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British National Beehives

Based in a small workshop in Tideswell in the Peak District we make Highest Quality British National Beehives out of 1st grade American Western Red Cedar or High Quality Red Deal according to the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) Modified National Hive Plans. Everything we sell we make here in the Peak District. We also stock other items of Beekeeping Supplies including Frames, Foundation Wax and Hive Tools. The driving forces behind peak-hives.co.uk are sustainability and quality workmanship. Sustainability because, well it matters quite a bit we think and quality workmanship because customer satisfaction is paramount.

Cedar Scarcity.

Unfortunately building materials are extremely scarce at the moment and pricing is highly volatile. This goes for Western Red Cedar too. I have decided that until the market settles down I will not be making up any Cedar hives or hive parts. We'll be back in operation once the supply issues have been resolved. Many thanks.


Want to see your National Hive being made? Here's what's going on in the workshop right now. The image is updated every 10 minutes during working hours. Click to see full size...



The rest of the centre column is an ongoing blog of what's new at peak-hives.co.uk and other items of interest...veg garden...renewables etc, but please don't let reading about the allotment distract you from placing your order...:-)

Thursday Order Updates

As we’re now in the busy season and Adriana is working very hard for her teaching qualification order acknowledgements will be sent out on Thursdays for the previous week. This means that I can get on with making up our High Quality Cedar National Hives and Hive Parts in the workshop. If you place an order with us you’ll get the standard Paypal receipt and then on Thursday we’ll send out a PH number and an expected date for dispatch. At this stage in the beekeeping calendar it’s always difficult to keep up with orders and we thank our loyal customers for your patience.

PH as Featured in the FT…

A month or so ago I was asked if we’d like to be in the FT in an article based around Artisans…

Here’s a link to the article.


I’ll write more on this later but for now must get back to the workshop to make up some hives…


New Blades…

At the start of every beekeeping season I invest in new blades for all my machines. It’s not always so urgent because Cedar is a very forgiving timber to work and doesn’t cause too much wear on the TCT on a blade. But it’s more or less become a tradition in the Peak Hives workshop and it is nice when the new blades cut for the first time…hot knives through butter!!!

New Blades

New Blades

We’re now busy with our standard National Hive products so I can’t take on any ‘specials’ until the back end of this season…but I do like the odd Observation Hive or Top Bar. Nice to make a variety of things.

Snelgrove Board

Snelgrove Board

Snelgrove Board

We’ve had many requests for these and now the beekeeping season has quietened down I’ve finally got round to making the required jigs so they can be made consistently to a high standard. The Snelgrove method of swarm control is well documented and a very good description can be found from the Barnsley Beekeepers website Snelgrove Method

As with all our standard products they are made to National Hive size.

Season Update and Workshop Upgrade…

We’re mad mad mad busy making our Cedar National Hives. We haven’t had any quiet period this time around as we have fortunately had many returning customers which is great. I’m currently doing 7 day weeks (taking Sunday afternoons off to have a breather and do a bit in the polytunnel) and even so still struggling to fulfill all orders in good time.

One thing I have had opportunity to do though is an upgrade in the workshop. The crosscut saw is about the most used machine in the workshop and has up to now had a Beech fence with a home made fence stop. It’s been accurate but every now and then I would have to fashion a new fence stop to make sure all was working correctly. Accuracy wasn’t the problem with it though. As a home made solution it tended to be awkward at times and needed too much maintenance so last week I splashed out on a Datum FlipStop. Installed it and a new Ash fence last night with the difference that can be seen in the pictures below. Very pleased so far…

Old Fence

Old Fence

New Fence

New Fence

New Fence

New Fence

All the best to all our customers. Our National Hives are still our bread and butter product and we thank our customers for their patience.

National Hive Double Stand in Cedar

Our customer emailed to ask if we could make a specific height double stand.  After exchanging a couple of emails we had a design and at this time of year I can fit in the odd custom job. It’s 700mm high and designed to take two National Hives.

Double Hive Stand in Cedar

Double Hive Stand in Cedar

I was only supposed to make up a flat pack but got carried away and made it up. Suppose it means I like being in the workshop at least..



