beekeeping equipment how to

How to build a slatted rack


I never go without a slatted rack in my beehives, and I extoll the virtues of them every chance I get. David Manning, a beekeeper in Missouri, makes some seriously good-looking slatted racks that you can see in the photos below. For those of you who are handy in the woodshop, David has graciously shared his method in the following write-up.

Thank you, David, for taking the time to share with us.

Editor’s note: materials list updated 6/9/15.

Materials List

(2) ¾” x 2¼”x 19⅞” for side boards
(2) ¾” x 2¼” x 15½” for front and back board
(1) ¾” x 4¼”x 15¼” for shelf at front of rack
(10) ¾” x ¾” x 15” slats

Cutting dados on pieces

  1. On the ends of both 2¼” boards cut a dado ⅜” x ¾”. These front and back boards will be nailed to the end of the side boards making the side dimension a full 19⅞”.
  2. On the two front and back pieces cut a dado ¼” from the top of the 2¼” board. The dado needs to be ¾” wide by ¼” deep.
  3. On one of the 15¼” sides of the shelf board cut a ⅜” dado ½” deep the full length of the board, making sure that you have 3/16” on each side of the dado. One end of the slats will fit in this dado.
  4. On the two side boards where the shelf will set in a dado, a ¼” x ¾” dado will need to be cut ¼” from the top of the board the width of the shelf board – 4.0 inches. There are two ways of accomplishing this, dado past the 4 inch so that you have a 4 inch x ¼” dado cut with the curved cut beyond the cut. The second way is to cut the dado 4 inch long and using a chisel, remove the part of the dado that needs to be cleaned out in order to have a full 4 inches.
  5. On one end of the ¾” x ¾” x 15” slats, set up a dado blade to cut a 3/16” wide x ½” deep area from opposite sides of the same end of the slat. This should leave a joint on the end of the slat that has a centered ⅜” x ½” area. This is the end that will fit in the ⅜” x ½ “deep dado on the shelf board. The other end of the slat stays ¾” x ¾” and fits in the ¾” dado in the back 2¼” board.

Spacing of the slats in the frame

The purpose of this slatted rack is to have the 10 slats line up with the bottom of each frame in the brood super. To achieve this, the two end slats, #1 and #10, those closest to the sides, need to be spaced so that there is a 5/16” space between the slats and the side board. The remaining 8 slats will have an 11/16” space between each of them.

Securing the slats to the shelf board and the back board

  1. Using Titebond III Waterproof wood glue put glue on edges of boards that will come in contact with another board. In other words, any where there is a dado.
  2. Using 5/8” brads or brad nailer with 5/8” brads or staples, place the brad 5/16” from the edge of the shelf board where the slats mate with the board.
  3. On the outside of the back board draw a line 5/8” line all the way across the length of the back. Place a 1½” brad on the line and centered on a slat that has been correctly spaced.

If your brads are countersunk, on the outside of the frame, fill with wood putty, sand, and then put several coats of sanding sealer on the outside of the assembly that will be exposed to the weather and on the top and bottom edge of the outside frame.

Apply primer and several coats of good exterior paint. I use an exterior paint that the primer and paint are combined.

David Manning
Sparta, Missouri

For more on slatted racks, see:

How to use a slatted rack

Slatted racks: how should the slats be arranged?

Hive five: the best ventilation equipment

Also, for a complete set of plans for a slatted rack, see Slatted Rack


The top of the slatted rack is the shallow side. © David Manning.


The bottom side of the slatted rack is the deep side. © David Manning.


The end of the slatted rack with the crosswise shelf goes on the front of the hive, above the entrance. © David Manning.


A complete hive with the slatted rack in place. © David Manning.


The bees are happy with it. © David Manning.


  • Hi. I’m a woodworker and I also do a lot of turning. For a better fit make sure you measure the above adjacent box, length and with, that your slats are going against. There are a lot of variations in the length and the with of a brood box.

    • Steve,

      My problem is that in the barn there is a stack of brood boxes and stack of slatted racks: who knows which goes where? Usually, if things are square, I’m happy, even if they aren’t exactly the same size.

  • What is the purpose of the shelf at the front? It seems as though this would interfere with mites falling all the way through. Is there some benefit that is not obvious to me?


    • David,

      The theory I read is that the shelf limits light and redirects air currents so the queen will raise brood further down and further towards the front of the hive. The original slatted racks were not developed with mites in mind and the slats went crosswise to the frames. Now they go parallel with the frames to accommodate mite drop, but mite management is not their main purpose.

  • Dear Rusty,

    I checked on my beehive at 1 p.m. and they looked normal. I checked on them again around 4-ish and something seemed off. There were a lot of bees entering the hive without any pollen. I had a feeling they were being robbed. For the first time, a bee followed me to my screened-in porch. She was kind of aggressive and crawled all over me. I panicked at that point and was stung on the head. 20 minutes later, I reduced the entrance so only one bee could fit. Now I’m thinking for sure they were being robbed, because I was followed and stung. I am feeding my bees but I only refill it at dusk. Why do you think they were being robbed?


