How to make follower boards for a Langstroth hive

Here is one method of making follower boards for a Langstroth hive (also known as dummy boards). I made these for a deep brood box, but you can make them for any size box using the same method.

1. Start by measuring your frames from top to bottom and from side bar to side bar. Measure from the outside of each piece of wood to the outside of the opposite piece, but exclude the ears on the the top bar.

Measure the frames using the outside dimensions.
Measure the frames using the outside dimensions.

2. Select a regular top bar and cut it in half lengthwise.

Cut a top bar in half lengthwise.
Cut a top bar in half lengthwise.

3. Cut two pieces of masonite or other thin material according to the measurements of your frame. Also cut 4 small pieces of wood from scrap. (I show eight pieces in the photo but you only need four for a pair of follower boards.) The wood I used was the wedge from a wedged top bar. My pieces measure 3/16″ x 1/2″ x 4″ (0.5 cm x 1.25 cm x 4 cm). The length and width are not important but the thickness provides part of your bee space.

Cut two pieces of masonite and four spacers.
Cut two pieces of masonite and four spacers.

4. Center the masonite along the cut side of the top bars, lining up the top edges.

Make sure the masonite is centered along the top bar.
Make sure the masonite is centered along the top bar.

5. Fasten the masonite with a brad gun or stapler.

Fasten the masonite to the top bar.
Fasten the masonite to the top bar.

6. Fasten the spacers to the side of the masonite without the top bar.

Fastern the spacers to the masonite.
Fastern the spacers to the masonite.

7. The follower boards are now complete. Here is a view of the complete board on the top bar side.

Follower board showing top bar side.
Follower board showing top bar side.

8. Here is a view of the complete board on the spacer side.

Follower board showing the spacer side.
Follower board showing the spacer side.

9. Here is the completed deep brood box with nine frames and two follower boards. The spacing works best if the top bar side goes against the walls of the box. The spacer side lines up with the adjacent frame.

Follower boards in place.
Follower boards in place.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Phillip
Reply

I made my first two follower boards today by following these instructions. Given my lack of carpentry skills, I’m surprised how well they turned out.

I only made two of them. I suppose I should make another two to complete the set. But at least I know it’s possible now.

Thanks Rusty.

Rusty
Reply

Phillip,

Thanks for letting me know that it worked.

Zoe
Reply

Rusty, how did you cut the top bar in half lengthwise?

Rusty
Reply

Cutting a top bar in half lengthwise is difficult. I used a radial-arm saw and made a cut called ripping, which means cutting it along the grain instead of across it. It can be dangerous to the unskilled because the wood can go shooting out from the blade.

If you are inexperienced and haven’t many tools, you might ask a friend to do it for you, or sometimes a lumber store will do it for a small fee. Alternatively you can use the alternate method of making follower boards where you use two whole frames instead of cutting one in half. I have a post on that somewhere.

I will try to come up with a better and safer way to make follower boards. Does anyone have any ideas for Zoe?

Phillip
Reply

Zoe, here’s a post that show’s exactly how I did it:

http://mudsongs.org/dummy-boards-for-dummies/

I’m an incompetent carpenter and I don’t have many fancy tools. Poor starving artist types are like that. I used a hand-held jig saw to cut my bars down the middle. I could have used a regular hand saw, too, but the jig saw reduced my chances of cutting my thumb off in the process. I was careful and I did it slowly. I drew a line down the middle and did my best to follow the line with the jig saw. It wasn’t exactly a straight line but close enough.

I have to build another one soon.

I installed the follower boards a few weeks ago and haven’t checked on them since, but I assume they’re working the way they should. I’m checking on that hive tomorrow. I’ll let you know.

Zoe
Reply

Thanks, Phillip! I believe I can do it by following the instructions on your post.

Zoe
Reply

Update: I made the follower boards today by using a grooved top bar. I clamped it first, then it was easy to cut with a hand saw by cutting along the groove. Thanks Rusty & Phillip!

Toby
Reply

Do you put these in the bottom box only? I am not using deeps so I wasn’t sure if I should make them for only the bottom box, or if it would benefit having them in 2 or all 3?

Rusty
Reply

Toby,

It is best to have follower boards line up, especially if you are using a screened bottom board. If they don’t line up from box to box, the frames won’t line up and mites won’t be able to fall freely from the upper box, through the lower box, and out the bottom of the hive. The exception is that I don’t use them in the honey supers because the bees don’t do a lot of grooming or housecleaning in that area and the supers are on for only a short while.

Phillip
Reply

When I first installed follower boards, I only put them in the bottom brood box, which left the frames in the second brood box misaligned with the frames in the bottom box — which means there was an empty space above every top bar in the bottom box. The bees subsequently built 3 inch burr comb in that space above the top bars. If that’s hard to follow, here’s a photo:

http://mudsongs.org/follower-board-mistake/

I’ve since added follower boards to both brood boxes and everything is cool.

Phillip
Reply

I noticed a beekeeper in California who made thick follower boards from plywood:

http://goo.gl/s2liu

I’d think the Masonite follower boards would provide more space for the bees to relieve congestion, etc., but I can also see the appeal of the simple plywood design.

Biddy
Reply

Thank you very much for the information and photos supplied for the making of a dummy board. A picture is worth a thousand words. I love this website.

Rusty
Reply

Glad you find it helpful!

Dave
Reply

I’m confused, (as usual) what’s the difference between division boards and follower boards?

Rusty
Reply

Dave,

You should be confused. I hate the terms that mean different things to different people. Some say a division board is the same as a follower board or dummy board. Some say it is a board used for requeening, that is used to separate two hive boxes so the bees can’t co-mingle, sort of like a double-screen board. I think it’s best not to use the term “division board” at all.

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