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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    29

    Default How to build cheap top bars.

    Hello all,
    I have just built a top bar hive body out of a plastic drum, reclaimed lumber and a table top. Now I need to make top bars. I am waiting on a book I ordered on how to build hives, but I was wondering any of you fine people had any experience making your own top bars? My hive body is 23" wide, so my bars will probably be 25" long. Any tips on how to cheaply made good top bars? Thanks in advance. I have a ton of fun building this first hive, I might want to do it again.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    511

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    I don't build my own, but the ones I ordered had the thin strip of wood in the middle that was stapled in. Seems pretty solid to me, but mine are only 19" long and depending on how deep your drum, you may want to consider bamboo sticks to help add some strength to the comb. It was just mentioned some time in a December post in this forum, so you should be able to find it pretty easily.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    hinesville ga usa
    Posts
    359

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Go to lowe's buy the 1x2x8' which are actually 3/4 x 1 1/2, cut them to length in your case maybe 24 inches could work that way you could get four out of the 96 inch piece, then using a table saw shave 1/8" off leaving you the required 1 3/8 top bar. Then rip a slot down the middle that is about 1/8" deep, then cut a piece of 3/4" the length of the spline you want, then experiment with cutting the spline until you get a width that will fit in the slot, you may or may not have to glue it. Sounds complicated but when you get the hang of it, you can make them pretty fast. That size bar with honey will be rather heavy, so handle with care.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Terre Haute, Indiana
    Posts
    47

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Or take the easy route and have this guy make them for you.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/141157722237...84.m1555.l2649

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    A bigger concern is the width of your hive. 23" is BIG! My wooden Kenyan top bar hive is 17" wide with 19" bars. It's about 10-11" deep. If I had to do it all over again, I'd make it much smaller. The bigger the bars and deeper the hive, the large the combs. You *WILL* have comb collapse. The bars are way too big. Many people use between 15"-17" bars.


    If you are going to stick with it, which I suggest you don't, buy 2 inch long boards. Anything thinner, and your super wide bars will bow. Cut in 1 3/8" strips, then run your pieces down your saw so you get about a 3/4 cm groove down the middle. Use wood glue to glue popsicle sticks down the entire width of the groove.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    626

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Mine are 17.5" long and have a beveled wedge cut onto them. They were not easy to make, but I have seen people do similar by adding a triangle shaped molding onto them. Some people add dowels perpendicular to the bars to prevent collapse, you might try that.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Portland, OR, USA
    Posts
    641

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    I've made thousands of them myself with a table saw. If I was still making them myself in the garage, I'd probably just cut them to 1 3/8" wide and then put a kerf in them along with a popsicle stick, etc. Today my mill uses a moulder and a shaper to cut thousands at once. Here's a picture of 4,284 of them!

    1506447_10152186149247853_1965841647_n.jpg

    I'm with chr157y on the length issue. At 25", you are going to have MAJOR issues manipulating them, and you'll definitely have combs collapse. Mine are 17.5" and I find this is a good compromise. The longer they get, generally the shorter you need the height of the box/hive. Otherwise they are really hard to manage.

    Best,

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    29

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    To compensate for the length I was going to put a board in the bottom do it is a few inches shallower. So the combs would be a little more rectangular. Think this is a good idea?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Tom, how deep is the barrel? I put hardware cloth along the bottom of my old hive that was also very deep. It worked well. The bees could get through, but it stopped them from building. It would be worth doing research into kenyan top bars hive (sloaped sides) vs. regular horizontal top bar hives (straight sides). Without angled edges, bees tend to attach the comb to the side. Also, there's something about the angle of the edges making the comb stronger.


