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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Musing about Frames: The Importance of the Tenth Nail, Sturdy Waxing, and the Availability of a Handy Toothpick

Lots of people purchase their frames pre-assembled.  I am not one of those people.  However, I am certainly rethinking this - it takes me 50 minutes to nail together 10 frames using a jig - not very fast, although the jig really helps.  The jig is set up for 10 frames, so when I went through the process three times, I've completed enough for three boxes (but since I use 8 frame boxes, I actually almost have enough for four!)  Waxing frames in takes time too.  This morning I spent one hour cutting and waxing strips into about 50 frames.

Constructing a frame takes 10 nails.

Are you listening, those of you who only bothered to use eight nails?

The tenth nail is the hardest to drive in and makes me say, "*#^#$^)%(#$)," almost every time  However, it is by far the most important nail.  That nail and glue make all the difference in frames that can stand up over time.  The tenth nail is the one that takes me the longest.  I can hammer all eight into 10 frames in 30 minutes.  Then it takes me 20 more minutes to hammer in that $(*)@#*$**^ ( tenth nail into either end bar of 10 frames.

If you don't hammer in the tenth nail (or use glue), the sight below is one you might see.  This is a medium box of honey, but I won't be able to harvest the second frame.  The top bar has become unattached from the end bar and I won't be able to get it out of the box.   This is a frame from 2007, so it is in its fifth year of use (new comb every year), but the parts are wearing out and maybe I skipped the 10th nail at least on this end of the frame.

The frames for the hives at Stonehurst don't have the tenth nail.  I am not in charge of constructing the hive parts over there. I picked up the constructed frames the other day and brought them home to wax in strips.  When I noticed the lack of the 10th nail, I suppose I could have nailed it into place.  It's my nemesis however, so instead  I've decided that if one of the frames over there comes apart like the one above, I'm simply skipping it in the harvest.  And if we order any more frames for Stonehurst, I'll do a better job of educating the guy who is building the hive parts.

When I've given talks about using foundation less frames, I've had beekeepers I respect tell me that they have had strips fall out of frames in Hotlanta weather.  That has never happened to me.  I wonder if perhaps those beekeepers are not waxing in the strips well.

When I put a wax strip into a frame, I run the wax tube fastener up one side of the strip.  Then I turn the frame and run the wax tube fastener up the other side.  When I'm done it's well waxed in and I can't imagine it falling out.

Here's where the handy toothpick comes in (you were wondering, weren't you?).  Sometimes the wax tube fastener looks like it is releasing wax when it isn't really.  Then I take a handy toothpick and unplug the hole in the handle.  Wax flows out easily then and I can make sure the wax strip is being secured on both sides.

One thing I've noticed in using frames from previous years when I have cut out the old comb:  If the old comb I cut out was crooked cross comb, then the bees with the now empty frame, follow the old cell lines and build crooked comb again....even with just a one cell depth of wax left on the frame.

Going forward when I cut out cross comb, I am going to use hot water to melt the old crooked lines off of the top bar and insert a new wax strip.  I may have to put such old frames into a boiling water bath so that the bees, in trying to color between the lines, crooked though they may be, won't have the old lines to use.

Note:  There's a video on this site about how to build a frame.


  1. Joseph5:27 PM


    I am using frames from Walter T. Kelly that have a comb guide built into them already. My bees have build out four supers so far with these with no problems. I just assemble and rub a wax block on the guide and that's it. Here is the link:

  2. Your photos aren't loading and I really, really need to see this post.

  3. I did this on my Mac - I'll check on a PC and see what gives with the photos. They are loading fine for me. Try a different browser if you continue to have problems.

  4. Linda,

    I'm on a new Mac and had to reload to see the photos. I have a air stapler and use 1/4 inch staples 1 inch long on my frames with glue of course.

  5. I think I fixed it - there was an error message when I originally uploaded the photos and they looked OK to me, but I went back and individually uploaded each picture so now I think it's fine.

  6. Thank you for a great post! I am putting together frames this week and I am not very handy so this helps a lot.

  7. Hi, Linda.
    The picture shows the nail on the thin (wedge) side of the frame. The side nails need to go into the thick (non-wedge) side of the frame. Maybe that's why they're failing you.

  8. I'm confused - I buy grooved frames without a wedge - grooved top and bottom. If I nail the nail into the center, there's not wood for purchase on the top bar. I have to nail into one of the sides in order to have wood for the nail to go into on the top bar. I should be nailing in a different place, I guess, but I don't know where that would be???

    1. Joseph9:20 PM

      The type of frames I linked to in my comment above do have a built in comb guide that is centered on the top bar that can be nailed into. Also, I have been using these with no problems and all I do is rub a bit of wax on the guide.

  9. Penny3:09 PM

    I haven't use grooved bars. so I can't give you advice on securing them. From a wedge-frame point of view accomodating grooved frames, I'd put a nail on opposite sides (say right on each frame) or 2nd choice one nail on each side (yes, the horrendous 12-nail solution!). Neither seems like a good solution. One thing I noticed in using a nail gun on the side nails is that the force of the nailer put the frame out of square. That was a mess! No good way to fix it either.

  10. Anonymous12:20 PM

    I put all my frames together with only 4 staples. I use plenty of glue, which is what makes the joint strong. I am no expert by any means, but have been doing woodworking for about ten years. Putting frames together this way has worked for me. No problems in 5 years. BTW, I use grooved top and bottom bars with plastic foundation.

  11. I also assemble all my frames. I use a Nail Set to get the nail into the side. Works pretty well.

  12. Hi Linda, I highly recommend buying a cheap automatic brad nailer, you don't need a big nail gun for assembling frames. I use something like this, I can't describe how much time it saves, even for the "9th and 10th nails" - http://www.amazon.com/Stanley-TRE650-4-Inch-Electric-Nailer/dp/B000BQND0M/ref=pd_cp_hi_0

  13. This evening my husband is teaching me how to put together frames. He tells me that we need 8 nails per frame. I tell him to hold on just a minute!!! Linda said we need to use 10 nails. He checks out your configuration, and sure enough, he decides to use 10 nails, because you said so.
    But, we kept the profanity to merely conversational, because we got around that dreaded last nail by using a nail punch.
    Makes it no problem for your hammer to get into that tight space!

  14. Great tool, would save so much time! I am the proud owner of a brad nailer, and I completely agree. It is a necessity. I bought it and have never been able to survive without it since.


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