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How to build a slatted rack

I never go without a slatted rack in my beehives, and I extoll the virtues of them every chance I get. David Manning, a beekeeper in Missouri, makes some seriously good-looking slatted racks that you can see in the photos below. For those of you who are handy in the woodshop, David has graciously shared his method in the following write-up.

Thank you, David, for taking the time to share with us.

Editor’s note: materials list updated 6/9/15.

Materials List

(2) ¾” x 2¼”x 19⅞” for side boards
(2) ¾” x 2¼” x 15½” for front and back board
(1) ¾” x 4¼”x 15¼” for shelf at front of rack
(10) ¾” x ¾” x 15” slats

Cutting dados on pieces

  1. On the ends of both 2¼” boards cut a dado ⅜” x ¾”. These front and back boards will be nailed to the end of the side boards making the side dimension a full 19⅞”.
  2. On the two front and back pieces cut a dado ¼” from the top of the 2¼” board. The dado needs to be ¾” wide by ¼” deep.
  3. On one of the 15¼” sides of the shelf board cut a ⅜” dado ½” deep the full length of the board, making sure that you have 3/16” on each side of the dado. One end of the slats will fit in this dado.
  4. On the two side boards where the shelf will set in a dado, a ¼” x ¾” dado will need to be cut ¼” from the top of the board the width of the shelf board – 4.0 inches. There are two ways of accomplishing this, dado past the 4 inch so that you have a 4 inch x ¼” dado cut with the curved cut beyond the cut. The second way is to cut the dado 4 inch long and using a chisel, remove the part of the dado that needs to be cleaned out in order to have a full 4 inches.
  5. On one end of the ¾” x ¾” x 15” slats, set up a dado blade to cut a 3/16” wide x ½” deep area from opposite sides of the same end of the slat. This should leave a joint on the end of the slat that has a centered ⅜” x ½” area. This is the end that will fit in the ⅜” x ½ “deep dado on the shelf board. The other end of the slat stays ¾” x ¾” and fits in the ¾” dado in the back 2¼” board.

Spacing of the slats in the frame

The purpose of this slatted rack is to have the 10 slats line up with the bottom of each frame in the brood super. To achieve this, the two end slats, #1 and #10, those closest to the sides, need to be spaced so that there is a 5/16” space between the slats and the side board. The remaining 8 slats will have an 11/16” space between each of them.

Securing the slats to the shelf board and the back board

  1. Using Titebond III Waterproof wood glue put glue on edges of boards that will come in contact with another board. In other words, any where there is a dado.
  2. Using 5/8” brads or brad nailer with 5/8” brads or staples, place the brad 5/16” from the edge of the shelf board where the slats mate with the board.
  3. On the outside of the back board draw a line 5/8” line all the way across the length of the back. Place a 1½” brad on the line and centered on a slat that has been correctly spaced.

If your brads are countersunk, on the outside of the frame, fill with wood putty, sand, and then put several coats of sanding sealer on the outside of the assembly that will be exposed to the weather and on the top and bottom edge of the outside frame.

Apply primer and several coats of good exterior paint. I use an exterior paint that the primer and paint are combined.

David Manning
Sparta, Missouri

For more on slatted racks, see:

How to use a slatted rack

Slatted racks: how should the slats be arranged?

Hive five: the best ventilation equipment

Also, for a complete set of plans for a slatted rack, see Slatted Rack

Top-view-of-slatted-rack-David-Manning
The top of the slatted rack is the shallow side. © David Manning.
Bottom-view-of-slatted-rack-David-Manning
The bottom side of the slatted rack is the deep side. © David Manning.
Rack-positioned-on-hive-David-Manning
The end of the slatted rack with the crosswise shelf goes on the front of the hive, above the entrance. © David Manning.
Homebuilt-hive-and-stand-David-Manning
A complete hive with the slatted rack in place. © David Manning.
Active-bees-David-Manning
The bees are happy with it. © David Manning.

Comments

christina
Reply

What is the purpose of a slatted rack?

Rusty
Reply

Christina,

Please see the links.

Priscilla
Reply

Hi! I’m a relatively new beekeeper….what is the benefit of the slatted rack?

Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Priscilla,

Please see the links.

Jan Brett
Reply

What is the purpose of this rack? What does it do?
jan

Rusty
Reply

Jan,

Please see the links.

lyn soeder
Reply

What are these for? I have never seen them before. Do they replace a screened bottom board?

Rusty
Reply

Lyn,

Please see the links.

