Box building tips

20160208_111534Crazy as it may sound I have what is looking like a potential problem in my beekeeping life. There’s a real possibility that almost all of my hives are going to overwinter this year. I hate even mentioning this because when it comes to beekeeping I’m a little superstitious. I’ve been burned before in February and March.

20160131_194614That being said unless something terrible happens with the weather the next 2 or 3 weeks I’m going to need a lot of DEEPS this Spring. Most newly caught swarms last year were put in 2 deeps to see if they would overwinter. The plan is to place ANOTHER deep under them in a little less than a month to make 3 deep colonies for production. Since the swarms I caught last year survived, I’m theorizing that the parent colonies probably did too. Therefore not only do I need deeps for last years catches, there’s a good chance I could have another good year trapping.  

THAT EXCITES ME! Unfortunately to make this all happen I need to spend some time in the garage. A couple weeks ago I discussed Tips and Tricks for frame building and figured I’d do the same for building boxes since I did 56 of them recently and had plenty of time to think about it.

Just like with frame assembly there are some tools and supplies that will make your life and the end product better.
Needed: Hammer, cordless drill, framing square, large clamp, 2 inch triple-coated deck screws (or stainless if money is no object), 6d galvanized nails, a hive tool, good waterproof or exterior glue, and at least 1 Popsicle stick.

Planning ahead will prevent making a mess. Whether you work on a table or workbench, I suggest putting down a sheet of plywood or particle board that you don’t care about on your work surface. When you put your boxes together there will be some excess glue that will get squeezed out. This will keep the glue mess on the plywood and OFF anything you might care about. I like a workspace that’s approximately 4 feet wide and at least 2.5-3 feet deep for building boxes.

0 TIP01 20160131_194539Tip 1: When I get boxes I like to arrange them in 1 box groupings of 2 ends and 2 sides, then stack them up so that once the process starts I can get into a rhythm. When building things repetitively it prevents screw-ups when you have a system.

Note UN-clean cut.

UN-clean cut.

Tip 2: Before you apply any glue check the cuts on your joints particularly on the end pieces. I have had very good luck in previous years from KelleyBees boxes, but this year I was VERY disappointed. The millwork was good EXCEPT for some skip that was part of the 3/8 inch rabbet where the frames rests. EVERY SINGLE END PIECE required removal of material to make

NOTE crack in rabbet

cracked rabbet

the joints fit together well. I used a sharp hive tool to do this.  As always I put the first one together without paying close enough attention. Note the picture that shows what happens to your box when you do this. This excess material must be removed to prevent cracking of the rabbet.

Tip 3: Just as with frame building TOO LITTLE GLUE IS BETTER THAN TOO MUCH! First off, you only need to apply glue to the 16-1/4 inch ENDS (for a standard Lang 10 frame boxes). To speed things up I apply glue to EVERY OTHER FINGER of the BOX JOINTS. Then I spread it around with the Popsicle stick. As you are doing this THINK about which faces of your joint need glue and which ones DON’T. Only apply glue to the faces that will be in contact with the other board in the joint. After several boxes you will get to where you know how much glue is needed. Putting on too much glue leads to cleanup time and it kills your productivity. Adding a little more later isn’t that big a deal. Sorry I don’t have a picture of this. I was focused on the job at hand forgot to take pics.

squaring box

squaring box

Tip 4: I do not own a box building jig. I have seen plans for them on the internet, but I don’t know if they would speed things up or not. One thing I do know is using A SQUARE is great way to avoid making rhombi out of your boxes. A framing square costs $20 or less at Menards or Lowes. If you’re gonna keep bees just get one! It is a multi-functional tool that can be used for MANY different projects around your home. Once your glue has been applied and spread around, assemble the box. CHECK TO SEE THAT ALL HANDHOLDS ARE ON THE OUTSIDE! Initially I prefer to have the 16 – ¼ inch “ENDS” resting on the workspace and the longer boards on each side. See picture. Place the framing square on top of the assembled box and rock the box side to side slightly so that both faces are touching the square. Drive your first screw or nail. Always make sure things are square before driving nails or screws. After completing a corner move to the next one.


good corner to clamp

Tip 5: If you can afford at least ONE large woodworking clamp it would be nice to have for box building. Some of the boards will have a slight warp or twist in them. When you go to assemble them it can be hard to hold the box together and the square in position while fastening things together. When using your clamp get one side of the joint fastened and square, then move the clamp to the opposite side OF THE SAME JOINT, square and fasten.

