How To Make A Beehive:Building Honey Bee Boxes

014 - CopyIt’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.

Start by ripping the boards to width.  This is best done at the table saw. Note* If you have a jointer, it would be best to make a few passes on the board edge before ripping.012

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. 016

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. 019 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.026

In the picture below, the feather board was only removed for the benefit of the picture.


Now, cut the 5/8″ x 3/8″ rabbet for the tops of the fronts and backs (these will hold the  honey bee frames). This is done the same way as the previous rabbet.028

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.031

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.033

Now, pre-drill your sides and handle locations using a hand-held drill or drill press equipped with a countersink bit.  Note* It’s essential to pre-drill so that you don’t split the ends of the board.037

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.) 039 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. 040 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.  042Next, 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).044

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.048


Now, assemble each box using 1-1/2″ deck screws and exterior glue.049

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.050

And…Volah!  You’re on your way to making your own  beehive(s).  To see how I built my hive stands CLICK HERE.  To see how I built my ventilated gabled roof, CLICK HERE.  To see how I built my ventilated bottom board CLICK HERE.053


36 thoughts on “How To Make A Beehive:Building Honey Bee Boxes

  1. Great post! My only correction would be your incorrect use of the term super[1] . A super is any box that is above the brood boxes. You can have deep, medium, or shallow supers just as you can have deep, medium, or shallow brood boxes.

    • Hallelujah, Tom. From my blog: “The all-time most irritating word in all of beedom is super. Super is short for superstructure. You can’t have a superstructure (which means “above the structure”) unless you first have a structure. All boxes cannot go above something that’s not there. You have brood boxes and supers. Simple and drop-dead logical. Why is that so confusing?”

      Aside from that, CB, nice post! Good photos!

  2. Go online and do a little homework on the bees that are native to the Americas: Mason bees. They aren’t dying off because they don’t have hives, they’re solitary bees. Just set up some tubular housing (look online for sizes) that you clean out once a year, set out a bowl of wet mud (not too thick – I like to use a very fine germinating soil) and they’ll do the work. They are better pollinators than European Honey Bees and don’t sting!

    You’ve probably seen them in your garden: they look like blue flies. There are several different kinds so find out what’s native to your area. Sally

    • Hi Sally,
      Thanks for your comments. I’ve done some reading on the mason bee and I understand that they are great polinators. Unfortunately, it’s the honey that I am truly after.

  3. They turned out really well! I’m not really a bee person, but I can appreciate a great tutorial! Thanks for linking to the In and Out of the Kitchen Link Party. Hope to see you next time.

  4. WoW, you have skills! I would love to have my own hive, but usually I try to eliminate bees in my yard. How do you attract enough bees for your hive and are they a huge pest for a family?

    • Thanks Andrea,
      I’m going to guess that the “bees” that you see in your yard are not honey bees. Most honey bee colonies are originally purchased from someone else or, if you are lucky, you catch a swarm. I hope you’ll drop by again to read about my bee journey.

  5. We just discovered two swarms of bees from a bee tree in our back yard. How do we get them to come to a hive. They are covering the queen and there is a lot of movement. My husband is a woodworker and the pictures are confusing. Does the bee box have straight sides. It looks as if the sides are smaller at the bottom than at the top? We are happy to have the bees and wish we could keep them. Thanks, Audrey Bruce

    • Hi Audrey,
      The boxes are straight. If you are making a Langstroth hive, you’ll need to add frames. The swarms may leave before you are up and running. Also, don’t know where you are “commenting” from, but if it is Southern USA be careful that the bees you are trying to capture are not African Bees. They will be quite aggressive.

  6. Thanks for the good tutorial and photographs. I’ve just finished building the boxes and will make the roof tomorrow. Springtime is happening here in Australia and I’m about to inherit a swarm from the neighbours. Thank you again.

  7. Some plans I have seen show 16 1/4 ” long on the short end? Is there a reason for your 15 1/2 ” length? Thinking if I bought a bottom board or top it would not fit?

  8. Dale, your better off with the box joints, they are much boy why didnt you use box joints, especially since you did everything else so nicely. They aren’t hard at all with a dado blade. Drifter

    • Hi Drifter,
      My post is intended for the DIY who may not have the knowledge or expertise for making box joints with a dado blade. You are correct that the box joints are not difficult with the proper jig / set up but the post was intended to illustrate a safer and “easier” (less skill required) way for a home hobby man/woman to make a hive.
      Thanks for the compliment and comments.

  9. Pingback: Review: Beekeeping For Beginners and More Information On Beekeeping | So, I Read This Book Today

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