If you are using starter strips and have lots of top bars to prepare, try using a wax mold like this one.
Cut a strip of wood the same length and width as the lower surface of the top bar. Make it as thick as the heigth of the starter strip. I make mine about 3/16" thick.
Then cut a slot down the middle of the strip. This slot will be the mold for the starter strip. Don't cut the strip into two pieces. Leave enough material on each end to hold the mold together. It should look like a wide, thin, slotted bottom bar.
Soak the strip in water for a few minutes. Place the strip on the bottom surface of a top bar. And fill the slot with hot, molten beeswax. The wax needs to be hot enough to freely flow into the slot.
After the wax has cooled, gently remove the strip. If the wax begins to stick to the slot, soak the strip in water for a few minutes.
Multiple strips can be used which will keep you working while strips are cooling. I find four strips will keep me busy, but you may need more if you are faster than I am :> )
Using this little mold is much faster than even just filling saw kerfs cut into a top bar with wax. And the resulting starter is much stronger than strips which are fastened with melted beeswax into a kerf.
I've only used thin stips with this method. The strips can flex and follow deviations in the top bars. This flexibility also alows them to be easily removed. A thicker, more, rigid strip may not work as well.
Would the slotted bottom bar from a regular frame work for this purpose?
It should if it is the right length and thickness for you. One problem is it's narrow width. Any overflow would spill over onto the exposed surface of the top bar. But it could be scraped off at the same time as the wooden mold. Not a big deal.
Try it and tell us what you think.
A couple of questions, Dennis:
First, do you groove your top bar? Is the wax flowing into a groove as well as filling up the slotted mould?
Second question: Did you use a thin-kerf blade to cut the moulds, or just a regular circular saw blade?
Third (bonus question) Have you tried using a bit of dish soap in the water in which you soak the moulds? Seems like every time I see a discussion of forming foundation they want us to soap the mould.
My top bars have a saw kerf filled with beeswax. I used the mold on bars with the kerf filled with beeswax and with it empty.
I would have preferred to use a thinner blade and make the mold both narrower and thinner. But I used what I had available at the time.
I didn't use any soap. But I have raised queens and used dish soap as a release agent. If the wood is sufficiently wet, I found little need for the soap. But although all beeswax is 'sticky' some is more sticky than others. It's probably due to the propolis content.
Here's some other ideas I been toying with for top bar starter strip molds. How about a triangular shaped strip. A thick piece of wood the size of a top bar could be used and wax could be poured into one end.
The August ABJ had an article detailing historical beekeeping tools. Among them was a Swiss roller used to create 'horizontal foundation' for top bars. I think it would be a simple matter to create a mold that would do the same thing.
[This message has been edited by topbarguy (edited July 31, 2004).]
I checked my 'hard' tbh yesterday. I call it hard because the bees just don't seem to want to follow my top bars regardless of the guidance I give them. They will do it for a couple of combs then implement their own plan. :> ).
My easy tbh is just the opposite. Anything would work in that hive, wooden splines, wax filled kerfs, etc.
I inserted the 'fast, easy and fat' starter strips into my hard tbh. They were next to the bee implemented comb(crooked). The bees have centered the next few combs on the starter strips.
These results are preliminary but I will share a few thoughts. These thicker, shorter, more robust strips are harder for the bees to ignore. I had thought that the wooden splines would work the same way but the bees can tell the difference between wax covered wood and a solid piece of bees wax.
I had thought that a thin, dipped strip would be more attractive to the bees. But it appears that it might just be easier for them to ignore it when compared to a thicker strip.
I really like the idea of a triangular shaped wax starter strip. It would be easier and simpler for me to pour a wax one than build one out of wood and coat it. The mold could be more substantial. Maybe wax could be put in the mold and the top bar set on top of it.
Such a mold would be easy to make with a router. Unfortunately, I don't have one. Any one what to try it out?
Yes I follow your triangular mold idea. How wide do you think the base of the triangle should be?
as for using soap, I assume that is for the mold only. would the bees be inhibited by the soap residue?
Mold should be pretty easy. Still probably a good idea to cut the kerf. That is, cut the kerf in the top bar, to insure that the wax triangle "keys" to the top bar?
[This message has been edited by BerkeyDavid (edited August 06, 2004).]
I had an idea what if you were to let wax cure on water, just like when you boiled it out of brood comb. It would come out of the pot round, cut it in half, probably have to do that while its still warm. you would end up with two half moon shapes secure them in the kerf with melted wax. Would you not have a foundation that would keep the comb strait. Has anyone tried this? Am I wasting my time.
Procrastination is the assination of inspiration.
Hard to get it just the right thickness. You can make plain sheets by dipping a board. If you want a half moon, just cut the board to the shape you want and soak the board in brine and then dip it in the wax. If it's not thick enough wait for it to cool and dip it again. I don't think you'll like the blank shees for foundation. I think starter strips work better.
I had thought of this before... using a retangular container to make a sheet that could be cut into starter strips. A microwave-safe pan of water heated in the microwave as needed to melt the wax. As Michael suggests, it may be hard to get consistent thicknesses. I propose that, reusing the same pan, one could experiment with the amount of wax to be added until an acceptable Range of thickness could be acheived. I don't need starter strips as of yet, but that was my goal. Perhaps someone else will try it and report back.
I tried both and it does make thick strips and yes I will be experimenting with amount; however in one of Dennis' first posts on this thread he was saying that thicker may be better and I made my kerfs with a 1/8 inch blade so far thed seem to fit with little shaving.
Procrastination is the assination of inspiration.