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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For equipment that uses frames, if one is to move to purely foundation-less, what are the considerations for the best "strip" treatment?

I have recently seen several more designs for frames than I originally knew about. So up to this point there were just a few choices:
1. Wedge frames. These had the design such that you broke off the wedge put in a piece of foundation and nailed/stapled it in tight using the wedge.
The alternative was to turn the wedge sideways, and nail it in sans foundation and it provided a strip of wood for the bees to lay out their comb straight.
2. Slotted frames. These had a slot through the top rail that you spread slightly and slid in a sheet of foundation then let it pinch, and either bent the foundation over or used some hot wax as glue.
The alternative was to cut a thin piece of wood, or use a tongue depressor or ice cream stick etc in place of the foundation and pinch or tack it in place.
3. Completely flat top frame. Supposedly one could run a bead of wax along the underside and that would be good enough to cue the bees where/how to make a straight line.
4. Slightly raised angle. This seems like a bit much for a table saw employing about 4 additional passes, to make this little raised angle in the center. as shown here https://www.beesource.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/topbarstyles.png
5. Recently I saw where the whole triangle as wide as the top bar was cut and added after the fact. Similar to the one in #4 but the angle was the whole width of the bar.
6. What I haven's seen but seemed intuitive, was merely to basically rabbet both sides leaving the raised tongue (like a t&g board) without bringing it to a point.

Now I understand that it goes further into just using a narrow strip of foundation, but let's leave that out for the moment.

Seems to me that #1 is great if you already own frames made by a mfg and you are choosing not to use the foundation. I also assume you could do similar action with #1 and #2 as far as gluing in something to act as the starter. And it seems ice cream sticks, paint stirrers, and for some reason tongue depressors are the items of choice. This brings up the first question.

#3 seems dubious to me, and I have only seen 1 article suggesting it, and really only read one saying absolutely that they didn't like it. Otherwise I didn't see much about this at all.

#4 seems wonderfully imaginative, and by that I mean "over engineered." as #5 comes into play with this, I don't quite get the benefit of the triangle. I think perfectbee sells #4 and the big triangle I saw on one of the "Lazy Treatment Free" presentations.

Q1 . Does the thickness of the starter strip matter? Or is it simply a matter of how that groove comes into existence? (e.g. table saw kerf, or mfg provided slot presumably based on the foundation you would be using with it. Obviously, it needs to be some amount less than the width of the top bar itself or the self spaced style of top bars would be sufficient in and of themselves. Perhaps at least so much that you would get the 5 points of contact?

Q2. Does the triangle provide any benefit to comb strength, or straightness, or is it merely intended to make something presumably difficult for someone to manufacture themselves, (and #5 as a hold my beer, it ain't so hard :) )

Q3. I see some frame designs have the tilted ears (angle trimmed) and I assume that is merely to reduce the surface contact area with the frame rest to either make it easier to break the propolis seals, or compensate for messy frame rest areas from prior propolization. Or perhaps it is meant to center the frame laterally across the box? Is there any other benefit to this design?

Q4. Frame width. There seems to be a great disparity in frame widths both in available plans, as well as from different manufacturers. So considering that an 8 frame body is 12-1/4 you couldn't possibly have frames more than 1-1/2. I have read articles that suggest 1-1/4 is the optimal width because comb depth is some value and bee space does this and that... etc. But I have seen where (and maybe because it is in supers rather than boxes) you can spread frames apart to do 9 in a 10 frame box or 7 in an 8 frame box. So is this magic, or "because manholes are round manhole covers are round too" kind of thing, where well this is an 8 frame box so the frames need to be able to fit, but not too floppy... but floppy enough to pull without rolling everyone?

Anyway, I never knew there were so many different designs for a given item. So far when I have made my own frames in the past, I merely copied what I had from whichever mfg I bought from, probably better bee. But as I acquired nucs, and traded equipment I saw other designs. Just figuring if I am going to set up some processes to run off a bunch of them, I should pick a design that is optimal, then create the processes to make it easy. Just wondering, if any of these design differences have made any difference for anyone using them. They don't all seem that much different to me, but I have found in the past, making assumptions on appearance tends to overlook something.
 

