I'm going to experiment a lot this spring on what kind of hives are easy to work and are doing well for the bees. Since PermaComb only comes in mediums and the hives I'm buying are installed in mediums, I have to rethink a lot of things. Since I want to use drone comb, both to monitor, and to help in the control of Varroa (at least until I can get regressed) and this will require getting into the brood chamber every couple of weeks, I want access to the brood chambers without moving all of the supers. Here's one design I am contemplating:
The base is a 22 frame double brood chamber (twice the width of a 10 frame box). The next tier is stepped in from the front (or the back if you prefer) and is a 16-frame box (24 1/2" wide). On top if this is a queen excluder and the supers, stepped in another 6 frames. The steps back would be covered by half of a migratory cover, perhaps with a strip around the edge to provide bee space.
This gives you access to 5 (6 if you reach a little) frames on the front of the 22 frame double and 5 frames on the front of the 16-frame box without moving any boxes. A frame of drone could be removed and a new one inserted, five frames into either box without much labor. Also the general health of the brood chamber may be assessable by looking at these five frames out of the brood chambers.
To set this up requires building your own double and 16 frame boxes and a double bottom board (or some kind of table) and cutting a migratory cover in half. Otherwise everything is standard.
The 16 frame medium box should weigh about the same as a 10 frame deep brood box.
Any comments? Opinions?