    I don't want to crush all of your plans, but it's better to get it right the first time. You don't want to have a horrible summer. I speak from experience. I had to rebuild my hive in August.
    Last edited by chr157y; 01-07-2014 at 05:04 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    29

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    It is about 11" deep. That's why I was considering putting a bottom board in it. I was going to make it out of wood or maybe mesh screen and cut the bottom out for a screened bottom. I built this hive because there are several people who have used this build successfully. They all say the comb is big and heavy, but no one has said anything about comb collapse. I am not putting all my eggs in one basket though. I am going to build a warre hive, to more normal dimensions. I am only going to make 20 bars for this barrel hive, and see how it goes before I make more this size.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Lizard Creek, Louisiana
    Posts
    377

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cacklewack View Post
    I've made thousands of them myself with a table saw. If I was still making them myself in the garage, I'd probably just cut them to 1 3/8" wide and then put a kerf in them along with a popsicle stick, etc.

    Best,
    Popsicle sticks is the route I'm taking but man I've just about eaten all the Popsicles I can stand:}
    I got to stop building hives or I'll never be able to eat another Popsicle lol


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Montgomery Twp, PA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Quote Originally Posted by Snookie View Post
    I got to stop building hives or I'll never be able to eat another Popsicle lol
    Go to Michael's or A.C. Moore with a coupon. They call popsicle sticks "craft sticks," but they're the exact same thing. You can get a box of 1000 for pretty cheap.
    Christy
    Beekeeping, working mom of 2 little future beekeepers in Pennsylvania.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Whitla Ab. Canada
    Posts
    432

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Quote Originally Posted by tomcheetoh View Post
    Hello all,
    I have just built a top bar hive body out of a plastic drum, reclaimed lumber and a table top. Now I need to make top bars. I am waiting on a book I ordered on how to build hives, but I was wondering any of you fine people had any experience making your own top bars? My hive body is 23" wide, so my bars will probably be 25" long. Any tips on how to cheaply made good top bars? Thanks in advance. I have a ton of fun building this first hive, I might want to do it again.
    Hello Tom:
    It's easy to make the top bars with the built in wedge on a table saw. With the long length of your bars it might be best, a one piece is stronger.
    -Rip a piece of stock to 1-3/8 by 1-1/4 what ever length you need.( you can use any length and cut them to size after forming the wedges so you don't have to keep resetting the saw.)
    -Set saw blade at 35 degree angle.
    -Set blade height at 1/2" high and 1" from fence.
    -With 1-3/8 side up make a pass to make the first side of the wedge, turn your wood and do another pass
    to make the other side of the wedge.
    -Now set saw blade back to 90 degrees, height of blade 1/2" and fence 7/8" from inside of blade.
    -Run board through with 1-1/4" side up and the uncut 1-3/8 side against fence. This removes the waste from around the wedge.
    -Repeat on other side.
    You should now have a wedge running the full length of the topbar. you will need to remove some of the wedge on each end to fit flat on your hive, so what I do is while I have the blade set for the last cuts I run the top bar through perpendicular to fence, wedge down and run her back and forth until I've removed 1" of wedge on each end. If all goes well they should look like my photos. I made them tonight in all of 15 minutes and sorry about the photo quality I used my cell phone camera and they all weren't quite finished yet. If I get time in the next day or so I'll put together a video showing how I do them.
    Colino
    IMAG0096.jpg
    IMAG0089.jpg
    Last edited by Colino; 01-07-2014 at 03:13 PM.
    A Bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it rains.- Robert Frost

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Virginia, Minnesota
    Posts
    57

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Quote Originally Posted by Colino View Post
    Hello Tom:
    It's easy to make the top bars with the built in wedge on a table saw. With the long length of your bars it might be best, a one piece is stronger.
    -Rip a piece of stock to 1-3/8 by 1-1/4 what ever length you need.( you can use any length and cut them to size after forming the wedges so you don't have to keep resetting the saw.)
    -Set saw blade at 35 degree angle.
    -Set blade height at 1/2" high and 1" from fence.
    -With 1-3/8 side up make a pass to make the first side of the wedge, turn your wood and do another pass
    to make the other side of the wedge.
    -Now set saw blade back to 90 degrees, height of blade 1/2" and fence 7/8" from inside of blade.
    -Run board through with 1-1/4" side up and the uncut 1-3/8 side against fence. This removes the waste from around the wedge.
    -Repeat on other side.
    You should now have a wedge running the full length of the topbar. you will need to remove some of the wedge on each end to fit flat on your hive, so what I do is while I have the blade set for the last cuts I run the top bar through perpendicular to fence, wedge down and run her back and forth until I've removed 1" of wedge on each end. If all goes well they should look like my photos. I made them tonight in all of 15 minutes and sorry about the photo quality I used my cell phone camera and they all weren't quite finished yet. If I get time in the next day or so I'll put together a video showing how I do them.
    Colino
    IMAG0096.jpg
    IMAG0089.jpg


