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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Since I started keeping bees three seasons ago I've been buying a rabbet-jointed cyrpess super from a vendor. The problem that I'm having is that though I measure diagonals and center the ends of the sides to each other I still end up with what I consider warped, rocking boxes...and this is from "select" grades of boxes. :( Please, I'm not looking for suggestions that I cut my own woodenware from scratch, I don't currently have a setup to do that.

I know that the bees will fill in cracks and crevices and once the supers are on the hive with honey loaded in them they will begin to "level out". But when we get into the 1/8" to 3/16" wide gaps in a light box of foundation or empty comb we're talking "open door with a welcome mat" for wax moths and SHB. I'm thinking that not only do the gaps allow pests inside the hive but they also screw up beespace inside the hive. Living in south Alabama a 1/8" gap in the side of a hive concerns me...should it?

I'm seriously thinking of trying a different vendor for my woodenware and changing to a finger-jointed construction. I know that the rabbet-joint is supposed to be more water proof being as exposed endgrain is less, but I slather on the glue and then prime and paint.

I bought a couple of shallow supers from Kelley and the finger jointed boxes went together nicely and appear to be square and not rock back and forth. But, that's only a couple of Kelley boxes that I've had experience with. Have you that have used Kelleys woodenware, specifically medium boxes, been satisfied with the squareness and levelness of them?

Any recommendations are welcomed, but I'd really like to hear about experiences with Kelly boxes. The overall outside dimensions of the Kelly boxes will match those of my current boxes whereas some of the other vendors will not...though only a 1/4" or so difference so it's not a deal-killer for other brands. I thought of Mann Lake even though they have the slightly larger dimensions.

Thanks for the feedback.
Ed
 

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Not the answer to you're question. We buy our boxes from Mann Lake some have a little wobble, but none have gaps as large as you're finding.
I use a square when nailing the boxes together.
 

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1/8" gap is no biggie here in Louisville, Ky, they will fill with propolis. Overhang is not a big deal either. You can put heavy blocks on each corner of the hive stack to straighten them overtime it will sit flush

Kelley boxes are good, never had an issue, made right here in Ky. Great company.
 

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One should not assume that a pre-cut box joint type box will be square or flat when simply nailed up. Wood moves quite a bit as it gains and loses moisture as the weather changes, and it's not all that hard to get them together improperly.

What I've learned to do, after my first ones came out racked like yours, is to put a single nail in the ends of each board, being very careful to seat them together completely at the nails, then check with a good square to make sure they are square and test them for flatness. You can adjust as necessary with just eight nails in place and your adjustments will hold long enough to nail up the rest of the box.

I also find that it is very often necessary to use the nails to draw the fingers up tight, and even kneel on one side to force in down so I can drive a nail in and hold it down properly.

Kelly boxes are they only ones I have experience with, and they are great, but you can still make them crooked easily enough! I've done it. I make my own now, and don't have any trouble with racking any more.

Peter
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the replies, keep'em coming!

Dan, I haven't ruled Mann Lake out, still considering them. ;) What I do is measure the distance diagonally from corner to the opposite one and then measure the distance between the other two corners...if the distance is the same the box should be square. Sometimes the boards aren't exactly the same width so I will position the boards so that any excess width of one board is equal on each side of the board it joins...I'm not sure if that's the correct thing to do or not. I'm thinking the cypress is moving/warping/whatever as it dries out.

burns, I take it that you're saying to put four cement blocks (for four corners) on stacks of supers *before* using them? That's going to put some boxes out of commission for a while isn't it? :s It's good to hear a positive note on the Kelley boxes! :)

Peter, thanks for the tips on putting together the box-jointed boxes. That information will come in handy if I do opt to go with box-joints. Do you use any glue with your box joints? Glad to hear another positive comment about the Kelley boxes.

Ed
 

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Kelley is a great place to deal with, and great fun to visit -- we dropped in to pick up packages this year in early April. Wonderful people. Top quality products at good prices, you won't go wrong using them.

Of course, I'm biased because my Grandpa bought from them, and I remember a trip down to pick up supplies with him and my dad back in the early 60's. He started buying from them in the 20's when they first started out.

Anyway, I use TiteBond III glue on my boxes and frames. Probably overkill for the frames as they are generally protected, but I want the boxes waterproof. I enjoy making them, but not enough to replace them every few years. Proper glue and nails with good paint, I should be good as long as I want to keep bees. Grandpa quit after a stroke in his 80's, so I'm looking at 25 years or so.

