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I wanted to share some lessons I've learned as a very green & new beekeeper in building frames. In doing a fair amount of research & deciding what approach I wanted to take in keeping my bees, I decided that I would go foundationless & bought 1,000 foundationless frames from Kelley Beekeeping. I was tempted to buy a frame jig but was feeling somewhat broke after buying all of the frames, so I improvised a bit. I came up with a fairly effective system that I wanted to share, which helped me avoid building one frame at a time.

I was able to manage assembling 5 frames at a time. I think this worked well, since it's half a 10-frame box & you can flip them over by squeezing the top bars all together & turning them over. With a larger number of frames, you might have a harder time flipping the frames over.

Process:
  • Lay down 5 top bars face down. In my case, the wedge was pointed up toward me. Put one paint can in front & one behind your top bars to keep everything snug while you work.
  • Stack sets of 10 frame side pieces & run a bead of glue down the aligned top notches & two bottom notches & spread with a Q-tip.
  • Attach side pieces to top bar, so that the bottom points up.
  • Make stacks of 5 bottom bars & attach to each pair of sides.
  • Push sides inward to make sure connection is snug. Nail the righthand side pieces with 1" nails through the bottom bars.
  • Nail the lefthand side pieces with 1" nails through the bottom bars. Wipe excess glue off all side pieces.
  • Grab all of the frames, squeezing the sides together & flip.
  • Nail the righthand side through the top bars with two 1 1/4" nails each.
  • Nail the lefthand side through the top bars with two 1 1/4" nails each.
  • Inspect frames & wipe any excess glue & put into your hive body.

Each frame is nailed together with 8 nails with 4 through the top bar & 4 through the bottom bar. I gave up trying to nail anything laterally under the top bars or bottom bars, because I kept driving them through so they were exposed & damaged the frames more than it would help having that lateral support. Gluing the frames together should make up for that loss of rigidity. Having everything laid out is sets of 5 or 10 helped a great deal, so that I could keep moving as I completed frames, putting them into boxes behind me & grabbing the staged pieces I needed for the next set.

Lessons learned:
  • Don't use a nail-gun. I figured out why beekeepers staple frames. It only took me 10 frames to discover this, and I wanted to share why a nail-gun doesn't work. The nails are too thin for one thing. I had 1" & 1 1/14" nails that I used with what was pretty much a brad nailer with a compressor. Once I adjusted the depth, noticing that the nails would shoot right through the soft pine if I wasn't careful, I messed up a few & had to pull them out. Since they don't have heads, I had to pull them through & noticed how weak they were. The typical coated or galvanized nails are thicker & have a head, so it creates a firmer connection.
  • Glue your frame pieces together. I found I was still able to pull frames apart when I only nailed them.
  • Date your frame top bars with the year, so you can rotate equipment or replace as needed.
  • Spring clamps are handy when a side piece splits & you can glue it to repair.
  • Don't paint wax on the wedge guide. Credit to Michael Bush, he cited that bees don't make as firm a connection when you coat the top bar with beeswax. Just let the bees do it. And they don't need a wax coating to entice them to build off a leading edge in the wild, so they'll be fine without the wax. That saved me a few hours!
  • Teach yourself how to hammer with your left hand. My right hand was cramping after several boxes worth of frames, so I figured that I better learn to hammer with my left hand. It was easier than I thought, since you're just driving little nails. This saved me a lot of moving around & flipping frames to put the work in front of me.

I hope this is helpful & understand that it's very basic but may be beneficial to another new beekeeper like myself.
 

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Sounds great!! Instead of writing the date on the frame, you may want to just mark the year color on the frame. Much faster to take a marker and mark the top. This year's color is white so I use black since as white marker is a bit hard to come by.
 

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A rapid tightening bar clamp crossing the center of the top bars is useful --- long arrays of 20 frames can be squeezed and flipped, and the bound bars stand up on their own.

I have a work table with scrap built up so the bar clamp sits in a groove beneath the upside down top bars in the first step (installing side pieces). Tighten the clamp when the side pieces are installed. When you flip, the bar clamp is on top of the bars and remains in place. I've tried two bar arrangements, but a single clamp in the middle wins the minimum set-up optimization.

Jigs with shockcords and internal racks have too much fiddle time for my preference -- I've built and discarded several with 100 frame capacities in favor of a 20 frames and a bar clamp process. Just finding open space on a warm, dry worktable for 100 frame stacks is a problem. Too much clean up time to make the space.

The machining of modern frames is superb - the only slip joint is the bottom bar connection. -- A squeeze to tighten the bar to its shoulder rabbet against the side pieces is the only necessary truing. Some of the old frames had a slight dovetail on this joint and were self tightening.
 

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. Just finding open space on a warm, dry worktable for 100 frame stacks is a problem. Too much clean up time to make the space.
Dang I am glad you added that. Glad it's not just me. You system is ingenious, will try it this weekend.
 

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Yes foundationless frames would work with a frame jig. The frames you're assembling are foundationless while you're assembling them, right?

I can do 10 frames in 6-7 minutes. That includes gluing, loading parts, stapling, and then putting them in an empty hive body.
 

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Doesn't take long to make frames one at a time so long as you are driving nails with a hammer. I made a jig and it doesn't save much time. Using a stapler it would speed things up quite a bit, though

Don't forget the nail through the end bar into the top bar on both sides -- this does more than glue to keep from pulling the frames apart I think.

I put brass eyelets in the end bars, spread a small amount of glue onto the "shelf" of the top bar, put the end bars on, put the bottom bar on (I make grooved ones, it's faster), nail, flip, nail the ends and top bar, check for square and put in the box (or hand it to my buddy to put wire and foundation in if we are doing a frame making party).

Peter
 
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