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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
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    Chippew County, WI, USA
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    650

    Default Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    As I have watched wooden ware get more expensive each year and as my wood working skills have improved I have decided to make all my boxes myself as I can make them much cheaper. Yes I understand you can not make them much cheaper than you can buy them at conventional lumber prices but I have an ace up my sleeve when it comes to lumber.

    That said I have experimented quite a bit now over the past few years building boxes. My table saw will not accommodate a dado stack but I have a router and table. I first made some simple butt joints and braced them with wood handles and they work ok but really annoy me when it comes time to wrap hives for winter. I also had a problem getting strait cuts on my boards but I have mastered that now and have started using a rabbet joint on both ends of all boards so there is four points of contact at each box joint. It is a bit of a chore to get the bit set just right to take of the perfect amount of each board to get a flush fit but well worth it when done.

    So my real question is for those who have tested this joint over the years in their apiaries and what your opinion is with this type of joint? I glue, clamp, then put screws in to hold them tightly together while the glue dries. I use a router and strait 3/4 inch plunge bit to make and holds and rabbets. So far them seem quite strong and do not flex much so I am hoping they will service as well or nearly as my purchased finger joint boxes. I am also entertaining selling these boxes to people who ask me for equipment. I would have been ashamed to sell a butt jointed box but I would not be ashamed to sell these on the visual appearance of them but I don't want people shaking their head two years later and cursing me for them.

    What do you think?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Weatherford,Texas,USA
    Posts
    450

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    I have the same question. The bees have taken over and I began running out of hive bodies for them. I am cheap too, so the $2 I save per box is worth it to me. What I am doing with mine is using my table saw to make my rabbet joints and only cuttng the front and rear boards. I clamp and glue them but have not been using screws. I have just been using 6 nails per corner from the old brad nail gun.
    "It's better to die upon your feet than to live upon your knees!" Zapata

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    3,594

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    I feel that sealing the exposed endgrain with Titebond III will help to extend the life of my woodenware. I also run a bead of glue on the inside corners of all my assemblies. For me, the time and cost of glue is well spent when I have joints that are nearly impermeable ...

    I prefer buying Miller's commercial boxes and save money on building the accessories ...
    BeeCurious
    Trying to think inside the box...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Hampton CT
    Posts
    360

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Rabbet joints are fine. I have mads 100s of boxes over the years using a good rabbet joint. Use an exterior glue such as Titebond ll then nail with plenty of 7d or 8d galvanized nails. Exterior screws also work well. Brad nails are not big enough to do any real good. When making equipment, Make sure you adhear to the proper dimensions or nothing else will match. Adam

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Park City Ky
    Posts
    1,838

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    jaseempt......WI-beek.... In the upper right corner of this page of the Forum there is a, "search box" (below the box it says, "advanced search".) Enter the words rabbet joint There are multiple threads about this subject. There are multiple answers to your question. This question has gone around several times. There is also a poll that was taken comparing the various joints. Hope this will help you to decide.

    Rabbet joints are time tested in various furniture applications, and will certainly work well for bee boxes. Commercial companies use the box joint mainly, for ease of assembly by beekeepers. Box joint boxes will virtually square themselves, where rabbet joint and butt joint boxes do require clamps and square to assemble. I have posted many times, and I really believe that any joint; box, rabbet, butt, dove tail, etc, when used with glue and the proper number of nails, some sort of preservative (this can start another whole topic that has also been discussed),paint, stain, wax dip, others, will outlive the beekeeper.

    cchoganjr

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Lewiston, Idaho, USA
    Posts
    8

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Rabbet boxes are the only ones I have. I cut over 400 deeps last winter. They are easier to assemble than box joints for me. My guru still cuts his own and has some that are over 30 years old and still doing the job. It all boils down to glue and paint.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,492

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Rabbet joints are fine, I use them on telescoping covers and inner covers because it's too much trouble right now to set up a box joint jig for that application.

