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In the past, the overall cheapest/laziest frame option for my purposes has been the Walter T. Kelley F-style foundationless frames. I was about to buy 1000 more to assemble this winter, but that product--along with some of their other frames--has been removed from their website, with no explanation. I'm guessing that as a result of their recent acquisition by Mannlake, they're streamlining by phasing out all styles of Kelley frames, and just selling the Mannlake frames through both websites.

A week ago, I sent an inquiry to Kelley to see if: 1) These frames are going away forever, 2) if I could do a last-time buy, 3) if I could buy their frame cutting machine(s) or find out who else they're selling them to. It doesn't look like I'm going to get a response.

Are there any alternative suppliers of foundationless frames that are price-competitive with what the remaining "big" suppliers are selling for bulk, unassembled frames? All I can find are some that are so expensive that I could just buy pre-assembled frames with foundation for the same cost, or just take the time to convert wedge top to foundationless. Also, the top-bar design of all of these products look like what you get when you convert a wedge-top frame to foundationless; I've found that this leads to more cross comb than the sloped triangular spline that the Kelley F-style frames had.

I assume I'm not the only person who liked these frames. Maybe we can pressure a supplier to make these, or maybe someone on here can purchase and/or build the machinery to mass produce this one specialty item for cheap.
 

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I'm not entirely sure if I would call it a budget proposition, but I've recently picked up a package of NF32 Foundationless frames from Forestbees.com and they were great quality. That said, they were not pre-drilled for wiring.
 

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Winterwarrior,

This is very disappointing news. I like their F style frames. I hope someone fills this niche.
 

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Stingy,

I looked at the site you mentioned and I think these will work well. I have some 1-1/4 frames I used for a while but now I space on 1-3/8. My brood frames I wire, so these frames would cause me a bit more work. Thanks for posting this. :)
 

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I'm not entirely sure if I would call it a budget proposition, but I've recently picked up a package of NF32 Foundationless frames from Forestbees.com and they were great quality.
For very small-scale beekeeping, this may be good. I've seen these before, and have always had some interest in narrow frames for the brood nest, but haven't tried them yet.

At the quantities I plan to buy over the coming years, paying over four times as much per frame isn't really a solution, though. I'd rather spend thousands to buy or build some mid-volume manufacturing equipment, and produce them myself.

Thanks! This is better than any option I was able to find. There are no pictures, and they only seem to do business by phone, so I will order a small test sample.
 

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Thanks! This is better than any option I was able to find. There are no pictures, and they only seem to do business by phone, so I will order a small test sample.
Amish peoples. i bought 100 and they were all very nice fit. i ran the endbars through a router to take 1/16" off each side. not sure i would go through that effort again.
i would like to hear about your management strategy that you have the time to fuss with 1000 foundationless frames in a season.
Saskatraz.jpg
 

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This makes a good starter strip. It is not a big deal to remove the wood either side to leave the strip. It uses the same top blank that can become grooved for plastic, removeable wedge, or as starter strip for foundationless. I made up one batch of narrow frames when I was pursuing that idea but unless you jig up properly and run large batches to cut down change over time it is rather labor intensive.

If you are going to the trouble to make proper narrow frames the basic top bar should be narrower than a standard frame. Merely shaving sidebars slightly screws up bee space between the top bars. and causes some burr comb between bars. Yes I know some people claim it is no problem.

Fusion_power has an excellent post on all the relationships that go into a first class frame.
 

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i would like to hear about your management strategy that you have the time to fuss with 1000 foundationless frames in a season.
I think it requires focusing on selling bees, and avoiding extracting honey. If I had towering stacks of honey supers on my hives, I'd definitely go with plastic foundation for those boxes.

I've found foundationless frames to be a good trade-off between cost and time for producing queens and nucs. I buy unassembled frames for $0.80/each, and spend less than 20 seconds to assemble each one. I just staple them in a jig, and don't bother with glue or wires. Since I don't use wires, I have to be careful when transporting between yards. If I start selling hives or nucs that contain any fresh-drawn wax, I guess I'll have to start using wires or plastic foundation, or people will have problems transporting them.

As far as colony management, I think the only extra "fuss" has been cross comb, but that's become rare, now that I've amassed a lot of "good" comb, and make frequent splits. When making splits, I keep brood frames together, but alternate other "good" combs with empty frames, as much as possible. Keeping smaller colonies results in them drawing more worker comb, and less of the wide honey comb that leads to cross comb and other "bad" comb. As a result of alternating the frames, and keeping smaller colonies, I find that I do need to be more careful with pests, since it's harder for them to defend the spaced-out food frames while getting established. Solid bottoms, robber screens, and maximally reduced top-only entrances seem to help with that, and also with year-round temp control.

