My Top-bar Hive’s Design
Part of the fun of starting beekeeping in top-bar hives was designing my own. Unlike Langstroth hives, there is no standard top-bar hive. I looked at the top-bar hives on the web, and came up with the features that I wanted to include. Some of the sites that I found most useful in designing my top-bar hives were Dennis Murrell’s site, Michael Bush’s site, Leonard Barton’s site, and Michael Thomas’s site.
I used Google’s free SketchUp. Its a simple to use and allows you draw and design in 3D. It was valuable in designing the hives. It’s nice to be able to see how thing look in 3D and how all the parts fit together. I went through about 7 or 8 major redesigns (essentially starting over with the new ideas added in). In the end I ended up with a hive design that I liked. It may not be the simplest top-bar hive design, but its not overly complicated or hard to build, is reasonably cheap to build, and has lots of nice features. Once I started actually building, SketchUp became valuable again. The 3D model acted like blueprints and I could measure any parts dimensions and angles. I have uploaded the full plans to Google’s 3D Warehouse. My hive plans are available there under the name of “Kawayanan’s Kenyan Top-Bar Hive“.
Here are the major features:
- Its a Kenyan top-bar hive, so it has sloped sides (sturdier comb shape, and easier to remove)
- Built in legs (removable if needed)
- Sloped roof that I covered in aluminum flashing
- Upper entrance (ventilation and safer from critters like mice, skunks, etc.)
- Clean out doors at the front and back
- Screened bottom with a removable bottom board
- Slot in the rear to use a standard entrance feeder with access only through the hive (less chance or robbing)
- The main body of two hives can be made from one 8’x4′ 3/4″ plywood sheet with the rest made mainly of 2×4’s or 2×2’s (reasonably inexpensive)
- I think it look nice
In addition, in the 3D model of my design I included a layout of all the 3/4″ plywood body parts on a 8’x4′ sheet. This shows how you can cleanly get two full hives worth of parts from one sheet.
Here is a rough list of all the lumber and parts needed to complete 2 full hives:
- 1 4’x8′ 3/4″ sheet of plywood (for the sides and ends)
- 2 8′ pressure treated 2×4’s (or 10′ depending on how long you want the legs)
- 12 8′ 1×2’s for the 60 top-bars (I think thats probably about right, but I will most likely make more to have a few extra)
- 4 8′ 2×2’s for the roof frame
- 1 4’x8′ sheet of panel board for the roof and removable bottom board (I actually got tile board because it has a nice white finish on one side)
- 2 10’x20″ rolls of aluminum flashing to cover the roof (for a nice weather resistant and shiny top)
- 1 8′ 2×4 to make the ridge pole of the roof
- 2 linear feet of 36″ wide #8 hardware cloth for the screened bottom
- 8 hinges for the clean out doors (and some sort of latch to keep them shut)
- nuts and bolts to attach the legs
- screws, nails, staples, and wood glue
Using My Design in Google Sketchup
I’ve had a few question about how to use my model. First off, you need to download the model from Google’s 3D Warehouse (my model is found here). You will also need Google Sketchup to read the file and get the measurements. I have version 6, and the screen shots below are from that version.
After you install Sketchup, you can open my model. Each part of the hives is a separate component, so you can take it apart and measure each piece individually. There are two tools you will need to get all the measurements and angles, the “tape measure” and the “protractor”. To easy access to these tools, you can make the Construction toolbar active (under View-Toolbars-Construction).
The construction toolbar is at the bottom left of the picture. First, lets look at the “tape measure”. Its the button that looks like a tape measure.
When you click on it, your mouse pointer should start to look like a tape measure too. All you need to do to measure any object is to click at one end of what you are measuring, then click at the other end. You will probably see the measurement by the mouse pointer when you make the second click, but you will also see it at the bottom right of the Sketchup window. If you make the first click, you can also read the distances without a second click if you stop moving the mouse pointer at any point (the measurement should be given both at he mouse pointer and at the bottom right of the window).
The protractor tool is locate right near the tape measure tool in the Construction toolbar.
When you click on this, your mouse pointer will become a circular protractor. Move the over the center point of the angle you want to measure. The protractor circle can be on multiple faces of an object, so move it a little until its on the correct face, and at the center point of the angle to be measured (in my example below, I am measuring the angle of the bottom of the clean-out door), marked with a “1st”). Then click once on that point. Next, click along one side of the angel you want to measure (in my example below I clicked on the endpoint of the edge – labeled with a “2nd”). Then, click on the other side of the angle you are measuring (marked “3rd” in my example). Now, the angle measurment is located in the bottom right of the Sketchup window. Thats it.
You should be able to do this with any piece, and get at the measurements you would need to build the hives. I kept my laptop with me, open to the model while building so that I could easily check any measurements as I went. If you want to learn a bunch more about how to use Google Sketchup, you can start by doing the Tutorials that are include with it. You can find them under the “Help” menu. Ther are also links to online help.
To read the construction of my hives, check here.