Dummy Boards for Dummies


I finally got around to making two dummy boards today — also known as follower boards. Rusty over at Honey Bee Suite says:

    “…the bees can collect on the follower boards without sitting on the brood. In hot weather, the bees have a hard time keeping the brood cool enough, and sitting on it makes it worse. So both follower boards and slatted racks give the bees a place to “hang out.” This also reduces the feeling of congestion in the hive and congestion is a major factor in swarming.”

The dummy boards also reduce the risk of rolling the queen during inspections. All of which means nothing if you don’t know what dummy boards / follower boards are or why I’d want to make some, so read the following posts from Honey Bee Suite for an explanation of what it’s all about: Follower boards in a Langstroth hive and How to make follower boards for a Langstroth hive.

Kinda cool, ah? (I assume you just got back from reading those posts.) I made the two dummy boards by following Rusty’s instructions, though I did it all without measuring anything, and then I got creative and added a little extra something to the design at the end of it. I’m an incompetent carpenter, so by necessity I have to keep it simple.

I began by using a hand-held jig saw to cut the top bar down the middle:

People with fancy schmancy table saws can cut in a straight line. I’m not one of those people. It wasn’t exactly a smooth cut but close enough.

Then I traced the outline of the frame onto a piece of Masonite (thus avoiding any kind measuring):

Then I cut the Masonite along the traced outline of the frame:

Then I glued and stapled the cut Masonite to the split-in-half top bar:

Check out that stapling job:

Finding a piece of wood that was exactly 1/2 cm thick wasn’t easy, but I finally dug up a piece of high quality plywood that was the exact thickness.

I cheated a bit and actually measured the thickness of the wood. But then I cut the length of the wood, to be used as a spacer, by laying it on top of a frame and marking the length of the spacer portion of the frame onto the wood (thus avoiding any kind of measuring tape situation again):

Then I cut the wood for the spacers, all of it cut to the approximate dimensions:

After that, I glued and stapled the spacers to the top sides of the dummy boards (hammering down all the staples afterwards):

Now here’s my patented addition to the dummy board design: another spacer!

It’s a piece of wood (and a Popcicle stick) added to the side of the top bar so that when all the frames and the dummy boards are added to the brood box, all you have to do is slide them against The Mud Songs Dummy Board and all the frames and dummy boards will be evenly spaced in the middle of the brood box. Ta-da!

Check out the Making Dummy Boards page for a few more photos of the final product. I think I made them correctly. Check out How to make follower boards for a Langstroth hive for better instructions.

It would take a long time to make dummy boards for all of my brood boxes. I can’t imagine commercial beekeepers bothering with anything like this. I’ll gradually install them in my hives whenever I have time to make them. I wonder if I need to make four at a time for each hive, or would two in one brood box and none in the other be okay? Nine frames in one box would not line up with ten frames in another box, so would that arrangement make a mess? Or does it matter? I’ll have to look into that. At any rate, if I can make them, so can you. It requires minimal carpentry skills. I just proved it.

UPDATE (August 03/11): It’s also possible to make dummy boards / follower boards by installing the Masonsite into a regular frame — without cutting the top bar in half. The two dummy boards would take the up space of two frames instead of one, thus reducing the brood box to eight frames instead of nine, but the dummy boards would be much easier to make and the weight of the brood boxes would be considerably easier to lift with only eight frames in them. I’m 100% sold on that idea for all those reasons. On the other hand, although knocking the brood box down to nine frames is probably safe, I don’t know if 8-frame brood boxes could survive through a Newfoundland winter. I’d have to ask some experienced local beekeepers first.

UPDATE (August 28/11): I just made another set of these follower boards / dummy boards. Small nails (they might be called tac nails) came in handy for securing the Masonite on to the top bar. I still used the staple gun, but overall the small nails may be a better choice. I also did all the cutting this time with an old timey hand saw. So it’s possible to make the follower boards without any electric tools whatsoever. Just a hammer and saw, then some glue and nails. And you might want to check out our Follower Board Mistake post.

UPDATE (Sept. 14/11): The spacers that I added to the sides of the cut-down-the-middle top bars (see this photo) quickly become bound with propolis. I’ve since removed those spacers. Sometimes the bees will build bridge comb onto the dummy boards. But overall, the dummy boards are great. I like the dummy boards mainly because they give more space for pulling out frames during inspections and reduce the changes of rolling the queen and squishing bees between the frames.

6 thoughts on “Dummy Boards for Dummies

  1. Yeah. Or proof-read your comments before you post them, ya lazy Blackberry bum.

    But nope, I totally forgot about the glue. I’ve got those suckers attached with some heavy duty long brass screws, though, which should probably do the trick.

    I’m debating whether or not use the ventilator rims over the winter instead of of a hard piece of insulation and insulated inner hive covers. Just looking at the general design of the rims, it seems like a perfect way to keep moisture out of the hive.

    I know some beekeepers actually drill ventilation holes in their top brood box for the winter, but there’s no way I’m doing that.

  2. Hi, Phillip — As I told Rusty on HBS, I found it was easy to cut the top bar in half by using a grooved bar. I just clamped it and cut along the groove with a hand saw. I did use a jig saw on the masonite, though. The ventilation rim is next. Once again, thanks for your easy-to-follow instructions.

  3. You know if you clamp something straight onto what you are cutting to act as a fence you can just slide the plate on your saw along it. You need to measure back from the line you want to cut to clamp the fence at the right distance.

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