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Beekeeping for All:

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Warré Beekeeping

As the Warré hive is normally extended by nadiring boxes, i.e. inserting them under the growing brood nest, some heavy lifting can be avoided by making a mechanical lift according to one of the designs shown on this page. The originator of the Warré hive lift is Marc Gatineau (France) who used an action essentially the same as the guillotine formerly used for executions in France. More recent designs, though closely similar in principle, are less obviously guillotine-like. These more compact lifts, illustrated below, are designed and built by Kai Serschmarn, Andy Collins and Will Deutschman.

Readers are invited to study this page carefully before deciding which type of lift to make. By the photo of Bill Wood's lift below are some helpful comments he made to the Warré e-Group in July 2012 regarding choice of a lift.

Almost all the lifts shown below use forks more or less based on Gatineau's design. However, right at the bottom of this page we present the lift of Malcolm Robinson (Tasmania) which does not use forks and whose construction may be easier for the do-it-yourself enthusiast.

Example construction of a Warré hive lift similar to Marc Gatineau's

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The photo above shows a version of the Marc Gatineau lift (with a Warré hive body and quilt on the fork for demonstration purposes). The design exploits the projecting handles of the Warré hive body. This lift easily picks up a person of 65 kg.

Construction details of this lift (referring to the photo, starting at the top)

Except for the pulleys and cord, this version of the Marc Gatineau lift was made out of bits and pieces lying around the workshop. The windlass is from an old two-frame tangential honey extractor. The design was essentially copied from http://ruche-warre.levillage.org/La visite de printemps.htm. Its principle is somewhat similar to that of the guillotine used in France after the 1789 revolution. The white board slides in a groove, upwards through turning the windlass and downwards under the weight of the hive, but controlled by the windlass.

Top beam 517 x 53 x 44 mm
Overall height: 1245 mm (could usefully be made taller).
Top back bracing board 150 x 19 mm set out on spacers 13 mm thick to clear pulley.
Windlass bar, steel 16 mm thick. Passes through greased bushes in the frame cut from scrap steel pipe.
Top pulley tied over top beam with loop of cord.
Windlass crank length 178 mm.
Two pulleys each with two wheels; bought from a yacht chandlers.
Bottom pulley tied with a cord to a bracket on the back of the white sliding board; bracket secured with the two bolts whose heads are visible in the photo.
Frame uprights 53 x 44 mm. The 44 mm is the front surface as viewed.
Distance between uprights: 432 mm.
White board: 13 mm thick good quality plywood; 425 mm high x 456 mm wide set in grooves (13 mm deep, 15 mm wide) in the uprights.
Board sides and upright's groove beeswaxed before assembly.
Fork tine length: 356 mm.
Fork height and width: 100 x 32 mm. The gap between the fork tines must be tailored to the Warré hive-body box to be used, allowing some clearance to ease sliding the fork into place, say 3-6 mm each side. The box used in this example is 350 mm wide.
Bottom back bracing board 150 x 19 mm; glued and screwed to upright.
Triangular side bracing boards: 300 x 300 x 13 mm plywood.
Foot: 425 x 95 x 44 mm.

Make a strong joint between fork tine and board: On the bottom of the back of the 13 mm thick white board is glued another plywood board measuring  413 mm x 200 mm x 19 mm. The tines of the fork are cut perfectly square at the ends and butt-jointed with glue onto the board and clamped in place at right angles with the help of supporting blocks. When the glue is dry, two 100 mm wood screws are screwed into the tines through holes drilled and countersunk into the back. The screws are size 12, i.e. 6 mm thick at the widest end. The screws were lubricated with wood glue so any play was taken up by the glue as it set. The extra board glued on the back takes the vertically sliding unit ('guillotine blade') to a thickness of 32 mm and confers great rigidity. It must clear the inner edges of the uprights. The clearance here is  9 mm.

If used on uneven ground, a thick plywood U-shaped board could be slid either side of the hive base to improve stability.

Lift plans

The plans below are for a lift essentially the same as the one above except that the uprights and top beam are all of 50 mm square timber and the tine spacing is 348 mm which is suitable for boxes of 20 mm thick wood. It gives a clearance between fork tine and box of 4 mm either side.

