In the Beekeepers Workshop

One of the joys of beekeeping is tinkering in the shop to make the various gadgets that we use. Here are a series of plans which you may download and use. Enjoy!

Comments, corrections and your contributions are welcomed! (Contributed by Steve Tilmann)

Solar Wax Melter
With this gadget, you can load it up with your rinsed, raw wax, put it in the sun and then go attend to your other business.  You don’t have to worry about anything catching fire and the job will be done at the end of the day.   As an added benefit, your wax will come out in near pristine condition since virtually all of the bug parts and other debris will be caught in the wax melter’s wire basket.
(download plans)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Honey Bucket Heater
A fact of life that all beginning beekeepers learn is that honey will sooner or later crystallize. Because honey is a supersaturated sugar solution, crystallization is, after all, a natural process. Some honeys will crystallize a lot faster than others. We find, for example, that our fall honey crystallizes much faster than our summer honeys; sometimes within a few weeks after extraction.  Whether you store honey in buckets, jars or squeeze bears, you will need some means to reliquify your honey. The heater presented in these plans may be just what you need.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Extractor Stand
Sooner or later even a hobbyist beekeeper will consider the purchase of a honey extractor. These gadgets are well worth the investment. All extractors have a stand which can be purchased separately. However, an excellent honey extractor stand can be inexpensively built in your work shop in just a few hours and it will give good service.
(download plans)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

 

Styrofoam® Nuc
This design for a Styrofoam® nuc box is easy to build, light weight, inexpensive and surprisingly durable. We run medium depth supers in our operation, so the plans presented are for a medium depth box. However, you can easily modify this plan for a full depth box – or even a shallow.
(download plans)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Hive Stand
This design is one in a series for building a complete hive. The hive stand is the bottom-most component of your bee hive. Two versions are described: a standard hive stand and a hive stand when using a screened bottom board.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Screened Bottom Board
As the name implies, a bottom board sits at the bottom of the hive; it is the “floor” of the hive. Times were when the platform was solid, but since the arrival of the varroa mite and the concept of “integrated pest management” (IPM) the “screened” bottom board has become more popular. Here is a plan on how to build one.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Hive Bodies
The hive body is the heart of a managed bee hive colony. It is where the queen lays her eggs, the house bees raise the brood and the workers store the pollen and nectar (converted to honey). This plan shows you how to build a strong, durable hive body, including a “professional” looking scalloped hand hold.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Inner Cover
The inner cover sits on top of the topmost hive body (super) and underneath the telescoping top cover. The purpose of an inner cover is to provide the correct bee space on the top hive body and provide good air ventilation within the hive.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Telescoping Top Cover
The telescoping hive cover is what keeps the weather and elements out of your bee hive; it is like the roof of your house. This plan shows you how to make an aluminum metal cladding that adds durability and rain-proofing. The metal cover greatly extends the life of the hive cover.
(download plans)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Hive Body Hand Holds (Video Only)
This video describes how to make the “commercial style” scalloped hand holds in the hive bodies. Hive bodies are the wooden boxes used for both the brood chamber and the honey supers. Run time approximately 15 minutes.
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

 

Sugar Dusting/Feeding Frame
When winter feeding your bees sugar candy, spring or fall feeding sugar syrup using the baggie method or summer sugar dusting for mite control, you will need a frame to do the job.  This video describes how to make a “3-in-1″ frame that can do all three jobs.  Run time is approximatley 15 minute 40 seconds.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Queen Cell Protector Cage
The queen cell protector cage is a simple tubular gadget made out of #8 hardware cloth.  The cage is about the size and shape of a hair curler. The cage is used on a grafting bar to protect the developing cells after the nurse bees have fully capped the queen cells.  This cage can also be used to protect queen cells naturally drawn out by the bees.  The cage lets you easily find the new queen and protects her from marauding from other queens.

