Project: Making a Kenyan Top Bar Bee Hive (Part 3)

Preface: This is the final part of a series which starts here and continues here. This section covers the legs, roof, and painting. Enjoy!


After feeling like I was ready to after recent life events, I resumed my hive building project. I was definitely not ready.

I had decided I would use whatever lumber I had left to make the roof. This was a bad plan that ended badly. I eventually decided to quit while I was behind and rethink my life.

I managed to make a frame (it was somehow both too tight and too loose I think?) and then realized I had not thought about how to attach my roof plywood.


After my failure I decided I needed a fresh set of eyes. Since stealing eyes is generally frowned upon, I just kidnapped some from my husband. He helped me come up with a battle plan and we attacked the home improvement store, raiding it for supplies.



We had to be somewhere so couldn’t do much, but decided to at least cut the roof peaks to length and then decide on the pitch.


I don’t actually know what the pitch angle is, so don’t ask! It’s also not even…oops.

Today’s purchases:

  • (2) 3/8 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. plywood for the roof @ $15.93 each
  • (4) 2 in. x 3 in. x 8 ft. wood for the roof frame @ $2.69 each
  • (2) 2 in. x 10 in. x 8 ft. wood for the roof ends @ $7.52 each
  • Total cost for today: $57.66
  • NOTE: I ended up not needing the second of those 2 in. x 10 in. x 8 ft lengths. And I could’ve been smarter with the plywood too.

The spoils of war the home improvement store


Sometime after this point I lost track of time forever.


I will say this up front though: the roof was THE WORST. I expected the top bars to give me trouble, and I even expected the roof to give me some trouble, but I HAD NO IDEA.

The next weeks? months? years? (IT FELT LIKE IT) was a constant struggle of trying to get the roof tight enough that bees couldn’t slip in and decide to make their home in my gabled roof vs. loose enough that I could get it on and off. It is a battle that I lost, honestly. It is somehow, simultaneously, both.


This was how the majority of the time was spent.

THAT BEING SAID, I decided the first thing to do was to attach my roof rests so that I could actually try putting the frame on and seeing how it worked. I JUST WANNA SAY, this was the best idea. Moving these hive bodies around was SO HARD because they’re ridiculously heavy, but these “handles” made it SO MUCH EASIER.



Once I attached those, I needed to cut my roof supports to match my gable angle. How did I figure out the angle? Measure it? Do math? No, I just straight up guessed because I AM SO OVER ANGLES, YA’LL.


I either got lucky or I’ve gotten dang good at guessing angles cause I basically nailed it in one.

After cutting all those (two for the bottom outside, two for the upper inside), I threw together the basic frame and tried it out.

As you can see, my foreman on the right was unimpressed but I SURE WAS. The first one I did was “too big” (spoilers it ended up too small by the end) so I decided to make the next one slightly smaller (UGHHHH). In hindsight I would’ve given probably a half inch of leeway on every side and just hoped the bees wouldn’t want to live in the roof. That might be terrible advice, hopefully someone with experience will comment and tell me where I went wrong.


This was the cut for my roof frame for those who want to see that sort of thing.

There were two signs I noticed from this day that I took as warnings that this project has gone on too long:

  • I kept trying to plug tools into each other instead of into the extension cord
  • It took me FAR TOO LONG to figure out all I needed to do for the other side’s gables was just to rotate the cut piece 180 degrees


At this point my dad decided he wanted his barn area back someday so it was MOVING DAY. I really should’ve taken a picture of the truck loaded because we really packed it in.

Honestly, this was probably the salvation of the project because it meant that my garage could not be used for parking the cars in till the hives were finished. For some that might be somewhere between “normal” or a “slight inconvenience” for us it meant “OUR WORLD IS UPSIDE DOWN.” Turns out the habit of parking in the garage is DEEPLY ingrained and when we have the many hoards over at our house the driveway space is essential to have for guests. SO A FIRE WAS LIT (literally, later in the project) and WE* GOT GOING.

*By “we” I mean me. I just like to pretend I’m not alone.


Post moving stack!

With that done, framing happened ASAP. And now we come to another thing: the ventilation holes. So I drilled 3/4 inch holes in the gables for ventilation, thinking I would cover them with screen on the inside. I’m not really sure what order would’ve been best, but the order I did that all in was awful. I decided to staple the screen in at the very end, but SPOILERS the gables blocked my staple gun which resulted in trying all purpose spray adhesive which SPOILERS got all over my hands and caused SO MUCH MAYHEM so yeah just….think ahead (not like me).

THEN came the plywood! After attaching all my supports, I marked with chalk line where I needed to screw the plywood in, and then went at it!


I’m bad at chalk lines.

I was going to cut the top of the plywood at an angle so the two sides would join together nicely but I was now sans table saw and PRETTY OVER ANGLES so that didn’t happen. I only very VERY slightly regret it.


At this point I thought, “A house is only as good as its roof,” and based on a recommendation, took an adventure to LARRY’S SHEET METAL. This is the best part of the roof experience. When I called he suggested I bring them in, so I went to work fitting them in my car (SUCCESS!!!).


Here is a picture of my TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE ventilation holes. I did one in all the other sides because I can’t decide how much ventilation to have. ANYWAY I FIT THEM IN MY CAR ARE YOU PROUD?

Anyway, the man I met (whose name wasn’t Larry, I’m 98% sure, so FALSE ADVERTISING) was super nice, had one of those COOL ANGLE MEASUREMENT TOOLS, and told me each roof would be $35. That was…more than I hoped but also I HAVE COME THIS FAR.

