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Project by RusticElements posted 09-05-2008 08:48 PM 6548 views 19 times favorited 41 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife & I started keeping bees this year. We joined the local beekeepers’ association which offers classes and workshops. During one of the workshops I noticed this odd looking beehive so I asked about it. It was a double hive called a Kirkhoff hive. Seems they’re quite popular among certain beekeepers but the company went out of business about 10 years ago, right around the time the patent ran out. I commented to the host that I should make myself one. He said “you can make one of these?” I said “sure, I’ve got a full carpenter shop”. He said “If you can make these, I’ll buy 10 right now!”.

I’m delivering the last parts to the first 2 hives today and he wants the other 8 by January.

Also, it seems backyard beekeeping has gotten so popular over the last few years, the hive manufacturers are completely swamped and can’t keep up. Looks like I’m now in the beehive manufacturing business, building modified Kirkoff hives.

For those of you who are not familiar with beehives, the second picture is the type that is normally used. I didn’t build that one.

-- Michael R. Harvey - Brewster, NY - - -

41 comments so far

View ChasHutch's profile


56 posts in 4193 days

#1 posted 09-05-2008 08:50 PM

Sounds like you may have found a niche!

-- Hutch - North Dallas, Tx - Safety First

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4191 days

#2 posted 09-05-2008 08:56 PM

Many years ago my faily kept bees. We used the ‘regular kind of hives’. Success on your new found niche!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Samel A. Livingstone's profile

Samel A. Livingstone

19 posts in 4069 days

#3 posted 09-05-2008 09:34 PM

The hive looks interesting. Are those handles on the side,r bee entrances or air vents?IS the lower part of the hive divided vertically. I would like to know are the differences from it to regular hives.

Very pretty hive!

Sam Livingstone

-- Sam, upstate

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4063 days

#4 posted 09-05-2008 09:51 PM

That looks like a professional job . I like the look of it.I don’t know much about beehives but I have a dear friend of mine August from Germany who is an avid bee man, he has even written books about it.I never realised until he and his family visited me recently after 25 years apart that bee’s make different tasting honey according to what fields they are allowed to fly around .yes a very different taste from sharp to very mild which I prefer.Good luck with your new hobby and much fun with the hive making ecuse typing.P S My wife told me today due to a poor climate this year we are about to have massive shortage of honey this year have you heard about this or perhaps it’s just within Europe?? Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View brunob's profile


2277 posts in 4647 days

#5 posted 09-05-2008 10:19 PM

Looks like a winner to me.

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View RusticElements's profile


167 posts in 4203 days

#6 posted 09-05-2008 11:50 PM

Samel: yes, there are handles on each box. The round holes are doors that can be closed. There are also ventilation shafts inside that aid in cooling in the summer and keeping the inside dry in the winter (humidity is a problem in the winter). When this hive was first invented, and still when the factory closed, there was not the same mite problem as there is now. So the original Kirkhoff hive didn’t have a screened bottom board, which is used to inspect for and remove mites. This one does.

Yes, the lower section is divided vertically. There are 6 separate lower brood chambers (hatchery) in 2 sets of three. These 2 sets allow for 2 separate hives each with it’s own queen. On top of the brood chambers is a queen excluder which allows the workers to travel vertically but not the queen (the queen is bigger than the others). Above that are common honey supers (boxes). The whole arrangement allows the workers from both hives to have access to the supers, where the 2 hives actually mix, but doesn’t allow the queens to get at each other. Usually, one queen will kill the other unless separated. This seems to set up a competition between the 2 hives. Where normally you would harvest ~60 pounds of honey from a single hive, with a 2 queen hive you can normally get 140 pounds or more instead of 120 as with 2 separate hives.

The primary difference though, is the ventilation. It helps the bees winter over better and you end up with a stronger hive come spring, which, in turn, gives the hive a head start.

Scotsman: yes, honey can taste very different depending on where the bees get the nectar from. And weather can have a dramatic effect on honey harvest since the weather affects how well the plants do (how much they flower) and the bees depend on the flowers. Sick plants, either from a drought or from too much rain, don’t flower as much.

-- Michael R. Harvey - Brewster, NY - - -

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4151 days

#7 posted 09-06-2008 12:50 AM

Thats real nice.

View DocK16's profile


1186 posts in 4565 days

#8 posted 09-06-2008 01:34 AM

I’ve been an avid beekeeper for several years (and build all my own supers and hive bodies) but I have never seen this type of split setup. How many supers do you leave on over winter.? Are these bottom split supers medium or full deep supers? I would appreciate any other information/plans/measurements you have on this split body design I may try this next season.

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4468 days

#9 posted 09-06-2008 01:53 AM

Amazing. My stepson raises bees and I’d bet he’d wet his pants over these. Any chance of finding plans/specs?

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Jason's profile


47 posts in 4101 days

#10 posted 09-06-2008 02:53 AM

Awesome. Congratulations.

-- Jason

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4293 days

#11 posted 09-06-2008 02:58 AM



-- Scott - Chico California

View RAH's profile


414 posts in 4355 days

#12 posted 09-06-2008 03:42 AM

This project should keep you buzzing for awhile. Sorry Nice hives.

-- Ron Central, CA

View NedB's profile


659 posts in 4043 days

#13 posted 09-06-2008 03:53 AM

Sweet project! had to do it, sorry. very nice, and congrats on the order for 10, hope you enjoy the project!

-- Ned - 2B1ASK1

View RusticElements's profile


167 posts in 4203 days

#14 posted 09-06-2008 03:57 AM

Thanks for all the interest guys. Unfortunately, I’m one of those nightmare woodworkers who keeps everything in his head and never writes anything down. So I can’t give you plans. I guess I should make up some plans one of these days.

I couldn’t find any info on the web about this hive other than the original patent and the updated patent . These aren’t very helpful but I managed to borrow a super from the guy I’m selling to and got some of the measurements from that. The local dealer has a complete hive in his store (not for sale) so I took it apart in the store and took several pictures. Then I took the fact that this hive uses standard frames inside, added a few touches of my own and extrapolated the rest.

For plans for a standard (Langstroth) beehive can be found here, here and here. As you can see, I had to do a lot of research for this project.

-- Michael R. Harvey - Brewster, NY - - -

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4245 days

#15 posted 09-06-2008 04:24 AM

That is one honey of a project. Thanks for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

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