Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Frame Assembly: DIY

Y'all guess what was in that cool new cardboard box I showed off last week?

That's right.

Frames. Glorious Frames.

Building frames is just about the MOST fun you can have in beekeeping. With all that gluing and assembly and hammering, how can you go wrong?! It's like all of my favourite things wrapped up into one soul-sucking chore that seems to never end.

It really isn't all that bad. Once you get into the swing of things, you barely have to pay attention and the frames start to come together really quickly. Plus, if you build it right, a good frame will last forever. I'm still using wood frames that I put together over a decade ago. I've had to cut out the comb and renew the foundation a couple times, sure, but the frame itself is just as solid as when I first built it, with the addition of a lovely propolis patina.

As with all other aspects of beekeeping, there is much debate over the best way to build frames. In my opinion, they're pretty much all fine, but for the sake of simplicity I'm going to show you my preferred method.

All (wooden) frames consist of the same basic parts: (1) top bar, (2) side bars, and (1 or 2, depending on the style) bottom bar(s). Depending on whether you are using wired wax or plastic foundation, they might be constructed in a slightly different manner, but the basics are the same.

Today, I am going to be building deep frames for wired wax foundation, with a wedged top bar, V'd side bars, and split bottom bars. V'd side bars? Let me show you what I mean:

Check out that sweet V, bro.

V'd side bars make it easier to remove frames by reducing the contact area between frames within the hive. I like them, but they make assembly a bit tricky because you have to pay attention to what direction they are facing. As I assemble frames, I prefer to keep the V on the right side bar facing me and the V on the left side bar facing away from me, like so:

If you have side bars like this, make sure you are consistent in how you orient them. If you have side bars with two flat sides, it doesn't matter!



First, put a little splotch of glue in the notch on the top of each side bar:


Nail each side bar through the top of the top bar. Do it good. I use a single 1.5 inch galvanized nail. If there is any excess glue, wipe it off.

Once you've gotten both side bars nailed to the top, flip the whole assembly over and dot the notches on the bottom of the side bars with some glue.

Insert the bottom bar(s), nail it/them down, and you're (almost) done.

If you're really gung-ho about it (like me) then you should take the time to put in an extra nail through the flat side of the side bars into the top bar. These extra nails make the frame remarkably durable, but has the flip side of making it nigh on impossible to take apart and repair. I figure that frames are cheap and having them come apart when you're working a hive is a huge pain.

In the end, you're left with joints that are stronger than the wood the frame itself is made from.


Rinse, repeat x 1 million.

So what about adding the foundation?

I didn't cover it in this article! I prefer not to add foundation until a day or two before I put the frames in the hive. The stuff is a pain- it's brittle when it's cold and it sags when it's hot. Just like me.

Plus, my new foundation hasn't come yet. Stick around for a while and I'll post a follow-up showing you how to DO IT YOURSELF. AWESOME!!!

And in closing: LOOK! A SLIDESHOW!!!