How to build the famous “” top bar bee hive

If you have been following me on Facebook you’ll know that I just recently completed 90% of my top bar hive construction. I was going to wait to post this until I had made the lid and attached the IPM screen (integrated pest management), however I have been getting tons of emails on where I got my plans and asking for dimensions etc.

First of all you can get the plans as a free PDF download.

How to build a top bar hive (PDF)

These plans are by Phil Chandler who is the barefoot beekeeper.

I had hoped to keep this project under $20 so I could beat Jason Akers price on his $20 top bar bee hive. It was about 9:30pm last night when I remembered that I needed some 3″ bolts for the legs and tractor supply was already closed so I had to pay a premium for bolts or wait until the next day. Being a true american I wanted my bolts and wanted them now. So that combined with the cost of 2 pressure treated 2x4s for the legs pushed me to $21, and I had a nice dissertation on frivolous spending to post on the self sufficient gardener facebook page.

I’ve got a few notes on construction

  • I used some old shelves that were very hard and very old and about 1.3″ thick. If I had to use new lumber I would glue and screw 2 3/4″ pine panels together. I do see a lot of people are using 3/4″ wood for the sides of their top bar hives, however I have read a lot of posts saying that the thicker walls are much better for the bees. Having 2 together would give you 1.5″ walls and that would be a lot better for the bees in my well researched but inexperienced opinion.
  • I am using 2 different sizes for brood and honey bars. The brood bars are 1 1/4″ and the honey bars are 1 1/2″.
  • In the video I ripped a 1/8 strip off a board for use on the top bars… the simpler way to accomplish this is to purchase Popsicle sticks at a craft store
  • I followed Phil’s angles for attaching the legs, HOWEVER he used a different sized piece of wood for the legs, this forced me to have to notch the end of one of my 2x4s in order to make it fit at the angle I had committed to since the 2x4s I was using are wider than the boards he used in the plans. (I had already drilled the holes when I realized it)… if you want to use 2x4s then I would suggest making the angle a bit less steep. Maybe measure in 4″… do a dry fit first to ensure that it is correct. However it was easy enough to notch it and it will work just fine, although not looking as nice as it could it is no less structurally sound.

If you want the skinny on Tob bar hives (TBH, in this case it is a KTBH… K being Kenya) you have to join the forums over at

If you end up over there my username is SaveOurSkills (oddly enough)

So I used Phils plans in combination with an excellent How to series from a gentlman named Dave on youtube. Here is a link to his channel and you should subscribe to it.

I also filmed my experiences building the top bar hive and decided that the internet had room for one more “how to build a top bar hive” video. I like to think that I approached a few of the construction elements a bit simpler than Dave, or at the very least in a way that made sense to me and maybe it will make sense to someone else out there. Without further ado…

Author: Nick-LaDieu

Webmaster of Budding skill enthusiast and modern survivalist. When nick isn't plotting his next project he is probably running with his dogs, riding his mountain bike, or fiddling with his home theater.