Low cost bee box construction
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
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    Wake Forest, NC
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    116

    Default Low cost bee box construction

    Hello. I have been using 2x10s to build bee boxes. They are $12.33 for a 16ft. 2x10 at Lowe's Hardware right now here in Wake Forest, NC. You can make a few boxes out of one board. This construction wood is cheaper and thicker than the thinner wood sold at Lowe's, which beekeepers commonly use for bee hives. I would customize the size of each box to be smaller because the standard 10 frame Langstroth box is very heavy when full of honey. And you would be able to split by the box to make spring splits as Michael Bush wrote about in his book, instead of having to take frames out when splitting hives.

    1122191534_orig.jpg
    The tongue and groove joint in picture below. Finger joints with nails are not very strong and so the bee boxes fall apart with use. With the joint in the picture below and the thicker wood together make a stronger bee box. Dado blade on table saw works quicker and easier than router.
    1122191536_orig.jpg
    Because the 2x10 board width is not quite enough for standard Langstroth frames you will need to add a ridge of wood for the frame rest instead of rabbet cutting out the frame rest. You will probably want screws instead of nails for this ridge since the propolise could pull the ridge up with the nails when taking boxes apart.
    1122191541-1_orig.jpg

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Winston-Salem, NC
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    485

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    That's cool, I'd like to see a bear try and tear that up
    NCSBA Certified Beekeeper 2nd yr 15 hives
    https://www.youtube.com/c/BackyardBeesNC

  4. #3

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    I am glad it is your back that is moving them.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Location
    Jasper, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    63

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Have not built one yet since my to-do list is so long. My idea is to just use 2 by material for the bottom brood box which will be moved the least. Then put a 45 degree chamfer on the top edge that stops half way in. That way there will be no ledge to catch rain with standard 3/4 thick boxes the rest of the way up.

    Also since a 2X10 is only 1/8' of an inch less than a standard deep (9 5/8") Can you not split the difference and cut the frame rest rabbit 1/16" less? Lose 1/16" bee space both top and bottom.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
    Posts
    2,744

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Lose 1/16" bee space both top and bottom

    Unfortunately that does not leave a bee space. If you are going to just use on the bottom box just add onto your bottom board.

    All in all with the time and money you will put in bees just pay for a board and go standard.
    It is hard to design a safety net that some will not use as a hammock.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    5,480

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    The actual width of nominal 2 X 10 is 9 1/4 inches. That would make stacking of boxes a real problem. For stationary bottom position you could get away with adding depth to the sides of your bottom board. You now have a box that cannot be set down without squishing bees if you have to move it off.
    Frank

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Location
    Jasper, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    63

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Bummer, was thinking of 2X4s and 2X6s... Been awhile since I used a 2x10 so had forgot they are 3/4" shy rather than 1/2". Actually just measured several dried out PT 2X10s and found one at 9" even and one at 9 3/8" most were very close to 9 1/4"

  9. #8

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    My time is worth to much to cut box parts. When i can buy them from the Amish for all most for the cost of lumber.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Bucks County PA
    Posts
    383

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    In order to pull this off with commonly available 2x stock, you'd need to go to 2x12 for deep boxes. Bee space matters. The extra thickness doesn't make for much utility, IMHO, and even if I used the material for whatever convenience that might bring, I'd still plane it down to no more than an inch but probably less. Weight matters. that said, I'm with my-smokepole...outside of some really lucky circumstances or having the ability to build in great volume, buying pre-cut boxes is often the same or less than buying the material. We just get the knocked down boxes from Mann Lake in our case when they are on sale. I'm a woodworking pro with pro suppliers and can't buy comparable material for less than the cost of buying the knockdown boxes when it comes to 5-10 at a time.
    Humble assistant to beek Alison as well as family purveyor of luxury Bee condominiums and Paparazzi activities...

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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    1,477

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    An option is to cut to 9 inches deep and then add 5/8 shim on top. The width of front and back shim is 3/8 less than 2x stock, to provide the rail for frames to rest on.
    Zone 3b. If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got!

