How to make a Beehive Box – A Step by Step Guide

Pick the Correct Wood

We go to our local lumber yard to pick up beautiful Macrocarpa wood to make our kiwimana Bee Hives. The Macrocarpa tree is a is a species of cypress which a native of California. In this article we discuss how we build bee hives and show you the process involved.

The first step is selecting the correct wood. We need to select wood that doesn’t have knots, where joints will go and make sure the wood is straight. We use Macrocarpa as it is naturally protected from the elements. Never use treated timber inside your colonies.

Plane the Wood

The next step is planning, we plane the wood ourselves to ensure all the pieces are the same thickness. This ensures that joints don’t have any gaps. Which is important to keep out the wind. And reduces places for the evil wax moth to lay their eggs. We make the walls 20mm thick.

Cutting out the main parts

The two main parts of a hive are the sides and the front/back. We cut the wood to standard sizes for these. The length of these are 405 mm for the front/Back and 485 mm for the sides. Getting the height correct, we make hives at full depth (238 mm) three quarter sized (185 mm) and half depth (133 mm). It’s important that all parts of the hives are the same height. So you have no gaps when used with other boxes.

Different parts of the Hive Box
Different parts of the Hive Box

Being aware of direction of the Heartwood

When wood warps, it will bend away from the heartwood. If the heartwood is facing the inside of the hive box, any warping can cause the corners of the board to pull the screws or nails out. Which could lead to openings in the hive box and a possible entry point for pests, such a German wasps (Yellow Jackets).

Direction to Heartwood should also be facing out the world
Direction to Heartwood should also be facing out to the world

Gary Moment 🙂 : Think of it like this, the bees love should also be pointing to your heart (Outside the Hive Box).

Branding the BeeHive Boxes

Branding the Boxes

We add a kiwi onto our boxes using a brand. This is the old fashion branding system that involves lighting a hot fire to heat up the brand. One day we hope to buy on of those fancy electric ones.

Cutting the Box Handles

Cutting the handles. A handle is important on a hive box to make it easier to lift the box. A full sized box can weigh as much as 40 kg when full of honey. We use a plunge or drop saw to cut the handles.

The Finished Handle

Finished Handle Image
Finished Handle

Cutting the Side and Top Slots

The sides and the frame groves are the next task, the sides grooves form one half of the rabbet joint that the sides are attached too. The frames groves are what the frames sit on. The measurements for the joints are 10 mm and the frame grove is 13 mm.

Assembling the Hive Box

The next step is the assembly, it’s important that all parts of the box are even. The boxes need to fit with the other parts of a standard langstroth hives. We use galvanised screws. Which we feel makes them look nicer and should provide years of rust free life.

Why we use Screws

Screws maybe more expensive than nails. Using screws makes it easier to disassemble the boxes in the future, if you need to perform a repair. Wouldn’t it be crazy to have to throw away a box, because one part is damaged or rotten?

Oiling or Painting the Beehive Boxes

The final step in the oiling of the boxed to provide another layer of protection we use boiled linseed oil. This brings out the different shapes of the wood grain. Which provides a visual guide for the bees. Having all your boxed one colour is akin to living in an block of houses that all look the same. This can cause bees to drift to other hives. Drifting can spread diseases throughout your apiary or lead too some hives having a lower population of field bees.

The finished product

Well I hope you found this useful in making Beehive Boxes. Do you make your own boxes? What tricks do you use to make them? .

18 thoughts on “How to make a Beehive Box – A Step by Step Guide

  1. Angus Cathcart says:

    Smart looking boxes Gary . The vaporiser is working well .takes longer to heat up than the franklin one ,more alloy perhaps ? Did a test sample first to check the time to vaporise .
    Keep up the good work
    Regards
    Angus

    • Gary Fawcett says:

      Hi Angus,

      Thanks for comments, we love our boxes. Will be painting more this weekend, if the weather is good.

      RE: Vaporizer – Yep may take slightly longer, different design from the Franklin one. We hope much more solid and less prone to tip overs. Hope your treatments go well, would love if you could add a review to the product page for us Angus.

      Thanks

      Gary

    • Gary Fawcett says:

      Hi Mac,

      Thanks for the message, Hmmm I would say ‘no’.

      I can see them coming apart with the rain? You might also want to check what is used to bond the wood together, and that it would leach into the other layers with rain?

      I have seen people use it for NUC boxes, but never hive boxes?

      Gary

    • Margaret Groot says:

      Hi Amos, We use boiled linseed oil – thin and dries in hours on a warm hot day, you can also use raw linseed oil which is thicker to apply and takes a few days to dry. Always paint on externally, never inside the boxes and we don’t oil any areas which the bees work on exterior surfaces. Thanks for your question Amos and for being part of the kiwimana buzz… Regards, Margaret and Gary

  2. Kris Edgington says:

    Afternoon, I have just read your building a box page and was wondering is the full depth measurement of 405 x 485mm an internal measurement? if not what is the thickness of your timber. Cheers

  3. Len Hill says:

    Hi, I’ve always found it to be an advantage to protect the joints before assembly, just as an added bit of waterproofing for the joint. I’ve always just used an oil based undercoat paint and it seems to stop any rot developing in there.

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