Layens Frame Plans

    Hives include all frames, fully assembled & ready to go

Wintering bees naturally move up on honeycomb. The classical Layens frame was designed to be deep enough for successful overwintering and rapid spring buildup. It mimics the size of comb found in tree hollows and has been in continuous use since the 19th century. Over one million hives use the Layens frames today, and it is my favorite. It offers ideal colony development conditions consistent with honey bees’ biology, and all frames are positioned on the same level horizontally so there are no heavy supers to lift!

The top bars are made to touch — this helps to retain heat inside the brood nest and minimizes disturbance during inspections. According to numerous authorities this frame is perfect for wintering in cold climates.

The Layens frame consists of four parts:

  • Top bar — 14-5/16” x 1-1/2” x 3/4”, with 1-1/16” x 3/8” rabbets cut on two ends. It has 4 holes (3/32”) drilled along the center of the bar 1” from the rabbets and 3-3/8” between holes.
  • End bars (2) — 15-9/16” long x 3/8” thick. The wider part is 1-1/2” wide and 3-3/4” long; it then tapers to the thinner part which is 1” wide.
  • Bottom bar — 12-3/16” x 5/8” x 3/4”. It has 4 holes (3/32”) drilled along the center of the 3/4”-wide side 1” from each end and 3-3/8” between holes.

The top bar is most easily built out of “one-by-” stock (actual thickness: 3/4”). Cut a piece of board 14-5/16” long; cut rabbets 1-1/16” x 3/8” on both ends of the board; then rip it into 1-1/2” bars.

Mark the holes and drill from the bottom side of the top bar (the side that will look inside the frame). 3/32” drill bit and a hand-held drill do the trick. To mark holes quicker, make a jig: take a top bar with the holes you just drilled and drive 1-1/4” drywall screws into the holes so they protrude by 1/16” on the bottom side. Press the jig on the new top bar, and hole positions are impressed. Voila!

To make end bars I cut a 15-9/16” piece of “two-by-” stock (actual thickness 1-1/2”), slice it in 3/8” planks, then take 1/4” off each side with a router along 12” of the length, leaving 3-3/4” of the plank intact (1-1/2”). This results in end bars that are 1-1/2” wide on top and 1” wide further down.

The bottom bar is simply a plank 12-3/16” x 5/8” x 3/4” ripped from any “one-by-” or “two-by-” stock. The holes along the center of the 3/4” side are made the same way as on the top bar (drill from the top side of the bottom bar, i.e., from the side that looks inside the frame).

Assembly. It is handy to make a jig that will hold the end bars square while you attach the top bars and bottom bars. Click here for jig plans. If you don’t assemble too many frames, you can just check the angle with a square as you nail them together. Apply a bead of wood glue and drive two 1” staples (or hammer in nails) through the top bar into the end bar; then one through the end bar back into the top bar; then one staple through the end bar into the bottom bar. The frame is ready.

Wiring. First, drive 3/8” staples into the top of the top bar as shown (red dots represent holes). These staples prevent wire from eating into the wood. They are to the left of holes 1 and 3 and to the right of holes 2 and 4.

Next, drive 3/8” staples into the bottom of the bottom bar as shown (red dots represent holes). They are to the right of holes 1 and 3 and to the left of holes 2 and 4.

Run wire through the holes as shown. Drive 3/4” nails outside the top bar’s holes 1 and 4. Wind wire around one nail, drive it in, twist wire to break it off. Tension the wire, pulling by each segment of the wire. Then wind the end around the second nail, drive it in, and twist the wire to break it off.

You can then embed wax foundation (the easiest way is to put the sheet of foundation in and run 12 volt current from a car battery). If you want to go foundationless, just embed a 1” strip foundation along the top bar. Either way will work well.

Bees love these frames. They leave plentiful stores up top, with some empty cells on the bottom for the cluster to form on.

    Hives include all frames, fully assembled & ready to go

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Dr. Leo Sharashkin, Editor of “Keeping Bees With a Smile”

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