So, the good news on today's first inspection is that I did see plenty of evidence of a thriving hive: nectar, capped brood, about 8 bars with comb, larvae, and foraging bees returning loaded with pollen (yellow-orange color).
The inspection stand I built this morning was very helpful -- easy to build and held bars nicely. As this was my first ever "real" inspection, I will say that bee behavior was "fine" -- that is, there were some unhappy moments (details below), but all in all, they didn't mind my company much. I had a spray bottle with water, which I used liberally, and which the bees may have even appreciated, as many stuck around on the bars where the water gathered. (I have a small pond, and also put out a bucket with floaters yesterday, but I'm not sure they've found either of them. In fact, there is blooming lavender 5 ft from the entrance with nary a bee on it.) Also, I filled the feeder just before commencing.
I began by taking off the top which I haven't done since day three. There were no bees inside the roof, though a wasp did high tail it out of there (I checked and there was no nest). Then, the inspection stand was set on the half of the hive not being used.
Also, the bees established their first entrance in a tiny space I failed to close in when the hive was built. This has turned the feeder station into the front porch! They are also using the entrance hole quite actively so I didn't close it up.
After using the hive tool to loosen bars, I used a long slender knife to run between the bars to make sure I could lift them. This wasn't too much of a problem with the outer most piece, but the fact that there was any problem at all heralded problems to come.
The next piece really tells the story -- I think the chamfer molding I used was too big. The bees are building comb from either side of the comb guide rather than from bottom of the guide. In the second picture, the problem is very clear: they are creating bee space between the two sides of the bar. You can see the damage from the knife on the comb.
I ran the knife between a few more bars, and pulled one up...it was heartbreaking. I'd cut through brood, and the larvae was exposed. I didn't have the heart to pull the bar all the way out, so I don't have a picture, but just take the last pic above, make the comb thicker, cover it with bees, and place capped brood on the "inside" piece and newly exposed larvae on the "outside" piece. The knife shows the damage.
What is the best strategy for fixing this? I think I should cut new top bars with smaller comb guides and replace all of those yet to be used. Do I also need to cut ALL the comb from the current bars and re-attach down the center? I only took out 3 bars today -- the first two most outer ones and one which is 4 in from the edge. I feel like I will have to destroy so much of the brood nest! Is there a best pace for this so that the bees won't abscond? I guess they won't leave the queen -- she is clipped/marked, though I didn't see her today -- I didn't take out each piece though I did cut between all the bars. I imagine the bees will just repair all the damage I did today.