My Way Of Making National Supers and Broods

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rae 

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I mentioned on another thread that I could post up some photos and explanations of how I make hive boxes and a few people thought it was a good idea. Once caveat: this method works for me, I'm not the best hive builder in the world (far from it!), but I'm probably not the worst either. Your method might be different! Oh yes, there will be plenty of tool porn in this thread. I know some of you like a good bit of tool porn.

I'm not going to go into the gory details of hive part sizes - Scottish beekeepers has a good reference for the national hive.

I have 6 hives, and hopefully next summer I will still have 6 colonies. Having bought nice cedar hives from T*ornes, I don't have enough supers, as I've ended up buying brood boxes, floors and roofs as we have expanded this year. Honey production on the "new" hives was not great, so they did not need the requisite 3 supers. They will next year. So I need supers, and I will need some more broods for temporary expansion during the swarming season. As such, these don't need to be great quality: summer use only, not too fussed about the thermal characteristics, they don't need to survive winter weather. Shuttering ply is cheap, waterproof and strong. So I use that. I don't see any point in the amateur making cedar hives: cedar in small quantities is very expensive, and the price from T*ornes or others is roughly the same as your material costs. On the other hand, supers made out of shuttering ply are cheap. A sheet can be had for £25 from Travis Perkins and it makes 10 supers. Add another £25 for a big lump of pine (for the handles) and you've got a price of £5 per super. Not bad.

Right, so you've got a ginormous 2400 x 1200 sheet of 18mm ply from Travis Perkins. Somehow you've managed to get it home. You need to make it manageable, because unless you've got a very big table saw with a sliding table, your first few cuts will not be accurate.

Here is my cutting lay out:



Basically I split the sheet into two unequal parts along the length. The bigger bit is 930mm high (2 x 460mm + 10 mm waste), and this will make hive parts vertically - in the diagram I've marked out some super sides and 14x12 sides. The smaller bit can make super parts.

Once you've made the first cut, the subsequent cuts are much easier as the board is manageable. I didn't take photos of this stage, but eventually you end up with a load of hive parts like this:



(Ignore the fact that the parts have slots machined into them, I didn't take photos early on, we'll cover that later). Those piles are 5 14x12 broods and 9 supers.

The key thing to remember about national hives is two dimensions: 18 1/8 inches and 17 inches. The "long" walls of a box are 18 1/8 inches x whatever the height of the bit you are making is. The "short" walls of the box are 17" x (the height - 15/16)".

So the sides of a national super are made of parts:

18 1/8" x 5 7/8" - the "long, deep sides"
and
17" x 4 15/16" - the "short, shallow sides".

Each box you make will require two of each. Yes, if you are a child of the decimal era, doing sums in imperial makes your brain hurt. Thankfully, I have a lot of American tools marked up in imperial, which makes hive building easier.

Time for tool porn. Here's my set up:



It is an old Electra Beckum table saw with the original rubbish fence removed and an Incra TS-LS instead. The Incra is a thing of beauty. At the far end of the photo there is a scale, and the big red lever locks the fence into place. So I dial in a width on the scale, lock the lever, and cut. Repeatable, again and again.

If you pull the fence right back, it exposes the router table. I've got an Elu 1/2" router under there, with enough chuff to do moulding of oak panels - shuttering ply doesn't bother it at all.



The slots that the "short sides" lock into are 4mm deep (if you are using 18mm ply) and 1" in from the edge of the board. Thankfully the router is on a rise/fall mechanism, so getting 4mm is simply a matter of setting it on the tail of a caliper, and dialling it in:



Set the fence distance to an inch from the side of the cutter, and push all of the "long deep" sides though. Remember to get both slots on the same side! At the end you will have a big pile of slotted "long deep" sides...and a lot of chips:



Note the Heath Robinson extraction at the end of the table. This is very important - wood dust does bad things to your lungs over time, and I always wear a decent face mask when doing this stuff. Ear defenders too.



This is how the ply sides fit together. The short sides fit into the slots, forming a box of 18 1/8" (460mm) square.

I'll get some pine in the next few days and we'll make the handles!




(no idea why the forum repeats photos - can this be turned off?)
 
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Skyhook 

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Nice post! A lot more technical than mine, and I'm making brood boxes!

Worth remembering for those that don't have a hot bitch of a table saw, that B&Q amongst others will cut a sheet up for you. They say they'll do 14 cuts, mine was about 18 and the chap didn't complain. A bit dearer, but beats the pants of doing it with a workmate and jacksaw.
 

admin 

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Excelent post Rae,I will return again and again to marvel at your setup.

First thing I spoted was the flash of gold of a table with Incra bits.

I will look into the photo problem,I think its the server,not the software..
 

Black Comb 

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good post Rae.

For anyone in the Nw Berry's at Leyland are very competitive on ply and will cut for not a lot extra.
 

Mike a 

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Nice bit of kit Rae, cost a few quid I bet.

