Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question
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  1. #1
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    Default Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    I am going to be making two Tanzanian top bar hives following instructions in Michael Bush's book/ website. I've called around to local hardware stores and I think I have all lumbar sizing figured out, except top bars.

    16- bars 19” by 11/4” by 3/8”
    18- bars 19” by 11/2” by 3/8”

    The above is what I am to look for but over the phone they didn't seem to know or find the 3/8" (1/2" only) and width wise only the 1 1/2" was found.

    What am I looking for? What phrasing (2x4, etc?) Or cut size? I am assuming the measurements above are "true size." Everything appears to be thicker and nothing at 1 1/4". I am assuming 1/2" would be fine.

    Thanks you for the replies.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    Cut your lumber to whatever size you want.

  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim KS View Post
    Cut your lumber to whatever size you want.
    I don't have any equipment. I will be trying to get the boats cut at the hardware store, except for bars which I plan to hand cut. I'm not sure what "stock"pieces I should be looking for for the above.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    In my opinion 3/8" is too thin. Phil Chandler specs his at 3/4". When I played with TBHs I made mine a full 1" - after all, the top bars form the top of the hive and so the thicker the better (within reason).
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    If you want bars that are 1.5" wide, the simplest approach is to buy what are called 1x2 lumber. Those will be 1.5" wide by 0.75" thick by whatever length you buy. 8ft long is pretty standard, but other lengths may be available.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    not sure were your geting the 3/8 thickness from... my bars are any were from 5/8" ( made out of fence pickets) to 1"+(ruff sawn lumber)
    thicker bars are prefered in my book for the extra insulation

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    We bought a 2 x 6, and used a table saw to cut pieces that were 1 3/8 wide and about 1" deep. The depth should be at least 5/8 and really should be closer to 1". This is natural insulation (of course there will be a lid over it, but still) that helps the bees be able to regulate their environment better. We used a table saw with a jig to cut the bars to length. Though another time we cut the 2x6 to length first, then cut the bars off that...

    I used triangular pieces that are inside corner molding as the bees' comb guide - it can be nailed down triangle part up! Go to your big box lumber store, it should be about 88 cents per linear foot for unfinished pine. I would drill 3 nail holes equally spaced along the ridge line, then I used 1" finish nails to hammer them in. My bars are 20" long, so they extend past the edge of a Lang box, but the comb could fit in a lang box. The inside corner molding would be about 15" long, so there was at least 2.5" between the end of the bar and the start of the molding. It's good to have something that protrudes a bit - Michael Bush's website has great info about that. Many ways to approach this. And bees draw great comb sometimes without any guide at all... say if you decide to put the bar triangle guide side UP in the box, for some stupid reason, forget about it, and the bees draw comb on the bar like no big deal...

    The width is a dimension to think carefully about... if you have bars that are 1.5" wide, then the bees will try to put more than 1 comb on 1 bar pretty regularly. You will get good at correcting this. You should expect to inspect every 7-10 days. Every 5-7 is probably better when it is warm and you are feeding them sugar syrup so they can quickly draw out comb. Yes, you should expect to feed a new colony so they get that comb drawn out lickety-split. If you know now that you will have long stretches where you cannot visit the hive and open it up, STOP NOW and do not attempt a top BAR hive, but build one that can accommodate frames instead. the bees don't care... and bars are only a bit cheaper. If you want natural comb, use foundationless frames.

    Back to bars...If you have bars that are 1 3/8 wide, the bees will try to put 1 comb on 2 bars, after they have made about 10 or so brood comb. A Langstroth frame is 1 3/8 wide, for reference. They like the honey bars to be wider. I have spacers - 1/4" or less wide, and about as tall as the bars - that I put between a "fat" comb and its neighbor.

    If you can't cut your bars to the width you want, have you considered finding a friend with a table saw? Cutting enough bars from a 2 x 6 or a 2 x 8 is pretty quick, especially if you can then cut those to length. Maybe worth a case of beer? or future shares of honey!

    If none of your pals are equipped with a table saw, you can easily find a carpenter who for a fee would cut the bars to the desired with from a 2 x 6 or 2 x 8. It can be done!!!! My husband is friends with the table saw, I avoid it and never turn it on.