    Use the table saw, it's less work in my opinion. Set the blade aboslutely square to the table (use a verified square, not the scale on the saw), set your fence absoultely square to the blade (a whole excercise in frustration, but you need it that way anyway) and set the blade height and fence to cut exactly 3/8" wide remainder 3/8" deep. Cut all the boards, outside face to the fence so they all have 3/8" thick "tongues", then set the blade height and fence distance to get a rabbet that exactly matches the boards together with no gaps. Takes a bit of fiddling, but once you get it set, cut all the boards at one time. Watch for variance in board thickness and adjust to get the correct interior dimensions!

    Properly cut, the box should be self-squaring. I like to leave a very shallow saw kerf inside the joint for glue, about 1/32" or so. You will need to brace or clamp to the box to keep it square while nailing or screwing it, unlike box joints. Rack the box flat and square before the glue dries, it's almost impossible to flatten or square them up after.

    Unless you toss them out of a truck driving down the highway or fling them across the room, they should be fine. Keep them waterproof on the exterior by whatever means you like, and they will outlast you.

    Peter

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
    Posts
    2,697

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    My father made some (hundreds) of deeps in the late 40's with rabbet joints. They still function, but are no where near as rigid as the box joint deeps of the same age.

    Crazy Roland
    Linden Apiary, est. 1852

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Strasburg, Pa, USA
    Posts
    115

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    I have been making all my own boxes this year. I use rabbit joints on the ends but hear is a link for a finger joint jig which can be used with a router http://www.sawdustmaking.com/Box%20J...xjointjig.html. I use 3 drywall screws and titebond III havn't had any pop yet. Good luck.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,492

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Box joints are definitely better, but harder to make and less forgiving of less than perfect lumber.

    A dado jig isn't that hard to make, and other than being a bit slower to cut, they are not hard to make once you get a jig working right.

    Absolutely necessary to ensure that everything is SQUARE on the saw, though -- use a quality, verified square to get the table, blade, and jig absolutely dead on. If you don't, you will get boxes that aren't flat (high corners) and hard to put together.

    Peter

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Indianapolis IN 46227
    Posts
    285

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Just my 2 cents, I make all my own boxes with rabbit joints and then glue them together with "Liquid Nails Exterior Heavy Duty" glue. This glue is not pretty like wood glue, but is a sub-floor adhesive. Very thick and fills gaps.
    I think these boxes are as strong and will last as long as any.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Winston Salem , NC
    Posts
    228

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Rabbets work good but in my opinion not as well as a box joint. The moisture content of the wood must be just right for the rabbet not to cup in years to come no matter what kind of glue you use.Staples or brads seem not to hold them as well as nails. Just my opinion. I am working on a box joint machine now and any ideas- recomendations are greatly appreciated.
    larry

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
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    2,492

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    All you need to cut perfect box joints is a dado set of the correct width, a good square tablesaw (no wobbly arbors allowed!) and a good, stable cross-slide, and a couple pieces of scrap lumber.

    Set up your dado blade (7/8" is good, although most new ones are really only 13/16". Make sure there is no sawdust trapped between the blades (I don't recommend a wobble dado, it won't cut flat bottom slots). Set the cross slide square to the blade with the blade square to the table and cut a slot through your scrap piece -- should be 4" high at least and long enough to support your boards. Cut the slot the exact depth you want the joint to be (3/4" for "regular" lumber, whatever the correct depth to get the interior dimensions right). Dismount the dado blade, and measure the slot in backer you just made exactly, then cut a short strip of wood exactly the same width and depth of the slot. Make it long enough to cut in half and stick out at least an inch from the backer, and keep the other part handy

    Glue and nail this short piece into the slot in the backer. Ensure it fits exactly, is perfectly square, and is exactly perpendicular to the face of the backer. Sounds like a lot of work, but in fact once you set it up right it will last for years, best to get it perfect.

    Use the second piece of your guide that you just glued in and set the backer board on the cross-slide so that the guide piece exactly fills the space between the right side of the blade and the guide glued into the backer. This space is critical, as if it's not exactly right, the box joint won't be perfectly level at the corners and the fingers and spaces will not line up.