Holidays 2014

From today 26th July all Peak Hives orders will be made up and dispatched after we return from our annual holiday.  We thank all our customers and hope you all have had a great beekeeping season.  There’s been plenty of swarming but it also looks like a good honey crop is coming.

Please feel free to place orders for our National Hive and Nucleus Hives.  We will be returning to full production again upon our return.

All the best

Nick, Adriana and Fam.

Observation Hive No2

Earlier on in the year we were approached by a visitor attraction to build an observation hive to be installed for public viewing.  We were, as usual, too busy building our National Hives so we couldn’t accommodate them at the time.  Now that the main season is over I can make up special requests and this is the result

Observation Hive 2

Observation Hive 2

It will be wall mounted and takes 3 DN1 brood frames and an SN1 super frame as specified by the customer.  I was concerned that having only 4 frames it might be too small but the client assures me that they have seen similar observation hives run successfully over long periods.  They are also quite well in with local beekeepers so should have assistance on hand should they need it.  I’m currently discussing with the customer as to whether I travel up to the lake district where the attraction is to fit the hive.  Hopefully I will be and can make a weekend of it and do my best to get up Scafell.


2013 Holiday


After a very busy season making our Cedar National Hive beekeeping equipment our annual holidays are coming up so any orders placed from today 02/08/2013 will be made up upon our return in the first week of September.  Many thanks to all our clients new and old.

Nick & Adriana.

National Brood Chamber Cross Section

A very cross section indeed.  I’d made this National Brood Chamber up out of first quality cedar and after sanding it and finishing with metal runners placed it upon the rest of the order I was working on.  Summat not right there!  I’d made the sides about 35mm too short!  So after a mild curse it was destined for firewood.  Makes a nice cross section of a Brood Chamber though so here’s a piccy before it went on the fire.

Brood Chamber Cross Section

Brood Chamber Cross Section


We’ve been having a nightmare getting deliveries out as we are well off the route the gritters and ploughs cover.  If there’s a hint of snow in the UK Tideswell always gets it bad.

One customer, Jim from Sheffield, decided to pick up his flat pack National Hive from the workshop but he had to abandon his car in the centre of the village and walk the rest of the way.  After boxing up his hive it was clear that carrying it wasn’t on so Jim’s order became the first Peak Hives product to be delivered by sledge.

Sledge Hive

Sledge Hive

Thanks for bringing the sledge back Jim and happy beekeeping!


Order Queue

Managed to get on top of the order queue.  With 6 large orders going today it means I can mostly concentrate on a huge order that doesn’t need delivering until Jan 2013 and fit in a little time for my own projects…

National Hives aren’t the only thing made from Western Red Cedar.  It’s a bit off topic for a National Hive maker but here’s how our Freedom 15′ Cedar Strip Canadian canoe is shaping up.

Canadian Cedar Strip Canoe

Canadian Cedar Strip Canoe

I’ve been grabbing 20 mins here and there to do work on it now for over a year but now that the high season madness has subsided I can fit in a bit more time along with my son James (part of the idea is that he sees the value in taking time over – and finishing – a project).  We’ve just done fibreglassing and epoxy…When finished I’ll pop some ‘on the water’ piccys on the Peak Hives blog.

I’ve also updated the order turnaround time in the right hand column and it’s now approx 2 weeks from order to delivery for one of our Cedar or Red Deal National Hive products.

Splayed Legs Hive Stand

I’ve been asked a number of times for these so I set aside some workshop time to make up the required jigs and ensure that they could be manufactured to a consistent high standard.  That done I have now added them as a product in the left hand column and they are also an option on our National Hives.  Apart from looking good, the splayed legs add stability and the longer landing board should be appreciated by both bees and beekeeper alike.

Splayed Legs Hive Stand

Splayed Legs Hive Stand

Cleaner Cuts

Since starting National Hive production at Peak Hives I’ve used my trusty Sedgwick morticing machine to cut the slots for the rails to sit into brood boxes and supers.  Cedar is an extremely light wood with air between the fibres therfore affording extra insulation to bees housed in a cedar hive, BUT that lightness means that on occasion the morticer can sometimes cut/crush it’s way through the timber rather than just cutting.  The image below illustrates the problem…

National Hive Rail Slots

National Hive Rail Slots


Time for a Dado head!  They’re not normally available here in the UK because of our Health and Safety laws but I’ve been searching ebay for a while and found one.  After making up a custom jig and some more fettling it’s doing a grand job.  Nice clean precise cuts every time and it’s also slightly quicker.