(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Pocket Queen Cage
When working with bees, you never know when you will need to cage a queen and move her to a new hive.  Here is a simple cage that you can use whenever the need arises to capture or move a queen.  The pocket queen cage, also called a Butler cage, is a handy gadget that every beekeeper should have.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Queen Introduction Cage
The queen introduction cage, sometimes called a push in cage, is a simple, small rectangular wire mesh box that is pushed into the comb in order to confine or protect the queen.  Some beekeepers think that using a push in cage is the best way to introduce a new queen into a colony.  If you only were to make one type of queen cage, then the queen introduction cage is clearly the one.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

How to Make a Queen Marking Cup
A queen marking cup is a simple gadget that you use to mark a queen.  The marking cup makes an otherwise “delicate” operation a simple and quick job.  Even if you don’t raise your own queens, you never know when the need will arise when you need to mark a queen.  The marking cup described in these plans (and the companion video) uses recycled material and will probably take less than 10 minutes to make.
(download plans)
(run video)
Submitted by: Steve Tilmann

Hive Top Ventilation Shims

P1050915_640Hive top ventilation shims are a simple way to deal with moisture inside the hive during the winter months.  The tapered shims sit on the top most hive body just under the inner cover.  The shims are easy to make and quick to install.  Though you may think that making these simple shims is easy, there is a bit more to it than meets the eye.  The key is using a taper jig, which these plans described (and the companion) video.  Once you have the jig, making the shims is a snap.
(download plans)
(run video)

Making Imirie Shims
P1010319-croppedAn Imirie Shim® is a gadget developed by George Imirie, a well known beekeeper in the Northeast. It is a simple 3/4-inch rectangular frame that is the same size (width and length) as a honey super (Figure 1). The shim has a 3/4-inch notch cut 3/8 -inch deep in the middle of the front end bars.  The idea is that the shim can be placed between any of the honey supers to allow for additional access for foraging bees. Since the shim also provides additional ventilation, you can place it on top of (or under) the inner cove to allow a place for moisture to leave the hive.

The shim is a simple idea, but it really works. We view the shim as “essential” equipment in our bee yards and use several per hive. Because these shims work and are so handy, you may want to consider making a couple for each hive that you have.
(download plans)

 

77 comments to In the Beekeepers Workshop

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Bob,
    3/4-inch hole should work just fine. No perch or landing platform is needed below the hole. The bees can land on a vertical surface just fine. Finally, you do not have to fasten the hive bodies together. The bees will glue everything together with propolis. You might want to put something on top of the telescoping cover, such as a small stone, to keep the cover from blowing off. Although the design I use has an extra deep rim on the cover which pretty much takes care of this potential problem. I have never had the cover blow off when using the extra-deep rims, but have when using the shallower rims found on commercially purchased top covers.
    Steve

  • Adam Jensen

    Hi Steve!

    Thank you for posting these great hive plans. I have now finished building 4 complete hives from your plans. Each is absolutely perfect! I especially like your use of spline joints over box joints, which is traditionally seen on store bought hives. You have really helped me learn a lot about beekeeping AND wood working!

    Adam (from Niagara, Canada)

  • Mike

    Steve, could you give some dimensions for building a tenon jig like you use in the videos?
    Thanks for all great info…Mike

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Hi Mike,
    The tenon jig is indispensable. It is the only safe way to make these kinds of cuts on the table saw. And it lets me make repeated cuts on multiple parts that are very nearly exactly the same; something that is not always easy to do with wood.

    The jig is 13 inches long and 9 inches high, though these exact dimensions are not really crucial. The two spacers between the sides are 2 inches wide, which is the width of the fence on the Ridgid table saw that I use. Yours may be different. The lower spacer is 3-1/2 inches from the bottom so that it clears the top of the fence.

    The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want the jig snug when slipped over the fence (so that it does not wobble) but can be slid along the fence when using the jig. This is all controlled by the width of the spacers. So if the pair you make are too narrow, the jig will be too tight. There is a “sweet spot” for the width of the spacers. I made mine purposely too wide initially and then removed a couple of thousands at a time until the width was just right.