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to overlook something.
In sense of construction non straight combs are stronger and that is probably built in bees' instinct. Thus the longer the frame is it is less likely that the combs will fit in frame. The frames across (or along) the LR width are short enough that the bee box (with foundationless frames) is ready for swarm "out of the box".
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
In sense of construction non straight combs are stronger and that is probably built in bees' instinct. Thus the longer the frame is it is less likely that the combs will fit in frame. The frames across (or along) the LR width are short enough that the bee box (with foundationless frames) is ready for swarm "out of the box".
I am not sure I am following the logistics of your statement, but I think you are saying that bees don't want to follow a straight line when making comb? And that not using foundation, makes they want to swarm more? As for length, I have seen images from TBH and also some of these wide and deep where the bees starting to add comb to the frame made 2 and even 3 of those little semicircle starting pads of comb that eventually comes down to fill that big old frame somehow. I have seen where people recommend against putting frames with foundation in bait hives, because the bees will interpret it as a wall, or something that makes they think there is less space. At least as far as scouts go. So I am not exactly sure why they would be more likely to swarm from a box without foundation, certainly, they would perceive available space, no? Or am I misunderstanding what you were saying?
 

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I started the conversion to foundation-less this year. Trust me, don't overthink it. I started to do just that, but went with the simple approach to see what happened.
I used regular slotted top bar frames. I had some plaster lathe wood left over from some project or other. I ripped it into strips on the table saw and cut to length of the top bar slot. It was too thick to fit in the slot so I ran it over the belt sander on one edge to thin it down. Then I just gently pounded each strip into the slot with a little TB II glue and dropped them into the hives after they dried.
I placed them between existing drawn combs as a guide.
The results are fantastic. The bees are drawing them out faster than they ever drew out foundation. It's dead straight and beautiful. I noticed more drone comb at first and got a little worried, but I let it run it's course. The bees are designing it as they see fit and a lot more worker comb is being drawn now. The cells are larger than i expected but I haven't measured them.
I didn't use anything on the started strip at all. Just the bare wood.
In future frames, I am using the bamboo BBQ skewer system where two or three skewers are installed vertically in the frame for support of the comb.

Just give them a frame with a starter strip and let 'em have at it. Make sure the hives are level so they build straight down. I'll be inspecting again either later today or tomorrow. I'll post some pics of their work.
 

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Absinthe,

Are you going to be making your own frames? Is this why you started this thread? The reason I ask is that commercially made frames either have a grove or a strip that you break off. Either of these can be easily converted to foundationless frames. Either by turning the wedge sideways and stapling it so it hangs down. Or if you have a groove you need to add a strip of wood into the groove. I always have cut offs from 1xs left over that I can rip down to fit into the groove.

If you are making your own top bar for the frames I would consider cutting a groove into the center bottom of the bar maybe 1/4" deep. Then ripping a strip to insert into that kerf. The point is keep it narrow and 1/4" - 1/2" out from the frame bottom. If you tried to glue a thin strip on the bottom it wouldn't be very sturdy.

Do you drill holes in the sides of your end bars for fishing line? I find that 30 or 40 lbs test works well. 3 or 4 holes gives you support for your comb being built. I started doing this after the fresh comb broke off when I was moving it around to check for queens or just looking for eggs.

Good Luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yes I will be building my own frames. And I will be going to foundation-less, or so is my intent. I have built some of my frames in the past, mostly as an exercise in discipline. They seemed to be cheaper to buy, and at the time I had none and needed a lot. So it just made more sense. However, looking at the design, they are neither expensive to produce nor much more time consuming than buying them and assembling them and dealing with rejects that have to be called back about and so on and so forth. I have a full working wood shop and none of this is all that difficult, and once a jig is created, any task can simply be reproduced as many times as necessary. I am looking at a move to horizontal, and up until a few days ago I was convinced that there may have been a benefit to the layens size/shape of frame. But more and more I am leaning towards something closer to Langstroth, but will likely make my own frames anyway.

It is not my intent to overthink any of this. It just made for an curious question, especially since that one with the raised diamond shape in the center seemed like someone had gone to a lot of trouble to create a design that was only convenient to be made like a molding run in relief.

So the skewers, are for support? Why not wire or monofilament?
I am questioning, that if I go with horizontal hives, if I want to convert over to something that is not so self spacing so that the top bars don't let the bees come up through them. I see where some designs just add additional wood slats or soft covers above them so that when the top is opened the bees are not exposed. Like multiple inner covers. Just not sure if having the touching topbars eliminates one more moving part, or simply gives me more propolis potential troubles. I want to eventially get to a single standard frame, whether they are connected together or not.

