Bee Culture: Assembling A Frame

Okay. What are we talking about here? Are we talking about putting ten frames together or five hundred? If only a few frames need assembling, clear off a spot in the garage and have at it. On the other hand, if a large number of frames will need assemblin g or if this will be an on-going process, arrange for a designated spot, get empty supers together to organize assembled frames, have a comfortable stool, and have all the necessary parts within easy reach. A radio to help time pass is really a nice addit ion. Anything beyond ten frames can become mind-numbing.

For many years, bee supply manufacturers made end bars that had one set of edges beveled. Though end bars are not commonly made any more with the chamfered edges, it would not be unusual to come across some end bars needing assembly or repair. Here is my rule of thumb. Put your left thumb either in or on the wedge in the top bar. Put your right thumb on the chamfered bevel on the end bar and then force the end bar onto the top bar. The cuts in the top bar intended to receive the end bar are obvious. Rotat e the top bar and again, with you right thumb on the chamfered bevel, put the other end bar on the top bar. In this manner, end bar edge bevels will be on opposite sides of the top bar.

Before we go any farther, lets talk about glue. It helps greatly if the end bars are glued to the top bars using yellow carpenterís glue. Though it has not been discussed yet, gluing bottom bars to the end bars is also a great idea – and doesnít take but a minute. Most beekeepers donít do glue, but it really helps. Another point for consideration is that we are only putting this frame together one time. So gluing or cross nailing is fine with me. If a frame is put together correctly the first time and is used properly, it will last indefinitely. Many times beekeepers donít want to construct a frame in such a way that it cannot be repaired in future years. I suspect that the usable life of most frames is about seven years. I would rather just replace the i njured frame than try to cobble up a repair job. Now back to the assembly job……..

With both end bars stuck to the top bar, glue oozing out, drive two 1-1/4″ nails (18 gauge) through the top bar into the end bar. Proper nails are normally included in the deal when buying frames. If theyíre not, and that happens sometimes, be sure you g et both the right length and gauge. Too-thick nails will split frame wood and youíll end up with so much kindling.

Occasionally, some species of pine may be used that is difficult to drive nails through. It will add more time to the assembly process, but clip the head off one of the frame nails and use it as a drill bit to bore pilot holes. Pilot holes also help peopl e who are not schooled in advanced hammering. Use a light hammer with something like a six ounce head. Tack hammers are too light while common nail hammers having 12, 16 or 20 ounce heads are too heavy.

After hammering two nails through the top bar into each end bar, flip the frame over, dab glue in the end bar slots and install the bottom bar ñ again probably a two piece bottom bar. Using four one-inch nails, secure the bottom bars to the end bars.

Now hereís a tricky ñ but worthwhile ñ part. If you havenít already done so, break out the wedge. Stand the frame on end and drive a 1-1/4″ nail through the end bar into the 3/4″ part of the top bar. Then flip the frame around and drive one into the opp osite end of the top bar. Several things can go wrong here and they all involve the nail coming out in the wrong place. If the nail is not properly aligned, it will break through on either side of the top bar. Another problem occurs when the nail strikes the nail that was driven through the top bar again causing the side nail to split out in the wrong place. I donít know a good way around this problem. However, if all nails go where they should, the cross-nailing and gluing makes a stout joint.

At this point, everything should be glued, nailed and cross-nailed. Before the glue has an opportunity to set, rack (or torque) the frame into square. I would guess that about one third of frames assembled correctly are still out of square. Assuming nothi ng goes wrong, it will take about two-three minutes to assemble one frame. If hundreds or even thousands of frames are to be assembled, this job can become stupefying. At this point, many beekeepers consider pneumatic air guns to speed things along.

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