    I used cabinet grade 3/4-inch birch plywood because it has a nice smooth face and no voids in the plys. Wood will move slightly with changing conditions in the shop. If the jig gets slightly too snug, you can sand along the inside of the jig or use a bit of (bees) wax as a lubricant. I usually have to rub a little bees wax inside the jig (along the part of the wood that slides along the fence) from time to time. It really helps smooth things out when working with the jig.

    Enjoy!
    Steve

  • Gary Schultheis

    Steve,
    I’m just getting started with this and the videos are great. I have a real aversion to being stung by bees but my nephew wants to raise them and I agreed to help him make the hive.

    One question. Wouldn’t the splines be stronger running the other direction? The way you are doing it, I would think they would split sooner than they would break going with the grain. Running the other direction (horizontal) they would be closer to a traditional mortis and tenon joint. Apparently, in the real world, your way works just fine and is easier but I question whether it is stronger. Sometimes I think too much and not always correctly. Thanks for the helpful videos.
    Gary Schultheis

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Hi Gary,
    I have been asked this question before. I presume when you refer to the direction of cut when making the spline itself. I cut the splines down the length of the board, as opposed to cutting splines across the board with a cross cut. Personally, the rip cut (down the length of the board) is a lot easier to make and the spline itself is stronger. In the long run, however, it probably does not make any difference. The joint will be strong in either case. I have never had an issue with the strength of a spline joint.

    That said, I am somewhat confused when you describe the direction as “horizontal”. Not quite sure what you mean here.
    Steve

  • Jenny

    Wow, great information. As a woodworker, and interested beginning bee keeper, I am eager to build my own hives. Your plans look very good. I do have one question after reading over a bunch of the material, are there plans for the vertical parts that go into the hive bodies that the bees will build combs on (sorry, I do not now the proper name for this part)? This seems like a silly question. Am I missing something? Is this something I would have to purchase?

    Thanks you for getting me started.

    Jenny

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for the feedback. What you are referring to are called “frames”. Traditionally, a frame is made out of wood with a sheet of bees wax in the middle which is called foundation. These days, you can also get plastic foundation. I use all plastic frames, which are available from bee supply catalogs. I like the convenience and durability of the plastic frames. Some beekeepers think that the traditional frames are more quickly accepted by the bees, but I have not really noticed any real problem with the plastic frames. So, since I use the plastic frames I have not done a video on building frames. You might want to check http://www.beesource.com for plans.

    That said, I am working on a new project which will cover making frames. No definite date as of yet on publishing this project… but it is coming!
    Steve

  • Tom

    Have been told by many many beekeepers that attempting to make your own frames- while admirable and will work – it pays to just order 100 from a reputable supplier and assemble them.

    Have also heard in some climates the plastic frames can warp.

    Thank you Stephen for all you are doing.
    Best; Tom

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Hi Tom,
    Being in Michigan I have never had a plastic frame warp in the field. Once I tried putting a few in a solar wax melter to melt the wax. It did that, but also melted the frame. Live and learn!

    Most people, I would agree, are better off simply buying frames rather than making them. However, there are a couple of instances that making frames would be advisable. One, because you want to. Two, because you need a frame that is not “standard” size. I’m working on a project which fall into the latter category. More on this in the next month or two (hopefully).
    Steve

  • Dwayne

    Hi Steve! I have just about finished building my first ever hives using your plans and videos, thank you for such a great job! Please, Please can you make a video for The telescoping hive cover, I get my bees in two weeks, and they need a roof! :D Thanks! First time beekeeper and novice beehive builder, Dwayne :)

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Dwayne,
    All of the video project have a corresponding downloadable plan (a .pdf document). Also, there are more downloadable plans than projects. You can find these at http://www.michiganbees.org/beekeeping/in-the-beekeepers-workshop/. One of these plans includes the telescoping top cover.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • Bryan

