A question for you wood working guys about bee hives

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
Mar 6, 2009
I know this has nothing to do with smoking but it has been said before the forum knows everything.

I am getting into beekeeping and I want to build my own hives.  I have done a lot of reading, plan drawing and getting comfortable with the dimensions of a Langstroth hive.

The question I need advice on is

The hive plans call for either dovetail joints or box joints.  This is because the hive body is just a rectangular box with no top or bottom that will support the rectangle or keep it from twising.

I want to just do a butt joint, nail and glue them together and install dowels to prevent the twist.  I will use 1/4 inch dowels in 23/32 plywood and space them about 1 1/2 inches apart along a 9 5/8 inch length.  Any comments or suggestions.

45 deg corners will give more glue surface area. Then you can nail, screw and/or drill and dowel from the outside of the box for reinforcement?
Both great ideas,  I also thought about fiberglassing the corners with a bit of fiber tape and resin.  Will help keep the moisture out of the exposed edge and do you think it will give some stability?  I may also brush resin on the entire outside of the hive to help protect from the weather.  That stuff dries pretty solid and when dry doesn't out gas to much.  I used to paint the bottoms of our wooden skiffs with fiberglass resin and it went a long way to sealing them up.

45 cuts will allow the dowels to be drilled from both angles and the screws will definitely hold better then nails


Al I have a biscuit jointer your more than welcome to borrow
Biscuits and titebond waterproof.a good waterbased paint is enough I think.
I would drill completely thru the overlapping piece and use the dowels as pegs, that will make drilling and assembly a bit easier. Glue all joints and pegs with a urethane based glue such as "Gorilla Glue". Make sure you clamp everything together until the glue dries. Screws in plywood won't be strong enough IMHO because they spread the plys apart when screwed into the end of the plywood, not the strongest of joints. 
Not quite sure how a biscuit joiner works in this application.  I can assemble, glue and staple the butt joint, then install the dowels from the outside and add a couple of screws if needed.  I would image that the strength will come from the dowels and glue.  Have to think how well a screw will hold going into a cut end of 3/4 ply.  I have heard good things about titebond III and the dowels may be overkill but a 10 frame super full of honey weighs between 60 and 80 pounds.  Not to mention being in the weather all the time.  Next hurricane I will probably have to strap them down to some posts driven into the ground. 

One thing I would hate to have happen is to move a hive body full of bees and having it come apart in my hands.  20,000 angry bees no matter how good the bee suit would be a problem.


I read your post after I posted my followup.  I should have used better terminology.  I will be installing pegs (dowels) by drilling through a 3/4 into the cut end of 3/4.  I can see how that would separate the plys if I use screws.   Pretty much doing it the way you described.   There will be no clamping because of the number of joints I have to make.  I have a 3/8 siding stapler I can use to hold the joints together after gluing but before drilling. 

Peg is a better word then dowel for this application.

Al fiberglassing those using matting for all the joints would sure make them strong
Personally Al I would  go with a clear pine and use a rabbet joint with some glue and screws. To me plywood and weather don't really go good together.

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I'll admit that I know absolutely nothing about the joints you are talking about, but my cousin who lives next door as well as my barber are both bee keepers and I will see both of them today on 3/6/2011.  I will print this all off and ask them what they think tomorrow.  The barber used to be into bee keeping big time but only has about 8 supers now.  My cousin has about 10 supers so they are kind of small bee keepers now.  Both of them have read every book and seen every video on Bee Keeping and hives that has ever been printed or made, we have a lot of local small time bee keepers here locally and they have a Bee Keepers Club and they meet once a month to compare things and discuss different things, my barber and my cousin are both members so I'll check with them and let you know what they think.

Your SMF Friend,

Thanks guys,

The fiberglass tape and resin on the joints and resin painted on the outside of the bodies will go a long way to protecting the plywood.  The bees do a good job keeping the humidity down inside the hive and the air moving so the honey cures properly.    

The problem with using dimensional 1x12 is the waste.  A hive deep is 9 5/8, an important measurement to hold the frames and provide accurate amounts of bee space.  A 1x10 is 9 1/2 if you are lucky now days.  That means ripping and tossing a lot of scrap 1x12.  I may use an exterior grade ply for the top of the hive but they are normally covered with sheet metal anyways.