    Think carefully now about your entrances and bees' access to the hive. And about your intended mite treatment method. The varroa mite will be on some of your bees, and while you can get away with a year or so without treating, you may end up with smaller colonies who are not strong enough to make honey. There are beekeepers, especially in the south, who have documented good "overwinter" survival and good honey production, but in the north, the many who have tried have been disappointed with unacceptably high losses (more than 50%) and low yields. And high likelihood to swarm. They are your bees, you get to decide, one of the many ways beekeeping is challenging, because you have to make the call, and not doing anything is still a form of mite management.

    I ended up making a 1" hole in the bottom of the hive, with a hole saw bit because the bottom of the hive is thin luon. That's thin plywood, I think. There were bees in it at the time. This is not fun. I would take my oxalic acid vaporizer, which is the $100 or so wand with a heating element in it, and put it on the hole. Lots of vapor would escape and flow over me. This is not an optimal method of mite treatment, but I had on goggles and a organic vapor acid gas mask. So I didn't die. Another poster - shoot, I don't recall the name - has an actual slot in the bottom cut in for the wand to be placed in. A piece of wood is in the slot when the slot is not in use. Keep in mind that for the Langstroth hive, you can put the wand into the hive under the combs, but you WILL NOT be able to do that in a top bar hive - combs drawn to within 3/8 inch of the bottom of the hive, and the wand is at least 1/2" deep. Making the hive taller makes the combs longer, doesn't change the bee space. Only the use of frames allows you to control the bee space.

    Access for this kind of mite treatment needs to be close to the center of the brood nest - about bar 8.

    I have the bees' main entrance at the narrow end of my Tanzanian hives. I have 3, a bit bigger than a wine cork, but can be plugged with a wine cork, very securely with a wine cork with a rubber band around it. This I drilled with a regular drill and a 1" bit. I think it is a spade bit? Again, 3 on that side. Also, 3 in the middle. And 3 at the other end. THose are for transforming the 1 hive (temporarily) into 3 "nucs". During the summer, I have all 3 entrances open on one narrow side, and sometimes 1 on the middle side. During the winter, just 1 on the narrow side.

    When the hive is small, just bees and under 10 bars drawn out, I also only use 1 entrance, and a follower board that only gives the bees enough room to work on like 2 more bars that they currently occupy. You'll want 2 followers per hive body. little john has a website - http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/beek15.htm where he talks about making a follower for a different type of hive, with PVC sheets clipped to a squishy arc that is the "side" of the follower. Since the side of the hive will warp with time, this is how I am making mine from now on!!! And I have the bottom go to the bottom of the hive, so it is bee-tight, but I have holes in it so the bees can go through if I want an inverted jar with holes for feeding sugar syrup on the other side. The kenyan hives followers do not go down to the bottom, but you can make something to stuff in a gap if you like that design - in case you need a bee-tight divider.

    My hives are 42" because that way we get 2 lids from 1 sheet of plywood. But I recommend 48". My 42" hive has room for 25 bars of bees, and a healthy queen will be able to lay enough eggs to eventually have every single bar in that hive covered with bees. You want that, for there to be honey production!!!! but just keep in mind a queen can easily populate a hive that far, and you will only be able to get 1 full size in a hive, and it is harder to get full bars out and empty bars in that you think...

    Also do find a mentor. Even if they use Langstroth hives, bees are bees, and it takes some guidance to be able to read the condition of the colony from the combs. The traffic in and out, and even the presence of bees tells you only that there were eggs laid in the last couple months. A hive that will be dead before winter can look strong if you are only looking at the entrance traffic and miss the cues about the presence, absence or poor state of a queen in the hive.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    to echo what others have said I think "1 3/8" was misread to be only "3/8", so I think you are using the wrong size. Your top-bars need to be about 1 3/8" wide. (Some people will say 1 1/4, and some will say 1 1/2, and some will suggest different sizes for honey or to use "shims". I'm not getting into all of that here... if you start with 1 3/8 that should get you pretty far into your first year).

    Radar Sidetrack mentioned "1x2" lumber, and that's right on. I personally cut top bars out of a "2x4" which has been ever so slightly planed from 1.5" to slightly less. But if you don't want to saw all day you can make bars out of 1x2 lumber pretty much without any modification... a little planing or sanding if you want to. Any "two by" lumber will be almost exactly the right width.

  10. #9
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    Nov 2018
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    Default

    Thanks for the replies. I really appreciate it.

    My understanding is that the honey comb is to be 1.25" wide and the brood comb 1.5". The 1 3/8" is a compromise on this. So, if I can, then have both and managing the hive I place then appropriately as they draw the comb. This negates the need for spacers. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    I will ask around at my local meeting if anybody wants to help me cut some wood. 🙂

    I'm out of Central Florida btw. Thank you again.