    Steve, thanks so much for your plans and videos. They are an added treat to beekeeping for those of us who also enjoy woodworking. I’ve been looking for plans to build a pollen trap similar to what Mann Lake sells. They actually have two styles: a new “superior trap” which rests inside the hive just above the bottom board, and the more common drawer-style trap that mounts over the bottom entrance and hangs outside the hive. Those of us who use top entrances would prefer the “superior type”. I can certainly figure out exterior dimensions from the catalog pictures. But I am perplexed about the interior parts and dimensions of any pollen trap and how it works. Do you have any ideas, plans, or videos on this subject? Much appreciated.

    Also, I noticed the width dimensions of your hive bodies tend to be 1/4 – 3/8 smaller than the commercial dimensions. Doesn’t that make frame manipulation more difficult?

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Hi Bryan,
    I am not really that familiar with pollen traps as I do not use them. However, I recently had a chance to look over one style (a “superior” style called a Sundance). This is not a straightforward design. Problem is that there are actually many different designs for pollen traps. The Sundance pollen trap is rather convoluted, as compared to others.

    The Sundance pollen trap appears to work by having the bees walk across a #8 screen (8 square holes per inch). While doing so, some pollen apparently falls off the bees and into a drawer. We are told that the pollen thus collected is very clean.

    Other pollen traps work on a principle of having the returning forager squeeze through a screened hole and thereby scraping off some of her pollen, if not all of it. We are told that pollen collected in this manner tends to “dirty”, meaning that there are other things in the collection that must be removed (and that is a very tedious job).

    So bottom line is that I cannot be of much help in this area. At least as of now.

    As far as the dimensions go, there is a certain amount of (slight) variation among commercially made hive bodies. The dimensions I use will result is the interior dimensions that are considered “standard”, at least as published in the reference book “The Hive and the Honey Bee” (Page 539 in the 1997 edition). The dimensions I use are basically the exterior dimensions of the assembled hive body. That said, we need to keep in mind that it is the interior dimensions of the hive that matter. There was a time not too long ago that the exterior dimensions were different because, back then, a 1×4 was truly 1 inch by 4 inches. Finished sizes of lumber have changed over the years and, consequently, so have the exterior size of the hive bodies. The dimensions I use are for boards that are actually 3/4 inch thick.

    The small dimensional difference in the width does not seem to make a difference in regards to frame manipulation. At least in my experience.

    I might add that commercial 8-frame equipment that I have seen, the width seems excessive to me. When you have the hive body loaded up with 8 standard frames, there is quite a bit of space (width-wise) left over. I actually considered making the 8-frame hive bodies a bit narrower to conform to a better bee space. But stuck with the commercial size in order to be compatible with commercially made equipment (such as queen excluders).
    Steve

  • Summer

    Where is the instructions for the rims and spacers and the narrow shims? Your instructions seem to skip over those two!

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Well… good question. I thought they were posted. After wondering about this senior moment, I figured out the plans for the “rims and spacers” never quite got finished. I think it is because I had some doubt that the topic would be of interest. As for the narrow shims, I have that one done (at least the plans). I’m not sure why they never made it to the web site. At any rate, I just uploaded the plans, so you can download them on your end. I highly recommend the narrow shims. Here is the link… Making Imirie Shims

  • David Manning

    Steve, I am using your plans to build my hives. My question is: While the standard size of hives seems to be 16.25 inch x 19 7/8 inches, your plans show 20 inchs. Is there a reason for the difference? If I build the wood framed queen excluder, I can adjust the cut depth of the groove to except the metal excluder. If I buy the wood framed excluder it will be the 19 7/8 inch measurement. I see that the extra eighth of an inch allows more room for the frames on the 3/8″ rabbit on the ends.
    Second question: As a woodworker, I have always been taught to paint all sides of wood projects, mainly to prevent the wood from having to deal with moisture. I am hearing from a local beekeeper that you only need to paint the outside and the top and bottom where the supers set on each other. His comment is that the bees seal the supers with their Propolis and that seals the boxes. Also that the honey will take on the odor of the paint, if painted on the inside. Who is right?
    Your plans are well drawn and expla
    nations well written.