    Clamp the backer onto the cross slide and cut a test joint. use scrap, and you only need about two fingers and two spaces, any significant problems will show up right away. Cut the first board by butting it up against the guide, cutting a slot, then lift the board and put it over the guide and cut another. Repeat until they are all cut. For the matching board, put the first one on after flipping it so the face that was toward the blade is now on the backer and the first slot is over the guide -- this makes the offset for the first finger exactly the width of the first finger on the other board. Cut as above, noting that the notch should be exactly flush with the top of the board (no "fur" or super thin shaving left over).

    Check to see that the ends fit together at 90 degrees in a flat joint, and that they give a straight board if you put them end to end. Adjust whatever you need to to get them right, usually the exact location of the backer on the cross slide. When it's right, screw the backer to the cross slide and test again. If it works, you can take it off and put it back on whenever you like with no "fiddling". If it's wrong, fix it.

    Things to watch for: Make sure the board fits down onto the guide with the end flush on the table -- if necessary, file off part of the top of the guide to get it there. If you don't, you will tend to cut both a tapered depth of slots AND they will be off square, and the fingers won't fit together easily. Worse, since you can always tap the box together with a hammer, they won't be flat, and that's hard to fix. Make absolutely certain that the slots are the correct depth -- too shallow and the boxes will be too big, too deep and they will be too small. Small is worse than big, as the frames will fit OK if loose in a big box but only a small change to the small side and they won't go in.

    Drill all the fingers (unless they have knots, in which case you won't be nailing them anyway) with a hole slightly smaller than the nail you intend to use. Assemble as usual -- that is, apply glue, put one nail in each end of all four boards, and check for square and flat. Adjust as needed and nail up.

    Once it's set up, you can cut boxes pretty fast. Make sure your saw can pull a wide dado, and keep the saw sharp. If you, like me, have a belt driven saw, make sure the belt is tight and in good condition, as the saw will inevitable burn if it slows down too much.

    It actually doesn't take much more time to set one of these up than it does to type this out.

    Peter

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Chippew County, WI, USA
    Posts
    650

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Thanks for comments, and yes I will do a search on the joint when I have time to read up on it. The reason I asked here mainly is for the question I asked about selling boxes with rabbet joints and it has not really been answered.

    Would you sell them or maybe a better question would be, Would you buy rabbet jointed beehive boxes for your operation?

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
    Posts
    4,887

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    I made both kinds in the late '70s and rot has been the determining factor in how long a box lasted. These fir rabbited supers have out lasted pine dovetailed supers.

    I think there is less rot exposure in a rabbit joint. Any super full of honey dropped on a corner will get out of joint.

    This is whats left of a pine dovetail super also made in 1979:


    I just made Jumbo depth boxes out of 1X10 old growth, tight grain redwood with rabbited joints, glued and screwed, and they will last a life time.

    I made western covers out of pithy soft cedar that rotted after three years.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Clackamas Oregon
    Posts
    737

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Wood magazine issue 181 on the torture test of joints (page 68) shows that the rabbet has a pull apart strength of 1329 lbs and shear strength of 73 lbs (with 3 nails). Box joint 2019 LBS, shear 84 lbs (no nails recommends number 18 brads for the edges of the fingers). The locking miter came in at a respectable 1899 lbs pull apart and 141lbs for shear. (I just got the Wood magazine first 200 magazines on CD and just thought I would brag).
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Park City Ky
    Posts
    1,838

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    The definative answer to this continuing question may vey well be in these last two posts.

    minz...puts forth data, from a controlled test. For test data to be validated, they must be able to be duplicated. If they are duplicated they have validity. Thanks minz. I had never seen this test data, and, it is good to know.

    notice odfrank's remarks about the types and quality of the wood you are using. Even the same wood, fir, cedar, pine, will have tremendous variations depending on quality of wood, moisture content, etc.

    Looks like we got sidetracked again and I think we have lost sight of the original question on this thread. WI-beek wanted to know if those who make boxes would sell them if they were rabbet jointed, and if you were buying would you buy boxes with rabbet joints.

