the picture.
Now, using a homemade marking jig that was ripped to 3/8″ thick, mark the screw locations on both sides. By using this “jig”, you will only have to measure out one time for all of your sides. Simply place the jig on the edge of your board and mark the screw locations with your pencil.
Using another template, mark out the two screw locations for each side of each box. You will notice that there are 4 holes in this template. That’s because it can be used to mark the handle screw locations for the front/back & the sides. Just make sure to consistently mark your pieces from the same side.
Now, make the handles for the boxes. I like to use 2×6 for this part. First, rip the 2×6 into 1-1/2″ width strips. Then tilt the blade to 8 degrees and rip the strips again. (The 8 degree angle will allow for rain run off from the handles.) Next, lower the blade to a 3/4″ height and set the rip fence to 3/4″. Run the strips through the table saw making sure that the angled surface is positioned on the left side of the strip. Next, turn the strip so that the angled surface is “facing up” and rip again. By the end of the “rip”, the waste from the handle will fall away from the strip. Next, set up a stop block on the miter saw or table saw and cross-cut the strips to 6-1/4″ lengths. Make sure that the 8 degree beveled face is not resting on the miter gauge (for the table saw) or the fence (for the miter saw).
Glue and screw the handles, using 1-1/4″ deck screws, to the outside of each box part. I made a jig out of some scrap plywood which allows me to position the handle on to the exact spot of the box side. I just reverse the jig for a hive body because it is wider.
Finally, carefully rip a few strips of that “waste” from the handles to 3/8″ x 3/8″. Fill the 3/8″ spaces at the ends of the rabbets on the inside of the front and back pieces. I used a Japanese flush cutting hand saw for trimming the “filler” piece.