    David Manning
    Sparta, MO

  • Stephen Tilmann

    David,
    The length of the hive bodies should be 19-7/8 inches long. I’ve looked at the plans and don’t see where the 20 inches are referenced. Can you point out where you saw this size? I would like to correct the plans if it shows 20 inches. The extra 1/8 inch in length can cause issue with the frames (they can slip off the frame rests which is really annoying).

    In many of the videos (and the plans) I try to address the painting issue. My feeling is to paint the whole thing, inside and out. Do this before the equipment is put into service and use the best quality latex you can find. Three coats: a primer coat and two top coats.

    I have often thought about using propolis to coat the inside of a hive, but I don’t have that kind of propolis laying around. While true the bees naturally coat the inside of their nesting cavity with propolis (ie, tree hollows), it takes a long time. In the mean time, wood will be saturated with moisture. That leads to rot and decay. I have looked at a lot of unpainted old hive bodies and have never noticed any propolis covering the entire surface of the inside.

    I have heard all kinds of reasons not to paint the inside of a hive. I have not heard anything about the honey picking up the odor of the paint, so that is a new one. This is not the case in my experience. None of the reasons not to paint really make any sense to me, so I choose to paint the inside.

    You can always do a couple of hive bodies one way and a couple the other. Then see what you prefer.
    Steve

  • Philippe

    Thank you for those beautiful videos and plans and for sharing your expertise. I live south of you (TN). I was planing on cutting Eastern Cedar into boards and using these.

    Would there be any benefits (insulation, durability…) to make the supers 1″ or thicker ? Leaving all inside dimensions the same as in your plans?

  • Hum after re-reading all the comments, I see you addressed that on the previous page for Mike K who suggested using 2-by lumber. I apologize for the question!

  • David Manning

    In the Pdf file for Building Hive Bodies in Figure 2 on first page it shows 20 inches in the drawing. Under Construction details Step 1 instruction it says From 1 x 8 pine, cut two side pieces 20″ long and two end pieces 14-3/4: long. (Fig 3). It also shows 20 inches in the Fig. 3. On the List of Materials for the Hive body it shows 20 inches.
    The Inner Hive Cover also shows 20 inches in the Figure 2 and the caption in the box also mentions 20 inches. I downloaded all of my pdfs from the details that are with each video that had plans.

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Thanks, David, for letting me know. Both of these PDF’s have been corrected some time ago. Not sure how you got an older version. I am sending you the current plans separately directly to your email address. Again, thanks for letting me know.
    Steve

  • Mickey

    Steve love the videos they have been a big help.Just started bee keeping last year and build most of my equipment. I would like to see A plan for a frame assembly jig if you have one.

  • Stephen Tilmann

    I use all plastic frames (which work fine for me) so I have never really had the need to explore a frame assembly jig. However, I am working on a video on how to make frames as I have recently come across a convincing reason to make wood frames. So stay tuned!

    In the meantime, an assembly jig can be found at http://www.beesource.com
    Steve Tilmann

  • Barry Jeffrey

    Hi there
    Wanting to build beehive. Have downloaded plans by Stephen E Tilmann from your site. Am extremely satisfied. I would however appreciate drawings for the frames! Can you possibly help out.

    Regards

    Barry (United Kingdom)

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Barry, Thanks for the comments. I am working on plans and a video on making frames. Not sure when it will be done… but it is is the works! You may want to check out http://www.beesource.com. Click on the “build it yourself” link on the left panel on the main page and look for “Dadaant style frames”.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • Thanks
    Just started ideas on modern beekeeping hope to learn more.

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