Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top Bar Hive Dimensions/Plans

Updated: New plans, updated link. Updated info.

In a previous post, I made some notes on certain dimensions to consider when building/choosing a top bar hive. However, I thought that I'd also make some notes on TBHs that are either commercially available or in use by well-known beeks.

NOTE: I'm not endorsing any of these products or receiving any compensation from these companies. These are simply comparison notes.

Gold Star Honeybees TBH
44 1/2"
15" at top,
6 3/16 at bottom

(Interior hive dimensions)
9 1/2"
Golden Mean Hive from
19" at top9"
I think they have a longer version as well -- 42"L x 16" X 10".

I think this hive is supposed to use Golden Mean proportions.

I've heard this hive referred to as "The Golden Swarm Thrower."
(Bottom board is 8" wide)
Phil Chandler's Hive
(This is the length of the top bars. His plans indicate using 1" thick wood, so the interior width is probably 15".)
His plans indicate using wood 12" wide.
August Cottage Apiary has posted instructions for building a TBH based on Phil Chandler's design. They are probably the most comprehensive instructions I've ever seen for building a hive.
Les Crowder's Hives
(This is the length of the top bars. His plans indicate using 1" thick wood, so the interior width is probably 18".)
His plans indicate using wood 10" wide.  Sides are angled at 120 degrees.

Wyatt Mangum's Hives
17 1/2" at the top
9" at the bottom
(These are exterior dimensions.)
His plans indicate using wood 12" wide.* 
Detailed instructions are available in his book Top-Bar Hive Beekeeping Wisdom & Pleasure Combined.
Michael Bush's KTBHs
46 1/2"
15" at the top
6" at the bottom
(These are exterior dimensions.)
His plans indicate using wood 12" wide.*

Sam Comfort's KTBHs
18.25” at the top
8.25” at the bottom
(accommodates a Langstroth top bar)


Per his website, these are all approximate internal dimensions using rough cut lumber.

Angle of sides: 120 degrees, gap left at bottom of side board makes the side 10.5"

* Being partly Asian, I could easily use math to figure out the interior height of the hives based on the info provided. However, I never liked math, so I'm not going to. I imagine that you can probably subtract at least 2-3" from the width of the board to estimate the interior height, though. (This figure should account for the angle of the hive sides and the board thickness -- usually about an inch.) If you're willing to figure out the heights and send them to me, I'll certainly post your calculations and give you credit for them! :-)

Here are some additional links to other online top bar plans.

If you have a favorite design or a plan you'd like to add to this list, please, let me know. I'd love to update this resource.


  1. Hi Julie-

    Great post! This is a valuable resource for comparing TBH's.

    Here's another lesser know one for the list that I and others in Colorado use:

    Marty Hardison - The Appropriate Beehive (

    Length - 40"
    Width - 16"
    Height - 10"


    1. Hi, Don! Thanks so much for sharing the plan that you use -- I'm definitely going to add it to the list! I really enjoyed reading through the PDF, too. Lots of good info in that document. Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for including my build guide very exciting to know I am not just shouting into the void. I will be adding a few other things regarding entrance variations and floors soon. Just to further inform your list you can use the follower board dimension to calculate the depth. Some greek fella taught me how :) for a Chandler style this works out a 10.9 inches. The followers are generally made to 11inches for ease and then trimmed depending on how you made the floor (mesh floors will bow upwards). The comb surface is therefore 109 inches squared. I have provided a comparison below of comb surface area which is interesting when deciding how many bars to have. There is also a surface area to topbar length ratio. The significance of this is that the hotter the climate the lower the ratio should be to provide greater comb attachment, equally the colder the climate the higher to provide better heat retention. This obviously all assumes an equal comb surface area. This means the Les Crowder design "should" be best for hot climates and the Mangum, organic bees, and Chandler "should" be better for cooler climates.

