This article is in progress, as I'm making the cut tomorrow and thus only have design pictures. Expect it to be updated with much more information and illustration soon.
Beehives are pretty expensive. The cheapest to be found on ebay or amazon are in the $250, while most good-quality hives retail for twice as much. This instructable provides the opportunity to make one yourself a high quality hive in an hour, for a pittance. If you're a member at the Techshop, all you need to purchase for this entire project is a 4x8 sheet of the wood you want to use and a $10 router bit. No screws, no nails.
Time to cut: 1 hour
Time to assemble: 5 minutes
Cost: $60 or $152 if you need to take the Shopbot class.
The Shopbot Alpha is the only machine necessary for this project, as the whole thing is cut from a sheet of wood. The class is $92, but once you take it you can use any shopbot machine at any Techshop, and every shop so far has at least one.
-One 4 x 8 x .75 sheet of the wood of your choice. Do some research to find out what's good for the bees, and what will stand up to weather. Birch plywood is around $45, and looks good.
-One router bit with a .5" shank, an end mill or a straight bit both work, optimally use one that is capable of plunging.
Step 1: Draw Up Your Design or Use Ours
Here's the design we came up with for a top-bar hive. It is assembled with press fit joints and is very solid with no requirement for nails, screws or other fasteners. If you'd rather design it your own way, just remember that your dimensions should be tight and that the shape of a top-bar hive is very precise.
Step 2: Designing Your Own Top Bar Beehive
Some important considerations in designing a top bar hive:
The trough shape is very important, and you want to keep the sides angled up at 60 degrees with no more than six inches of clearance between them at the bottom.
Aside from that, just make sure your hive will be well insulated and that once cut it won't have cracks to cold air in during the winter.
Measure your plywood thickness ahead of time so that you can factor the error into your design.
However you design it, try make sure that all of the pieces will fit into a 4'x8' area for your convenience.
Step 3: Import to VCarve Pro, Get the GCode and Make the Cut
Be careful in this step, as VCarve can be a pain to import to from certain formats. For instance, it will only accept drawings or .dxf files from Autodesk Inventor if you first convert them into the 2004 format. At any rate, once your vectors are in and arranged to your liking, set up your toolpaths and be sure to save it as a shopbot-friendly format.
At this point, you're ready to cut so book some time on the machine and unless your design is much more complicated than ours it will likely take only an hour.
Step 4: Keep Some Bees
Now you have a beehive that you saved a ton of money on and got to design and build yourself. Enjoy your bees.