DIY Beekeeping Must Have Tool – Build a Jig to Help Assemble More Hive Frames, Faster!
Hi there! I’m very excited to kick off this post, and what I hope will be many more posts to help my fellow beekeepers out there!
My idea for creating this blog is two-fold, first, to help me consolidate my ideas into one place that I can easily reference for myself as time goes on (and I grow more forgetful), and second, as a resource to help fellow beekeepers who may struggle as much as I do, and who may also benefit from some DIY projects. Trust me that the struggle does not end with experience as these insects do not follow our rules, but we learn, try to give the colony what it needs, and it is a much-needed distraction during these crazy times.
What we’re looking at today is building a jig. The jig is a great tool to help build 10 frames in one time(!!). My mentor told me about this tool after I purchased 100 frames as part of my bee yard expansion plan. I would have otherwise spent a heck of a lot of time building these frames one-by-one as I had done in the past. Can you imagine that?!? This is a great project if you can get your hands on some scraps of wood from an unfinished project, or from someone you know that has wood they’re looking to get rid of. I got a bunch of leftover plywood from someone in town which was huge! Let’s get into the fun.
3/4” wood that is either pre-cut or plywood that you can cut to size
Table saw or hand-held circular saw
Screws or nails depending on preference. I used a nail gun with 1 ½” 18-gauge nails.
Building the Outside Box
Being that I used plywood, I will focus on the cuts that I made throughout this post. If you’re going to use another type of wood, please skim through for the parts that you find relevant. For the width of the box, I used a deep frame as a reference and cut 6 6/8” width pieces (we’ll cover the lengths in the sections below). This way I covered a good portion of the sides, as seen in the images below, but also left room to move the box around. Lastly, I cut 8 pieces to make sure I have all sides ready to work on.
The lengths that I used were -15 7/8” (x2) and 17 7/8” (x2). If you’re planning to use screws, I would pre-drill 3-4 holes on either side of the 15 7/8” piece, wood glue the opposite sides, and then drill into the 17 7/8” pieces to form the rectangle. I would then do the same to the 2nd 15 7/8” piece on the other end. I went with a nail gun and tacked the wood pieces together after gluing them. See images below for visual aid, and you are ready to move on to the construction of the inner box.
Building the Inside Box
The idea with this box is that it will sit inside the outer box and provide sufficient support to hold the frame side bars upright. Again, the idea here is not to make it too tight since this piece will be lifted out to complete the frame construction. Using the remaining pieces that were originally cut, I cut these pieces into 13 5/8 ” (x2) and 15 ¼” (x2) lengths. Same as for the outer box, the 13 5/8” pieces will be outfacing and the 15 ¼” pieces will be inside. A little rinse and repeat – If you’re planning to use screws, I would pre-drill 3-4 holes on either side of the 13 5/8” piece, wood glue the opposite sides, and then drill into the 15 1/4” pieces to form the rectangle. I would then do the same to the 2nd 13 5/8” piece on the other end. I went with a nail gun and tacked the wood pieces together after gluing them.
The (almost) final product should look like this.
But wait, I said almost final…Why? Because we don’t only build deep foundation frames. What about medium frames for the honey super? Or medium frames for those of you who only use medium supers? We’ll review that in the next section.
Fitting Medium Frames
For the medium frames, I took a couple of pieces of the scrap plywood and cut 1 1/2″ (x2) wide and 14 1/4″ long. The secret here is that I raised the blade of the table saw and then cut vertically across the pieces. Recall that I used 3/4″ wood, and I cut about 1/8″ from each piece until box pieces fit equally in the gaps between the inner and outer boxes – there is an additional 1/16″ room here if your blade is thicker. With this piece, you can now work with medium frames as well.
How Does the Jig Work?
Let’s work in parts.
Place all of the frame sidebars along, and between the outer and inner boxes’ outer sides. This is when you would use wood glue on each of the side bar notches.
Place the 10 top bars on the sides and nail them in place. Here I changed my nail gun to 1″ 18 gauge nails. When you’re done nailing, pick up both boxes from below and flip everything over.
Once the boxes are flipped over, just remove the inside box, apply glue to the notches, and nail in the bottom bars.
You’ve officially completed 10 frames just…like…that! We’re talking 10 minutes here! Now, if only there was a tool to help me wire frames 10 at a time 🙂