Dado Head

Dado Head


Too busy to post!!!

No updates recently as I’m flat out in the workshop making up orders…will put a posting on here in the next few days when time permits…


Varroa Floor Improvement

From now on the slide out trays used for Varroa inspections on Peak Hives Open Mesh Floors will be made from 4mm Yellow Correx rather than the 5mm ply previously used.  This change applies to full National size Varroa Floors and our Nucleus Hive Varroa Floor.

Open Mesh Floor Improvement

Open Mesh Floor Improvement

At Peak Hives we take suggestions/requests from our customers seriously.  Generally speaking I’d say that if a customer suggests an improvement it doesn’t always register as I’m so busy working on orders that product modification isn’t foremost in my mind  but if it’s asked for again then I try to stop what I’m doing and give the matter some serious consideration and come to a decision.

The main reason for this change to Yellow Correx slide out trays is better visibility as compared to the ply trays I previously manufactured.  It is much easier to spot a Varroa Mite against the Yellow Correx background than against the purpleish coloured ply.

Of course if you’re a previous Peak Hives customer and would like a Yellow Correx slide out tray then just get in touch and we can sort you out with a new tray at cost.

Product Improvement – Cedar Staining

Cedar is a superior timber for making hives partly because it has natural chemical constituents that protect it from insect and fungal attack.  These chemicals can cause a side effect though in that they can react with the iron content of standard nails and cause staining if the wood is wet.  I’ve been wetting the wood in picture every day for a couple of weeks and you can see the stain from the standard steel nail starting to spread.  Of course this doesn’t occur if the hive is protected with paint or Danish/Linseed Oil but some prefer to leave their woodwork untreated to age and weather naturally.

On the left you can see the stained standard nail.  On the right you can see no staining around the galvanized nail fixed in place by my new Air Nailer.

Cedar Test Piece

Cedar Test Piece

Here’s the old technology compared with the new.  Hammer vs Air Nailer.  Won’t be throwing the hammer away just yet but the Nailer certainly speeds up hive assembly leaves a neater finish and, using galvanized nails, gets rid of the staining issue.  Peak Hives assembled National Hives will from now on be constructed using the newer method.

Hammer vs Nailer

Hammer vs Nailer

The ‘art’ of hive making

Arvind Mistry visited the workshop last week.  He’s a friend and a professional photographer and had been asked to do a ‘shoot’ of a production environment.  I was happy to oblige and here’s a PDF of some of the shots he took.

I was more than a tad worried that the sawdust and particles in the workshop would damage his very expensive gear but he didn’t seem in the least bothered so I cracked on making up a 14×12 brood box whilst he snapped away.  He (and pricey cameras) got covered in shavings and dust but some nice piccys came out of it I think.

–> Here’s the link.

Thanks to Arv.

All Season Workshop!

New for this winter is a workshop you can work in!!!  Last winter’s cold snap that lasted quite a lot longer than one would think a ‘snap’ would last more or less closed Peak Hives down while the temperatures dropped far far below ‘glue setting point’.  It was also physically very draining to be in there for any length of time.

So I’ve stumped up for some Kingspan and insulated the most exposed bits.  It’s already a big improvement and the rest will be insulated over the coming weeks.  As testament to it’s new found cosiness here’s a picture of the lastest National Hive to emerge from the new warm and snug work environment…

Bit of an odd angled view but it’s a large 14×12 National Hive in Cedar with Stand, 3 Supers and a Gabled Roof and it’s the only way I could get it all in shot.

14x12 National

14x12 National

National Nucleus Hive Stands.

I’ve had a few requests for stands for our Nucleus Hives so they are a new Peak Hives product which can now be found in the left hand column under the Standard Nuc Hives and the 14×12 Nucs.  The PH Nuc hives do look good when sat on one.  They are (as are the Nucleus Hives) 221mm wide by the National Hive standard depth of 460mm.

