So after a lot of scouring the internet and reading and watching countless Top Bar Hive build instructions, I finally settled on a plan and today we started the build!

Top Bar Hive Plans
1220 x 2440mm 25mm External Ply Cutting Plans

It was obvious that I would need help, I don’t have many woodworking tools and my disability and the physical and mental fatigue would make it impossible to handle on my own.

So I asked Southend Timber who are local to us if they could cut the pieces for me and they did at a very reasonable cost (under £10).

My wife picked the timber up and then went to Screwfix to get nails, wood glue and paint. The No Nonsense wood paint from Screwfix has great reviews and is half the price of the Cuprinol product, but it does have a very limited selection of colours.

A family member helped (did most of it) with the build and I am so grateful for their help, I am now laid in bed and can feel a flare up approaching and I did very little.

Follower Boards for a Top Bar Bee Hive

The first task is to assemble the Follower Boards, this is 25mm external ply like the main body of the hive and it is screwed to one of the 38mm x 21mm Top Bars that are 430mm long. See plans for dimensions!

We have used 5 x 60mm screws and the Gorilla wood glue that I highly recommend!!!

Top Bar Hive attaching the sides and ends

Two follower boards were then placed upside down and the sides laid on them, this then gives the shape and angles for the sides to be attached to the ends.

We marked the ends and then drilled and countersunk three holes at each end per side. This was also like all the joints, glued and screwed and a damp cloth used to wipe away excess glue that was squeezed out.

The bottom board will be attached using hinges and two catches to keep it in place and under this will be some mesh with 2mm holes.

Top Bar Hive legs

The 800mm x 100mm x 45mm legs were then cut at an angle so they would sit against the sides of the hive. Many of the plans have the legs on the ends but I decided to put them here as I think it looks tidier.

This means that where the lid usually sits on the top of the legs, we will be adding a block of wood or a bracket on the side of each of the ends to support the roof.

The legs were glued and had two screws in from the ends and two through from the sides. With the Gorilla Glue and four 5 x 60mm screws, it will be more than strong enough!

Top Bar Hive roof
Jasper our dog sat beside the hive.

The roof is very simple, the sides are attached with two screws at each end and glued and then the roof top is glued and screwed on and will at a later date be topped with some feather edge. If the budget had been larger, I would have used aluminium sheet.

I have seen some builds have the roof protected with self adhesive flashing tape which would be quite cheap and still look good!

Top Bar Hive

Here you can see the Top Bars in place and the bars with two screws are the follower boards.

That is as far as we got today and I will need a good few days to recover and so the build will continue in about a week. It is frustrating to have to do it like this but when your body plays up like mine does, it means that any tasks are met with a heavy flare up of high pain and fatigue!

One thing I was unsure of was hinges, the gap between the sides that are angles and the roof meant it would be a standard butt hinge. So I waited until it was built and could see what was what and went to a local shop called Izod and Burnip. It is a treasure trove and you can buy a single screw or hinge and it is often a lot cheaper than a big DIY store and I found what would work.

They are apparently called storm hinges and were £1.50 each and so I purchased three and they are perfect. They don’t attach as they were designed for but they work very well.

Top Bar Hive

So despite feeling like I have battled Mike Tyson, I gave the hive a coat of the No Nonsense wood paint and attached the roof and bottom board hinges!

I was unsure on what to use as comb guides on the bars, I have seen people use a wedge shape from a square shape cut diagonally down the middle. Some have used half round beading and even dowel.

I purchased some beading that is I think used on windows and have used the Gorilla Glue to attach it. These are cut at 350mm and I use some staples to hold it whilst the glue dries and then I remove them. The Gorilla Glue is seriously strong and we tested it by allowing it to dry and then using a hammer to separate the pieces and the glue is stronger than the wood!

On a few of the bars I cut two slots in the comb guide, I have seen many ways that people reattach comb that breaks off and this will allow me to do that without having a zip tie or cord that goes around the actual bar causing a gap between the next bar.

