This week (!) I'm thinking about making my own frames. The frames that are used in my region (Holland) tend to be a rather simple affair, compared to some of the sophisticated designs that I have seen used in the UK and US. Here is a picture of the typical top-bar and bottom-bar of such a frame (the lugs are 4 cm long, the planks are 10 mm thick on all four sides of the frame, and the planks are 22 mm wide on all four sides):
I'm not sure what kind of wood is used. Two types of wood was used in the frame that I took the pictures of -- the top-bar and one of the side-bars is from a finer grain wood than the other side-bar and the bottom bar. I suspect it doesn't really matter, and the shop that made the frames simply used left-over wood cut to size.
Anyway, I thought it would be simpler to use dowel-rods in the making of frames. What I mean is that the top-bar and probably also the bottom-bar would be made from normal little planks but the side-bars would be made from dowels. Attaching the dowels would be quite simple -- simply drill a hole into the plank and stick the dowel through it (glued), and optionally drive a nail through the top or bottom of the dowel to make it expand a bit.
What are your thoughts about this?
I've only ever seen two hive designs that use dowel-rod frames -- the one is the Jackson hive that uses a very thick dowel-rod for the side-bars and a thin dowel-rod for the bottom bar, and the Golden hive that uses two dowel-rods instead of side-bars (and sometimes also a vertical rod in the centre of the frame), but with a standard little plank for the bottom-bar. The frames in the Golden hive seemed to use about 9 mm thick rods, whereas the rods in the Jackson hive look like they could be 15-20 mm thick.
At first I thought that I could use 7 mm thick rods, but once you hold the rod in your hands you realise that there is a big difference between 7 mm and 9 mm, with regard to strength! I'm not sure how big the hole must be that I should drill if I want to fit a 9 mm rod into it -- can anyone give me some clue here (i.e. what size drill bit)?
The boxes that I'm thinking of making these frames for are quite small, so the frames don't need to carry as much weight as the Jackson hive frames (i.e. Langstroths), for example. My frames will likely be 33 cm x 22 cm (it's not a standard sized box, hence the making of my own frames). Oh... and they'll be lugless (don't say it!).
Seeing that I'm a lazy mutt, I sought out ready-cut wood for this project (instead of cutting scraps to size, which would require tools that I don't have). At the local wood store I'm presented with a choice of four types of wood for the top-bar and bottom-bar, namely:
7x18mm norway spruce (vurenhout)
MOR 63.0, MOE 9.7
EUR 3.19 / 2100mm
8x26mm rubra oak (eikenhout)
MOR 99.2, MOE 12.14
EUR 4.79 / 2100mm
8x26mm european beech (beukenhout)
MOR 110.1, MOE 14.31
EUR 4.79 / 2100mm
15x20mm scots pine (grenenhout)
MOR 83.3, MOE 10.08
EUR 4.49 / 2100mm
The rods are scots pine and they're cheap:
7mm dia = EUR 1.79 / 2700mm
9mm dia = EUR 2.39 / 2700mm
Now the question is: would you trust a frame whose top-bar is only 7 mm thick? What if that top-bar was made not from pine or spruce but from beech or oak -- would that make you more likely to accept a top-bar that thin? Or should I just go for the thickest wood I can find, i.e. 15 mm thick, even if it's the weakest wood?
These frames won't be cheaper than frames made from the usual materials -- they'll be about three times as dear, in fact. But since they're a custom size, I might as well investigate the options.
Finally, something not quite on-topic here, but: these frames will likely be lugless, and to make them easier to handle, I was thinking of doubling up the top-bar so that it consist of two little planks with a bee-space sized space between them. Theoretically the bees won't build anything in that long hole, and it would make it much easier to handle the frame. If you know that the top-bar would be doubled-up, would that change your feelings about the thickness of the wood being used for the top-bar?
Thanks for reading my random thoughts. What are yours?