In the rare cases I do get cross comb, I have rubber bands and a knife as part of my basic tool box, and can fix it. It does take around 30 seconds to fix each frame, which means it can take a couple of minutes to fix a box if it's really bad. If the frames are already heavy with honey, fixing it is a hopeless endeavor, so in that case, I move them around as a single unit for the season, and always put a "good" comb after the mess so it doesn't continue. That bad comb obviously has to be culled the first chance I get, but it only takes a few seconds to cut out and put the frame back in use, since there's no wire.

At some point, I might decide it's better to pay extra for pre-assembled frames and/or plastic foundation, but for now, it's worth being frugal.
 

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There is a Bee Supply store in the MO area that bought 6k F style frames from Kelly's. You will have to pay a little more for them though.
http://www.isabees.com/
 

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winterw.....
I run ten foundationless hives and handle it about like you do. I admit that I have never tried anything else to compare it with but I really like it. I am cheap and see no real down side for a hobbyist.

I also staple and use no glue.

I have made all mine and I go from 1 and 3/8th inch to 1.25 inch. I am an inconsistent builder and cut the top bars 1/16th smaller and cut the side bars 1/16th less then 1 and 3/8th. However the end result is always some where between those measurements even trying my best. Some times I get 11 frames in lose and some times tight and sometimes I end up with only ten in the box. The bees don't seem to mind what I do and even with eleven in, they will draw some perfect and some fat enough that I end up with as low as nine in a box.

Because I am so slow in making them, I end up with ten hives and don't sell or make splits for sale cause frames are my bottle neck. If I could find some frames that were close to what I am used to for $0.80 each and all I had to do was staple them, I would maybe sell bees instead of trying to make honey. I do like starting with a frame a little narrow even if the end result is only 9 or 10 in a box. Mostly cause it is what I am used to.

I run all medium and do not worry about wire or support and am mostly happy enough. I lose some extracting but could mitigate this if I were to entice the bees to attach them to the bottom bar. I don't lose enough to make me change and a rubber band or two helps in extracting.

The last narrow foundationless frame that I saw for sale, they wanted a fortune for it.

I have almost bought some frames with foundation but every-time it comes time to pull the trigger, I can not make myself let lose of the money. I don't have anything that I don't like about foundationless once in the hive (though I have made my mistakes and in the beginning it was intimidating, in the end it never really hurt anything in the big picture) I like it. The building of them is my bottle neck.
Cheers
gww
 

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Glenn, I buy the Mann Lake FR-822 when they go on sale for .88 each. These have the end bars drilled and cost .04 more per frame than the undrilled ones. I add a starter strip cut from scrap 1x material and then paint it with beeswax. I also use fishing line for support instead of wire. Time is not really a problem cause it is like shelling peas, once your hands are trained, you can talk, watch tv, etc. while building and stringing the frames. I know this does not help out the op who is looking at a larger scale, but for us little guys, coming in at under 1.00 per frame, waxed and strung, aint bad.
 

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Jw
I have come close to ordering frames from mann lake. I do not use wax on my 45 degree angle top bars. The bees take to the wood fine as long as I bait the new space with some drawn out frames (preferably brood). If I could find some frames with a solid top bar, I would cut the two 45 degree cuts to get my wedge and still be ahead. I have about ten hives extra already built ahead and so am not in a bind yet but also can't make myself sell anything due to the work time in those hives. I have been thinking about this for awhile and know my bottle neck and have came close to buying but may still have to be forced into a corner before I actually act. I am looking at options so that when that time comes, I have the best avenue to take. Thanks for your suggestion. I saw earlier that some one was selling wedged top bar frames but you can not even try stuff with out buying a hundred bucks worth of stuff due to the shipping killing you.

Plus, I keep expecting my bees to all die. After this year, if things go well and the bees actually make me expand, I will have to jump and this info will be important. I will look up those frames you mentioned. I would like to stay away from anything that needs glue and if possible, wax. I feel more comfortable with anything that could be a simple table saw cut or two.
Thanks
gww
 

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Isabee's in St. Louis, Missouri (a Kelley dealer) is now carrying the discontinued Kelley Bees F-style frame, manufactured to the specs of the original frame style, including drilled end bars for stringing with monofilament for support.
 
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