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Beginner Beekeepers Guide To Making Brood and Super Frames

Hi, I'm Stewart Spinks and welcome to my weekly blog. This week were looking at the basics of making up frames for both brood boxes and supers. The principles are the same for both and in fact for most frames.

Here's my step by step guide to building a brood frame to help you get it right everytime.

I see brood and super frames made up incorrectly on a regular basis. Firstly when I helped out at the local beekeeping club and then during my time as a Seasonal Bee inspector. It's surprising how many beginner beekeepers get it wrong. Having said that, if you're not shown a correct way to make up frames how on earth are you supposed to know?

Follow my simple pictoral guide to get it spot on every time.

Components of a brood frame
The basic components of a Brood Frame

The example I'm using in the photographs is a Hoffman, self spacing, brood frame from a National Beehive but most frames are very similar so you should be able to see what I'm doing with this one and modify accordingly.

The frame consists of three main parts;

Top Bar and wedge

Sides Bars x 2

Bottom Bars x 2

Notice in the picture top left the side bars have a groove cut into them and this faces inside the frame and is a guide to help the wax foundation slide down and is held in position until the bees build the wax out and effectively stick it to the side bars. This also plays another important role in that it keeps the wax foundation flat which is really important. More about this later....

The top bar has a machined section that looks like it might just pull out, this is the wedge that holds the wax in place but don't just pull it, this may cause it to snap.

TOP TIP: Use a stanley knife to gently cut the thin section of wood that holds it in place, remove the wedge and then clean away the remaining waste from both the top bar and the wedge. It will help everything fit together snugly when you build the frame.

So let's start by pushing the frame together, you can use a rubber mallet if the joints are a bit tight.

Step 1. Remove the wedge from the top bar

Step 2. Take a side bar and remember to have the groove facing the inside

Step 3. Push or hammer (Use a rubber mallet to prevent damage) the top bar down into the joint on the side bar

Step 4. Repeat the operation using the second side bar - look out for that groove!

Step 5. Admire your handy work!

You can now see how the frame is starting to take shape.

Next we need to fit the bottom bars.

In the first picture you can see the bottom bar is not pushed through to the outside edge of the frame, this will result in the bottom of the side bars being wider than the top and it may not hold the foundation in place correctly. To prevent this all you have to do is ensure the bottom bar is flush with the outside edge of the side bar as shown in the picture on the right.

Now we have the frame pushed together let's see how many pins we need to fix it all in place.

Nailing a frame with pins
How many pins do you need to nail a frame together?

I use eight pins to nail the frame together and in the following steps I'll show you where each one is positioned for the best possible hold.

Let's start with fixing the side bars to the top bar

Step 6. The first pin is nailed into the flat face of the side bar approx. 3mm from the top

Step 7. The next pin is a little more tricky, this goes in at an angle so the head of the pin is flush with the angled face of the Hoffman angled side bar.

Step 8. Turn the frame over and repeat on the other side.

You will now have four pins nailed in place, two on each side at the top of the frame. If they don't go in correctly to start with just remove them with some pliers and try again. You'll soon get the hang of it.

Let's move on to the bottom bars.....

Step 9. Ensuring the bottom bar is flush with the outside of the side bar fix it in place with another pin.

Step10. Turn the frame around and again, making sure the bottom bar is flush with the outside of the frame, fix it in place with another pin.

Step 11. Optional - remove bent pins and try again!

Completed frame construction
Congratulations - we've made a Frame!

To complete the job we need to add the wax foundation and fit the wedge.

Fresh wax is always the best option, it smells so lovely and is easy to handle. The biggest problem you may face is the temperature, too cold and it will be brittle and snap, too warm and it will bend and fold in your fingers.

Step 12. Remove the wax from it's packaging at the last minute, it will keep it clean.

Step 13. With the longer wire loops pointing down, feed the sheet of wax between the two bottom bars and into the grooves in the side bars.

Step 14. Use both hands to gently guide the wax until it is almost to the bottom.

Step 15. Bend the long wire loop 90 degrees so that it sits flush on the underside of the top bar where you removed the wedge.

Step 16. Replace the wedge on top of the wire loops.

Step 16. Now you have a choice, you can use two or three pins to fix the wedge in place. I use three and position them so that they go through the loops of wire beneath the wedge.

I don't think this is absolutely necessary but it looks neat!

Completed brood frame with foundation
Stand back and admire your work

Comgratulations, you have successfully made one brood frame, put the kettle on, make a cuppa and then get started on the rest of the frames you need to make up!

Completed brood frames
Two frames made out of 450! No wonder I look bewildered!

If you can't face reading all of the instructions again, take a look at my YouTube video and follow along with me.

Learn lots more beekeeping tips and techniques by signing up to my Patreon support group.

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