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How to Assemble the Five-Frame Nuc Hive

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After you have all the pieces cut for your five-frame nuc hive, it’s time to put it all together and build your hive. Start at the bottom (the ground) and work your way up (the sky).

When screwing together parts in the following steps, remember that the screws will go in easier if you first drill a 7/64-inch hole in each spot you plan to place a screw. The pre-drilling also helps prevent the wood from splitting.

Consider using a weatherproof wood glue in addition to the deck screws. It helps make the components as strong as possible. Apply a thin coat of glue wherever wooden parts are joined together.

An option to think about: Paint the exposed exterior wood of the hive’s components with a good quality outdoor paint (latex or oil). Doing so greatly extends the life of your woodenware. You can use any color you want, but a light color is best. Alternatively, you can stain and use a few protective coats of polyurethane or marine varnish on the exterior wood.

  1. Assemble the bottom board.

    Position the 21-5/8-inch-x-8-1/4-inch-x-3/4-inch floor into the dado groove of the rear rail. The rail should be resting on your worktable with the dado side up. You can select either end of the plywood floor as the rear of the bottom board.

    Place the side rails on both sides of the floor, inserting the floor into the dado grooves.

    Be certain that the dado faces the same way in all rails (the dado isn’t centered along the rail). Otherwise, you’ll have a seriously lopsided bottom board!

    Check the alignment and fit all the rails with the floor. Then place one of the #6 x 1-3/8 inch galvanized deck screws halfway into the center of each of the three rails (the screws go through the rails and into the edges of the floor).

    Don’t screw them in all the way yet. First make sure that everything fits properly; you have no room for adjustment after all the screws are in! When the fit looks good, use four additional deck screws spaced evenly along each side rail and two additional deck screws spaced evenly along the rear rail.

    The entrance reducer remains loose, and you place it in the hive’s entrance to control ventilation and prevent robbing, which is when bees from other colonies invade your hive and steal your colony’s precious honey. The entrance reducer is typically not used year-round. For more information on using an entrance reducer.

  2. Assemble the hive body.

    On the narrow rabbeted sides of the hive body, use a 7/64-inch bit to drill guide holes where you plan to place screws (these holes make it easier for the screws to go in and prevent the wood from splitting). Drill seven holes per rabbeted corner (see the following figure for approximate spacing).

    Assemble the two long sides and the two narrow sides of the hive body by placing the joints together. You’re essentially building a box.

    Use a carpenter’s square to make sure the box stays square as you assemble the hive body because you won’t have an opportunity for correction after all the screws are in place!

    After the “dry” fit looks good and everything is squared up, begin to lock the rabbet joints in place by affixing one deck screw into each of the hive’s four corners. Screw the fastener in only halfway, make sure everything remains square and fits properly, and then screw this and the remaining fasteners all the way in.

    Use a total of seven deck screws per rabbeted corner, spaced approximately as indicated in the following figure.

    Now use deck screws to attach the two hand rails to the narrow sides of the nuc hive body. Position the top edge of the hand rails 2 inches down from the top edge of the nuc body. Use three screws per hand rail, spaced and staggered (to prevent splitting the wood). Precise placement of screws isn’t critical.

    In place of using wooden hand rails, you can attach flush-mounted, galvanized (or stainless steel) handles to the nuc hive body. They look nice, and they give you a much better grip when lifting the hive body. You can find these handles in hardware stores or marine supply stores.

    Check all sides to make certain that all the screws are in place.

  3. Assemble the inner cover.

    Position the plywood cover insert into the dado grooves of the long rails and the short rails. It’s kind of like putting a picture frame together.

    Be certain that all rails have the thick or thin lip of the groove facing the same way. Otherwise, you’ll have a seriously lopsided inner cover!

    Check the alignment and fit, and insert a deck screw halfway into each of the four corners. Make sure everything is square and fits properly and then screw them in all the way. Keep in mind that if you cut the plywood insert perfectly square, it will square up the frame.

    Don’t paint the inner cover. Leave it natural and unfinished, as with all the internal parts of any beehive.

    Note: You should position the inner cover on the hive body with the flat side down and with the cutout notch (bee ventilation/entrance) facing up and at the front of the hive.

  4. Assemble the outer cover.

    Start with one long rail. Insert the plywood onto the shelf created by the rabbeted groove. Repeat this step on the opposite side with the second long rail.

    Fit both of the two short rails onto the plywood board. The short and long rails form a frame surrounding the plywood board. If the plywood was cut perfectly square, it will square up the entire assembly.

    When assembling the outer cover, it’s helpful to have a “stop” on your worktable that you can push against while inserting screws. A short piece of 2x4 lumber clamped or screwed to the table serves as a good stop to work against.

    Place one end of the outer cover flat on the worktable against the stop. Insert two deck screws into each corner of the short rails. Reverse the entire cover end to end and screw the other corners of the short rails in a similar manner. Make certain the entire assembly remains snug and tight as you do this.

    Now use additional deck screws to secure the plywood insert to the frame assembly. Drive the screws through the rails and into the edges of the plywood board. Five evenly spaced screws along each long rail and three along the short rails should do the trick.

    Center the aluminum flashing evenly on the top of the outer cover, and bend the flashing over the edges of the rail/frame. This creates a lip all around the top edge. Do this to all four sides. Bend and fold the corners (as if you’re making the corners of a bed). The flashing is thin and fairly easy to work with. Use a rubber mallet to coax the corners flush and flat.

    The edges of aluminum flashing are very sharp. Use caution when handling flashing to avoid cutting yourself, and consider using work gloves.

    Affix the flashing’s folded edges to the outer cover using the #8 x 1/2 inch lath screws.

  5. Stack all the pieces together to create the nuc hive.

    Now it’s time to put all the elements together. Place the bottom board on level ground. The bottom board is the nuc hive’s floor. It keeps the colony off the damp ground and provides for the hive’s entrance (where the bees fly in and out).

    Consider using an elevated hive stand to raise the nuc farther off the ground and make it more accessible to you.

    The nuc body goes on top of the bottom board. In this box, the bees raise baby bees and store food for their use. Place five deep frames with foundation (either store-bought or ones you make yourself) into the nuc body.

    Place the inner cover on top of the hive body. The deeper ledge faces up. The ventilation notch in the inner cover faces upward and toward the front (entrance) of the nuc hive.

    The outer cover is the roof of your hive, providing protection from the elements. The nuc uses a telescoping cover design, meaning that the cover fits on and over the hive (like a hat). Simply stack the outer cover on top of your inner cover. That’s it. Your nuc hive is ready for the bees to settle in!

    [Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design]
    Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design

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