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Build It | How to Build a Beehive

In this Build It video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor craft a bee-friendly backyard feature from basic building materials.

Host Kevin O’Connor and general contractor Tom Silva at the shop as the two get busy building a beehive. Starting with the bottom board (the hive version of a basement), the two build the main hive body, the racks (also known as frames), and the top covers. With all the individual pieces necessary, the pair make use of a variety of materials and power tools to assemble the entire hive.

Anatomy of a Beehive

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This type of beehive is made up of five parts: the base (A); the hive body (B); the frames (C), where bees make their honeycombs (this hive has 10); an inner cover with a ventilation hole (D); and an aluminum-clad outer cover (E)—the hive’s weatherproof cap. This modular design allows you to use the same base and cap when stacking the bodies on top of one another.

While Tom has no plans to become a beekeeper, building this hive made him appreciate how well the design is tailored to bees’ needs: “It’s pretty cool.”

How To Build a Beehive

For a list of tools and materials and the full cut list, scroll to the bottom of this page.

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Step 1: Cut all pieces to size.

Following the cut list at the bottom of this page, rip all parts to width on a table saw and cut them to length on a miter saw. Plane a 93/8-inch piece of 2×10 to a 13/8-inch thickness.

Use a framing square and a utility knife to score and snap the aluminum sheet to size.

Step 2: Make the base sides and entrance reducer

Following the schematic drawings at thisoldhouse.com, notch one end of each base piece using a jigsaw.

Then, on the table saw, rip a 1/4-inch groove on the inside of the pieces for the plastic panel.

Use the table saw and its miter gauge to crosscut two dadoes on adjacent sides of the entrance reducer, making one dado 1 inch long and the other 2 inches long. The different widths allow a wider entrance hole in summer and a narrower one in winter to moderate the hive’s temperature.

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Step 3: Assemble the base frame

Glue and nail together the three base strips, checking for square as you go. Drill pilot holes through each corner with the countersink bit, then drive in screws.

Step 4: Install the screen and top base strip

Staple the screen to the base frame, and trim it flush with the frame’s sides. Next, using three screws, glue and fasten the top base strip to the base frame’s back and sides, as shown. Leave the entrance reducer loose. Slide the corrugated plastic sheet into the base grooves.

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Step 5: Rabbet the hive body panels

Set the table saw’s blade and fence for a ¾-inch-by-¾-inch rabbet cut. Carefully run both ends and one side of the front and back panels through the saw vertically.

Then lay each board flat and cut again to complete the rabbets. Use a push stick to keep the waste piece from kicking back

Step 6: Assemble the hive body

Apply glue at the corners, and tack each joint with the finish nailer. Clamp the joints tight and square, then countersink and drive four screws into each corner

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Step 7: Make the honeycomb frames

Cut the pieces from a 10-inch-wide-by 1 3/8-inch-thick board. Mill a 7/16-inch-deep-by-7/8-inch wide dado in the center of the board’s long edge. Rip it into 20 5/16-inch-thick strips on the table saw.

Using the sled, cut 15/16-inch tenons in the ends of each top piece of the same width and thickness as the dadoes above. Rip a 1/8-inch-wide-by 1/4-inch-deep groove down the center of each top and bottom frame piece.

Step 8: Mill gaps into the frame edges

When assembled, the lower edges of the frame sides have 5/32-inch gaps for bees to sneak through. Tom made the gaps with a jointer and a stop block clamped 5 1/2 inches past the cutterhead. (A coping saw also works.)

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Step 9: Assemble the frames

Glue and staple the bottom frame between the two sidepieces. Slide a honeycomb foundation sheet into the groove in the bottom piece.

Slip the top frame piece into the side dadoes, then glue and staple the top joints. Do the same for all 10 frames.

Step 10: Build the inner cover

Rip a 3/8-inch-deep-by-¼-inch-wide groove in the center of the cover’s four frame pieces. Cut them to length, and, with the grooves all facing inward, butt, glue, and nail together three sides.

Slide a ¼-inch plywood panel into the groove, and attach the fourth side. Cut a 21/2-inch hole in the top with a hole saw.

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Step 11: Assemble the outer cover

Cut ¼-inch-by-¼-inch rabbets on the top inner edge of each sidepiece. Glue and staple together the mitered corners; glue and staple another ¼-inch panel to the rabbet.

Flip the cover over; glue and nail the mitered braces to each inside corner.

Step 12: Cap it

Cut the metal with tin snips, then score it 1½ inches in from the edge all the way around. Bend the edges up; tuck in the corner tabs. Place the cap over the outer cover, and staple at the corners.

TIP: One box may not be enough

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A single hive body the size of this project can comfortably house about 60,000 bees. But if the site has lots of pollen for them to collect, then stacking another box with additional frames gives them room to expand their hive (instead of leaving it), and to store enough honey to survive the long winter months.


Resources

There are a lot of beehive plans to choose from online. Try these free beehive plans from The Spruce.


What You Need for This Project

Cut list

Base:

  • one 15 1/4-by-21 1/2-by-3/16-inch sheet of corrugated plastic
  • one 18-by-20-inch piece of window screen
  • one 14 3/4-by-3/4-by-3/4-inch pine entrance reducer
  • one 16 1/4-by-3 1/4-by-1/4-inch pine landing area
  • one 14 3/4-by-3/4-by-1-inch pine front lower crosspiece
  • one 16 1/4-by-3/4-by-3/4-inch pine top back piece
  • one 14 3/4-by-3/4-by-1 1/8-inch pine center back piece
  • one 14 3/4-by-3/4-by-3/8-inch pine lower back piece
  • two 21 1/4-by-3/4-by-3/4-inch pine top sidepieces
  • two 22-by-3/4-by-1 3/4-inch pine lower sidepieces

Hive Body:

  • two 16 1/4-by-3/4-by-9 5/8-inch pine front panels
  • two 19-by-3/4-by-9 5/8-inch pine side panels

Frames:

  • one 9 3/8-by-10-by-1 3/8-inch piece of pine to mill into 20 sidepieces later
  • ten 18 7/8-by-1 1/16-by-3/4-inch pine top pieces
  • ten 17-by-3/4-by-5/8-inch bottom pieces
  • ten 17-by-8 3/8-by-1/8-inch plastic or wax frame foundation panels Inner

Cover:

  • one 15 1/2-by-19-by-1/4-inch plywood panel
  • two 14 3/4-by-3/4-by-1 1/2-inch pine front and back pieces
  • two 19 3/4-by-3/4-by-1 1/3-inch pine sidepieces

Outer Cover:

  • one 17 1/2-by-21-by-1/4-inch plywood panel
  • two 18 1/2-by-3/4-by-1 1/2-inch pine front and back pieces, mitered at a 45° angle across the 3/4-inch face on each end (see drawing for orientation)
  • two 22-by-3/4-by-1 1/2-inch pine sidepieces, mitered at a 45° angle across the 3/4-inch face on each end (see drawing for orientation)
  • four 8 1/2-by-1-by-3/4-inch pine corner braces, mitered across the 1-inch face on each end (see drawing for orientation)
  • one 21 9/16-by-25 1/16-inch sheet of aluminum

Materials


Tools

Add: Bar clamps, #6 countersink bit, utility knife, framing square,