Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bubble Bubble

I have a former chicken stock can full of linseed oil and beeswax in a kettle of water on the stove.  I used a couple of spoons to keep the I'm making the finish that goes on the outside of the hive.  I just need to let it cook for another five minutes or so before bringing it out to the barn.

Yesterday, Julie and I went to a fabric store, and picked up some heavy pillow ticking to glue along the inside seams of the roof for the hive.  I also did some final trimming of the board that closes the base of the hive in winter, as well as the top of the hive legs so that the roof would sit a few inches lower.  Everything that is exposed to the elements needs to have the linseed oil and beeswax finish applied.


Sunday, March 07, 2010


Top bar hives have a long history in Africa.  The top bar hive that I am building is considered a Kenyan top bar hive, since it has sloping sides.  Vertical sides would make it a Tanzanian top bar hive.

Its essentially a long trough with a lid.  There are two boards called follower boards, that conform to the shape of the inside of the hive, and can be moved by the beekeeper to adjust the amount of space that the bees get to use.     There are narrow wooden bars, with a groove in the bottom filled with beeswax, that span the trough, and are where the bees will build their comb.

In winter, the unused portion of the hive outside of the follower boards will be filled with some natural insulation, to reduce heat loss from the hive.

Yesterday, I cut boards for the sides and end of the hive, along with rough cutting a section for the follower boards.  Since I'm using six inch boards, I started gluing them edge to edge last night, doing the section for the follower boards and the ends.  Today I'm gluing the long boards for the sides of the hive, and am heading out to the barn to cut the follower boards to shape.  When the follower boards are complete (they need a top bar glued to them), I'll use them as the base to form the rest of the hive.  

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Building a Top Bar Hive

We didn't quite  make it to Northfield.  We live in Dundas, the next community south.   We have three acres, surrounded by farmland, with a full size red barn, and two other outbuildings.  We plan to put the studio in the ground floor of the barn, with one of the outbuildings as our kiln room.

I'm starting to build a top bar beehive today.  I've wanted to get into bee keeping for a number of years, but have never had the space until now.  Julie has bought me a number of books over the years.  Top bar hives are easy to build on a budget.  Extracting the honey from comb is a little trickier, since the comb is not as uniform as that from a Langsthroth stacked hive, but I can build a honey press.

I bought some red cedar lumber yesterday, and will spend this morning cutting boards to length, and then gluing them together.  The plans call for twelve inch wide wood, but recommends buying narrow lumber, and then gluing the boards edge to edge. 

A twelve inch by one inch  board measures eleven inches by three quarters of an inch.  It may have measured twelve by one at some point in the milling process, or maybe fifty years ago it would have measured that at some point in the milling process, but what I have available is eleven by three quarters.  Buying two six by ones and gluing them together doesn't get you much farther, because a six by one measures five and a half by three quarters.  Two together give eleven inches, and gluing a third board on to get the extra inch seems excessive when I am on a budget.

My plan today is to tweek the design of the top bar hive a bit, so that my eleven inch lumber will work on the sides of the hive (effectively reducing the cross section of the hive to ninety-two percent of the original design).  The finished hive will be forty-eight inches long.