Peter
 

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How far from Enterprise are ya? I have some stuff that will fill your gaps, for sure, if it is even needed. Been building my own pine boxes, and am familiar with how wonky wood can be. About to order me some "select" cypress from a lumber store in Elba and see if its much better than the 1X8" pine I have been using.

When I glue mine up, I use a band clamp, an L-square, then a brad nailer. Before I do all of that, I put the box between a pair of flat 3/4" smooth-finished boards that (as much as possible) flatten the top and bottom of the boxes. Once nailed, I leave the clamp on overnight while the Titebond 3 cures and at least leave it sitting on the flat 3/4" wood, cuz my garage floor is way too uneven to square up a box.

If, after all of that, your box is still not flat/flush, I have some stuff we could mix up (kinda like bondo), apply, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to cure on the flat 3/4" boards, then sand it clean and you'd surely have some good mating surfaces.

I ALSO happen to know someone locally who is out of the bee business but who sells 10-frame mediums (select cypress) for a good price, and thus far, I have had no issues with them, except that I run 8-frame, so I hafta cut them down and re-dado the short ends.

If I can help, feel free to let me know!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Peter, sounds like you've got some history with Kelley, that's cool and has got to be some good memories of your grandfather and your dad!!! :) I started out buying my frames and foundation from Kelleys and still do. I ended up dealing with one young lady up there and she is very helpful. The times she wasn't available whoever else I spoke with was as helpful as she was...they just didn't know my "oddness". :D I also use TBIII for everything...frames, supers, everything wood. A liberal amount slathered on the joints of the boxes and what squeezes out when they're nailed together gets spread over the end grain. I had three or four frames that got sat aside out in the weather...they stayed there for probably two years exposed to the south Alabama heat, high humidity, freezes, rain, snow, etc.,. that is Alabama weather and they were as tight and true as when the first sheet of foundation was installed in them...TBIII is great glue!!!

I'm similar to you in thinking I want to protect the wood for as long as possible. I started out priming with Kilz primer then switched to Zinsser 123. I follow that with a premium paint (currently a Valspar paint/primer combo that was on sale at Lowes). I look for the OOPS paint when I go through the BBS's but haven't stumbled upon anything that I consider usuable...of course I'm 30 miles from the nearest store (a Lowes...HD is probably 70 miles from me) it's not like I run in and check very often. For the few boxes I build and paint, I figure the investment in the premium paint and it being the color I want is good. Keep carrying on that family tradition!!!! :) Looks like you and I are probably about the same vintage.

F6, I'm up around Luverne. The only problem with adding something to fill the gaps is that you still end up with possibly an altered bee space. The small cracks I'm not really worried about, but those gaping ones bother me. I'm thinking of stacking them outside with #8 screen on the top and bottom and with a cover on top. Put some heavy weight on top or either ratchet them together tightly with a couple of straps...I'm thinking the ratcheting might work better. :scratch: I can set them in the shade or in the sun...the heat from the sun will probably help things.

<chuckle> It sounds like you have a system worked out. Do you build more than one each day? You have multiple setups for clamping? When I put together supers (other than when I built boxes for my first hives) I assemble from four to six of them at a time. I'm "small time". :) I hope the "select" cypress works out for you, the problem is that it needs to be dried well, but it needs to "relax" to *your* normal humidity...the grain either expands or contracts at different times. I think the bigger problem is wood that hasn't been dried enough...slightly green wood. If the wood is kiln dried where it will be stable a lot of todays wood will warp in the kiln...which doesn't make nice, marketable lumber. But, being green it is straighter and truer and more presentable to consumers. The consumer buys it and builds his dwelling and the nails and screws hold things together "mostly" true. It seems the simple projects with little support are the ones that tend to twist and rack so much...such as our simple bee boxes. :(

Right at a year ago I sat up a PWS (personal weather station) at my house. I installed my anemometer atop a 10' piece of conduit that is mounted to a 14' 4x4 post which is cemented into the ground. I looked through the stack of treated 4x4's at the lumberyard and picked the truest, straightest one that I could find. I installed it with great care...plumbing it with two attached levels and a third one to spot check things. I braced it, poured the cement, and rechecked it's plumb. It was PERFECT!!!!!...straight as an arrow pointing heavenward. A couple of weeks later I'm walking by it and noticed a very slight "bend" to the post. Now, a year later, the post as curved severely eastward. It hasn't affected the anemometer but it certainly looks "warped" and that bugs me. I'm studying over my options with that. So, no matter how well you look over the wood...today's wood will move on you, it is not wood as our father's bought for projects.