So much easier when you have the right tools for the job. My table saw has an accuracy of about +/- 1 mm as it doesn't have a fence but it only cost £40 and I'm reasonably happy with it as its quicker and more accurate than I would be with a hand saw or jigsaw.
 

boatspeed 

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How useful do you reckon it is to cut slots in the longer sides? (Assuming you adjust the dimensions of the shorter sides to suit)

I made some ply boxes last year without the slots and they seem to be pretty solid; could be useful for people who don't have a decent router table, assuming they find an easy way to make the side bars.
 

oliver90owner 

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How useful do you reckon it is to cut slots in the longer sides?

It makes fitting them together in the right place, as easy as 'falling off a log'. All supposing they are in the right place at the machining stage!

Regards, RAB
 
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oliver90owner 

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OK that was my first thought. It also means that if the cuts are not quite vertical, the parts are more easily kept square when assembled. These little reasons make hive building so much easier - all and any small mistakes/errors can be hidden (per eg. if grooves were too deep a thin strip of veneer in the slot would cover the error without showing).

Lots of tricks/skills like that in woodwork.

Regards, RAB
 

Springer 

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Good post, like tool porn, I am also heavily into brew porn, produce some of that myself on another forum.
Like the fence system also.
S
 

Liam C Ryan 

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Bench Saw look very impressive, is the ply external ply and you must prefer ply over solid wood.
 

oliver90owner 

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Liam C Ryan,

You wrote: you must prefer ply over solid wood.

Rae wrote in post#1:

supers made out of shuttering ply are cheap. A sheet can be had for £25 from Travis Perkins and it makes 10 supers. Add another £25 for a big lump of pine (for the handles) and you've got a price of £5 per super

I think that is the driving reason for ply.

RAB
 

rae 

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Spot on. I'm not making hives that my grandchildren will look on in awe at the wood bashing skills of grandpa rae. I'm making some national sized supers and swarm boxes that will do the job for probably 5 - 10 years, possibly longer if they are used mainly in the summer. Shuttering ply is waterproof and cheap - the big problem with it is "voids" where a chunk of internal ply is missing - though this is easily sorted with a dollop of wood filler.

To answer a few questions:

The slots in the sides make assembly a lot easier, and they increase the strength of the glue join. If you have a router table, then they are so easy to do that you might as well just get on with it!

The Incra set up is very expensive now. I bought it when the dollar was 2.something to the pound. It was cheap in USD then, divided by two it was a bargain, including shipping direct from Incra. Those were happy days when I could order 100ft lengths of saw chain from the US, have it shipped, pay the vat on it....and still be half the price of the UK.

Indeed, a nice pile of Festool. :coolgleamA: Worth every penny, it is just brilliant stuff. No one has spotted the Stihl yet... :)

I still need to get out and find a length of pine for the handles. I will get round to it....
 

nonstandard 

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...... No one has spotted the Stihl yet... :)

I still need to get out and find a length of pine for the handles. I will get round to it....
OK I found the Stihl. You're not going to show us how to make hive rails with it are you? :D
 

rae 

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OK I found the Stihl. You're not going to show us how to make hive rails with it are you? :D
If I find a cedar tree that needs taking down....I will do exactly that. Well, I'd use the chainsaw to make "cants" - big beams of wood, then get it cut down to size with a band saw. This is the saw dealing with an Oak a few years ago:



You bolt the saw into the frame, which slides on a ladder resting on the trunk. You're cutting sideways to the grain, and you need a big saw (100 cc minimum) with a special milling chain. Chainsaw milling is pretty much the only economical way of dealing with single trees "on site". You can get the job done in a very inaccessible location, and just carry the planks out.
 

Hivemaker. 

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Rae
We also use a big alaskan mill for breaking down big tree's,do you also have an edging attachment for your chainsaw,as well as your alaskan mill.
 

Springer 

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Serious tool porn H. :hurray:
Got a mate with one of those mill, nice kit.:drool5:
 

rae 

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Oh lordy, all the wood fetishists are out in the open! Yes I'm on arbtalk, but not very much (seems to be very low traffic). I used to be on Arboristsite a lot, and I still dip in when the chainsaw thing gets me going.

I don't have the edger for the Granberg, I just rotate the log. The edger would make it easier, but it would be another bit of kit. I assume that is a great lump of Cedar? Must smell lovely - 2-stroke and cedar chips. That is a serious wood yard you have there - Granberg, bandsaw, and there's a firewood processor somewhere in there....

Anyway, back to the task at hand - the side "handles" for the hives. I'm not bothering to make proper joints for them, butt joints all the way, more than strong enough. I'm using "framing" - I think it is what builders use to frame doors - 1 1/8" thick by 5 1/4" wide.

Tilt the saw over and make the first sloping cut. The "long" edge should be an inch and a half (see here: http://www.scottishbeekeepers.org.uk/learning/documents/number 4 national hive.pdf)
 

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