Steve
Reply

Hi. I’m a woodworker and I also do a lot of turning. For a better fit make sure you measure the above adjacent box, length and with, that your slats are going against. There are a lot of variations in the length and the with of a brood box.

Rusty
Reply

Steve,

My problem is that in the barn there is a stack of brood boxes and stack of slatted racks: who knows which goes where? Usually, if things are square, I’m happy, even if they aren’t exactly the same size.

David C.
Reply

What is the purpose of the shelf at the front? It seems as though this would interfere with mites falling all the way through. Is there some benefit that is not obvious to me?

David

Rusty
Reply

David,

The theory I read is that the shelf limits light and redirects air currents so the queen will raise brood further down and further towards the front of the hive. The original slatted racks were not developed with mites in mind and the slats went crosswise to the frames. Now they go parallel with the frames to accommodate mite drop, but mite management is not their main purpose.

LK
Reply

Dear Rusty,

I checked on my beehive at 1 p.m. and they looked normal. I checked on them again around 4-ish and something seemed off. There were a lot of bees entering the hive without any pollen. I had a feeling they were being robbed. For the first time, a bee followed me to my screened-in porch. She was kind of aggressive and crawled all over me. I panicked at that point and was stung on the head. 20 minutes later, I reduced the entrance so only one bee could fit. Now I’m thinking for sure they were being robbed, because I was followed and stung. I am feeding my bees but I only refill it at dusk. Why do you think they were being robbed?

Thanks,
LK

Rusty
Reply

Leah,

I’m not convinced from your description that your bees are being robbed. First of all, lots of bees will come in without pollen, including almost all of those that are bringing in nectar. A few bees will bring in both at the same time, but normally they bring in one or the other. Also, one bee behaving badly doesn’t mean much.

For more on robbing, including how to recognize it, read “Robbing bees: questions and answers.”

Also, late in the afternoon (like 4 pm) you are apt to see orientation flights. It could be that as well.

LK
Reply

Dear Rusty,
Thank you for responding. I think they were having flight orientations.
LK

Megan
Reply

Great plans! Last year we added slatted racks from Mann Lake and hive quilts constructed from Rusty’s plans, and all of our colonies survived the winter. First time ever! Obviously there are many variables, but I’m convinced the racks and quilts were a big factor.

Rusty
Reply

Megan,

I’m glad it’s working out for you. It made a big difference in my overwintering ability.

Debbie
Reply

Thanks Rusty! Had never heard of slatted racks or ventilated does before reading this & the links you provided. As always, you provide very interesting & educational information.

David Becken
Reply

I was unfamiliar with a slatted rack. I have heard of them in passing at bee clubs but never with any explanation as to what they were or how and why they are used. I did read the links and will most certainly try to make one. (Just got into woodworking too.)

Thank you again Rusty, your commitment to the bees is to be admired.

Red
Reply

Very nice slatted rack and very well constructed. However, there are some discrepancies in the instructions, cut list, and pictures in reference to outside dimensions. Front & back pieces: Instructions call for end pieces to be full length (16-1/4″) but cut list calls for 16-3/4″ and picture shows 15-1/2″. Side Pieces: Cut list and instructions call for 19-1/8″ side piece but picture shows 19-7/8″. Solution: Change cut list for front & back length to 16-1/4″ and then follow instructions. This will give a slatted rack with the outside dimensions of a standard Langstroth box (19-7/8″ by 16-1/4″) when made of 3/4″ thick material.

Chris Gredler
Reply

Thanks for reminding us of the importance of slatted racks. What is the purpose of that 4 inch piece in the front of the slatted rack? I have a slatted rack from Greg Long and he does not use it. To me his rack has greater surface area. I also have a rack with the 4 inch space for comparison purposes.You recently mentioned how you limit hive inspections but I am assuming you are removing drone frames for varroa control every two weeks. When installing a new nuc [5 frames] into a deep, when would you start inserting a drone frame. Thanks! Chris

Rusty
Reply

Chris,

The shelf is supposed to redirect air flow and reduce light from the opening so the queen will lay lower down in the hive.

You can put a drone frame in at any time, whenever you think the queen will start laying drone eggs.

Anna
Reply

I like the hive stand on which the hive sits. I wonder if that’s homemade? I’ve used slatted racks since starting in 2011. The queen definitely seems to lay to the edge of the frame.

David Manning
Reply

Anna, the hive stands are built in my home workshop, The material I used was Western Cedar 1×4’s and Western Cedar 2×4’s. The 1×4’s come 7/8″ thick and have a smooth side and a rough side. I painted them to extend the use of them. These stands are constructed to support a full hive of brood and two to three honey supers. The stand lifts the bottom of the screen bottom board to 18″ of the ground.

