DIY Beekeeping Equipment: Top Bar Hive

By Tony Pisano

Beekeeping equipment is expensive, but it's easy to make your own! In
Build Your Own Beekeeping Equipment (Storey Publishing, 2013) Tony Pisano's step-by-step illustrated instructions show you how to build everything you need, including hive bodies, supers, covers, hive stands, frames, swarm catchers, feeders, and more. You can choose among different hive styles, and many of the 35 projects can be made using hand tools. The following excerpt from chapter ten, “Specialty Hives,” will teach you how to build your own top-bar hive.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Build Your Own Beekeeping Equipment.

Build Your Own Beekeeping Equipment Book Cover

Top-Bar Hive

If you're interested in giving beekeeping a try on more of a shoestring budget, a top-bar hive might be for you. The whole idea behind a top-bar hive is simplicity, so it can be made with the least amount of materials and tools when both are scarce and hard to come by. Not everyone likes simple, but I do. It's kind of like my 1988 Dodge Ram pickup truck. It has a bench seat and a radio. You have to crank the window down to adjust the mirror by hand and push the buttons to lock the doors, and that's the way I like it.

This hive can be built in a weekend, and you can leave it basic (like my old truck) or fancy it up as much as you want. I'll show you how to add viewing windows, which are optional. We'll also explore a few different roof options.

• Table saw
• Circular saw or handsaw
• Combination square with protractor head
• Drill and combination drill/countersink bit
• 1/2" and 1/16" drill bits
• Jigsaw
• Sandpaper
• Router with roundover and flat-bottom bits (optional)


Hive Body
• One 4-foot pine 1 x 6
• Two 6-foot pine 1 x 12s
• One 4-foot 2 x 4
• Sixteen 2" deck screws
• Twenty-two 1 3/4" deck screws
• Waterproof glue

Top Bars
• One 8-foot pine 5/4 x 6
• One 3-foot pine 5/4 x 8
• Windows (optional)
• 1/8" Plexiglas (or similar clear plastic glazing; size as desired; see step 4)
• 5/8" wire nails
• 1-by pine material (for door; see step 6)
• Two 2" x 1 3/8" hinges with screws
• Scrap wood and screws (for door latch, see step 6)
• One 2" window latch with screws

• Three 8-foot pine 1 x 4s
• Sixteen 2" deck screws
• One 24" x 48" piece 3/8" exterior plywood
• Forty-four 1 1/4" deck screws
• One 4" x 48" (minimum) piece of flashing
• 3d galvanized box nails

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