Don't be fooled into believing that hive bodies with butt joint construction will serve you well. They won't! The butt joint is the easiest, simplest and least expensive way to join two pieces of wood together, which is precisely why Warré used it for his hives. What you have to remember here, is that Warré's main concern with beekeeping at the time was that sugar was much cheaper than honey, and that the honey industry would collapse unless beekeepers could keep their production costs to a bare minimum. Wood was often free in those days and if a hive body only lasted a year or two before it fell apart, he'd just find some old, discarded wooden packing crate, tear it apart and build a new box. In the 21st century, most of us do not have the luxury of free (or even inexpensive) wood, so it is more important than ever that the wood products we buy are built to last.
The butt joint is not just the easiest, simplest and least expensive way to join two pieces of wood together. It is also the weakest joint in woodworking. Butt joints have very poor tensile (pull) strength and even poorer lateral (sideways) strength. No matter how much glue or how many nails or wood screws are used when assembling a butt jointed hive body, that hive body will not be strong enough to stay square or tight for very long.
The same goes for hives that are assembled without glue. Even when rabbet joining is used, if the joints aren't glued, strength will be compromised significantly. Remember that hive bodies don't have a board on the top or bottom to give them rigidity, and using screws to assemble them will not make up for this.
Those who are new to beekeeping might not realize how heavy hive bodies can get. A standard Warré hive body can weigh 35 pounds (16kg) when full of honey. The mere act of harvesting honey from these boxes can weaken or even break the joints if they aren't strong enough.
At Teakwood Organics, we believe that hobby beekeepers should make wise investments at the onset of deciding to keep bees. As hobbies go, beekeeping is fairly inexpensive, but trying to do it "on the cheap" is just asking for trouble.
Another misconception that some out there would have you believe is that it is easy to build a hive or two for less money than you can buy them for. This might be true if you already own the woodworking equipment that is needed to do it and you are an experienced woodworker. A table saw is an absolute necessity. Boards must be cut to the correct width and those cuts must be perfectly straight. Rebates for frames or top bars should be cut with a router. If you've ever tried to put a box together with just a hammer and nails, you know how difficult it is. Without a pneumatic stapler, it is very difficult to line up the pieces and assemble them squarely. So, at the very least, you should have a table saw, a router and router table, a compressor, a pneumatic stapler and a half-dozen other small hand tools in order to build hives of any measurable quality, and unless you are an experienced woodworker, you are likely to make several mistakes along the way and ruin many pieces of wood. This can get costly fast when you are using cedar!
If you do decide to build your own, we really do wish you the best. But we hope that you don't start your project with the notion that it will be cheap and easy to build the hive that you want, because it's almost certainly not going to be either of those things.
All of the beehives that we manufacture and sell are top quality units. We start with the very best kiln dried cedar lumber that we can buy and we build every part with rabbet and/or dado joint construction (with the exception of octagonal hive parts). Staples are used during assembly to align and square up the pieces and nails are used to pull the joints tightly together, but it is the glue and the joints themselves that give the parts their strength.