Painting Boxes



I’ve been through, building boxes and frames so now it’s time for paint. Of all the steps painting is the one I dislike the most. This is mainly because I don’t heat my garage. Therefore I need to wait until it will be greater than 50 degrees while not being super-humid for 6-9 days. Normally these conditions are met shortly before the boxes will be needed in the Spring. Secondly I need to be able to coordinate the temperature and humidity with my work schedule.

2016-03-10 15.20.44 Using a rollerI have come to associate painting with the time right before the busiest time of year. I’m getting anxious! Painting is a VERY IMPORTANT step in beekeeping. If the boxes are put together well and the paint is applied properly these boxes could be out for 8-10 years before needing to be brought back in. Taking time to do this properly now will stave off maintenance work in my future. A huge aspect of success in beekeeping is efficiency, both for bees and beekeepers.

2016-03-10 13.20.13Wait to paint until you have enough woodwork assembled TO MAKE IT WORTH IT. No matter how much you end up painting the prep-work and cleanup will be the same, so get a bunch ready and do it all! When painting boxes I place them all ON CARDBOARD, ON PALLETS. I then place other pieces of cardboard around the palates to keep paint from getting on the floor. Everything is on pallets so it can be moved easily with a pallet jack. I didn’t need to move them this time, but if I needed to get the air compressor out or clear a path to the freezer, I could easily move the boxes AT ONCE, wet or dry.

First, a little prep work must be done. Some of my boxes had 1 INCH holes drilled in them. There is usually a little sawdust in those holes. I use an attachment for the air compressor to blow the dust out of them. These boxes were assembled several weeks ago and other projects have occurred in the garage since then so there could be dust on em. The DAY BEFORE YOU PAINT – Take a DAMP rag and wipe all the surfaces down to remove dust. It doesn’t need to be a lot of water, you’re not washing them, just make sure you get the dust. This will make your primer and paint stick better. Allow them to dry before you apply ANYTHING.

20160314_211339 Painting BoxesI use a THREE step process, so once the cycle begins I like to finish up AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. First an oil based primer is applied to the boxes. This needs to dry for 2-3 days depending on humidity maybe longer. Wait until each coat of primer and paint is DRY, before advancing to the next step. You only make the mistake of painting too soon ONCE. Test this by touching the painted surface. You will just know if it’s dry or not. It will feel like a solid surface when dry.  If wet it will feel tacky or sticky.  To be safe I typically wait until it is DRY then put on another coat the FOLLOWING day.

20160314_211327 Painting BoxesThe quickest way I have found to prime and paint standard Lang boxes is to do the hand-holds and the bottom 3 inches of the bottom BOX with a brush first, then use a roller second to paint everything. Doing the hand-holds first saves time. Even trying to be careful, the angles of the hand-holds making runs. These runs are easily dealt with all at once with the roller making the second pass.  Remember this isn’t a work of art, keep the runs to a minimum, but don’t worry if you have a few when it’s all said and done.

2016-03-10 17.08.16 All PrimedLearning to paint a stack of boxes with a roller has a learning curve. Be careful not to push too hard with the roller. It’s a little different than painting a wall. The top 2 – 3 boxes especially during the priming coat will easily slide right off if you push too hard. You may need to steady the TOP box with one hand and hold the roller with the other. You don’t want boxes with wet paint on them falling the floor, so be careful.

That’s what normally dictates the height of my stacks. I like to be able to reach the top of the TOP box. Normally after the primer dries, they are less likely to move on you, and applying the paint layers is easier.

When you paint this way the boxes get stuck together.  There’s a method to taking them apart that’s quick and doesn’t peel paint badly on the edges.  Rather than try to explain it, I had Holly shoot some video this morning.  I only got 1 take so…. my hair was sticking up, and I slipped on a pallet and almost fell down.  Check in next week you won’t want to miss it.

Here’s a couple things I do to make painting a little easier.

20160314_223836 Painting Boxes Skate KeyWhen opening paint can use a Skate Key, Paint can opener or musket tool You can open your cans with a screwdriver, but they may not close perfectly afterwards.  When this happens your paint will dry inside the can.  I think paint is expensive, so I keep the lid nice and airtight.  If you only have a couple hives a gallon of paint will last you a long time.  

2016-03-17 10.33.45In order to make cleanup quicker use 2 layers of aluminum foil in your roller basin.  When you complete your painting job it is easier to remove the foil from the roller-pan and throw it away.  If you use less than 2 layers it always gets through to the pan.  

20160313_172512 painting boxes missWhile painting be inspecting the boxes for knots or other defects. I look for messed up joints and screws that got sunk into the wood too far.  Boxes with problems should be identified and dealt with before you deploy them.  After the final coat has dried some problem areas get filled with 100% silicone to make the box more weatherproof.  


I use acrylic latex paint.  It dries quickly compared to the oil based primer.  Depending on how long the rolling takes, paint may begin to dry on your brush.  I HATE IT WHEN THIS HAPPENS!   On a job about 3 x this size several years ago I was rolling for a long time.  I went to clean the bucket after pouring more paint and the brush became a random depositor of slightly dried paint chunks.  To prevent this when not using your brush for 2016-03-17 10.13.43long periods remove as much paint as possible by brushing it on the boxes (see pic).  The boxes on the left show where I just cleaned the brush out.  Then wrap the brush in a piece of aluminum foil.  Not only will this keep the paint from drying, it makes your paintbrush something you can set down.  Instead of something that is perched precariously on something.  I do like less mess.

2016-03-17 10.13.55When pouring paint make sure to pour in a way that the DIRECTIONS ARE NOT covered in paint.  Get in the habit of looking down before you pour.  If the directions are facing you POUR.  That way when you need to know something about the paint the directions aren’t covered in paint.

Spring is really kicking into gear here as you have seen from recent posts.  If you haven’t gotten your painting done.  GET ON IT!

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