5 September 2016

How to make a Barn style beehive

The bees-knees in design -  I favour this one - "The Barn" or "Cathedral" top Bar Hive.

Top bars rest on side rails (not yet fitted here)

 It does take some time and patience to make.   Here are notes for those inclined to try this productive hive. (Sketches follow later and earlier posts show bees enjoying my efforts to house them.

Using untreated wood, the roof and upper half overlap the lower half, so that water is shed and the inside remains dry.  The process of putting the 60 degree angle onto the boards is best achieved by clamping three boards together, stepped so that all three together form the angle as measured by a bevel, set at 60deg.
The square edges are then planed and shaved down by electric planer, hand plane and draw knife. The hand plane alone is sufficient but labour intensive.
Edges and ends may be screwed and glued, or pegged with wooden dowels.  The roof is longer by about 70 mm, so that a drip channel can be routed into the underside of each end.  The long edges of the roof should overlap the underside by about 15mm .  Western Red Cedar is the ideal weight and naturally weather resistant, but almost any type of wood may be substituted.
The top bars are fiddly to make, each having two mitred 60deg. corners and a strengthening tongue inset at each of those corners. Alternatively the corners may be simply screwed together after first gluing and setting up in a jig to the correct angle.
The bars have a 3mm side slot cut to allow air to vent upwards between bars and into the roof void. The slot should be approximately 60mm long, on one side only. The router makes the job easier but a spokeshave would achieve the same result.  Bees adapt easily to most situations and will fill much of the slotted cut with propolis until their desired temperature balance is achieved.
A brushing of the underside of the bars with melted beeswax is my method of encouraging bees to build their comb straight, but firstly the bars should be scorched with a blow lamp to render them sterile. The entire hive may be scorched before being painted or rubbed down on the inside with a mix of beeswax and an edible oil such as flax oil. This may be made by melting the wax into heated oil in the proportion of approximately 1 : 4,  taking care not to overheat. The resultant wood finish is quite harmless and can serve to attract bees into the empty hive. Waterproofing is achieved by a plastic or thin metal top sheet or paint, whichever you prefer, so long as the final coat is reflective and light in colour, against the summer sun. The lower half may be left natural wood finish, given a couple of coats of varnish . 

The design described has been chosen because it enables all management procedures to be achieved with the minimum of disturbance to the bees, and reduces lifting effort required by the beekeeper. The cross holes in each bar allows bee traffic between the combs via the uppermost and warmest route. This feature benefits overwintering by enabling bees to transit each comb without venturing downwards into the cooler levels of the hive.

A Varroa trap floor may be fabricated in the form of a shallow drawer inserted through a slot cut in one end of the hive. By smearing a coat of Vaseline onto its surface mites get stuck there. Above the drawer a metal mesh floor is stapled in place to prevent bees getting onto this lower level.

There are many designs of bee hive and the fact of the matter is that our creativity can run riot. One may adapt an old chest or toy box,  a wardrobe, even a dressing table, but my choice is governed here by the work others have put into this particular design. It gives a head start to your beekeeping and comes with no unpleasant surprises. You may prefer to use a traditional straw domed hive or one of the many other traditional and well documented standard types of hive - "whatever turns your crank" - as my dear auntie Betty would say.

Lid showing inset end and drip channel

The six boards showing beveled edges

  For Higher resolution images Click this Link

Top bars here have been scorched (only another twenty to make)

Window may be cut later into each side and exit/entry holes drilled out 

Scorched wood with shellac interior finish and window follower boards at each end

Top is varnished and awaiting acrylic roof  insulation

Top Bar Jig 


A stand is required to raise the hive off the ground

The full size working drawing showing the window opening (lower left)

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