  11. #10
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by trishbookworm View Post
    We bought a 2 x 6, and used a table saw to cut pieces that were 1 3/8 wide and about 1" deep. The depth should be at least 5/8 and really should be closer to 1". This is natural insulation (of course there will be a lid over it, but still) that helps the bees be able to regulate their environment better. We used a table saw with a jig to cut the bars to length. Though another time we cut the 2x6 to length first, then cut the bars off that...

    I used triangular pieces that are inside corner molding as the bees' comb guide - it can be nailed down triangle part up! Go to your big box lumber store, it should be about 88 cents per linear foot for unfinished pine. I would drill 3 nail holes equally spaced along the ridge line, then I used 1" finish nails to hammer them in. My bars are 20" long, so they extend past the edge of a Lang box, but the comb could fit in a lang box. The inside corner molding would be about 15" long, so there was at least 2.5" between the end of the bar and the start of the molding. It's good to have something that protrudes a bit - Michael Bush's website has great info about that. Many ways to approach this. And bees draw great comb sometimes without any guide at all... say if you decide to put the bar triangle guide side UP in the box, for some stupid reason, forget about it, and the bees draw comb on the bar like no big deal... [IMG class=inlineimg]https://www.beesource.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif[/IMG]

    The width is a dimension to think carefully about... if you have bars that are 1.5" wide, then the bees will try to put more than 1 comb on 1 bar pretty regularly. You will get good at correcting this. You should expect to inspect every 7-10 days. Every 5-7 is probably better when it is warm and you are feeding them sugar syrup so they can quickly draw out comb. Yes, you should expect to feed a new colony so they get that comb drawn out lickety-split. If you know now that you will have long stretches where you cannot visit the hive and open it up, STOP NOW and do not attempt a top BAR hive, but build one that can accommodate frames instead. the bees don't care... and bars are only a bit cheaper. If you want natural comb, use foundationless frames.

    Back to bars...If you have bars that are 1 3/8 wide, the bees will try to put 1 comb on 2 bars, after they have made about 10 or so brood comb. A Langstroth frame is 1 3/8 wide, for reference. They like the honey bars to be wider. I have spacers - 1/4" or less wide, and about as tall as the bars - that I put between a "fat" comb and its neighbor.

    If you can't cut your bars to the width you want, have you considered finding a friend with a table saw? Cutting enough bars from a 2 x 6 or a 2 x 8 is pretty quick, especially if you can then cut those to length. Maybe worth a case of beer? or future shares of honey!

    If none of your pals are equipped with a table saw, you can easily find a carpenter who for a fee would cut the bars to the desired with from a 2 x 6 or 2 x 8. It can be done!!!! My husband is friends with the table saw, I avoid it and never turn it on. [IMG class=inlineimg]https://www.beesource.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif[/IMG]

    Think carefully now about your entrances and bees' access to the hive. And about your intended mite treatment method. The varroa mite will be on some of your bees, and while you can get away with a year or so without treating, you may end up with smaller colonies who are not strong enough to make honey. There are beekeepers, especially in the south, who have documented good "overwinter" survival and good honey production, but in the north, the many who have tried have been disappointed with unacceptably high losses (more than 50%) and low yields. And high likelihood to swarm. They are your bees, you get to decide, one of the many ways beekeeping is challenging, because you have to make the call, and not doing anything is still a form of mite management.

    I ended up making a 1" hole in the bottom of the hive, with a hole saw bit because the bottom of the hive is thin luon. That's thin plywood, I think. There were bees in it at the time. This is not fun. I would take my oxalic acid vaporizer, which is the $100 or so wand with a heating element in it, and put it on the hole. Lots of vapor would escape and flow over me. This is not an optimal method of mite treatment, but I had on goggles and a organic vapor acid gas mask. So I didn't die. [IMG class=inlineimg]https://www.beesource.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif[/IMG] Another poster - shoot, I don't recall the name - has an actual slot in the bottom cut in for the wand to be placed in. A piece of wood is in the slot when the slot is not in use. Keep in mind that for the Langstroth hive, you can put the wand into the hive under the combs, but you WILL NOT be able to do that in a top bar hive - combs drawn to within 3/8 inch of the bottom of the hive, and the wand is at least 1/2" deep. Making the hive taller makes the combs longer, doesn't change the bee space. Only the use of frames allows you to control the bee space.