The entrance choice was by far the hardest decision, in fact it drove me mad!

I knew it would be an end entrance but do I go for a slot or holes?

I purchased these 3D printed ones from eBay and when I shared my purchase on Social media, well it wasn’t met with positivity. People doubted if they would be any good and so I decided to not use them.

But today, I thought sod it, it’s my hive, my build and so I went for it and I actually like them. It gives me the ability to open and close as needed and the hole is crossed by a bar and so mice won’t be able to get in!

Love them or hate them? Let me know in the comments!

This is something I hadn’t thought of! I posted a photo of the hive and someone said “Don’t forget escape cones in the roof”.

So if I have opened the hive and then shut the roof, any bees still in that space can exit and the idea is they can’t get in that way! It is a 35mm hole and a cone also on the inside that is fitted ‘cone into the hole’.

Mesh viewed from inside

So the mesh is in!

I purchased two 460mm x 460mm sheets of varroa mesh from Amazon from a company called Simon the Bee Keeper. These cost £9.98 and they were cut using a rotary tool and then the edges angled and I then attached them using an electric stapler.

Top bar alignment groove

I used a rotary tool to put these grooves in, it isn’t necessary but it means that the grooves will sit on the edge of one of the sides and align them!

Finished top bar hive

And ………… it is finished!
Yes the finishing touch was the small roof over the entrances and with that I have a completed top bar hive.


10 months on from the Top Bar Hive build and I have had bees in there for just over a month.

I noticed after a couple of week of bad weather that despite the fact that the roof had a good four coats of the garden paint, it wasn’t looking too good and was peeling and also delaminating along one edge. Luckily on inspection the rest of the hive looks really good.

So I needed to do something to make sure the roof was okay?

I had several choices from roofing felt, feather edge wood or flashing tape and I had considered adding flashing tape when I built the hive and now wish I had.

I ended up purchasing a roll of Bostik Flashband that is 150mm wide and there is 10 metres on the roll, calculations told me there was enough there to cover the hive roof.

So today with the help of my eldest daughter Becky, the roof was covered in this tape.

Bostik Flashband on plywood beehive roof Top Bar hive.

We decided it was best to unscrew the hinges and remove the roof, after all a job is always worth doing properly.

The thick Bostik Flashband is apparently best applied in warm weather and today was warm.

I marked the hive so that I knew it was going on straight and the ply is 25mm thick so the first piece went on a line that was 100mm from the edge of the roof to allow the tape to wrap around the edge.

Then it was a case of marking that piece 25mm from the top edge for an overlap of the two pieces of tape.

I was concerned it was going to be a difficult job, but it was quite easy, well as easy as it gets bumshuffling around on the ground when you suffer from chronic pain but it is done and I have to say that I think the Top Bar Hive looks better for it!

Top Bar Bee hive with flashing tape on roof
Yes I am aware that fence panel needs replacing!

But if you want a Top Bar Hive but would rather purchase one, check out Top Bar Beehives that are built by Andrew Vidler who also runs the Facebook group UK Top Bar Beekeepers

Top Bar Beehive built by Andrew Vidler of Top Bar Beehives

As you can see the hives are beautifully built and there are many options you can choose.

By Zechariah Richardson

Over 50, disabled, husband, father and gramps who reviews products and writes blog posts about his life, beekeeping, gardening and whatever pops into his brain!

13 thought on “Building the Top Bar Hive”
    1. Question: size of top bars are described with 38 mm, here with 35 mm width..why? Cell size ? Thanks in advance.

      1. As long as they aren’t too narrow it doesn’t matter, either will be okay. I chose that size as it was available but on a few bars they have built very thick comb and I have had to use some shims between the bars

  1. I love this beehive and find it inspiring and am planning to start building my own over the next few weeks I think the entrance looks great and I am sure the bees will too!

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