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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This past weekend two friends and I got together and built ourselves a topbar hive each. We used discarded pallets for the wood, and the material costs (excluding nails and screws that I already had) was $16 per hive. However, that figure does not include the bars, which I still need to make.

Except for the obvious drawback that the combs are harder to extract, just looking at these rather ugly hives gets me anxious for swarm season. I can't help but think that this will be a pleasure to work compared to a Langstroth hive.

However, I am little unclear on the best design for the bars, and I have these questions:

1. If I recall correctly, the plans we have are for 1 5/8' wide bars. Is that a size of lumber that I could buy off the shelf?

2. How do you design the lower face of the bars where the bees attach the comb? Most that I have seen have a groove with some sort of insert perpendicular to the bar as a guide. However, I have also seen foundationless frames that have a triangle pointing down. Anybody do that with topbars?

Thanks,

Neil
 

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The grove with a Popsicle stick glued is the easiest to make. The Triangle bars need some fancy work with a table saw and radial arm saw (or band saw), and some good push sticks. Be careful making them, or your friends might start calling you “nubs”. I have made both this winter waiting for swarm season. Apparently the girls sometimes have trouble getting straight comb on the popsicle stick start. As to the width of the bars, a 1 5/8’s works for brood, you might want slightly wider for bars of stores, or thin spacers.

Good Luck!
 

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>> I can't help but think that this will be a pleasure to work compared to a Langstroth hive.

How so?
 

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Most plans I saw called for 1 1/4" width for brood bars and 1 1/2" for honey. Some split the difference with 1 3/8" for all. Some say use 1 1/4" everywhere and have spacers handy for the honey area. 1x2s are actually 1 1/2" wide. I don't have a table saw and tried to rip the bars with a band saw. Somehow, they all ended up "close" to 1 3/8" so that's what I'll go with.

As for the comb guide, I bought some cove moulding and chopped it in 12" lengths and used a brad gun to affix to the bars.

Bruce
 

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I've not used them myself, but from what I've read and heard it would be tough to beat the style SteveBee referenced. We are using this style (photo by Cacklewack in this thread)and have had very good luck with them. If you own or have access to a router and table, I believe this is the easiest style to make as it's just two runs down the fence and a quick trim of the ends either with saw or router. The ridge on ours is 1/8" wide and 1/4" high, and we waxed them before installing.

As far as width, I think 1 5/8" is too thick. We currently have all 1 3/8" bars but did find that the bees want to make the honey combs thicker so this spring we'll install spacers to make the bars outside of the brood area 1 1/2" apart or so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
OD,

Two basic reasons:

1. No box lifting.

2. Taking off the lid does not really open the hive from the bees' perspective. The bars are solid across the top. So removing one frame at a time will not disturb the bees to the same degree as removing the top and boxes on a Lang.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not getting rid of my Lang hives. But this could be a fun way to keep bees and a good way to produce some comb honey, which I've been meaning to do anyway.

I had my 7 year old help put the hive together, and I also think this would be a good way to involve young kids in beekeeping -- they can help build it, they don't have to lift anything too heavy and the bees are less likely to get hot when working a hive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have a router table (which I barely know how to use) but no table saw. I do have a 12" radial arm saw, a band saw and a scroll saw. So if I could make it work with those tools, that would be great.

(I bought the contents of a shop from the guy who owned this house previously, and I've been teaching myself to use power tools. Still have all my fingers so far. Sure would like to own a table saw, but I don't know where I'd put it).

Is there a particular router blade that you use?

Could I use a router blade of some type to cut a groove in the top bar if I go that route? (And is there a description of the blade I need if I go to a woodworking shop?)

Thanks,

Neil
 

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OD
1. No box lifting.
Less honey to lift, less production

2. Taking off the lid does not really open the hive from the bees' perspective.
Millions of langs are opened with no major detriment.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not getting rid of my Lang hives.
Good
But this could be a fun way to keep bees and a good way to produce some comb honey, which I've been meaning to do anyway.
Good

the bees are less likely to get hot when working a hive.
Some bees are hot without opening the hives. Doubt the TBH makes much difference.
 

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Is there a particular router blade that you use?
Neil, I use what is commonly called a straight bit (not blade :)). You could also use a mortising bit as it basically makes the same type of cut, just wider. I made all bars 1 3/8" wide, and if I remember correctly (not a given, by the way) I used a 9/16" bit to take off each side. If you subtract 1/8" from the width of your bars, then divide the rest in half, that's the cut you'll need to make. If your bit is wider, just adjust the fence to take off less on each pass.

Could I use a router blade of some type to cut a groove in the top bar if I go that route?
Yep. I with a 1/8" straight bit and your table that would be no problem. It's quicker to do it the other way though, since you don't have to deal with gluing the sticks and all.
 

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Here's how we do the top bars that we sell:





They are one piece with a wedge. However, we have a mill that produces these on a CNC machine.

The easiest option, though not the prettiest, is generally to get 3/4"-1" boards and rip them down to 1 1/4"-1 3/8" widths (depending on your preference), chop them to the right length and then cut a kerf down the center. Then put in a popsicle or some other sort of stick as a guide.

Best,
Matt
 

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My experience is exactly the same a Michael Bush's. I started using all 1 3/8" bars and the bees were ok in the brood area but built the honey comb too wide. Now I use all 1 1/4" bars and use 1/4" spacers between the bars in the honey area which in effect gives me 1 1/2" honey bar spacing.

I also cut a groove down the middle of my top bars and use popsicle sticks glued in. As Cacklewack points out, they aren't the prettiest but once the comb is on them who cares. This has turned out the be the most cost effective way to get a good starter strip for the bees for me.

Mike
 

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I like the top bars that are V shaped along the bottom. Easy to make with no routing, gluing, etc. and the bees seem to follow them well.
 

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(I just figured out how to attach a drawing) so ...

Don't have router or table saw so I make mine with just a circular saw. I set it to 45 degress, make a couple of rip cuts, cut to length, a little chisel work and voi-la. A scrap 2 x whatever will make a bunch of them.
 

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You would have to be very good at making that cut. If it's off would that may crooked comb?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
If you cut the wedge shape into the bar, do you also need to paint wax on there to get them started?
 
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