Nucleus Hive Stand

Nucleus Hive Stand


I’ve not quite forgotten how to post articles onto the Peak Hives website but it has been a while…

There’s more than a couple of reasons why it’s been so quiet on here but one major reason is while we were away on hols the camera got dropped into the sea!  Digital cameras and salt water don’t mix it seems and no matter how much drying time I give it it refuses to take another piccy.  Took receipt the other day of a new camera and can finally take some shots to put onto the site again…One of the other reason it’s been so quiet is I’m spending as much time as possible in the workshop to make up orders.

Off the top of my head this weeks production has included…around 50 flat pack national supers, 25 flat pack national brood boxes, a dozen or so of broods and supers assembled, several Varroa Open Mesh Floors, two standard floors (yes there are still experienced beekeepers who use them), around 14 4″ roofs, 1 complete 14×12 hive in cedar and an accompanying nucleus hive (pictured) and a few ashforth feeders…phew.  There’s lots more to make up though and we certainly do thank our customers for their patience.

14x12 hive and nuc

14x12 hive and 14x12 nuc

Up here in the Peak the season’s well and truly over as regards the buzzers…they’re settling in for winter.  Started with 2 colonies and looks like we’ll end with 2.  Now to see how they fair in the Peak District winter…

Think I’ll give them a little help with some cut up Kingspan.

Branding and Calendar Widget

A quick note before I head for the Cedar…news of some planned product improvements and workflow/customer service.

First of all I’m having a branding iron made for Peak Hives.  It will allow me to brand all Peak Hives assembled products both inside and out with a unique serial number should the client request it.  There’s been quite a few hive thefts in Derbyshire (see latest Beecraft) and as bees and hives come to the fore and increase more and more in value I think putting an indelible unique identifier on each hive is a good idea.  The serial number will be the customers ‘PHXXXXXX’ order number which is unique to each customer and it can be burned into the timber as the hive is assembled so I can do it both inside and out in places that would make removal very difficult indeed whilst not affecting detrimentally the look of the hive.

Following on from that I’ve decided to implement a calendar widget on the Peak Hives web page where customers can check where their order is in the queue.  We are a cottage industry striving for sustainability and mass production isn’t what Peak Hives is about.  But we are a business and keeping customers happy is core to any business.  The idea is that for every order received there will be a ‘PHXXXXXX’ serial number generated which would be sent to the customer.  This would then be placed on a frequently updated calendar visible on the main page.  The customer could then easily check where their order was in the queue and have peace of mind as to when it would be finished and despatched.  There’s a bit of programming to do on the page so it won’t be done until this current busy period is over but it should be a helpful improvement in future.

Finally, I always like to put up some visuals so here’s a piccy of a couple of National Hives that recently left the workshop…

National Hives

Standard National Hives from Peak Hives

One BIG Order!

After dedicating myself to getting up at 5am and finishing in the workshop at 11pm for the last week I’ve finally finished Matthew’s 23 fully assembled Cedar National Hives.  That’s 23 National Hive Stands, 23 Varroa Floors, 23 National Brood Boxes, 46 National Supers, 23 Framed and Wired Queen Excluders, 23 Crown Boards with Porter Bee Escapes, 23 National Hive Gabled Roofs and a partridge in a pear tree.

Here’s a piccy of Matthew (and Alexandra, one of mine) who runs Honey Bees At Home just about cramming it all in to a long wheel base Mercedes Sprinter Van.  Many thanks to Matthew and all the best with Honey Bees At Home!

I am well and truly knackered but will be making up orders again tomorrow first thing…it’s a good job I love my workshop.

23 Hives

23 Assembled Hives!

Peak Hives Has Moved.

Into the house next to the workshop!

Partly due to workloads and also the need for a better place for my own brood we decided to move into the house next to the workshop.  Peak Hives customers will be pleased to hear that this allows me to get into work at around 6am and leave around 10pm…has to be done but I’m not sure how long I can keep it up.  I’m currently awaiting a broadband connection which is due on the 10th of June.  One that’s in then my plan is to install a Peak Hives Workshop Webcam so that clients can see their National Hive being machined and assembled.  The move will also allow me to develop new National Hive related products when I have a bit of spare time…watch this space.  First on the list is going to be Ashforth feeders for both full sized hives and nucleus hives as my own recent experience suggests that the contact feeders are rubbish.

