Monday, October 15, 2012

Building an Observation Hive The Plans for an 8 frame hive


Building My Observation Hive

I published these plans a year ago, and my hive has been hugely rewarding and successful.  The plan post was old enugh that some browsers no longer show it.  For those of you who have asked, here is how I built it:
Building My Observation Hive
These hive plans are for an 8 frame observation beehive; 2-frames wide, with a pair of deep frames, and 3 pairs of mediums.  Both sides open and a drawer at the bottom can remove what falls through the screened bottom.  The feeder can be opened for cleaning when outdoors.  Bees enter & exit through a 1” ID pipe fitting on the opposite side from the feeder, with clear tubing leading outdoors.

The first difficulty I encountered was that lumber does not come in widths that work well with bee space.  I cut a strip off of a “1x6” (actually ¾”x 5.5”) to make a .75 x 4.75.  4.75” is the width (depth) of my finished hive.   Likewise, I cut a strip off of a “1x4 “ (.75X3.5) to make .75 X 3.  3” is the width the 2 frames require to sit on.  The Plexiglas touches the .75x3’s when the doors close..  The strips I cut off worked well for constructing the screened bottom for the hive.
Plexiglas was available in a 32”x44” sheet, which I had cut into two 32”x19”
#8 Hardware cloth was not available but gutter screen was 8 wires/inch, so I got that.  The wires are thin and can be pushed, so most places I doubled it.  Screen is used on the vent holes, the bottom and the feeder.
I tried to draw my plans (next page) and tried to figure my lengths.  But my woodworking skills result in lengths that vary easily by 1/8” or more when I am trying to make them identical.  The screen bottom I only counted on being ¾” thick, but once I put on the screen, I realized I needed wood strips to secure it.  This then moved the entrance & feeder holes further up the sides, and the result is that I did not have room for an inner top board, which would have allowed ventilation on top.  All measurements were double-checked, as I worked, for frames fitting.  That being said, the wood I cut was:
.75 x 4.75 -  2 @ 34.5”  (sides of hive) 1 ¼” Holes cut for entrance & feeder, and
                        ¾” holes for ventilation screen.  To do it over, add 1.5” for  space at top.
                      1 @ 21”  (top of hive)
.75 X 3 – 1 @  19.4”(drawer bottom)
                 2 @  9 1/8” for deep frames to rest on.  Holes cut for screen, align with sides.
                 6 @ 6 1/8” for medium frames to rest on.  Holes for screen, align w/sides.
.75x.75 and .75 x .5 – these were the strips cut off the long boards; cut each
2 @ 19.5”
2 @ 1.5”
.75x1.5 (“1x2”) 1 @ 19.5” for behind the drawer
                        1 @ 19.4” for the drawer front
            4 @ 32 11/16 for door uprights  --- I did not cut these in advance, but measured when
            4 @ 16 5/16” for door tops & bottoms.      the rest was assembled & ready for doors.
.75x7.5 (1x8) 1 @ 34”  for base
For the feeder:
.75x3.5 (1x4) – 2 @ 5 1/8”   one is the bottom, no hole; top gets 2 7/8 dia. hole
1.5x3.5 (2x4) – 1@ 5 1/8”  2 3/8” hole in middle, 1” wide opening to hive hole.

I needed also:  5 hinges, 3 knobs, 3 lock hasps, 1- 1” ID threaded adapter (pipe),
6’ length of clear 1” ID tubing,  1 clamp for the tubing, wood glue,  1 ¼” screws for securing corners, small flat headed screws for securing the Plexiglas to the inside of the door frames, staples to fasten the screen, and to fasten the door frames, which are glued and secured by the Plexiglas.  Drill, bits (holes & thru Plexiglas) and jig saw for feeder.

The diagram below is far from perfect.  Important factors are the width, the height of each frame support (9 1/8" for deep, 6 1/8" for medium) and the 1/2" space between them for the frames to slide in.  Also indicated are the entrance & feeder holes, the debris drawer, and vent holes.



I began by making my long cuts.   Then I prepared the bottom screen.





Next was the feeder, which was not attached to the rest of the hive until the doors were ready, but is shown here as it is when attached.  The large hole was cut with a hand held jig saw.  First a hole was drilled in the center, then rays cut out to the circle.  That way when cutting around the circle, pie wedges fell out and the blade didn't bind.  The base is glued and screwed to the body.


The feeder was attached by gluing the body & base to the hive, and inserting 3 drywall screws from the inside into the body & base.  The top is attached by the hinge & hasp only.

Next, the pieces were cut which support the frames, and a ¾” hole was cut in each for ventilation.  These were placed onto the side pieces, with the bottom screen and drawer pieces placed to verify the space each requires.  Wood & Plexiglas were held along each side to be sure the pieces were properly centered for the doors to fit later.  Holes were marked on the side pieces, and cut, both the large holes at the bottom and the ventilation holes. Screen was placed over the ¾” holes and the small pieces were aligned, glued & nailed into place, sandwiching the screen between. 
This shows my habit of keeping frames in the hive, to keep things correct size & square.

The drawer is a “1x2” fastened onto the edge of a .75x3.  Glued, and a small block at each edge allows a nail to help secure without it showing on the front.

Once all of the preliminary pieces were prepared, the hive assembled quickly.  Corners were glued and screwed.  Final measurements for the door panels were verified, and the doors were cut and assembled.    Below is the Plexiglas screwed to the inside of a door panel.


It is probably worth mentioning that I have only hand tools and designed these plans to avoid needing a router or table saw or any of that other fancy stuff.  If I can make this, you can too.

For many other ideas and plans, visit

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