    Access for this kind of mite treatment needs to be close to the center of the brood nest - about bar 8.

    I have the bees' main entrance at the narrow end of my Tanzanian hives. I have 3, a bit bigger than a wine cork, but can be plugged with a wine cork, very securely with a wine cork with a rubber band around it. [IMG class=inlineimg]https://www.beesource.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif[/IMG] This I drilled with a regular drill and a 1" bit. I think it is a spade bit? Again, 3 on that side. Also, 3 in the middle. And 3 at the other end. THose are for transforming the 1 hive (temporarily) into 3 "nucs". During the summer, I have all 3 entrances open on one narrow side, and sometimes 1 on the middle side. During the winter, just 1 on the narrow side.

    When the hive is small, just bees and under 10 bars drawn out, I also only use 1 entrance, and a follower board that only gives the bees enough room to work on like 2 more bars that they currently occupy. You'll want 2 followers per hive body. little john has a website - http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/beek15.htm where he talks about making a follower for a different type of hive, with PVC sheets clipped to a squishy arc that is the "side" of the follower. Since the side of the hive will warp with time, this is how I am making mine from now on!!! And I have the bottom go to the bottom of the hive, so it is bee-tight, but I have holes in it so the bees can go through if I want an inverted jar with holes for feeding sugar syrup on the other side. The kenyan hives followers do not go down to the bottom, but you can make something to stuff in a gap if you like that design - in case you need a bee-tight divider.

    My hives are 42" because that way we get 2 lids from 1 sheet of plywood. But I recommend 48". My 42" hive has room for 25 bars of bees, and a healthy queen will be able to lay enough eggs to eventually have every single bar in that hive covered with bees. You want that, for there to be honey production!!!! but just keep in mind a queen can easily populate a hive that far, and you will only be able to get 1 full size in a hive, and it is harder to get full bars out and empty bars in that you think...

    Also do find a mentor. Even if they use Langstroth hives, bees are bees, and it takes some guidance to be able to read the condition of the colony from the combs. The traffic in and out, and even the presence of bees tells you only that there were eggs laid in the last couple months. A hive that will be dead before winter can look strong if you are only looking at the entrance traffic and miss the cues about the presence, absence or poor state of a queen in the hive.
    Thank you for the incredibly detailed post. You answered a bunch of questions I didn't know I had.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    Quote Originally Posted by BoneBee View Post
    My understanding is that the honey comb is to be 1.25" wide and the brood comb 1.5".
    Other way around ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    I guess it depends on how you manage your hives and likely to some extent the genetics of your stock

    I like to move older combs to the back to rotate then out as they get harvested and I do a lot of "checker boarding" placing empty bars between drawn bars. I also make a lot of splits, run mating nucs, etc. my preference is to keep all my bars the same size...

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    Quote Originally Posted by BoneBee View Post
    I don't have any equipment. I will be trying to get the boats cut at the hardware store, except for bars which I plan to hand cut. I'm not sure what "stock"pieces I should be looking for for the above.
    I'm sorry, but I presumed that you meant "building" a hive when you said 'make'. It might be tough finding lumber pre-cut to the exact measurements of your plans.

    Others seem to have answered your questions with more detail than I. Good luck with your project.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    1X2 furring strips (actual 1 1/2 X 3/4) are cheap. Get a handsaw to cut them to length and a hand plane to adjust the width. Watch some youtube videos of the woodwright's shop to get ideas how to keep them from sliding away when you plane them, basically push them into a V shaped stop on your bench. You should be able to make all you need in an afternoon and still have time for coffee.
    Bill

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    >16- bars 19” by 1-1/4” by 3/8”
    >18- bars 19” by 1-1/2” by 3/8”

    If you start with some laths from the lumber yard (they are 1-1/2" x 3/8"x 48") and cut them to length. Then add a piece of chamfer molding for a comb guide, the comb guide will also add a lot of stiffness to the bar.

    >The above is what I am to look for but over the phone they didn't seem to know or find the 3/8" (1/2" only) and width wise only the 1 1/2" was found.

    Lath only comes in 1-1/2" To get 1-1/4" you will have to rip them down to width.

    >What am I looking for? What phrasing (2x4, etc?) Or cut size? I am assuming the measurements above are "true size." Everything appears to be thicker and nothing at 1 1/4". I am assuming 1/2" would be fine.