Working from Home

Working from Home

Peak Hives Quality Control

There’s nothing worse than woodworking for leaving you with egg on your face.  It happens in even the very best cabinet makers.  Just as this standard National Hive floor was about to leave the workshop to be sent out to the customer I decided to lay the tape measure across it and lo and behold it was 8mm short in one dimension!  The workshop air didn’t quite turn blue but I did sigh with relief that I wasn’t going to get a call in a couple of days asking why my National Hive floors were different sizes to everyone elses.



The only solution was to quickly make up another as the rest of the order was ready for delivery.

To err is human.

Peak Hives Apiary!

The idea of turning the joinery workshop into a National Hives business originally arose out of my own desire to start beekeeping and a few months ago I was lucky enough to meet Richard H who offered a couple of colonies in exchange for equipment.  Last week I travelled down (in the new Peak Hives livery) and picked up two hives bursting to the seams with British Black Bees.  After a very nervous journey up the M1 I made it back to Tideswell and with some effort in the dark managed to get the hives in place.  I was concerned that it might have been early in the year to bring colonies up here to the cold Peak but the bees were ready so delay was out of the question.

Yesterday I had a window of opportunity to do a first inspection and super the colonies.

First Bee Inspection

First Bee Inspection

So far, to my untrained eye, everything looks good.  Now to see if the combination of the often inclement (to say the least) Peak District weather and my inexperience as a beekeeper will not result in disaster.  I will do my very best.  Fortunately I’m with Chesterfield BKA who are known to be very supportive and also have a couple of aquaintances who are experienced beekeepers who might be able to lend a hand.

Peak Hives Van Graphics

I’m so busy in the workshop making up orders that I’ve not posted anything on the blog for a couple of days so here’s an update on the business…we have van graphics!

peak-hives car graphics

peak hives van graphics

To celebrate here’s a tiny competition open to all but most likely for those that live in the area and see the new car logo on the road.  The first to send in a photo of the newly decorated vehicle (not this one as that would be cheating) will be sent a free hive tool…I did say it was a tiny competition!

I’m very pleased with it.  Thanks go to Jim and Gary at Hotline Signs in Buxton for a great job done very quickly at a very reasonable price.

The Berlingo has already delivered about 20 National Hives, several Nucleus Hives and other National Hive parts to Peak-Hives customers as well as ferried the children on the inevitable school runs.  From now on we’ll do it in corporate style!

National Hive Queen Excluder

Peak Hives are now producing framed and wired queen excluders suitable for National Hives with either top or bottom bee space.  Our metalwork supplier sent us the metal grills a few weeks back and I’ve just had the chance to set up the workshop jigs to produce high quality frames to go round the excluder grill.  As with all our other National Hive seperates they can be found in the hive parts section in the left hand column.  I’ll also add them as an option on purchasing a complete hive this evening.

Framed Wired Queen Excluder

Framed Wired Queen Excluder

Machinery Upgrade.

Hi.  I’m always on the lookout for new machines and I came across this Startrite Mercury Pillar Drill.  There’s not much to be done with one of these for making National Hives but seeing as I had been coping with a much inferior machine bought from B&Q or a.n.other vendor of rubbish machinery I jumped at the chance.  The new machine is 3 phase and very good at what it’s supposed to do…the old is single phase and rubbish…easy to see which is the better machine.

Startrite Mercury

Startrite Mercury

Top and Bottom bee space National Hive

I’ve had quite a few requests to produce top bee space national hives.  Got an order finished this morning so just before my lunchbreak I decided to ‘jig up’ for offering top bee space nationals.  Basically the difference in machining requires the production of a deeper top rail for supers and brood boxes and a suitable mortice in the brood/super sides to accommodate the deeper rails.  Anyway to cut a not very long story shorter here’s a couple of pics showing the standard British National Hive option of bottom bee space and the new optional top bee space…

Bottom Bee Space National Hive

Bottom Bee Space National Hive

Top Bee Space National Hive

Top Bee Space National Hive

I’ve also put together a little page on the debate between top and bottom bee space…here

I’ll update the site to allow choosing top bee space as an option later tonight.

Flat Pack National Hives picked up from the Workshop

Hi.  Rich came up on Wednesday to the Peak Hives workshop and picked up his flat packed national hives.  Was good to see him again and Steve who came along too.  Rich is an experienced beekeeper so by agreement (and the fact that they wouldn’t fit into his car otherwise) I didn’t seperate them out into individual units.