    I sold rabbet jointed boxes for years, but, I assembled them before sale. I changed about three years ago to box joints. Would I sell them, yes I did. Would I buy them, yes if properly constructed.

    I fall back on the saying i have posted many times, with good wood, cut correctly, and adequate glue and nails,... any joint, rabbet, box, dove tail, butt, and some preservative, paint, stain, wax/resin dip, etc, will outlive the beekeeper.

    cchoganjr

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Chippew County, WI, USA
    Posts
    650

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    Thanks for the last two posts. I do not see glue on those joints in that data. I would have no faith in a rabbet joint box without glue myself.

    I guess, the answer for my question about selling these boxes is really to be answered by the customer. I will offer it, they can decide if they are worth it. I dont plan on selling a lot, just to have a few hives available for customers in spring who ask for them when they order nucleus colonies. I might as well make some extra change on the sale of wooden ware too! I cant keep up with my own wooden ware needs in the summer because I dont have a heated wood shop in the winter which I hope to have solved by fall. Next season I hope to have all my wooden ware finished so come spring, I can just focus on beekeeping, lol!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,492

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    I'm hardly surprised that unpainted pine rotted faster than unpainted fir, as douglas fir in particular is much more rot resistant.

    Properly painted, there is zero exposure of end grain to water -- if those pine boxes had been kept painted and dry, likely they would still look brand new other than the propolis inside.

    To answer the original question, no I would not make nor buy rabbeted boxes, but if others want them, that's fine by me.

    Peter

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    2,977

    Default Re: Rabbet Joint Hive box quality?

    A good box starts even before you choose a joint. It starts with the selection of the board. Better bards are not that hard to pick you just need to know what to look for.

    First the obvious. nice sold boards with few if any knots and even if there are some you want them tight and not falling out of the board. Nearly everyone knows to sight down the board fro any warping etc. and yes this is important. IT is also important that the grain of the wood is constant at east far enough for you to get a side or end of a box from. Tighter grain is also indication of a slower growing more solid wood fiber that will withstand weathering longer.

    Now look at the end of the board. What does the end grain look like. Most people that have ever worked with wood and seen end grain will think of the typical smile ( curve of the growth rings. This is probably the most common end grain. It is also exactly what you do not want. This is what will case you to sort through piles of lumber to select only a few boards. You do not want to see that smile you want the grain to run as straight through the width of the board as possible or see the rings running from front to back of the board. but you do not want to see much curve in that end grain. This curve of the end grain is the stuff that will cause gaps in your corners.

    Now that you have gone to all that trouble to find curveless grain boards. don't mess it up by putting the pieces together backwards. as the wood warps any cure in that grain is going to want to straighten out. that is how you know which way the board will warp. Put the pieces of your box together so that when the wood warps the edges push toward each other. The center of the board cannot pull away nearly as easily as the edges can. and if the edges do nothing put push themselves together even harder you can completely avoid gaps at the corner of your boxes no matter what joint you use. This simple bit of attention to how your pieces go together will probably do more for the quality of hive you make than any other.

    The joint you select has more to do with how you will use the box and what you expect it to tolerate. a but joint is not asking much more of a box than assign it to stay in a square or rectangular shape. At least generally. A lap joint is not asking a lot more. it gives a little more support and little more glue surface it also helps the box stay square. but it is not a joint meant to withstand holding together under heavy loads. 90 lbs of honey per box is a heavy load.

    The joint found in the finest boxes made are dovetails. the finger joint is considered a simplified version of a dovetail and is often used in fine boxes do to it's appearance as well as strength and reliability. There is an addition to a finger joint that makes it like steel. I have never heard it mentioned on this group before. but it is a pinned finger joint. At least that is what the person that told me about it called it. I short make a box with finger joints. assemble it and then drill down through the fingers and place a metal pin through that hole. This makes a metal rod holding the fingers from puling apart. I have always pined the corners of my boxes and never really thought to mention it before. I simply use a finish nail that passes through at least the first three fingers of every corner. The wood can split it can even break but that corner will not come apart.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

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