  12. #11
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    5,480

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    That would be a good make do solution. Easy to replace the end section too when it gets ratted up from the hive tool.
    Frank

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Morgan County, IN
    Posts
    54

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    I've built some of my own deeps from some shipping crates I got from work. 1 x 12 pine boards, also have gotten some broken boards from Lowe's, made my own finger joint jig. Didn't think it was really worth the time and effort, also found if you're off a little bit it messes with bee space and I got a lot of burr comb between boxes. I guess if you're making nuc boxes it would be worth it.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Hot Springs, AR, USA
    Posts
    61

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim_in_PA View Post
    In order to pull this off with commonly available 2x stock, you'd need to go to 2x12 for deep boxes. Bee space matters. The extra thickness doesn't make for much utility, IMHO, and even if I used the material for whatever convenience that might bring, I'd still plane it down to no more than an inch but probably less. Weight matters. that said, I'm with my-smokepole...outside of some really lucky circumstances or having the ability to build in great volume, buying pre-cut boxes is often the same or less than buying the material. We just get the knocked down boxes from Mann Lake in our case when they are on sale. I'm a woodworking pro with pro suppliers and can't buy comparable material for less than the cost of buying the knockdown boxes when it comes to 5-10 at a time.
    I get mill-sawn 4/4 cypress, full 12", 10' etc. in 4'-6' lengths (called shorts) for $0.60/board/ft. at the mill. I'm not a pro, but that's about $5.00 for an 8-frame deep. Look around, you never know what you might find in your area.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    woodland, wa usa
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    73

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Ay yup, 2X side will work well including your tongue and groove joint.

    But your comment "Finger joints with nails are not very strong"???

    Really? I could kick a 3/4" finger jointed body all over a football field and it would hold up.

    Mine, I use glue and staples. But still kickable.

    Since I do not mistreat my bodies, the only way I can tell which ones I built +-20 years ago is by the rabbet piece butting the sides rather than going long.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
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    Wake Forest, NC
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    116

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Quote Originally Posted by jnqpblk View Post
    Ay yup, 2X side will work well including your tongue and groove joint.

    But your comment "Finger joints with nails are not very strong"???

    Really? I could kick a 3/4" finger jointed body all over a football field and it would hold up.

    Mine, I use glue and staples. But still kickable.

    Since I do not mistreat my bodies, the only way I can tell which ones I built +-20 years ago is by the rabbet piece butting the sides rather than going long.
    I haven't had much luck with exterior grade wood glues or construction adhesives. But I haven't tried many exterior construction adhesives yet. They seemed to lack in strength and were not weather proof even though people say they last a life time and that they will stick strongly. Applying the glue takes time to do, which I don't like. I have heard that clamps are key to the success of making glue work.


    The wood working friend that showed me this tongue-groove joint said that finger joints aren't truly a strong joint, as I have noticed using bee boxes... If you push from the inside with a hive tool (or pry bar in the case of badly propolized frames) the joint falls apart.

    William Bagwell:
    I have made lids and bottom boards also by using construction wood. It is easy to nail or screw a wooden bar across three 2x6s side by side to hold it together to be a bee hive lid or bottom board. For the lid though you might want to put aluminium to keep the rain from hitting the lid on top and keep the wood dry, so that it lasts longer. I haven't had much luck with exterior grade paints for this, water just comes in over time and the paint actually holds in the moisture so that the wood does not dry out. There might be certain types of paints that work better though.

    2x10s at Lowe's are much cheaper than 2x4s or 2x6s, so now I am going to use those instead to make bottoms and tops.

