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Moulded Starter Strips
for Top Bar Hives or Standard Bee Hive Frames

The topic of this page started with an Email of Dennis usbwrangler) Murrell's that was sent to the Norlands Discussion List...

Date: Mon Jul 26, 2004 1:51 am
Subject: Fast and Easy Starter Strips

If you are using starter strips and have lots of top bars to prepare, try using a wax mold like this one.

Cut a strip of wood the same length and width as the lower surface of the top bar. Make it as thick as the heigth of the starter strip. I make mine about 3/16" thick.

Then cut a slot down the middle of the strip. This slot will be the mold for the starter strip. Don't cut the strip into two pieces. Leave enough material on each end to hold the mold together. It should look like a wide, thin, slotted bottom bar.

Soak the strip in water for a few minutes. Place the strip on the bottom surface of a top bar. And fill the slot with hot, molten beeswax. The wax needs to be hot enough to freely flow into the slot.

After the wax has cooled, gently remove the strip. If the wax begins to stick to the slot, soak the strip in water for a few minutes.

Multiple strips can be used which will keep you working while strips are cooling. I find four strips will keep me busy, but you may need more if you are faster than I am :> )

Using this little mold is much faster than even just filling saw kerfs cut into a top bar with wax. And the resulting starter is much stronger than strips which are fastened with melted beeswax into a kerf.

I've only used thin stips with this method. The strips can flex and follow deviations in the top bars. This flexibility also alows them to be easily removed. A thicker, more, rigid strip may not work as well.

I use this method in my top bar hives, but it could be used on the top bars for standard frames as well.

Dennis also posted the information on a web page, but his site has moved around several different servers and as a result, his original work and photographs cannot be found.

Written... 24 October 2004, Revised...  Upgraded... 

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Starter Strip Mold

Some bees are easy to run in a top bar hive. They will make straight comb and center it on a top bar. Not much guidance is needed to help keep them oriented. But other bees are harder to run in a top bar hive. They will make parallel comb. But they won't draw more than a few combs before bending it on to another top bar. Lots of comb has to be trimmed before the bees get it "right".

I've tried several methods to help guide these harder bees along with limited success. Most of these methods require additional woodwork and materials. But I've found an easy, fast way to make strong beeswax starter strips using a wooden mold. It is faster and easier than filling a saw kerf with wax. Certainly easier than using wooden splines. And they are much stronger than attaching strips formed on dunking boards with molten beeswax. These always fail unless the temperature of the beeswax is just right.

First, cut a strip of wood the size of the bottom surface of a top bar. Make it as thick as the height desired for the starter strip. I make mine about 3/16" thick.

Now cut a slot down the middle of strip. This slot will form the cavity for the molten beeswax which when solidified will makeup the starter strip.

It should look like a long, wide, slotted bottom bar.

Do not cut the wooden strip in half. Leave enough material on the ends to hold the strip together.

img_1765.jpg img_1766.jpg

Soak the wooden strip in water for a few minutes. Place it on a top bar and fill the slot with hot beeswax. The beeswax should be hot enough to freely flow into the slot.

I use a saw kerf on my top bars. The slot is placed directly above the saw kerf.

Pressing down on the spoon helps to hold the wooden strip flush with the top bar if any of the wood is warped.

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Let the wax solidify. But don’t let it get too cold. Then use a hive tool to scrape any excess wax off the top bar and the wooden strip.

After the wax has cooled. Insert a hive tool between the end of the wooden strip and the top bar. Cut a small portion, about 1/2", of the starter strip to free it from the wooden mold. Do this at both ends of the wooden strip.


After the wax is cold, gently, slowly, pull up the wooden strip. It will release from the wax leaving a strong, well attached starter strip on the top bar. Be sure to let the wax cool sufficiently. If it’s too warm it will be damaged when the wooden strip is pulled up.

I used a pocket knife to split one end of the wooden starter thinking that the added flexibility would help to release the wooden strip. Not much difference was noted as long as the wooden strips are kept moist. And they are more fragile than a strip with two solid ends.

But my strips are thin and flexible. A thicker, more rigid strip might require one split end to easily release from the beeswax.


If the wax begins to stick to the wooden strip, soak it in water for a few more minutes. Then use it again.

Several wooden strips should be used as it takes awhile for the wax to cool. I’ve found four strips keeps me busy enough.

This technique could be used on standard frames for an unfoundation approach as well.

This concept could be used to make triangular shaped starter strips. Or maybe a mold could be developed to make ‘horizontal’ foundation on the top bar surface, much like the impressions the Swiss obtained with their rollers.