Before there were nail guns, powered screw drivers, exterior screws, star and hex bits, and more, there were specialized nails developed for a wide variety of applications.
Long ago, and remember when we talk about Langstroth hives we are talking mid 1800’s, there were multiple options in the ranks of the simple nail. Common nails and spikes, crate nails, cigar box nails, cooler nails, egg case nails, box nails, and more – all fine tuned for the job by shank and head size for a particular job.
Box nails, which we use for hive bodies, are slimmer than common nails of the same penny size and have a slightly blunted point which helps avoid splitting. Along the way, a 7d box nail was deemed ideal for the material and dimensions of bee boxes. It may even have been sold as a bee-box nail. It’s probably still the best nail for the job, but newer fasteners and power-nailers have lessened the demand, making it harder to find.
If you order your hive bodies from one of the major bee supply companies they typically will not come with nails. However, you may be able to order them as a separate item along with your boxes. What you’ll get is the traditional 7d box nail used for ages before the advent of modern fasteners found in big-box hardware stores.
However, what I most typically use is a substitute for tradition. Pictured are 6d, 2 inch, galvanized nails. The galvanization brings the shank size up a bit and provides a little protection from the elements. And they are easy to find in any hardware store. To pay homage to the 7d of yesterday, I usually take a few minutes to look for it on the shelves but I’m always disappointed.
Sometimes a board visually speaks to you and announces it is going to reject your attempts to apply a nail to it. I used to use soap on the nail to ease the boards objections, and the inevitable, but I now have a new helper – beeswax! Often we don’t know if our efforts help or not, but when a nail completes its task without incident we can assume credit with having eased the board’s objections to becoming a box.
I’ve noticed some prebuild boxes are now being assembled with staples. Perhaps in response to inquiries, we’re told the staples (or nails for that matter) are for holding things together until the glue dries. This may be true and I’ve started stapling the lighter, 5-frame nuc boxes but I’ll not risk my well being to a heavy, deep, 10-frame box joint coming undone sometime in the future while 30,000 bees are inside. So while I use a generous dab of waterproof Tightbond III on the hive body joints, I also appreciate the security and tradition of a nailed joint.
Make this permanent/portable hive stand for cheap or free.
For under ten dollars you can build a sturdy hive stand that can be used in either a permanent or portable situation. Since it uses relatively short pieces of lumber, sometimes you can find scraps and make one free. I have made several of these and use them as portable stands moving them around as I perform hive inspections. Along the way… they sometimes get used in a more permanent way when the unexpected happens and a stand is needed for a captured swarm or an unexpected, but necessary, spring split.
5/4″ x 6″ x 12′ treated deck lumber (#2 lowest grade)- qty. 1
2″ x 4″ x 8′ treated lumber – qty. 1
2 1/2″ nails or ~ 2″ screws – about 36
You’re going to make several 18″ cuts so if you have a table or radial arm saw set it for 18 inches first. If you don’t have either then that’s okay too – any saw will work.
Cut the 2”X4″ into 4 leg pieces each measuring 18″ (you’ll have a piece left)
Using the 5/4″ x 6″ lumber cut an additional two 18″ pieces.
Reset your saw to 24″ and cut the remaining 5/4″ lumber into 4 pieces. (you will have a short piece remaining).
The 2″x4″s are your legs. Make a sandwich by nailing two of the 24″ pieces to sandwich two 18″ legs. A carpenter’s square helps keep things perpendicular but not absolutely necessary. (don’t overcomplicate it; do one side, turn it over and repeat.)
Make another sandwich using the remaining 24″ pieces and 18″ leg pieces.
On a flat concrete surface, stand and connect the two sandwiched pieces using the remaining 5/4″ x 6″ x 18″ pieces by nailing them them to the sides joining the sandwiches. Your stand should now be complete and level.