But, I am getting off the topic now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi Jim, I think I don't have quite a grasp on this forum thing as I used to. I started answering someone else's response based on your response. :(

Yes, I will. Initially, or at least up until the past few days, I was convinced that I was moving to a non-standard frame, but more and more I am being convinced that there is no reasonable benefit to doing so. That said, the cost, and time is not that big of a deal, so might as well make my own. I can certainly copy any of the existing styles, or reinvent the wheel with my own. As I was looking at the things that were out there, it just brought up questions. More curiosity and interest than any design difficulties. I have done "all the things" putting strips in grooves, turning wedges and so on already. And if I am not making the frames to take a wedge, I could certainly just cut a slot, and eliminate the weird hanging cut that leaves the wedge barely hanging on. Great for shipping, not so useful otherwise :)

The one thing that i was thinking and I will have to try is simply making the top bar thicker initially, and making a tongue on the face of it. Same number of cuts. There may be a grain issue, but I doubt it. If it can be 1/4" thick that would be cherry! That is up for experimentation, but intuitively, it just seems like an interesting solution that I haven't seen yet.

As for wiring and supporting I have not considered a solution yet. Up until now, I have used wired foundation and plastic foundation, neither of which cared to have any additional support. However, with larger overall frames, I really need to consider some structural support. I fear real wire, because I assume 1. it would be expensive, and 2. it would require ferrules so as to not split the frames along the grain. Such would be the direction of the forces. I assume monofilament would not pose the splitting problem without the ferrules but maybe not, because you can certainly cut things with mono-filament. Other than that I don't know if there is really a benefit of one over the other. Though, perhaps dowels/skewers/rods/shelves/ and other support ideas have been batted around as well. Not sold on any single one of them, so perhaps try some like this and others like that and so on. On the Layens frames I saw they run a dowel rod across the center of the frame for both frame integrity and comb support. That seemed interesting. And one of the YouTubers did a thing where he added 2 small "shelves", thinner than the bottom bar, but I think wider. If you look really quick his frames look like they are 3 mediums stacked one atop the other until you notice that there are not really interspersed top bars.
 

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For cutting a top bar with a vee on it this is how I did the one time I did it.

IMG_0749_zpslgow18jm.jpg

  1. I started with straight 2x4 blanks about 40" long. That makes four top bars per blank and you'll only get 8 top bars from a standard 2x4. I started with the boards a little long so I could start each cut and then double check my set up and then trim all the test cuts off later.
  2. I raised the saw blade to 1/4" and set it at 30°. I cut a kerf down the middle, then flipped the board and cut the other kerfs defining the vee.
  3. I returned the blade to 90° and raised the blade to 7/8" high. With the fence set to 1/4" to the outside of the blade I cut four more kerfs to define the 1" width of the top bar. That is the point I snapped the attached picture.
  4. Here is where it gets fiddly for safety and I needed to think each step through to make sure each cut was safe. I used a push block with a sacrificial bottom and an 1-1/2" high sacrificial heel that could push everything on both sides of the blade past the blade.
  5. With the 2x4 now on the 4" face I cut each of the 1/8" thick waste pieces defined in the previous cut free from the blank, cutting so they fell to the outside of the blade, not between the blade and the fence. This set up is where starting with longer pieces helped. Its also where I had to make sure the push block was positioned to keep the thinner middle of the block flat on the saw top.
  6. At this point I cut the blanks to 20" long, I wanted to work with shorter pieces from here on.
  7. I remove the remaining waste on each side of the vee. I cut one side of all the blocks first as I needed to reset the fence for the other side.
  8. I ripped the 5/8" thick top bar free from each side of the blank, starting the cut and then double checking my top bar thickness. That is 5/8 from the flat to the top, not 5/8 form the vee to the top. This is the other time that having a longer blank helped dial in my set up.
  9. Last I trim each one to 19" long and then finished up the other top bar cuts.
  10. When I got to cutting the end bar dado I had a problem. The vee meant I couldn't lay the end bar flat. I had to make a 1" wide cradle with a slot in it to sit under the top bar against my table saw miter gauge.

That's how I did it. It worked. I brushed wax on the ridge of the vee and the bees drew it straight from there. That said, I will never to it that way again. Inserting a 1" wax starter strip into a groove is so much easier and it works.

If I were to do it again, which I won't, I would change a few things. I'd plane my stock to 1" thick first. That would make a big difference and eliminate eight troublesome cuts and the final cut to cut the top bar free would not be a drop cut. Either that or I'd figure out a way to make the vee last on the router table.
 

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The one thing that i was thinking and I will have to try is simply making the top bar thicker initially, and making a tongue on the face of it. Same number of cuts. There may be a grain issue, but I doubt it. If it can be 1/4" thick that would be cherry! That is up for experimentation, but intuitively, it just seems like an interesting solution that I haven't seen yet.
If you decide to go that route then cut the dado for your end bar first and adjust depth appropriately. See my previous post about how the vee got in the way because I didn't cut the end bar dado first and I had to make a cradle.
 