The fixing of the fork tines to the rear board requires careful attention. One method, the one used here, is described immediately above. A reinforcing board is glued to the back of the sliding fork board and the tines are mounted with glue and large screws. Other successful methods of mounting the tines include sturdy shelf brackets (see Steve Ham's lift below) and tee hinges (see Bill Wood's lift below).

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The top pulley is tied to the top beam and the bottom pulley to the fork board. The lifting cord is tied to the windlass axle, threaded through the two double pulleys and tied to the fork board. Pulleys are not essential but ease lifting of a tall, honey-laden hive and allow movement to be stopped at any point without securing the crank. The top rear board is set out on 13 mm spacers to clear the windlass cord and top pulley.

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The windlass and crank handle could be made of steel pipe used for electrical conduit etc. or reclaimed from other machinery such as cars, mangles, honey extractors etc. An example of use of conduit is shown in the left photo immediately below. To increase durability of the windlass bearings, they may be lined with steel bushes and greased.

No effort has been made to reduce the weight of the above lift, which is somewhat heavy, but several dimensions could be reduced by a few millimetres without significant loss of rigidity, for example the thickness of the upright, top beam and feet as well as of the rear and triangular bracing boards. The fork board should not be thinner than 13 mm and if the tines are fixed in the way described above it is advisable to glue a reinforcing board to the back of the fork board in the region of the tines.

As can be seen in the photos below, useful accessories include wheels and a hive weighing scale.

Examples of compact lifts

Kai Serschmarn's lift

This lift can sits on the Warré box handles. The rear support for the forks runs on eight bearings (indicated with red lines), four inside the upright to prevent lateral tilt, and a pair on each of its front and back surfaces taking most of the load. Weight of lift: 4.2 kg. Test weight lifted: 60 kg.

The lift also allows the hive or upper boxes to be weighed. See this lift demonstrated for inserting boxes, inspecting and weighing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC6zFBezEv4 .

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 lift_kai_sketch.jpg (52428 bytes)

A steel lift with ball races and of similar design to this is available for purchase from Scalapi in France.

Andy Collins' lift

The winch, electronic weigher, and supports are all detachable. It can be assembled in about one minute and is easily carried on a bicycle with a back rack, with or without paniers. It has been tested to 65 kg. The fork unit slides in drawer runners. Unlike Kai Serschmarn's (immediately above) it cannot be inserted between two Warré boxes.


lift_ac_complete.jpg (100017 bytes)

PDF of construction details at screen resolution downloadable here (390 kb)
PDF of construction details at print resolution downloadable here (21 mb)


Will Deutschman's lift

This is another lift that lifts between boxes or between the bottom box and the stand. The action is a trailer jack, powered by a cordless drill. This lift has been tested to 85 kg.

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Construction details here.


Milan's lift (Slovakia)

More images in Milan's photo album in the Warré e-group

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Andrea Mayrhofer (Austria)

This lift is based on a BMW car jack, angle iron and a bicycle chain drive.

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Other large Gatineau-type lifts

Alex Templeton's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOgCflLWPC4

Alex Templeton's Google SketchUp model: http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=2cd8027dac40b68033bf0eea2b154a39

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Above left: Jean-François Dardenne (Belgium)
http://ruche-warre.levillage.org/La visite de printemps.htm

Above right: Marc Gatineau

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Above: Steve Ham (Spain)

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Above: Bill Wood
More photos in the warrebeekeeping e-Group
> Files > Warré Beekeeping Equipment

Bill Wood comments:
To be able to service a number of hives, I am of the opinion that a practical Gatineau lift should have a working range of movement of at least 30 inches (760 mm). I usually like to quickly add two boxes at one time. I like to have plenty of room to set them down on the floor. Just having plenty of room to slide a box in isn't nearly enough room to avoid disturbing or injuring bees on the floor. Thirty working inches gives comfortable work room for the operation. As many of my hives are on stands the same width as the Warré boxes and up to a foot (300 mm) tall, I like an additional range of movement to allow engagement at various levels. Sometimes one will want even more additional range of movement to accommodate floors of various heights (floors with closed screened bottoms, floors with sumps, etc.) A lift with about a 40 inch (one meter) range of movement can be quite practical for the beekeeper.
I have not yet wished for a weighing scale on a lift. If one works with bees a while, one can quickly heft hive box(es) and immediately know enough, for practical purposes, what is in there. If I take a lift to a hive, it is always to do some predetermined (lifting) work.
I consider +/-200 pounds or +/-100 kilos to be a fair working capacity of a lift. That does not mean a tested limit, but a capacity that may be used without strain to the lift or beekeeper. That should allow one to safely and comfortably raise four or five full boxes, even in the future when the machine has seen some wear.
The base of the lift may need to rest on variable ground conditions such as unevenness or softness. Lifting three or four or five boxes to 30 or more inches off the ground is a lot different than lifting a box or two a minimal distance. The desired stability may be achieved with a lift base that has adequate width, length and area of resting points.
A little lift may be nice for some, but if a beekeeper runs hives long enough, a Gatineau lift having stability, capacity and range will be of high importance.

