Copyright 2003 by Leonard G. Barton - rights released for noncommercial use.


Fabricating Top Bars

There are alternative methods of fabricating bars that do not require the use of power tools. You can purchase 5/8 thick 1.5 inch "door stop" and attach a wax cord along the center with hot wax.

If you do not have power tools available or would like to try an alternate method, click here for simple bar instructions.

Caution: Use EYE and EAR protection and follow safety instructions.

WARNING: These instructions include non-standard methods which require extreme caution. Keep your head and body out of the line of the blade. Make sure your setup is correct before operating.

You are responsible for your safety.

You know your cababilities.

Note that the saw is at the end of the table so that it can be worked from one side.

Cut Billits

Find clear sections of 2 by 4 inch fir and cut them to 24 inch lengths (if the interior width of the hive is 22 inches, otherwise 2 inches longer than that width). Do not use the table saw for this - use a hand saw, hand power saw, radial arm saw, or cutoff saw (with proper support for the workpiece). You may trim the billets to a uniform length and square edge using the table saw. All billets should be of the same length. If the bars are somewhat less than 24 inches, adjust the end relief to get the proper 22 inch interior length of bar. It is best to complete the hive first so that the bars can be cut to the proper interior length.

If you have multiple top bar hives it is convient to have interchangeable bars, but this requires a greater precision in construction. [Top_Bar_Billit]

Rip Billits Into Bars

(No Picture). If set the fence to the width to cut you must be extremely careful that the cut piece does enter the slot from which the blade protudes. You must also use a push stick to move the bar beyond the blade.

Using standard "2 by 4" (which is 1.5 by 3.5 inch) stock the bars will be 1.5 inches wide (37 mm). you may either cut 4 bars which will be about 3/4 inch thick, or 5 bars, which will be about 14mm thick. (If you use fir, the thinner bars will be stiff enough and you will get 20 from one 8 foot 2 by 4, enough for one hive.)

Rip Slots Into The Bars

On one side of each bar, rip two parallel slots, about 3/32 inch deep that will leave a web about 3/32 inch wide. (This is a different order than that used when the pictures were taken.) [Central_Web_Cut]

Rabit End Relief Into The Bars

Remove about 1/2 the thickness of the bar from each end, on the side with the slots. DO NOT USE THE FENCE AS A GUAGE (the workpiece can jam and fly back or damage the saw blade). Instead, use a block of wood against the fence to set up the wood against the sliding square. Then, holding the bar firmly against the square, make the first cut. Slide the bar slightly more away from the fence at each cut, removing wood to form the rabit. [Gauge_Block]

(Unlike the bar shown below, there will also be two slots lengthwise.) [End_Relief]

Cut Wild Comb Spline Slots Into The Bars

You do not need to do this if you are collecting only swarms or are using packaged bees. I think that it is a good idea to have at least 6 or 8 bars ready to use this way if you are collecting swarms, as you may get a call to remove a colony. Cut several slots at 30 degrees as shown below. You must reset the blade depth after changing the blade angle.

These slots will hold splines to support wild comb. The splnes are cut from 1/8 inch fiberboard. These are shown in use elswhere on the site. [Wild_Comb_Loop_Slots]

Rip Cheek Cuts Into The Bars (OPTIONAL)

NOTE: After observing the development of comb on bars, I belive that it is not necessary to make the following cuts, which are dangerous to make.

The bees hang in draperies from the bars and make their inital comb along the line of the drape. Since the bar as developed to this point has an easy point to cling to, and if the bars are of uniform thickness and not bowed there will not be practical for the bees to cling between the bars. This should encourage the desired development. My next bar sets will use this method. I am presently experimenting with a single bar of this type.

CAUTION: When completing this cut you must press the outfeed portion against the table so that the bar will not drop into the blade slot (this depends on the configuration of your saw), and you must use a push stick.

If you cut 4 bars from a billet, set the saw blade to 15 degrees. If you cut 5 bars, set the saw blade to 12 degrees.

Use a block to keep the bar against the fence until the last portion of the cut, then use the block to push the work through while holding down the outfeed.

Warning- be very cautious when making these cuts.


The bars are shown upside down. The bees can easilly cling to the web with the hooks on their feet. The will cling to each other, forming a drapery of bees. This is where they will hang the comb. [Finished_And_Blank]

If you have comments or questions, mail me with subject "KTBH" at the address shown below in the graphic.


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