If interested, you can download plans for building your own top bar beehive at the Barefoot Beekeeper web site or go directly to their download page for their free e-book. Although I found the plans to be a bit confusing, that could just be me. However, after I read their book, it became much clearer. I would definitely recommend reading the book before attempting to build your hive.
Certainly recycled lumber could be put to good use in making this hive but I didn't have any and besides, not two miles from here is the most wonderful lumber mill with friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable folks. Groff & Groff lumber is the type of place you want to go if you enjoy working with wood, especially beautiful or unusual wood. I went there hoping to get fir, but that's one species they don't carry. After a brief discussion about my project, they suggested going with cypress as an easy-to-work, slow to decay wood, good for outdoor use.
sending the cypress through the planer
While the plans make it clear you can successfully build the hive using hand tools, I love power tools. With that said, I am at best somewhat ambivalent about the table saw and the chop saw. Since these are tools that could cause serious bodily injury, I'm always very careful and slightly nervous when using them. But if that keeps me from loosing a finger by becoming complacent and sloppy with safety measures, then I'm okey-dokey with that.
ready to send a board through the table saw
I actually don't have any sort of step-by-step instructions or photos of the hive making process, but mostly just wanted to share where the plans came from. As construction was underway, I did modify a couple of things which added some time to the process. Most notably, the roof. In the plans it was just a flat roof covered with rigid plastic or roofing material. I decided to go with a peak style and made it out of cypress, covering the center seam with aluminum flashing. Function combined with beauty, you know?
There is one thing I would change if I had it to do over, or if I had allowed myself more time, and that is adding an observation window. It would be great to be able to observe what's going on in there without having to actually open it up and upset everyone.
One more thing... check out top bar bee hives on YouTube. There are some very interesting and helpful videos there.
If you do decide to keep bees and build your own hive, good luck and have fun. Oh, and you might not want to wait until the bees are about to ship before starting construction. Just saying.
The finished hive the morning after installing bees - you can see some of the girls at the entrance holes. I haven't yet cleaned up the package debris, but will most likely do that tonight after dark so I don't have to don the bee suit.