    • Leah,

      I’m not convinced from your description that your bees are being robbed. First of all, lots of bees will come in without pollen, including almost all of those that are bringing in nectar. A few bees will bring in both at the same time, but normally they bring in one or the other. Also, one bee behaving badly doesn’t mean much.

      For more on robbing, including how to recognize it, read “Robbing bees: questions and answers.”

      Also, late in the afternoon (like 4 pm) you are apt to see orientation flights. It could be that as well.

  • Great plans! Last year we added slatted racks from Mann Lake and hive quilts constructed from Rusty’s plans, and all of our colonies survived the winter. First time ever! Obviously there are many variables, but I’m convinced the racks and quilts were a big factor.

  • Thanks Rusty! Had never heard of slatted racks or ventilated does before reading this & the links you provided. As always, you provide very interesting & educational information.

  • I was unfamiliar with a slatted rack. I have heard of them in passing at bee clubs but never with any explanation as to what they were or how and why they are used. I did read the links and will most certainly try to make one. (Just got into woodworking too.)

    Thank you again Rusty, your commitment to the bees is to be admired.

  • Very nice slatted rack and very well constructed. However, there are some discrepancies in the instructions, cut list, and pictures in reference to outside dimensions. Front & back pieces: Instructions call for end pieces to be full length (16-1/4″) but cut list calls for 16-3/4″ and picture shows 15-1/2″. Side Pieces: Cut list and instructions call for 19-1/8″ side piece but picture shows 19-7/8″. Solution: Change cut list for front & back length to 16-1/4″ and then follow instructions. This will give a slatted rack with the outside dimensions of a standard Langstroth box (19-7/8″ by 16-1/4″) when made of 3/4″ thick material.

  • Thanks for reminding us of the importance of slatted racks. What is the purpose of that 4 inch piece in the front of the slatted rack? I have a slatted rack from Greg Long and he does not use it. To me his rack has greater surface area. I also have a rack with the 4 inch space for comparison purposes.You recently mentioned how you limit hive inspections but I am assuming you are removing drone frames for varroa control every two weeks. When installing a new nuc [5 frames] into a deep, when would you start inserting a drone frame. Thanks! Chris

    • Chris,

      The shelf is supposed to redirect air flow and reduce light from the opening so the queen will lay lower down in the hive.

      You can put a drone frame in at any time, whenever you think the queen will start laying drone eggs.

  • I like the hive stand on which the hive sits. I wonder if that’s homemade? I’ve used slatted racks since starting in 2011. The queen definitely seems to lay to the edge of the frame.

    • Anna, the hive stands are built in my home workshop, The material I used was Western Cedar 1×4’s and Western Cedar 2×4’s. The 1×4’s come 7/8″ thick and have a smooth side and a rough side. I painted them to extend the use of them. These stands are constructed to support a full hive of brood and two to three honey supers. The stand lifts the bottom of the screen bottom board to 18″ of the ground.

  • Saw this today Rusty, thought you might find this interesting:
    Wonder if heating the brood does anything to them as well? I recall reading an article on “heater bees” and I wonder if heating the cells with the circuit board would result in more foragers?

    • Anna,

      They said the product detects the proper time for treatment. But one frame can hold brood in many stages of development, so I don’t quite get it. I wrote and asked that question. We’ll see if they respond.

  • Rusty, I find it interesting and odd that they say there only needs to be one frame in a hive. I also wondered about the effect on the brood if it’s heated. I had read about “heater bees” when the initial discovery was made and I wonder if the circuit board warming the brood will cause unintended consequences, i.e. more foragers than the hive needs. I had emailed them as well. We’ll both wait for answers.

    • Anna,

      I wrote about heater bees in a post after Jurgen Tautz came out with his book, but I had forgotten some of the details. I agree that the single frame is suspect. What if you have, say, 16 frames of bees in a double deep? How will killing mites on one frame help?

      Also, since no one answers our questions, I’m wondering if it’s a hoax. Lots of people have asked me about this via e-mail, and others say they too have written with no response. I should have been more careful about clicking on the site links, in case it is a malware site.

  • Thanks so much for these pics and links. I’d never heard of slat boards before. I have a question: Can you use them on hives with top entrances only? Or do they require the bottom entrance for proper ventilation?

    • Robin,

      You wouldn’t need a bottom entrance as long as you had bottom ventilation. An screened varroa board would work.

  • I wish the slatted rack was considered an essential hive component so I could buy it from commercial suppliers everywhere, because even David’s elegant instructions are beyond my carpentry skills.

    For the carpentry incompetent like me, I offer up this Icelandic variant that may be easy to build with the simplest tools and minimal skill (maybe):

  • Item #5 under Cutting Dados on Pieces has a wrong measurement. It shows the overall length of these 3/4″ x 3/4″ pieces at 14″. They actually need to be 15″ to fit correctly in the dados on both ends. Please correct so others don’t have to re-make a bunch of pieces. Otherwise good instructions… thanks.

  • Yes, I had issues with the measurements. After putting the first rack together the slats were too short. And the amended cut measurements are wrong also. If a person is going to put plans and measurements on your sit they should check and triple check their measurements and instructions.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Do the bees not build comb under the slatted rack? Im just presuming if there was enough space under there they would make comb.