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Absinthe, JConnolly,

I haven't made frames so you both are ahead of me on that. That said I'd like to run a few ideas by you. I just went into my shop and got an extra top bar. It looks like for this grooved bar they cut it 3/4" thick then grooved a 1/4" slot. If you cut away that 1/4" and left a tongue that seems like it would leave plenty of space for the bees to start their comb. I do think I'd start with 7/8" to leave a 5/8" thickness. I was looking at this from the view of retrofitting existing products. You do not have the need to use ferrules with monofilament line. I'm happy with how they work this year. I've never used top bar/horizontal hives and have all of my boxes in either deeps or mediums for honey.

JConnolly, I've used wax and no wax and it doesn't seem to matter to the girls. Also the triangle seems to have some problems with it as you pointed out. Was it easier to cut either side to leave 1 1/8" wide ore could you just rip it on one side only?

Thanks both for your ideas.
 

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Wasting the material to leave a standing starter strip is way too many cuts and requires thicker stock. Cutting a groove that can receive either plastic foundation or a glued in starter or have one further lateral cut made that can create a nailer strip for hook wired wax foundation is what I would do if making a run of frames. One top bar can serve all my needs. The ones pictured here are slightly narrower than Mann Lake standard and can use a 1 1/4" sidebar while still providing bee space between bars. This is often compromised by shaved sidebars on standard topbars. What I have made recently will interfit with Mann Lake. I likely wont pursue the narrow sidebars any further. Other management issues may pay me better dividends. IMHO of course;)

Added a couple of pics of the extra deep frames that will suit being housed in two medium depth boxes. 13.25 inches deep if I remember correctly. The jointer is the way to go for reducing width of lower parts of sidebares.
 

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Or am I misunderstanding what you were saying?
My English is not very good.

I meant; that bee box with shorter foundation-less frames is ("out of the box" phrase for when no preparations are needed) ready for swarm to be put into it.
That feature looks practical to me.

A picture of swarm put into bee box two days ago:
IMG_20200513_100500_v.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks, that seems like the process I imagined. (I think I would have just used the tenon jig vertically, rather than the cradle in #10) The question, however, remains, is there any magic in the angled ridge? I mean why not attack it from both sides with a rabbet, and make a tongue? Certainly doesn't allow for wax strip, but it seems like it would be a permanent wood strip to whatever thickness one would want, perfectly centered.

I was kind of thinking that somehow the angle was important when I saw this: image32a.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Dobar Dan. No worries, I am sure your English far surpasses my Croatian, even on my best day.

Moja je lebdjelica puna jegulja.

Thanks for the clarification. Definitely, I misunderstood your initial statement. I now understand exactly what you meant.
 

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Was it easier to cut either side to leave 1 1/8" wide ore could you just rip it on one side only?
I did it that way because it was easier to have the vee centered in the topbar stock by running the blank through one way and then flipping it 180 degree and running it through again. If I had made the width trim all on one side I would have had to reset the fence and fiddle with it to cut the opposite side of the vee angle. You could certainly do it that way though. If I were to ever do it again I'd plane the stock to 1" thick first instead.
 

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Added a couple of pics of the extra deep frames that will suit being housed in two medium depth boxes. 13.25 inches deep if I remember correctly.
How well are the double medium frames working? I was thinking about trying that a couple of years ago when I had surplus medium depth boxes. I solved the surplus problem by adding more hives, now I don't have enough supers. It never ends.
 

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How well are the double medium frames working? I was thinking about trying that a couple of years ago when I had surplus medium depth boxes. I solved the surplus problem by adding more hives, now I don't have enough supers. It never ends.
I have not put bees on them yet. I hope I can get them drawn out and probably winter in stacked narrow boxes rather than the 10 frame. If it ever warms up maybe my bees can make some bees. I heard a drone flying a few days ago but today is the first day that may be warm enough to get in to see how close they are to breeding stage. I have to consider that there are no surrounding drones besides my own.

I have lots of boxes from the EFB visit. 13 hives to 7 hives one summer and that 7 down to 1 healthy and one queenless by the following spring. Back up to 5 going into last winter and all appear to have come thru strong.

Had it not been for this virus situation I would have travelled to pick up a few nucs to have more to play with. Since I am in the age bracket considered an endangered species, I am being very hermit like!

I really dont know if that depth of frame will create different hive dynamics. For lifting purposes I would like to get to a single, no move it brood box. We will see how it goes.
 

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How would you make a one piece triangle shape foundationless topbar for a Langstroth frame using a bench router?
As there is no answer to that question yet, I gues I can describe (with picture) how I am making top bars for fondation-less frames.

IMG_20200514_103834_v.jpg

Tools: table circular saw, planer thicknesser, dado blade (in my case two circular saw blades riveted together).
 
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