Saturday, March 8, 2014

New Home Construction

Spring is trying to break through, it really is.  And in anticipation of it I have been busy building boxes for bees.  Though I have utilized Top Bar hives in the past, I am changing my equipment over to Langstroth hives, for the most part, and keeping only a few Top Bars here and there for fun.  Since I have ambitions for a LOT of hives in the near future, I have been working on production methods for the new hives so I can turn out eqquipment on the cheap and when necessary.  Here's a look at five boxes and some other bits as well.

First off, we start with 1x8 pine lumber.  I grabbed four 8'ers from the local big box store and got enough for 5 medium supers, with just a few bits left over.  I like working as efficiently as possible with materials, and this counts as a win for the good guys.

After basic dimensioning, including rips and cross cuts, I run the pieces through the table saw using my handy-dandy box-joint jig.  I made this thing a few weeks ago, it works like a champ.  The ends get milled to fit together at the corners in a very strong joint that will eventually get glued and nailed.  I like working with sled jigs, they allow for some real fine-tuning and keep fingers safe when working with the saw.  I set the table saw up with a 3/4" dado blade and away we go.  You can see the stack of sides adding up.

A rabbet along the short sides is required to create a ledge that will hold frames eventually.  I use the stacked dado and created a custom top-plate for it using some oak scrap laying around the shop.  It is a cool little accessory, fits the table perfectly.  Cutting the dado on the short side, as well as planning the joint correctly, means that I can make the dado cut across the whole length, rather than stopping it and squaring out the cut.  Don't know why people bother with that, but plan after plan seems to suggest that route.

The sides then get glued up and assembled.  It's important to keep the boxes square, so I utilize no small number of clamps, including a 90 degree corner clamp and then some long ones to draw the joints together.  There are 32 nails per box, these things are not falling apart anytime soon.  But then again, they have to endure the elements as well as handle the weight they will carry when full of bees and honey.

Good jig design and careful layout means that I can bust out tight joints quickly and with regularity - it's a nice thing.

One of the little touches that I like on commercial boxes are the scalloped handholds that are set into the sides.  So I did a little research and found a handy design that can get a similar result using a skill saw.  It mounts to the finished boxes and cuts the handholds pretty neatly.  Not bad.

Making boxes is just one part of a whole hive.  Each box holds 10 frames, which the bees will use to build their comb on.  I got a bulk package with pieces for 100 frames, they have to be assembled one at a time.  But the pieces are all coming together, and soon spring will be here and all the separate bits will combine for a productive whole, much like the colonies they will house.  Looking forward to it!