    • Tomas,

      I have never seen comb on a slatted rack, and I’ve been using them for about 12 years. Not sure why.

  • I just built one of these, looks great. Now to reduce the design to fit 8 frame as well.

    Thanks Rusty & David!

  • Hi Rusty!

    I really like this concept and am happily working away on my own, mainly cause of you 😉 Anyway, I noticed there’s a couple guys out there who’ve installed the slats crosswise instead of parallel with the frames. Why do you think they’d do that? Regardless, I’m not tampering with your model, going across ‘feels wrong’. I’ve had one false swarm followed by one real swarm; I’m beat and my knuckles are burning from all the work! In Alberta, Canada where I am, we get deadly winters with really hot and dry summers. Not to mention the Chinooks if your familiar with those? The Chinooks are overnight warming that occurs from the weather pattern off the ocean… We are about 1100km from the West Coast but we can be -35 Celsius and then spike to +20 Celsius, overnight! No this is not part of Global Warming lol… But I can see the slatted boards being a real comfort to the ladies with this crazy pattern.

    Anyway, about the slat direction?



    • Nichol,

      The original design for slatted racks had the slats going crosswise. But when Varroa came along, people began using screened bottom boards in the hope that some mites would fall through. At that point, it became necessary to rotate the slats in the same direction as the frames so that mites would be less likely to land on the slats and more likely to fall straight through. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than slats going across.

  • Rusty,

    This post intrigued me when you put it up, so I made some racks right away and put them under my hives 2 summers ago. The changes I noticed after installing them were:

    – bearding on the outside of hives on the hottest days was greatly reduced or entirely absent,
    – combs drawn in foundation-less frames were being attached to the bottom bars every time,
    – brood was often raised right to the bottom of the frames.

    Mine are 3.5″ tall with no shelf board at the front of the racks, and the slats are parallel to the frames. The only rationale I’m aware of for the shelf board proposes that it’s supposed to prevent a draft that impedes the bees from using the lower front corners of the frames. But I couldn’t see any difference between the lower corners of the combs, regardless of their position relative to the entrance, so my experience didn’t support that idea.

    I’ve wondered about the functions of the slats and it seems to me that there are only two; to provide a barrier to downward expansion of the combs in the bottom brood box, and to provide more area for the bees to rest on. The rack probably reduces drafts at the bottom of the lowest combs in the hive but not much more than an empty box of similar depth would.

    I wonder if a cheaper, and much more available alternative to a specially constructed slatted rack might be to cover the top of a super with 1/4″ hardware cloth. It shouldn’t impede the bees of all castes from leaving or entering the colony but I wonder if the bees would think it enough of a barrier to prevent comb-building below the bottom bars of the lowest frames. Do you know if anyone has tried this? What are your or others’ opinions about whether bees will extend comb through 1/4″ hardware cloth?

    Maybe it’s just the winter hiatus making me think of crazy bee projects to try this coming season.

    • Cal,

      I don’t know the answer to your question, but when I look under the hives on a hot summer day (my hives are up on racks) I can see the bees bearding on the slats. It seems they just beard on the inside of the hive instead of the outside. I don’t know if they would do that on hardware cloth.

      You could try it and let us know!

  • The shelf seems a waste of time, effort and space. 1) There’s no similar shelf below the frames when a slatted rack is absent. 2) Most ventilation is up through the screened bottom board, not the front entrance, especially during the hot summer months when entrance reducers are used due to robbing. But I’ll concede that what “seems” so, ain’t necessarily what IS so. Thanks for posting this.

  • Rusty I have been using slatted racks for years and love them too! When describing them to a friend, he inquired about the extra space below the slats and asked how the bees entered the hive with such a big space. I told him I assumed they went up the sides. But then I remembered that the slatted racks I purchased from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm did not have that extra space on the bottom, so the slats extended down as far as frames do. They are A LOT heavier. So I am hypothesizing that the space might have developed as a manufacturing cost-saving mechanism, especially for companies that offer free shipping? ?

    Do you know if there is a functional reason why the majority of slatted racks seem to have a deep rim bottom?

    Upon further thought, I would imagine that it would be more efficient for the bees to be able to reach each slat right from the bottom board. ?

    • Amy,

      The bees use that space for gathering in hot weather. By reducing the density of bees inside of the hive, they get better airflow.

  • Hi again!

    I have also been using a slatted rack that I bought but now I am moving my bees to a Long Langstroth, I need to buy one for a long lang. Has anyone seen a slatted rack for a long lang?

  • A note. I read this on here or another blog but can no longer find what I read:

    I followed the pdf plans. In front of the flat 4″ board that goes on the front side, there is a 1/4″ lip from the dado. After tipping the hives forward for the winter it can act as a shelf to hold water running down the front inside wall of the hive. This will shorten the lifespan of your woodworking. I’ve cut 2 small weep holes through that front lip to act as scuppers and let any pooled water out. The slots only have to be as thick as the blade on your table saw. One each, right and left sides, and 3/4″ from the corners. I use 2 in case the hive is not level side to side after tipping.

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