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Author Topic: Building Langstroth Hives from Old Pallets?  (Read 2974 times)
fivecats
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« on: May 26, 2013, 06:41:22 PM »

Hi All,

I'm new here and to beekeeping in general.  I have one Langstrogth -- but no bees.  I'm looking to build my own second hive and frames, but I also lack the money to just go out and buy sufficient wood and materials to do so.  I was wondering if anyone has built hives from salvaged wood from old pallets.  And, if so, do you have any recommendations for things I'll need to watch out for? 

Many thanks!


-- Tom
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don2
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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2013, 07:25:58 PM »

Lots of nails, crappy hard wood of all sorts, uneven thickness/width. and on and on.

One pine board 8 ft long will make one box. 8in wide for medium 10 in for deep. bottle of glue and some nails. If you don't have one already you will need some sort of hand saw, hand or power, your preference. No fancy joints needed, just plain old butt joints. Tops and bottoms same thing. If you can find some recyclable plywood will also work. Smiley d2
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JWChesnut
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2013, 08:56:47 PM »

My standard medium is built from 8'' fenceboards.  These sell as loss leader at the big box hardware depot for $1.59.  I would say finding pallet material wide enough for the  6 5/8 depth of a medium is going to be tough. 

Ply, election sign plastic, old billboards, doublewall waxed cardboard, formboard  and much more has been pressed into service.

Check for "free scrap" ads on Craigs List, etc.  Your longest piece only needs to be 20" -- and folks will scrap out pieces much larger. You can use virtually anything for a box.  I've built some nice attractive boxes out of "slab" scrap - the first cut (bark on one side) from a saw-mill -- the time required to carpentry those isn't worth it anymore, but they were popular as garden hives, and folks paid more for them than traditional boxes.

The original impetus for the Top-bar design was for bee-keeping in Africa, without capital.  I've seen gold-plated TopBar hives, but scrapping together a trough and some carefully sized top-bars would likely still be your zero-dollar start.

You are going to need capital eventually, as husbandry of bees is not without expenses.
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JPinMO
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2013, 10:21:51 PM »

Hubby says most pallets are made of oak (our former landlord had a pallet factory). So, you can pretty much count on having to pre-drill each hole, otherwise you'll bend every nail or strip your screws.

Tom, are there any beeks in your area that build and sell hives? Not having to pay for shipping makes a big difference.
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don2
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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2013, 10:29:34 PM »

You need to find out where you are. Being lost doesn't help a lot. Wink  Smiley d2
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fivecats
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2013, 11:09:58 PM »

don2: Lots of downsides to pallets, got it.

JWChestnut: The standard fence boards I'm finding online at our local DIY Worlds are 5/8" x 5 1/2" x 6'.  They're about $1.00 apiece which might make them affordable.  I know beekeeping comes with expenses, but I'm trying to get started with what we can afford -- which isn't much right now.

JPinMO: There are plenty of beeks in my area.  I've gone to a few of the county beekeeper meetings and the hall has been packed with veterans beeks.  I'm trying to start up on the cheap, if possible, though.  We're also within driving distance to a Brushy Mountain outlet in NC, so that's also a possibility.

Thanks for all of your input.  It's greatly appreciated!
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don2
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2013, 11:18:13 PM »

Check with some one at Brushy Mountain about some seconds or rejects on hive bodies. If I am not mistaken they cut their own wood ware. and if they have these seconds you may be able to save some there. I buy them from a supply/beekeeper. a few knot holes now and then. There are was to close those holes or I leave some open in front for upper entrance holes. Smiley d2
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JWChesnut
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2013, 11:38:55 PM »

Check for 8" fenceboards.  I'm on the west coast, and we might have larger trees.  The thiner dimension (5/8") works fine, just cheat the length down a bit so the top bars don't slip off.
   Frames+Foundation are going to run much more than the box. You should budget $12 for just frames/box, $20 for plastic combo/box or $25 for wood and wax/box .
 A top bar approach might fit your pecuniary circumstance, as you can whittle the bars from almost anything.  I'm grumpy about the trendiness of the TBH, but for absolute zero cost entry, they are an option.
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fivecats
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« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2013, 08:39:51 PM »

"The thiner dimension (5/8") works fine, just cheat the length down a bit so the top bars don't slip off."

JWChesnut: I'm confused.  What does this mean?   huh

I'm interested in honey; my wife is interested in the wax.  My understanding is that the Langstroth hives are best for long term sustainability of the hives and for harvesting honey and wax.  (Correct?)

Looking at the plans for the frames they seem pretty involved.  Have you made any?
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don2
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« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2013, 09:00:31 PM »

You will have to make your "inside" measurements to that of the standard Langstroth  Hives, regardless of material thickness. I would buy one hive body the size you wish to use or maybe a deep and a medium. use it as a guide/pattern.  Smiley d2
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fivecats
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« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2013, 09:12:29 PM »

Thanks don2.  (D'oh...)

What's your take on building vs. buying frames?