0 Tip02 20160206_131626Tip 6: Put some screws in each corner. YOU DO NOT want boxes to flex at the corners. Once painted, the better they stay together the LONGER they will last. Flexing allows water into the joint where it can get to work rotting the wood and oxidizing your screws and nails. I do not put screws in every fastening point due to expense. That would be 10 screws per corner on these deeps! Screws are expensive so I am experimenting. Half of the boxes were assembled with 4 screws in each corner, while the other half had 6 screws per corner. Five years from now we’ll see if there’s a difference in performance.  Also note… your putting these screws into pine.  It is a soft wood.  Try to avoid driving them too deeply into the joint.

20160206_134500Tip 7: Keep the nails that come with your boxes for other projects, but don’t use them UNLESS they are GALVANZIED. I purchase 6d galvanized nails from Menards. They will resist rust WAY LONGER than the wire nails that normally come with boxes. Once water gets in and rusts those nails the chance for box failure increases.

20160131_194606Tip 8: If you are inclined to put holes in your deeps, DO IT NOW. That way when you paint you can apply some inside the hole to prevent rot.

I hope these instructions are clear enough. Writing technically is harder than you think. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if I was NOT clear.

Do you have your boxes done for this year yet?
Do you have any additional tips to mention?
Spring is coming better get ready!

Want to get e-mail updates?
e-Mail Updates –

This entry was posted in HowTo, Posts, What's going on.. and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Box building tips

  1. Jeff says:

    Excellent post as usual! I like the logical system you have laid out. In the past I have always milled my own lumber to build my boxes with, but with the cost of the wood and the labor involved I’m seriously thinking about just buying the parts and just doing the assembly. I’m thinking unless a person has a source of free or cheap wood it makes sense to buy the parts.
    Have you ever compared the cost of buying versus starting from scratch.

    • Jason says:

      I have milled and built boxes 1 time. Built 22 of them. I could not do it cheap enough if I bought the pine. The only reason it worked out was my friend with the wood shop had some boards cut from a tree that had blown over in his yard. The boards had NOT been kiln dried. He wanted them out of his way because he didn’t want to take the chance on making cabinets out of them.

      It would maybe be different if I had a wood shop, but I spent a lot of time plaining and cutting my joints. Unless I can get the wood for almost nothing I can’t make the math work.

      That’s why I put things together well and keep woodwork painted.

      Thanks for reading and commenting Jeff.

  2. Chris Hux says:

    A few years ago, a friend of mine got a pallet of deeps from Mann lake or Dadant, that were not cut perfectly. All of the joints were off line just enough to make it difficult to put them together with removing some material. He called, ando they shipped him another order to make it right. I don’t know if Kelley would have done that or not. I purchased and assembled good quality foundation-less frames from them last year.

    Thanks for your insightful and educational posts. I’m glad you’re having such horrible problems with your bees! Looks like I’m in the same boat coming into spring, with fingers crossed. Time to build boxes…

    • Jason says:

      I guess I can send an e-mail to Kelley’s. In my experience complaining about stuff like that hasn’t ever gotten me anywhere. This is the first problem I have ever had with them. I have gotten at least a thousand of those foundationless frames from them and never had a problem. I think it’s crazy that other suppliers aren’t carrying them. In my experience as long as I let the bees work DOWN through them AND EVERYTHING IS LEVEL they build on them perfectly most of the time.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. March 15th is coming QUICK!!!…. Where I live that’s normally my goal supering time and when I can pretty much count on everything that is alive making it through…. Good luck to you.

  3. Polish honey says:

    Nice boxes and helpful content. Thx for Y job.

    • Jason says:

      Thanks for reading…. and commenting as well. Been hanging traps… hope to get regular postings up and going SOON.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *