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The Top Bar Hive Project #1

So, for several years now, I've been toying with the idea of making a Top Bar Hive, I know many beekeepers out there will groan and maybe even yell expletives at the screen but ever since, as a Seasonal Bee Inspector, inspecting an apiary full of perfectly formed TBH's I promised myself I would dismiss them until I'd had a chance to see what they were really like to manage.

This blog post is the first of what I hope will be many over the coming months and into the beekeeping season. We're going to start from scratch using pallet wood and build some TBH's from the ground up.

Of course, those of you who know me will understand when I say we, I actually mean, Pete with my "Supervision"!

I'll fill in a little detail as we go along but suffice to say I have absolutely no idea how to manage TBH's and it will be an interesting learning curve.

We're going to shoot lots of videos as we go along and I'll be posting those to my Patreon page initially and then to a new YouTube Channel called Stewart's "Top Bar Hives".

I want to keep the whole adventure as cheap as possible hence the pallets and we'll be collecting a swarm to populate the hive so for the first time in a long while I'll be hoping to see some early swarms in 2020!

Here it is! Our first pallet ready for deconstructing into planks and rebuilding into a Top Bar Hive.

We have found that some pallets are quite difficult to pull apart and the wood breaks quite easily but these pallets were perfect.

We were able to use a crowbar to wedge between the joints and ease it apart with just one plank splitting.

Once the planks were pulled away we ended up with quite a decent stack of timber to use. The pallets were extra large and nearly 3m long. You can see the second pallet in the background in the picture above. The individual planks are about 100mm wide.

Pete and the Table Saw!
We settled on a length of 1.3m

simply because this would fit easily into the back of the truck but I guess you could make them any size you want. It's one of the nice things about this system, you can make it suit your own situation.

The table saw is something of a luxury, if I had been left to my own devices I would have used a hand saw or even my jigsaw as I don't have lots of workshop equipment. With the table saw we were able to cut the lengths of timber very quickly.

This is where having the right equipment comes in very handy. This piece of kit is called a biscuit jointer and it cuts a slot in the edge of the planks on both pieces of wood and a small "biscuit" is pushed into the slot. When it's glued together it forms a much stronger join than if you just glued the wood. I guess you could always use metal straps or wooden battens to secure the wood together.

Once the wood had been marked and the slots cut we glued the planks together using expanding wood glue. This helped fill in any gaps between the planks where they weren't quite square. I didn't want to plane them perfectly square because not everyone will have that option. I want these hives to be easy to build and quite to make.

You can see the wood glue seeping out of the joints.

It's also obvious that not all the wood was perfectly flat and you can see n overlap at the right-hand side of the image. I don't think this will matter a great deal and we should really have clamped the wood flat. We did this on the second set that we made up.

Our Measurements so far: We have created two boards which measure approximately 300mm x 1300mm These will form the sides of the TBH.

The next task is to make up end boards that will measure approx. 300mm x 430mm and we also need to make what are known as follower boards.

These are most easily explained when we have them made but essentially they act as movable internal walls which can allow for more top bars to be inserted or reduce the space should you want to remove some.

I'll be heading back over to the workshop later this week to carry on the work so do lookout for more updates as we continue with this project.


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Stewart, been there done that.made TBH 3 years ago, from plans off internet, tho I say it myself it was near perfect and bees seemed to like it, but think it needs to much time at inspection, and honey collection was not easy as frames would not fit extractor being tonight and angular shape and heavy to start with, and ofcourse nothing interchangeable with other hives but will follow your project with interest. Every good wish Dave. T.

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