The roofs and I departed, with the promise to return three days later to retrieve our sheet metal.


Since I had a few days, I decided to PAINT. I hate painting. I’m bad at it. Mostly because I’m






I went ahead and primed everything except the insides of course, and by the time that was all complete it was time to pickup the roof three days later. Okay, I jest, but IT FEELS REAL.

Oh, right, I kinda skipped the part where I cut the legs. Basically that was another trial and error with emphasis on the error – I used 20 degrees because that’s what a video I watched said, then just tried to pick a height that worked for me. Along the way I also forgot to get enough legs (salvaged wood, accidentally got four instead of eight) then when I went to buy bolts for the leg attachment I almost did that AGAIN, stopped, though “I’m doing eight legs,” got eight bolts, and totally forgot I needed TWO bolts for each leg. Needless to say, there were many aggravating trips to the store.

HOWEVER if I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t have seen awesome stuff like this exhibit of A++ ingenuity:


I have a lot of questions, but even more respect.



As you can tell, I wasn’t the most exact with my circular saw cuts on the legs. I’m pretty confused about it, honestly, because I used one as a guide for the rest, but whatever. The project was a slow decent into inaccuracies, but I was SO EXCITED to finally see them up off the ground, looking REAL. VERY EXHILARATING.

Up until that point it felt like I was just making puzzle pieces, and boy was I tired of puzzle pieces.



Supply list:

  • ~1 qt. of exterior primer: already owned
  • (8) 2 in. x 6 in. x 40 in. lengths for legs: salvaged
  • (1) screen door screen 24 in. x 7 ft. for ventilation and/or blocking entry to the gable roof if it becomes a problem: $5.49
  • (16) 4 in. x 5/16ths bolts: $0.53 each
  • (16) 5/16ths nuts: $0.44 each
  • (16) 5/16ths washers: $0.29 each
  • Total for these trips: $25.65


Roof pickup day came, and it was time to paint and glue the sheet metal on!



That’s right, he matched my angles perfectly, turned the edges so they aren’t sharp, it’s all one piece, gave me advice on attaching them, and CAME IN UNDER HIS ESTIMATE WHAAAT.

So they turned out to be $30 each which I feel good about. He recommended gluing them so I got a tube of construction adherent (liquid nails, basically), and we got them on. Actually I ran out halfway in the middle of application and it was all mayhem per the usual BUT HEY. I have a really bad relationship with glue. No joke, it doesn’t matter what type, it’s gonna be a bad time.

PAINT HAPPENED, and I am SO HAPPY with the color. Since bees see in the ultra-violet range and I love purple/blue, I went with something in that range.

Supply list:

  • 1 qt. exterior paint: owned
  • (2) custom made roofs: $60
  • (1) tube of construction adhesive: $4.67
  • Total: $64.67

Then we loaded them up with top bars, carried them out (why YES they WERE too big to fit through the gate AND the door how did you know?), and now we await the bees!


I’m still debating placement. It’s hard.


Ignore the mayhem which is my messy yard but ISN’T THE HIVE SO CUTE

And that, my friends, is the completion of the hive build. As you noticed, it got progressively less amusing as we went along. My apologies. To both you and mostly me.

In all, I spent $251.08 on this project. This of course doesn’t count things I was gifted, salvaged, or already owned. I will say, however, that I have three pieces of lumber I’m going to try and return, so that will maybe bring my overall price down by a whole $10 or so. This is NOT including the bees! However, it was cheaper than the bees, and significantly cheaper than buying a locally made one which are $300-$350 apiece. While I spent more than I would have liked, I’m still pretty pleased with the price. I think if I had to do it again I would definitely be able to cut costs in some way.

Things that went well:

  • I’m really happy with how the top bars turned out. I guess I’ll see how the bees like them, but they seem pretty solid.
  • I really like the metal roof. I think it’ll add a lot to the longevity of the hive.
  • Angles, surprisingly, for the most part, went better than expected.

Things that did not go well:

  • Everything about the roof sans the metal. It’s incredibly heavy (way too heavy for me to lift alone) and doesn’t fit right. I’m not sure how (or if) I can modify it to solve either of those problems. More sanding perhaps and consider adding a hinge. I’m not sure.
  • Not having a miter saw. The legs in particular were too hard to get right with a circular saw (especially one that felt like it was fighting me). There were SO MANY CUTS like that where I just wish I had a miter saw and I’m sad I didn’t.
  • Safety features that are not safe. I’m not sure I talked about this but the table saw I was using had a guard and that thing was almost my doom several times. It would get caught on the wood and not stay centered where it should, causing all kinds of mayhem. “SAFETY FEATURES SHOULD NOT BE UNSAFE!” I yell, as my car is being recalled for shrapnel airbags.

Bestest thing that went well: THEY ARE DONE! HALLELUJAH!

Oh wait, I promised fire. So, theoretically, bees like the insides of their hives a little singed because I dunno, probably hive makers want fire. (I think it’s because they often build hives in burned out trees but yeah.) I didn’t have a torch of any sort, so I tried…making a fire…in my hive….in my garage…


I would VERY HIGHLY NOT RECOMMEND doing this for about a thousand reasons. Please don’t. I didn’t listen to myself.


2 thoughts on “Project: Making a Kenyan Top Bar Bee Hive (Part 3)

  1. Pingback: Project: Making a Kenyan Top Bar Bee Hive (Part 2) | VanBow

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