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don2
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« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2013, 09:42:38 PM »

I buy all my frames un assembled. I do not have the equipment set up for a good operation for cutting the parts out in mass #'s.
I buy the grooved and wedge top with the bottom grooved bar. that way I can use wax or plastic foundation. If you coat the plastic good the bees will take it. You don't have to worry about the wax coming apart when extracting. Wax moths don't  seem to bother the plastic.
I had rather wax coat a few foundations than to have the moths eat up a bunch of wax ones.

Any one with a good wood working shop that can make the cut outs on a large piece of wood cut the right length for the end bars, then set the table saw the right thickness could hull out a bunch in no time. I have no idea how many end bars an 8 ft. 2x12 will make. a bunch
for deep frames. 1x8 should do for medium. I'm rambling. Wink Smiley d2
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JWChesnut
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« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2013, 10:15:46 PM »

Langstroth hives outside dimension are 16 1/4 wide, 19 7 /8 long.  Made up of standard 3/4 material, this leaves an inside the hive dimension of 14 3/4 x 18 3/8.   The 18 3/8 is critical, as it prevents burr comb from locking frames to hive.   If you are using thinner dimension hive stock -- 5/8 fence board, 1/2 plywood, etc.   You have to shrink the overall dimension to keep the inner length of the frame in tolerance.  On 5/8 material you lose 1/8 at each end, or a total of 1/4.  Shrinking the length a strong 1/8 , i.e. 19 5/8++ to 19 3/4 overall works fine.

You would be better picking up aluminum cans to earn money to buy frames than to try and make them to save a buck.  Unless you have a fully tooled woodshop, making standard frames is a nightmare.  I have done it with just hand-tools, but it is slow and painstaking.

I make frames by surfacing a 2x6 pine board to 1 3/8 thickness (ie take a 1/8 off), I then rip the surfaced board to 3/8 strips. Cut the strips to length (9 1/8).  Gang up all the pieces with a clamp, and dado the upper an lower notches. The relief cut on the sides can be done with a hand plane on the ganged pieces.

The top bar has multiple dado's and rabbets cut.  Ganging pieces works as well. 
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rwurster
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« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2013, 10:54:20 PM »

Only thing I use used pallets to make are my top/bottom boards.  Pulling the slats off pallets without splitting the slat is rough (they used beetle stained pine for slats around here) and the ribs I use to make saw horse legs (mostly oak, sometimes pine). Also finding pallets that use 3/4" stock for the slats is hard.  Pallets do make good firewood though just remember not to drive over the spot where you burned them later lol Smiley

I lied, I have used them for bottom bars.
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Palouse
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« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2013, 07:55:51 PM »

Pallets can be treated with pesticides and fungicides. I don't know that I'd use them for hives.
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fivecats
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« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2013, 08:56:45 PM »

Many thanks for all of your replies.  You've talked me out of using pallets for hives.  If the bees won't like any potential treatments applied to the wood, then I don't want the wood for hives.
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don2
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« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2013, 09:41:44 PM »

At one time I used a few for hive stands. It didn't take long for me to see the insects get in them a lot quicker than they do cement blocks.  Smiley d2
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chux
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« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2013, 12:38:00 PM »

I started this year, on the cheap too. I found larger pallet wood at a local tractor dealer. Free 2x4 and such. I googled top bar hive plans, and found a free pdf to walk me through. A friend had some old 1x12 board. I used a couple of those, along with the salvaged wood, to build my first hive. Only wood I bought was a plywood sheet for top. Whole thing was under 20 bucks. Caught a small swarm in mid april, and they love it.

I made another top bar hive out of nothing but pallet wood. Only thing purchased was wire for the bottom and the other piece of plywood for roof. Less than 20 bucks in it. Give that a shot for starters next season.
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Norman365
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« Reply #18 on: August 22, 2013, 03:11:48 AM »

Great discussion guys.Got a lot of information

Hi All,

I'm new here and to beekeeping in general.  I have one Langstrogth -- but no bees.  I'm looking to build my own second hive and frames, but I also lack the money to just go out and buy sufficient wood and materials to do so.  I was wondering if anyone has built hives from salvaged wood from old pallets.  And, if so, do you have any recommendations for things I'll need to watch out for? 

Many thanks!


-- Tom

You can manage it in your budget but you just need to purchase or arrange hard wood for cells or frame
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Santa Caras
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« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2013, 02:36:54 PM »

I know this thread is fairly old but this info will still apply for anyone wanting to use pallet wood.
Find a local printing press firm. Every town has them. Ask for the pallets that the bulk paper comes in on. This wood is usually untreated pine or spruce and is virgin wood. Since paper is very absorbant (think toilet tissue/towels) the wood has to be untreated and virgin so the paper doesnt abosrb the smells and odors. I work for a paper company and  use these pallets all the time for projects. We once got in a 18 wheeler full of paper that in the previous shipment the trailer made, must have been fish....phewwwww wheeeeee!!!!  The sender had to credit us the whole trailer of paper cuz it wasnt usable since the paper smelled like rotten fish that had sat in the sun for a week! One can find some beautiful wood in some of the pallets that the papers come on. Had one shipment that came from overseas....and they'd used virgin red oak. I grabbed everything I could and made a set of chairs that will be in our family for years.
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