Warré Bee Hive Construction – Part II
It is a rainy and cool fall day, in the middle of a week predicted to be rainy and cool, which has the benefit of finally bringing me back around to Part II of two-part series on building a Warré bee hive. It is hard to believe that I wrote Warré Beehive Construction – Part I over two and a half years ago; I am not proud of that fact!
We started Primal Woods, LLC this year, and as part of the “Sugarers” subsidiary, of course honey is a part. The plan is in place to double the number of hives each year until we have at least 64. Even at a relatively modest 25 lbs of honey per hive per year, that would add up to 1,600 lbs of honey per year. Having said that, with all of the various pressures that honeybees are under, from pesticides in particular, it is possible that their production might be cut in half, or more. For now though, 64 hives seems like an aggressive target. Inside of that number, the plan is to double each year until we get to 64, so this year that meant building an additional two hives; it will be four more in 2017, eight in 2018, and so on.
At the end of Part I, I had yet to address the handles for each hive box, top bars, the quilt, roof, and finishing; I will walk through those components in that order.
The handles are 2″ x 10″ pine, 2 per hive box for a total of 8, again, simple cross cutting and ripping on the RAS, and attached to each box with waterproof glue and 2 stainless steel deck screws. This year I did not even both with the wood glue, so we shall see if that was a good idea. The first two hives have been in the field for over two years, and one thing I have noticed is some loosening of the corner joints of the hive boxes. If a problem with the handles presents itself in the future, it should be simply and easy to rectify it in place. There is no secret to where the handles are placed on the side of the box, as you can see it is roughly centered. Try to have the handles parallel to the top bars when the hive is assembled, so keep that in mind, this is a sure indication of which way the bars are oriented when you are disassembling the hive.
The top bars are probably the most difficult component to make, although they are still well within the capabilities of a beginner, like me. Eight bars are needed for each hive, 4 boxes per hive, so for the two hives I made in ’16 I needed 64 top bars. All that is to say that you need some sort of “mass production” process for making top bars, or you will be at it for a good while. Again, the bars are made from 1 in. by 10 in. pine, which I purchased in 10 ft. lengths. For the completed top bar, I will describe its features, and then describe when and how those are made in the process. First up, the feature made in step 1, is the overall length of the bar, which is 12 3/8 inches. For this feature, I simply crosscut the pine board to length. Given the width of my saw’s kerf, I need 10 boards cut to length to yield the 64 top bars. At the you will note the thinner cross section at each end; that is where the bar rests on a relief rabbeted in the short sides of each box (See Part I). This feature is created as Step 2 in the process; used a 5/8 inch dado blade to make the cut, though you can make do without. The result is shown in the image captioned “Boards for top bars, after Step 2.” The boards are still full-width 1″ by 10″s, simply cut to length, and rabbeted at each end.
At this point, Step 3, the top bars are ripped to the finished width of 1 inch. In the image “…after Step 2,” you may have noted that I already had the saw set up for ripping. I then ripped each of the 10 full-width boards to something that then resembles a finished top bar.
For the final Step 4, I narrow the cross-section of the top bar, at the point where the bees will hang the comb when the top bar is installed in the hive. To do this, I again used the dado blade. The full width of the bars is 1 inch, and I want to reduce that to about 1/4 inch, so I set my dado blade for 3/8 inch, and then pass each bar twice, once on each side, to leave the center 1/4 inch cross section remaining. After the second pass is completed, we are left with the finished top bar pictured at the head of this section. (Note: I simplified the design of the top bar, at least in my opinion, from that described in Building Beehives for Dummies. I urge you to consult that book, and/or others, before deciding to follow my lead, or not.)
Perhaps the simplest component to build, certainly in terms of woodworking, is that of the so-called “quilt.” While the height is less than that of the hive boxes, the long and short sides have the same lengths as the hive boxes, and there is no rabbet; it is simple matter of cross-cutting and ripping pine boards to specification, followed by assembly.
The window screen material separates the bees from the interior of the quilt; the roof will close off the top of the quilt. Traditionally the quilt would have been filled with some sort of dry material, leaves, dry pine needles, wood shavings, etc., that would absorb moisture moving up into the quilt from the hive.
As for the roof, and as was Warré’s intention, the design is simple and fairly easy to construct. Except for the “inner cover board,” everything is made from 1 in. by 10 in. pine boards, crosscut to length, and ripped to height. The angled cuts on the “long sides” are easily laid out, and cut using either a circular saw, as I did, or a jig saw would work. The short sides are not shown, but are simple 13-7/8 inch by 4-3/8 inch, full thickness pine boards. As usual, I assembled using the stainless steel deck screws.
Finishing: I leave the roof and roof ridge boards off until I get the outside of the roof primed and painted, using latex primer and exterior-grade paint; two coats of paint. The area under the roof and roof ridge boards, is open to the elements; I call that space “the attic.” It is almost impossible to get to once the roof and roof ridge boards have been attached. (Note: Do not paint the underside, that is the inside, of the roof structure. If you do, when you disassemble the hive, the quilt will stick to, and come off with, the roof. Trust me, been there, done that, unintentionally, on one hive.) Nothing fancy in terms of finishing. Avoid painting surfaces that will be internal to the hive, in other words, surfaces that the bees will be exposed to. Paint was only used on the hive stand and roof assemblies, and again, no paint on surfaces facing the bees inside the hive. For the hive boxes boiled linseed oil was used; simple brush application to the exterior, two coats, no finish on the inside.
And that is it! One of the beautiful things about a Warré hive, is its simplicity, and low cost of construction. Each hive requires five 1″ by 10″ by 10 ft pine boards, one 8 ft stick of 2″ by 3″ pine, and one 2 ft by 4 ft piece of 3/4″ exterior grade plywood. I ran a quick check at Menards, and all of the lumber for a hive, plus the screen material for the quilt, can be had today for $46.29 pre-tax, and not including the necessary glue, screws, nails and staples, primer or paint. Still, all-in, we are looking at less than $60 per hive.
Below is a look at all of the lumber for two hives, less the top bars, cut and ready for assembly.
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All the best,
What a great article. I have been tossing the idea around to get a couple hives going. This got me motivated and I might try to build a couple hives this winter and populate them in the fall. Keep up the good work. I look forward to your next article.
Thanks Jeff. The beehives have been great fun. In my second “go” at making the hives, I was much more efficient. I would say my biggest mistake so far was in the process of “installing” a package of bees into the hive, and then feeding the bees until they are built-out the hive to a point that it will sustain them through the first winter. I did better this year. Best of luck!