This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
This is the most unsatisfactory part of a large hive like this to make. The chief fault is that it is heavy and cumbersome to lift off. A good carpenter, with new boards to work on, would do better to make the roof of a gable shape instead of flat, and it would be worth while to try the waterproof paper roofing, which is not expensive, and very light. To describe the one illustrated: its sides are made sloping like a desk or garden frame, and large enough to slip easily over the hive top like the lid of a box. The front of the roof (A;, Fig. 616) may be 7 in. deep, and the back 2 in., so that they may both be cut out of one length, and the two sloping sides out of another length of 9-in. board. The flat top is nailed on the top of this frame, projecting 1 1/2 in. to 2 in. all round; the joints, which must run from back to front, should be as close as possible, and thin strips of board 1 in. wide should be nailed over them. If the boards are smooth, the roof may be well painted; if not, treated to a thick coating of pitch, melted in a pot and applied hot (mind it does not boil over). If the boards which make the roof are very rough and uneven, it may be well to cover them with common roofing felt (cost Id. per sq. ft.). In this case the strips on joints should be omitted.
A block of wood (m, Fig. 616) must be nailed inside the front, 2 in. from the bottom edge, to keep the roof from slipping down the hive, and a 1-in. ventilation hole, covered with perforated zinc, bored in the back and front. The hive is now complete; but, before putting a swarm in, the frames must be fitted with wax guides. Most bee-keepers now use full sheets of comb foundation; but if this is not done, a thin line of melted wax must be run along the centre of the under side of top bar. A quilt must be laid on the frames; a single thickness of China matting (from the outside of tea chests) is best for the first layer, as the bees cannot bite it, and above it 2 or 3 thicknesses of old carpet. The hive is not a mere makeshift one, but can be used to advantage on any system, as there is plenty of room at the rear to add more than the 10 frames, if extracted honey be the object; or frames of supers can be hung behind the brood frames. It can also be packed with chaff or other warm material during winter if thought necessary. Of course a couple of coats of paint will be an improvement.
Frames placed across the entrance are much better than if running from back to front: the first comb acts as a screen, and brood is found in the combs clear down to the bottom bar.