Two sheets of 3/4 ply  (23/32  you pay for the wood sanded off) and a sheet of 3/8 (11/32) will make two complete 5 body hives.  I am using all deeps for both the hive bodies and the honey supers so I can standardize the plastic frames and be able to move honey into the hive body during the winter to feed the bees.   That is 10 - 19 7/8 x 16 1/4 x 9 5/8 hive bodies, two top covers, two inner covers and two screen bottom boards/stands

The discussion between plywood and dimensional lumber on the bee forums is a lot like the discussions we have sometimes.  Some BKs (that bee keeper geek lingo) swear by it and some swear at it. 

Barry,   when you speak to your friends ask them how they treat the inside of the hive for me.  Paint, no paint, melted wax?  Should the smooth side of the BC plywood go on the inside of the hive (easier cleaning) or the outside of the hive.
Hey Al,

I built a small sailboat out of plywood, used a two part marine epoxy glue,  I don't have any water penetration at the seams and the plywood will rip before the joint will come apart, when you are gluing the joints spread some glue on the outside and it is the same as glass and resin, but in one step, you should be able to find some at a boat repair shop if your interested.

Also I would use the rabbet joint that Dan McG suggested because it would be easier to hold together when clamping, rather than a 45° cut that tends to move when clamped, with a 45° cut you will have to have a clamping system that will keep the box square, where the rabbets would pretty much accomplish that for you with just a piece of scrap nailed diagonally to hold it, also I would use brass ring shank nails as fasteners.

Only problem with rabbeting the edge is the lack of room for a peg and the extra difficulty of getting the length just right.  The interior dimensions of a hive are non-negotiable and the tolerances are fairly tight.  This is the reason I don't want to go through the trouble of using the recommended box joint.   Not wanting to purchase a dado blade means cutting the rabbets by going back and forth with the table saw and a little wood chisel work.  The top of the hive body on both ends already needs to be rabbeted out 3/8 deep (1/2 the width of the plywood) by 5/8 to act as a ledge for the frames.   I hope to avoid clamps and just staple (2 inch 3/8 staples) the wood together right after glue and assembling.  I am real close to being convinced that the dowels are not necessary with the types of glues that are available now days.

I only want to build 2 hives this year.  If I have fun and get some honey next year I'll probably build a bunch more and then I can see the value in buying the proper woodworking equipment.  When I joined this forum I had an ECB, then I graduated to a Okie Joe offset and now I cook on the Lang 36.  All within a couple of years.  If beekeeping works the same way I'll have migrant workers harvesting honey for me in no time!

Congrats on the sailboat,  that's pretty neat.  In the old days that had something called marine ply that would hold up to just about anything.  Not sure if they still have it or if it could be anywhere near bees. 
I only want to build 2 hives this year.  If I have fun and get some honey next year I'll probably build a bunch more and then I can see the value in buying the proper woodworking equipment.  When I joined this forum I had an ECB, then I graduated to a Okie Joe offset and now I cook on the Lang 36.  All within a couple of years.  If beekeeping works the same way I'll have migrant workers harvesting honey for me in no time!
Just make sure they have their green card and a VALID SSN!

I understand your thinking on the rabbet joints, I use my table saw and it's quick work, with the glue I suggested you wouldn't need any pegs, it's tough stuff.

May I suggest you spend the time to make some jigs, it's time consuming at first, but after the first one your set to go for the rest.

The sailboat is 'disposable' made out of 1/4" and 3/8" exterior plywood, the plans are from a member here 'spen' you might want to check out his 'Puddle Duck Racer'.

I hope the bees work out for you, and please be careful with the fingers.


Do an internet search for a Kreg Jig. Its a pocket hole jig I use to do all kinds of joints until I got this jig now its all I use. I never trird it on plywood but it should work. You can get the basic Jig and a box of screws at Lowes for about $30.00. This setup and Gorilla glue produce a joint that will last forever.

Jerry S. Fellow member of the WhoDat Nation.
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