That is interesting about the local guy selling the cypress supers. I wonder why he doesn't build 8-frames...? Have you inquired about him building you some? If you have asked him, what was his reply? I might be interested in buying some 8-frames, but I'm not really interested in having to re-cut them...unless they were really dirt cheap.

NewJoe, that's a lot of propolis to put in the cracks, but I don't have any doubt that the bees can do it. That much propolis also makes for messy inspections and storage. :eek: I'll still use the boxes, but may stick some masking tape over the wide cracks when I first put the supers on the hives...I figure the light coming through the tape will still encourage the bees to seal the gaps. It's not like it will be the entire hive taped up, so it's a doable solution.

Thanks for the feedback, ya'll are great!!!!
Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
My best producers have the corners rotted out. I wouldn't sweat it.
Yeah, I may be overthinking/worrying about this issue. I know that once they're used a bit and get a load of honey in them they tend to level down. Plus, people go to the problem of adding ventilation so the gaps could be freebie vents. My greatest concern is the issue of SHB and moths having a large entryway to the hive... I guess if I'm worried too much about it I can use the masking tape over the bigger gaps as I mentioned above...maybe that will humor me.

Thanks for the positive encouragement!
Ed
 

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InTheSwamp - The guy selling them locally is a fella who used to keep bees but can do so no longer due to health issues. He has a lot of box pieces and frame pieces sitting under an awning, been there for at least 2 years, so they are "matured" perfectly to the area. Can't remember which company he bought them from, but they are the select cypress boxes. He's selling them to me for the cheapest price listed in the magazine, minus shipping. So I am able to take advantage of the 200+ or 300+ price break, whichever it is, no tax, and no shipping. He had 10-frames, I have 8, but I don't mind cutting them down a bit to fit. $10 or $11 per box, I can afford the little effort required.

I build whenever I have a moment. Might walk thru the garage and get motivated and throw one together. It only takes 10 minutes or so since all the pieces are right there. Once I get thru the stack of pieces I bought from him, I will either cut my own with cypress from Elba (Windham Lumber has the best prices I have found in the area), or I will buy from him again. The ones he has are VERY nice, very flat and true wood. MUCH, MUCH nicer than the 1X8" pine I bought for the same purpose. If the cypress I buy from Windham doesn't match up in quality, I will buy him out of the 100 or so boxes he has left I think. I can leave two clamped up at a time, as I have two strap-clamps. And really, I could build two, let them sit for an hour or two, then do two more, as the glue and brads will probably hold it true at that point. But all I have to do most days is stay ahead of my bees. Unfortunately, work has gotten in the way the past two weeks, and now I have two hives that need another super (which I have on hand), but I also have 2 new swarms in single mediums that will need a box each, plus a nuc that is about ready to expand into 8-frame... and I need to build a bottom for that one, was thinking I would go solid after all the reading I am doing about screens not being that big of a deal. I'm sure they will do fine in the summer, but I am concerned about the bees staying warm enough in the winter with a screen in place. So I may change 4 of my 6 bottom screens to solid, as the other two are already solid and going like gangbusters.

I hear ya on the 4X4s... if you notice, most are cut from the core of the tree these days. Which means they will twist and/or warp for sure as they cure. Frustrating, but not much to do about it.
 

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Ed, last year (my first) I bought cypress boxes from the same vendor, put the boxes together with Titebond III glue and nails as suggested, loaded them with new foundation and they worked fine. Any resulting gaps were filled in with propolis. However, this winter I relooked at my empty supers and noticed that some of the end pieces were 1/16" to 1/8" wider than their sides. To eliminate the gaps this season, I took a hand sander and made those ends the same width as the sides. However, one reason I didn't notice any warping last year when the boxes were on the hives was because I strap them down so high winds won't blow them over. The straps definitely remove any incidental warping. Anyway, that's what I did to solve the initial problem. Hope this helps. Public space Roof Wood Shed
 
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