    My reason for 3/8" is that is the thickness of the ears on the top bar of a langstroth frame. It makes a hive that I can put Langstroth frames in it or 3/8" top bars. I make the frame rest rabbet 3/4" deep to leave 3/8" above the bars so the bees can patrol it if they want and small hive beetles or ants can't hide there.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  17. #16
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >16- bars 19” by 1-1/4” by 3/8”
    >18- bars 19” by 1-1/2” by 3/8”

    If you start with some laths from the lumber yard (they are 1-1/2" x 3/8"x 48") and cut them to length. Then add a piece of chamfer molding for a comb guide, the comb guide will also add a lot of stiffness to the bar.

    >The above is what I am to look for but over the phone they didn't seem to know or find the 3/8" (1/2" only) and width wise only the 1 1/2" was found.

    Lath only comes in 1-1/2" To get 1-1/4" you will have to rip them down to width.

    >What am I looking for? What phrasing (2x4, etc?) Or cut size? I am assuming the measurements above are "true size." Everything appears to be thicker and nothing at 1 1/4". I am assuming 1/2" would be fine.

    My reason for 3/8" is that is the thickness of the ears on the top bar of a langstroth frame. It makes a hive that I can put Langstroth frames in it or 3/8" top bars. I make the frame rest rabbet 3/4" deep to leave 3/8" above the bars so the bees can patrol it if they want and small hive beetles or ants can't hide there.
    How do you attach the camfer molding?

    And thank you for your reply.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    Mr Bush refers to plasterer's lath. Not used much any more as a base for plaster, although a small demand may exist for crafts and such.

    If you want a 3/8 end on the bar you could saw half way through a 3/4 piece and chisel away the waste. Otherwise you could find someone with a table saw and ask them to rip them out of two by (actual 1 1/2 inch) material. If you aren't in a hurry this is something a woodworker would make out of scraps from other jobs, perhaps for a promise of future honey.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    Quote Originally Posted by BoneBee View Post
    My understanding is that the honey comb is to be 1.25" wide and the brood comb 1.5". The 1 3/8" is a compromise on this.
    LJ is correct that the brood works better at the smaller spacing of 1.25". I found it much simpler to use a single width bar. It is much easier to get straight comb drawn in the middle of the brood. Then older comb can be moved down for honey storage. You can use spacers to allow them to draw the comb out wider. Unfortunately, this means the standard 2x material is too wide without cutting.

    The 1 3/8" is a compromise, but it works. This is the Langstroth frame standard width. Making the hive such that it can accept frames is also an advantage if you need to install a nuc, do a cutout or provide frames for friends. Flexibility is a great benefit.

    By the way, you will read many times that location is critical. You'll get better advice on things if you update your profile.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    >How do you attach the camfer molding?

    Glue and nails. If the nails go all the way through, clinch them. I use outdoor carpenter's glue (Titebond or Elmer's).
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Total newbie asking bar (lumbar) question

    What I made my top bars out of was standard 1x2 (ie. 1"x2") material. That designation represents the rough cut size of wood that is then finished smooth all four sides and is actually much closer to 3/4"x 1 1/2", but the 1x2 rough cut size is still the verbiage used even though the wood is then smoothed/finished to a considerably smaller size. This tends to be sizing for softwoods, which tend to be rough cut to the inch. The 3/4" thickness I simply put a rabbet underneath the ends to rest on the TBH sides and ripped the 1 1/2" width down to 1 5/16", a measurement just under the 1" comb thickness plus 3/8" beespace. The 1/16" inch under 3/8" beespace is for the lack of a perfectly straight cut that one actually acquires in wood. But when putting my 1 5/16" wide top bars all together, I got a near perfect layout on 1 3/8" per topbar.

    Verbiage for hardwoods, which tend to be used more in more multiples to the inch, are termed so many quarter, and I'm not clear, ie. do not recall whether that so many quarter is the finished size or rough.

    My TBH I was building from general sizing off the net, but altered so the trough could be made of 48" 2x4's. So, for the bottom I used 2, and 3 for the sides. Bottom edges were given a +-15 degree bevel to fit the slope of the sides.

    If I were to do over again, for this area, SW WA, I'd add at least one more 2x4 to the sides to get a taller comb, allowing bees to have more ample stores above the brood chamber, rather than at end. Here, it is important during the cold of winter for bees to be able to go up to access stores, since when in a tight cluster and needing to move sideways to access stores, they'll die (starve) instead, since they are unable to move/access stores more than about 1/2" to the side from a tight cluster.
    Last edited by jnqpblk; 12-15-2018 at 04:40 AM.

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