This being Halloween it seems appropriate to begin our account of working with that terror of the woodshop, the tablesaw, and his sharp and pointy friends with a mildly frightening disclaimer. This is not a how-to-do-it presented authoritatively by experts but rather a how-we-did-it presented by mere mortals and most certainly not a how-you-should-do-it whatever your skill level. If you should wish to do likewise, use your own best judgment and observe safe practices. As usual clicking on a picture displays a larger version. Now on to the sawdust.

Like Annabelle’s gabled roof the one we built for Beatrix is a covered frame that drops over the hive and is held up by a pair of internal joists that rest on the top-bars. Except for the plywood that forms the roof surface we used cedar for consistency with the hive body. We even considered cedar shingles but they were too expensive a whim to indulge.

The hive’s exterior dimensions are 21 inches wide and 38.5 inches long, 41.25 inches if we include the cleats which rest upon her hive stand. We wanted some overhang so we built the perimeter frame of the roof somewhat larger, 24 inches wide and 42.5 inches long.

We first made the gables by cutting some 1×6 inch lumber to length and removing the corners as shown. The low end is about 2.25 inches high. Not shown are the ventilation holes we later drilled just under the peak and covered with screening. We saved the cut-off corner pieces for later use as angle-setters and clamping cauls.

We then cut pieces for the eaves from 1×3 inch lumber, trimmed to a length of 40.75 inches. The width of each would be reduced to match the short end of a gable when we beveled a long edge.

And last we cut two quarter-sheets of 3/8 inch thick plywood to 44 by 14 inches, to be further trimmed later when we beveled one long end of each to meet at the ridgeline of the roof. All cuts with a non-tilted blade were now done.

We next set the tilt angle of the tablesaw blade using one of the pieces cut from the gable as shown in the picture. The blade was raised fully and the cut-off pushed against it at the blade’s tallest point. We then tilted the blade until it lay flat against the hypotenuse of the cut-off. In the finest tradition of woodworking magazines the blade guard is left off for clarity in these pictures. Safety suggests it be re-installed for the actual cutting.

Removing the cut-off and saving it for later use, we lowered the blade for the actual cutting while keeping it at this angle.

We ripped our 1×3 inch eaves to 2.25 inches at the shorter width and beveled one long side of each piece of plywood. That concluded work with the tablesaw.

This was a good time to apply a coating or two of exterior wood glue to the edges of the plywood and set them aside to dry as we began assembly. All plywood, even exterior, even marine, is vulnerable at its edges to incursions of moisture. The application of glue seals them against such.

We began the assembly by gluing and screwing the four sides of the roof frame. The picture shows them clamped together. A pair of long bar clamps pushed the gables against the eaves while a pair of corner clamps in diagonal corners kept the frame square. The scrap board running under the eave centers raised the frame a bit off the table to allow using the corner clamps on the underside, where the meeting boards were flat.

Next we cut two pieces of 1×1 inch lumber to just fit inside the width of the frame. These would be the joists to rest on the top-bars and support the roof. We positioned one two inches from each end so that if the roof, longer than the hive body, were not centered over the hive but pushed as far to one end as it could be, both joists would still be resting on the top-bars and holding up the roof.

They are shown resting on scrap two-by-four to raise them for attachment above the bottom edge of the roof frame, so that the roof edge will descend a little past the top of the hive.

Removing the clamps we laid the plywood onto the frame and noticed that it was not nearly as flat as it had seemed. One piece bowed upward a little while the other sagged badly making a large gap of over an inch at the center of the ridgeline. We decided that a ridge pole was in order and fortunately could make one using the beveled cut-off pieces from the long sides.

The first picture, probably gratuitous, at right shows such a piece resting on the eave from which it was cut, just to make apparent that it has the same angle of slope as the eave itself.

The next shows an end view of the two cut-offs flipped and pushed together to make the central ridge pole. Applying glue, careful alignment, and clamping complete its construction.

And the last shows the ridge pole carefully set in place, glued, and clamped, later screwed.



Taking the bowing piece we applied glue to the frame where it would attach, laid it in position, and clamped it. Directly applying clamps along the edge would have one pad flat against a surface but the other at an angle, thus applying pressure unevenly and less effectively. So we used our cut-off corners at each end as shown to provide two parallel flat surfaces for the clamps. We used a third in the center to force that part flat.

After the glue cured we removed the central clamp and clamped the other piece of plywood, forcing its ends down with a pair cut-off corners. The clamps holding the first piece of plywood could all be removed

Here ends the part in which we seem to be fairly competent in dealing with wood and on to the part in which we fumble with sheet metal. Those of you wise in the ways of metal working or roofing may feel free to chortle in derision.

The basic simple idea was to take some thin sheet metal, fold it over the roof, and attach its edges to the underside of the plywood. We opted for flashing, commonly used in roofing where ridges and valleys are formed. The widest we could get was 20 inches so we used two pieces and overlapped them along the ridge.

We quickly learned how resistant flashing is to origami-like techniques. Making a sharp crease without a sheet metal brake is an exercise in frustration. Some hand tools bought at a local DIY store helped with the drip edge part of the construction but lacked the depth required for the overlapping part at the ridge. We could have trimmed the width of the flashing and so make the overlap manageable to our hand tools but even with rather good tin snips that seemed daunting. In the end we improvised a brake by clamping the flashing under a four foot metal ruler and using scrap plywood to fold the edge over. Not the sharpest of work but it will serve and looks fine from a distance.

We finished attaching the flashing to the roof by lightly clamping one side at a time flat against the work table and applying the fasteners around the clamped perimeter as we will detail.In this staged shot the partially completed roof is shown clamped to the work table and in its interior are the assorted tools we used to fasten the flashing to the underside of the roof edge: stapler, spring loaded center punch, hammer, nail set, needle-nosed pliers, and tacks.

The staples seemed to hold much better than the tacks but were much more difficult to apply. We had to heavily press down the front of the staple to keep the flashing flat against the plywood and then softly squeeze the trigger without tipping the stapler back. When done properly it made a firm, neat fastening. When, as was more often the case, not quite so properly done it left a uselessly mangled staple.

Nailing the tacks required a procedure more elaborate but lacking the element of gamble. Having chosen a location, the center punch was first used to make a wee dimple in the metal. Next, gripping the tack with the pliers, its point was placed in the dimple and hammering commenced until the pliers could be removed, whereupon further hammering finished driving the tack into place. Sadly that sometimes caused a neighboring tack to leap free and we had to provide a nearby staple. Next time we may use thicker plywood to permit longer tacks.

And here we have the nearly completed metal-clad roof. We began at this point with Annabelle and painted her metal a darkish blue for winters ahead only to find that we needed to cover it with aluminum foil in the heat of summer. For Beatrix we will leave the metal unpainted for summer but will now used residue-free duct tape to cover it with thick black plastic sheeting for the imminent winter. We will thus be removing her plastic when we apply foil to Annabelle and vice versa.

The first remaining detail is to put screening over the vent holes in the gables. We could have done this earlier, as soon as the holes were drilled, but would likely have interfered with the positioning of the ridge pole so it is just as well we forgot about it until the end. The wood is thick enough that corks may be inserted from the outside for times we do not wish the ventilation. During winter, perhaps?

And the last remaining detail is installing an eye screw at each corner of the gables. Recall that each end of the hive stand has an eye screw of its own and a cleat. A length of twine attached at the stand’s eye screw will thread through the corresponding eye screws of the roof and be tied at the cleat to hold down the roof against strong winds.

And here at very long last is a picture of Beatrix sporting her new roof in its winter black with jaunty blue tie-downs and vents corked.

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