    I made 36 of these on Sat. from 2x4 lumber (cut down to 1 1/4" x 1 1/2"), it took me about 2 hours, there are a lot of cuts but the results are worth it and the strength is much better then 3/4 stock. Out of 1 - 2"x4"x8' you get 10 bars (19") plus 10 - 1/4" spacers. If you want 1 3/8" bars you won't need the spacers. I used select 2x4 to limit the knots and made the hanger arm 3/4" think. Thanks for the detailed cutting instructions, It made it very do-able. The one thing I did different was I made the cut for my hanger (3/4") first, across the end of the 2x4 (1 1/2" deep) before cutting to width and the wedge. It made it easier to remove the wedge from the hanger arm at the end, no back and forth, just one simple cut at the 1 1/2" mark.
    TF far northern Minnesota

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Lizard Creek, Louisiana
    Posts
    377

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Well, I spent most of my MLK day morning trying to finish my Barrel Top Bar Hive

    Glued a lot of popsicle sticks lol

    Check it out:} Now warm enough to take my motorcycle out for a spin while the glue dries...I like dat me

    [IMG][/IMG]

    [IMG][/IMG]

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Whitla Ab. Canada
    Posts
    432

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Quote Originally Posted by longtom View Post
    I made 36 of these on Sat. from 2x4 lumber (cut down to 1 1/4" x 1 1/2"), it took me about 2 hours, there are a lot of cuts but the results are worth it and the strength is much better then 3/4 stock. Out of 1 - 2"x4"x8' you get 10 bars (19") plus 10 - 1/4" spacers. If you want 1 3/8" bars you won't need the spacers. I used select 2x4 to limit the knots and made the hanger arm 3/4" think. Thanks for the detailed cutting instructions, It made it very do-able. The one thing I did different was I made the cut for my hanger (3/4") first, across the end of the 2x4 (1 1/2" deep) before cutting to width and the wedge. It made it easier to remove the wedge from the hanger arm at the end, no back and forth, just one simple cut at the 1 1/2" mark.
    Hello LongTom:
    When you cut the wedges did you leave your stock 8 ft. long or cut then to length first? I usually leave my stock full length when cutting the wedges then cut them to length on my miter saw to save cuts.
    Thanks for your vote of confidence in my methods.
    Colino
    A Bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it rains.- Robert Frost

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Virginia, Minnesota
    Posts
    57

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    I cut mine to length so they would be more manageable and I wanted to make my end cuts first just like "stdavis" did in his pictures.
    TF far northern Minnesota

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Dale County, AL, United States
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    I am a total novice with a table saw- luckily I can use the wood shop on the Army base. Might even use some tool other than the table saw there some day! I did two passes a mm or so apart in the middle to get the kerf wide enough on 2" or 4" ripped into 2" x 1" furring strips, and then I glued paint stirrers into the grooves. TIred of asking for a few at a time at the box hardware stores, I asked around and ACE kindly sold me enough for the rest of the top bars for 10c/. I have to go back to the wood shop to clean up the wiggly ripped edges of the top bars which I cut with my handheld jig saw now I see what wide gaps these leave. So if I leave my top bars 1&3/4" wide the bees will likely build burr comb between them?

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    29

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    Here is hoping. I am brand new to this, so I fully expect everything to go wrong. But I am trying to prepare as best I can.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
    Posts
    4,898

    Default Re: How to build cheap top bars.

    I made these Kelley style on my table saw out of any waste wood. Two cuts with the dado and two cuts with the blade.


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