    You can also make top-bar hives using 6 lag screws and 4 nails. Each lag screw costs $1.60 and each washer $0.40, so it is not very cheap but simple to make. I am sorry I can't take pictures. If the lag screw is too small it will snap once you put strain or resistance on it with a rench or ratchet.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Bucks County PA
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    383

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Quote Originally Posted by HaplozygousNut View Post
    The wood working friend that showed me this tongue-groove joint said that finger joints aren't truly a strong joint, as I have noticed using bee boxes... If you push from the inside with a hive tool (or pry bar in the case of badly propolized frames) the joint falls apart.
    As a very long time woodworker, both as an avocation and now professionally, I have to respectfully disagree with your friend's statement. Finger joints that are cut properly and completely glued are extremely durable because the majority of the contact area is not end-grain to side grain. There's no way they should fall apart, even after years of use if they are correctly assembled. The glue has to be applied to all surfaces (a small acid brush helps with that) and then the joints need to be clamped securely while the glue cures for the time indicated by the manufacturer for that particular glue to setup enough that you can remove the clamps. Most typical glues used need to fully cure for at least 24 hours at that point before proceeding with any finishing processes and deployment. The fasteners that folks use will not generally hold stronger than the glue, again when it's properly done, although they absolutely help keep things aligned so you can use fewer clamps and screws obviously have a little more "holding" power than nails.
    Humble assistant to beek Alison as well as family purveyor of luxury Bee condominiums and Paparazzi activities...

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Box building 101, glue, clamp, nail, repeat.

    Even a finger joint that has not been glued is a bear to get apart if nailed from both sides as most are. Once glued, you will break the wood before the joint fails. I use Titebond III and it holds up to the weather very well, even if not painted. I have also stopped putting the aluminum on my tops. A coat of primer and two coats of exterior semi-gloss seem to be working fine, and I am in a humid environment.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
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    Salt Lake City, UT
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    1,357

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    I have used 2x12s for deeps and 2x10s for mediums because it is sometimes cheaper than the 1x lumber, but I have a bandsaw and planer to mill them to 3/4". But the least expensive is to use Advantech flooring. It is a sheet good, it is water proof, and it stays flat. I can make a hive body for about $6. I can get 5 deeps and a medium out of a sheet, or 8 mediums. A sheet is $34. It is slightly heavier. An Advantech deep weighs 11 lbs (still less than a box made with 2x) while a pine 1x deep weighs about 8 lbs.

    As for finger joints, when made to fit they are a super strong joint. When making finger joints reverse them from how they are shown in the plans. If you make the finger joints as shown in the plans then the frame rest end is unsupported and it can break off when prying frames out, ruining the box. Start from the bottom of the board. Begin with a notch on the end board, and do not cut the last notch at the top, leaving an extra wide finger instead. Begin with a finger on the side board and cut notches out. You'll be left with a 5/8" wide finger at the top. Clip this finger back to 3/8" long. That finger will then fill the end of the frame rest and you can overlap the end of the finger with the frame rest rabbet and secure it to the end of the finger, making it stronger. This is what you want.



    boxjointoverlap1.png
    Last edited by JConnolly; 12-03-2019 at 03:09 PM.
    Zone 6B

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Wake Forest, NC
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    116

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    Box building 101, glue, clamp, nail, repeat.

    Even a finger joint that has not been glued is a bear to get apart if nailed from both sides as most are. Once glued, you will break the wood before the joint fails. I use Titebond III and it holds up to the weather very well, even if not painted. I have also stopped putting the aluminum on my tops. A coat of primer and two coats of exterior semi-gloss seem to be working fine, and I am in a humid environment.
    I see that it is commonly thought otherwise, but as I have said before the finger joints seem to be a rather weak joint. I am gentle with the hives in order to not pull them apart. The Titebond III I have tried was better than the exterior grade liquid nail in holding up against moisture, but still would over a few months dissolve from being exposed to rain in our humid climate here in North Carolina.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    5,480

    Default Re: Low cost bee box construction

    If a person is not prepared to make tight fitting finger joints then they would be better off with rabbeted joins. Common constsruction glues dont have much strength as gap fillers!
    I have made a few finger joint boxes and it takes know how and discipline to get tight fits. I have seen lots of video of terribly poor glue application. Well fit and glued they cant be beat for strength.

    Rabbeting is so much easier in field conditions of boards with some cup etc. Really hard to get accurate finger joints. I had to shim a bit under the top partial finger.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Frank

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