    width bottom width base hyp depth surface area area/topbar
    Chandler 15 5.00 5.00 12.00 10.91 109.09 7.27
    Gold star 15 6.19 4.41 10.13 9.12 96.64 6.44
    golden mean 19 10.00 4.50 10.06 9.00 130.50 6.87
    organic bees 15.5 8.00 3.75 *12.00 11.40 133.94 8.64
    Les Crowder's 18.25 7.25 5.50 10.00 8.35 106.48 5.83
    wyatt mangum *13 *4.00 4.50 12.00 11.12 94.56 7.27
    Sam Comfort 18.25 8.25 5.00 9.00 119.25 6.53
    British National 13.228 7.68 101.55
    Langstroth 18.268 9.49 173.33
    *These are assumptions based on information provided here. Anyone who has actual dimensions let me know and I can update

    hmmm... I think my geek is showing!

    1. bugger.. the table didn't come out. I'll stick on my blog at some point.

    2. >>I think my geek is showing!

      Better cover up fast! ;-) LOL!

      Awesome work on those numbers! Thank you so much for sending them to me! I'll definitely update this post in the next few days -- or maybe I'll just wait until you post and link to it. You seem to be far more energetic than I. ;-)

      BTW -- How could I not include your build. They are truly the very best, most detailed instructions I've ever seen on a top bar hive. Love reading your blog, too!

  3. The links to the plans at the New Mexico Beekeepers Association site are broken. You can find the same plans at Chantal Forster's site:

    A compelling feature of their top bars is that they can be temporarily used in a Langstroth hive.

    1. Thanks for notifying me. I'll be sure to update that link. :-)

  4. Another interesting mathematical concept concerns the actual volume of the hive body. Check it out here:

    1. One might also note, for comparison sake, that the volume of a Gold Star hive is equal to 2.3 Langstroth "deep" hive bodies.

    2. Thanks, Christy, for that excellent point about measuring the volume of a hive and for providing the volume of the Gold Star hive. Will definitely check out the link.

  5. Hi. The link to "Marty Hardison, The Appropriate Beehive" needs to be revised. Here is a prettier/easier to remember link for you: The order in which the pieces are attached makes a difference (ask me how I know). If you'd like to see a pictorial of Marty constructing one of his hives, I've posted a gallery here (the first image is his plans):

    1. Since Julie got that link from me originally, I'll take the credit/blame. ;-) Thanks for the updates - I've updated my page as well ( I used those photos when I built my first Hardison hive - they are very helpful!

    2. Thanks so much for those links! I've updated the notes on that Hardison hive. I especially like those photos -- never seen them before, but they're great for visual learners. Thanks again!

  6. I have an "Original Top Bar Hive" from The dimensions they give on their website are outside dimensions. Under the roof is a 3ft hive that fits (at best) 23 top bars. When the bees make fat honeycombs, you'll be able to fit 21 or 22 (which can be interesting when the brood nest stretches to bar 19). The top bars are just over 14" and a full comb hanging from one will be about 8 1/2" deep. It's a nice size for colonies that overwinter with low numbers - so not Italians. Carniolans do well in this size, but they are a swarmy race so understanding swarm management in Summer is important.

    1. Thanks for that input. Their site says 19" bars, but you said 14" -- that's a huge difference! Thanks again. When I get around to editing this post, I'll be sure to add a note directing people to your comment!

    2. Mine is the "Original" baby hive. Their Golden Mean Hive has the longer bars. They designed the wider hive in an attempt (if I recall correctly) to use a Langstroth hive body (or two) as a super(s). I think manipulating the hive to adhere to the "golden mean" was their way of making the 19" top bar work in some holistic Republic of Boulder way. IDK. Back to my top bars… they are 14" long but an inch on either end sits on the hive body, so the bees can use 12" of an "Original" top bar. And last tidbit, a full honeycomb weighs 5-6 lbs, depending on how fat and wonky the bees built it.

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Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!