|Forum topic by ugcheleuce||posted 03-07-2016 02:05 PM||719 views||0 times favorited||20 replies|
03-07-2016 02:05 PM
I’m a hobby beekeeper and I’m always trying to find cheaper ways of doing my hobby. A large, regular expense is frames. I’m wondering whether one can use MDF or cheap plywood (or even OSB) to make frames for beehives.
All beekeepers know (or: have been taught) that MDF and ordinary plywood is bad, because of the way it reacts when it gets wet. It is known (or taught) that bee hives from MDF won’t last more than two or three years, and the same would apply to plywood, even if painted annually. And anyone who even thinks of making frames from either of these are considered an idiot.
My question is whether this is just superstition. Can one make frames from MDF and/or the cheapest plywood (e.g. 9 mm poplar)?
I have very little woodworking equipment (the cheapest table saw and the cheapest mitre saw, and a hand-held figure saw), so I’m rather limited in the type of wood that I can use to make my own frames. If I had a planer and a slightly more advanced table saw, I would have been able to make frames from scrap wood.
With shop-bought frames, the wood is 1 cm thick and 2.2 cm wide, but frames made of wood of up to 1.2 cm thick and up to 1.8 cm wide would still fit in the hive.
The advantage of MDF or plywood for me would be that it is dead flat and doesn’t warp during working with it. It is also cheaper than any non-warp wood that I can find in the appropriate thickness. I would prefer to use a light material (anything that reduce weight in a bee hive is a good thing).
A little more background information:
A beehive is basically a stack of bottomless crates, with some rails inside. The wooden “frames” have lugs on both sides, and hang from the rails by those lugs. The bees then build comb in the frame, and fill the comb with baby bees, pollen or honey.
Most bee hives stand outside, in the sun, and rain, and wind, and snow, etc. Bee hives often have metal sheet roofs and they don’t stand directly on the ground. Hives are painted on the outside, but not in the inside, and the frames are not painted either.
In my region, we use non-self-spacing frames, which means that if the wood of the frames should expand slightly in thickness, it would not be a bother. The important thing is that the frames should not fall apart when handling them, and that the top-bar should be able to carry some weight (max 1.5 kg per frame) without bending more than 2-3 mm in the centre. The frame’s top bar is 35 cm long, from rail to rail. Most of the weight hangs off the top bar, but not all, since the comb is also attached to the side bars of the frame.
The bees regulate the temperature and moisture in the hive. During spring, summer and autumn, the humidity inside the hive is 50%-60%, regardless of outside humidity. In winter, the humidity rises, but condensation only occurs along the very top inside edge of the hive, so only the frames in the uppermost crate get some water on it. At times (when the beekeeper blunders about), honey may be spilled onto the frames, but the bees will lick it up within an hour or two. Honey is 80% sugar, 20% water.
It is my layman’s understanding, from documents such as http://www.ewp.asn.au/library/downloads/ewpaa_facts_about_pb_and_mdf.pdf, that MDF or plywood could be suitable for frames, since it is dry inside the hive (apart from the humidity and winter condensation).
Your expert thoughts?
-- -- Hobby beekeeper, Apeldoorn, Netherlands