Here’s the kit he took…

Flat Packed National Hives

Rich's Hives

I’m getting plenty of enquiries about making up batches of frames and will endeavour to have a go this weekend (I do have to make a special meal for the oldies though on Saturday as it’s their golden wedding anniversary).  The other thing that I need to respond to is enquiries about ‘top bee space’ national hives.  It’s technically sorted but I want to have a go at machining some up before offering it as an option.  Coming soon, probably tomorrow.

Allotment news is that I made some space this afternoon for another fruit tree in the garden…it’s getting tight on space and I’ve another two trees to plant.  I wonder if the farmer who owns the field across the road would mind.

All the best and as usual, happy beekeeping 2010!

National Hive Roof Detail

A quick post to show a detailed view of our lock joints on a standard national hive roof.  Originally I was using a dovetail jig but thought it was worth while investing in the required tooling to make the roofs as per the specification laid down by the British Beekeepers Association Modified National Hive plans which are the mainstay of all Peak Hives products.  I’m hoping to find some time in the next couple of weeks to make up a few observation hives…those dratted orders keep getting in the way though.

Happy beekeeping 2010!

Lock Jointed National Hive Roof

Lock Jointed National Hive Roof

Cedar National Hives ready for shipping

Here’s a couple of cedar national hives ready in the workshop for shipping on Monday.  Here at Peak Hives we’re busy working away in spite of the cold weather that just doesn’t want to go away.  When Spring actually comes I’ll be one happy camper although the local allotment association reckons we’re ‘at least a month behind’ everywhere else…I do wonder if that means I’m going to have a hard time of it keeping bees here in Tideswell…seems likely.

Assembled Cedar National Hives

Assembled Cedar National Hives

Peak Hives Workshop…

Hi. I thought it might be informative to show the workshop (or the ground floor machining area at least).  This is where all our national hives are made.  Upstairs there’s an assembly area and shelving for hive parts.  As you can see it’s an old building which in it’s time has been a cow shed, a hen shed, a joiner’s workshop, an electricians workshop (The whole of Tideswell was electrified from here), an artists studio, a joiner’s workshop again and now peak-hives.

The image is several shots stitched together using ‘hugin’.

All the best and happy beekeeping for 2010!

Peak Hives Workshop

Peak Hives Workshop

Repairing my Wadkin BAOS Planer/Thicknesser

Our Wadkin BAOS, my favourite machine, died the other day as the wormwheel on the thicknessing feed motor lost it’s thread.  Fortunately there are plenty of these machines about and you can still buy spares from places like Advanced Machinery.  Very good company to deal with!!!

Here’s the BAOS on it’s side hanging from a block and tackle whilst I effected the repair.  Remarkable how much weight can be packed into a smallish machine.  Took all day (sorry if it’s put your order back) but by the end of the day my fav machine was doing the business again and had been oiled up and greased to boot.  Now tomorrow has to be back to production and building up stock of British National Hive parts.

Wadkin BAOS under repair

Wadkin BAOS under repair

fighting orders…then machines!!!

it’s twenty to twelve at night and I’ve just got back from the workshop…covered in grease and mess from trying to resuscitate a machine.  tomorrow’s national hive making is going to be pushed back while I try to get the part needed for my Wadkin BAO/S planer thicknesser.  If all else fails then I’ll use the older machine that we have in the workshop (thanks to neil) to do the thicknessing but the BAO/S will still need that part and it’s a matter of sourcing it without being stung (no pun intended) for too much cash by the parts dealers.

ugh! 2009 has been an ‘interesting‘ year.  roll on 2010!

six well used tools…

here at Peak-Hives we take hive making seriously.  whether it be ripping and planing timber down to size, tenoning top and bottom rails, putting just the right bevel onto bottom rails, morticing out our national brood box and super ends everything is done with precision and care.  In the picture you can see 6 well used items from the workshop…getting things square is as you can see very important and that was the main idea behind the photo…but up in the top left you can see the other little tool that has edged it’s way into the shot and deserves a mention…without that calculator there’d have been many a costly mistake it has to be said…trusty little fella has aided me many a time…


squares and calculator used in national hive making