The following commercially available lift closely approaches Bill Wood's specifications: 'Devil lift with adjustable forks'

Below: Jean-Claude Guex (note wheels and weighing scales)
Also posted by Philippe at: http://www.ruchewarre.net/viewtopic.php?t=27

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Here is a link to a home made hydraulic Warré lift, based on a trolley-jack:


Below: France, weight about 25 kg. http://www.ruchewarre.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=27&start=15

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Below left: Adjustable lift for different box widths      http://www.ruchewarre.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=27&start=15

Below right: Square section tubes of fork support enclose smaller tubes of uprights

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Below left: Tall lift from France  http://www.ruchewarre.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=27&start=45

Below right: Lift based on a sack barrow  http://www.ruchewarre.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=2591

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Below left: Massive lift with complex construction http://www.ruchewarre.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=2591

Below right: Small hive lift standing on handles     http://www.ruchewarre.net/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=27&start=45

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Below: Ontario, Canada   http://www.samswildbees.com/2011/08/she-moved.html

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Acknowledgement: Thanks to Kai Serschmarn for researching some of the lifts illustrated here.


Tall lifts with lifting symmetry (no forks)

As the lifting is symmetrical, these lifts avoid the common problem with Gatineau's fork lift, namely the juddering that occurs when lowering a heavy hive. This is due to the friction of the sliding back board in the grooves of the uprights. It is is also avoided in the fork lifts fitted with bearings, for example those of Kai Serschmarn and Andy Collins.

Malcolm Robinson's (Tasmania) lift

Full details of this lift are given in a PDF downloadable here. It differs from all the above in not having forks.

Left: Lift under test with a load    Right: Winch, vertical supports and hive box clamp

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Diagram of hive box clamp of Malcolm Robinson's lift

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Jim's lift (Oregon) 


This lift can be dismantled for ease of carrying to the apiary.

More details available here.

Viridens' lift

It uses a pair of two tonne car style scissor Jacks. The only additional work required is the addition of a top plate which extends to or beyond the width of the jack base plate and so under the lifting handles of the hive. This is required because the base of the jack is wider than its top. To conserve material I have extended on one side only, making the jacks 'sided' left and right. My prototype used 1 inch timber, but this was too tall to fit under the handles some of my boxes which vary in height depending on what timber was to hand. The current version uses some 2.5 mm thick duralumin sheet, again what I had to hand, which looks rather flimsy but has proved sufficient. I will probably uprate them to 4 or 5 mm metal in due course. This plate is secured with a suitable nut, bolt and load spreading washers. This is aided by an aperture in the centre of the top plate on the type of jack I used (see picture b).

In use, I have not needed to use a handle. Finger and thumb have provided enough torque. I suppose a small tommy bar could be useful. The hive is surprisingly stable when 'up'. I suppose all forces are acting almost vertically. As well as adding boxes, the lift has also allowed me to raise hives by a few mm for other jobs such as cleaning or changing floors or to add packing underneath to level a hive.

The jack is CE marked and rated at 2 Tonne. Height 11cm rising to 37cm . Ebay cost is under £10. Jack base plate: 85 x 140 mm. My top plate: 55 x 140mm. I used a 5mm bolt, but no dimensions are critical.


      65kg test

Jessica Dryan's lift

The hive is mounted on a bracket on the side of her house. The lift includes a weighing scale.


Adam Smith's lift

Another design with the load distributed evenly.


To raise the top box from a tall stack using the lift, a collar sits on the top of the handles of the box below. The lift then rests on top of the collar. The collar is just four bits of scrap wood joined like a snake. That can then be wrapped around the box and fixed together with a screw so that it is secure.