Anna
Reply

Saw this today Rusty, thought you might find this interesting: http://www.eltopia.com/mitenot/
Wonder if heating the brood does anything to them as well? I recall reading an article on “heater bees” and I wonder if heating the cells with the circuit board would result in more foragers?

Rusty
Reply

Anna,

They said the product detects the proper time for treatment. But one frame can hold brood in many stages of development, so I don’t quite get it. I wrote and asked that question. We’ll see if they respond.

Anna
Reply

Rusty, I find it interesting and odd that they say there only needs to be one frame in a hive. I also wondered about the effect on the brood if it’s heated. I had read about “heater bees” when the initial discovery was made and I wonder if the circuit board warming the brood will cause unintended consequences, i.e. more foragers than the hive needs. I had emailed them as well. We’ll both wait for answers.

Rusty
Reply

Anna,

I wrote about heater bees in a post after Jurgen Tautz came out with his book, but I had forgotten some of the details. I agree that the single frame is suspect. What if you have, say, 16 frames of bees in a double deep? How will killing mites on one frame help?

Also, since no one answers our questions, I’m wondering if it’s a hoax. Lots of people have asked me about this via e-mail, and others say they too have written with no response. I should have been more careful about clicking on the site links, in case it is a malware site.

Robin
Reply

Thanks so much for these pics and links. I’d never heard of slat boards before. I have a question: Can you use them on hives with top entrances only? Or do they require the bottom entrance for proper ventilation?

Rusty
Reply

Robin,

You wouldn’t need a bottom entrance as long as you had bottom ventilation. An screened varroa board would work.

Phillip
Reply

I wish the slatted rack was considered an essential hive component so I could buy it from commercial suppliers everywhere, because even David’s elegant instructions are beyond my carpentry skills.

For the carpentry incompetent like me, I offer up this Icelandic variant that may be easy to build with the simplest tools and minimal skill (maybe):

http://t.co/PvWacSe5tj

christina
Reply

i showed this info on slatted rack to my hive supplier and they are seriously considering adding this, might help to urge them on!

http://www.shastinamillwork.com/

great people, great product
christina

Mike
Reply

Item #5 under Cutting Dados on Pieces has a wrong measurement. It shows the overall length of these 3/4″ x 3/4″ pieces at 14″. They actually need to be 15″ to fit correctly in the dados on both ends. Please correct so others don’t have to re-make a bunch of pieces. Otherwise good instructions… thanks.

Larry S.
Reply

Yes, I had issues with the measurements. After putting the first rack together the slats were too short. And the amended cut measurements are wrong also. If a person is going to put plans and measurements on your sit they should check and triple check their measurements and instructions.

Foo-b
Reply

Thank You for editing this!! Now it will work, and work great.

Rusty
Reply

Foo-b,

Thank you for the reminder.

Tomas
Reply

Hi Rusty,

Do the bees not build comb under the slatted rack? Im just presuming if there was enough space under there they would make comb.

Rusty
Reply

Tomas,

I have never seen comb on a slatted rack, and I’ve been using them for about 12 years. Not sure why.

Steve pollock
Reply

I just built one of these, looks great. Now to reduce the design to fit 8 frame as well.

Thanks Rusty & David!

Nichol Ruth Piniak
Reply

Hi Rusty!

I really like this concept and am happily working away on my own, mainly cause of you 😉 Anyway, I noticed there’s a couple guys out there who’ve installed the slats crosswise instead of parallel with the frames. Why do you think they’d do that? Regardless, I’m not tampering with your model, going across ‘feels wrong’. I’ve had one false swarm followed by one real swarm; I’m beat and my knuckles are burning from all the work! In Alberta, Canada where I am, we get deadly winters with really hot and dry summers. Not to mention the Chinooks if your familiar with those? The Chinooks are overnight warming that occurs from the weather pattern off the ocean… We are about 1100km from the West Coast but we can be -35 Celsius and then spike to +20 Celsius, overnight! No this is not part of Global Warming lol… But I can see the slatted boards being a real comfort to the ladies with this crazy pattern.

Anyway, about the slat direction?

Thanks,

Nichol

Rusty
Reply

Nichol,

The original design for slatted racks had the slats going crosswise. But when Varroa came along, people began using screened bottom boards in the hope that some mites would fall through. At that point, it became necessary to rotate the slats in the same direction as the frames so that mites would be less likely to land on the slats and more likely to fall straight through. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than slats going across.

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