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Aluminum Foundation

Posted: September 28th, 2016, 3:08 pm
by Countryboy
Sunday a guy I know called me. His brother had some old bee equipment in the barn, and wanted to know if I was interested in it. They are trying to clean out the barn.

Monday I met with his brother, who is probably in his mid-70's. The guy said he had bees about 15 years ago. When the bees died, he put the stuff in the barn where it has been sitting ever since. (It looked like it had been sitting far longer than 15 years.)

There were 8 deep boxes, a medium, a shallow box, 5 lids, and 3 big cardboard boxes full of old empty frames. The boxes were still in good condition. I gave him $50 for it all. He said if he found any more bee stuff, it was mine.

There were 3 frames with aluminum foundation in them. I had seen an aluminum comb before, which had cells made of aluminum (similar to permacomb) at the OSU bee museum, but I had never seen aluminum foundation before.

The foundation kind of reminded me of Duragilt, in that it was a foundation with a wax coating on it. Most of the wax coating was gone, but there was still some wax on the foundation where it was protected by the bottom bar.

So I did some googling, and found that Allen has encountered it before. ... m#aluminum And it is talked about on Dave Cushman's website and a BeeSource thread.

The 3 pieces of aluminum foundation are still in good shape.

Re: Aluminum Foundation

Posted: September 29th, 2016, 5:31 pm
by Countryboy
I examined it and found that the sheet measured 42 centimeters across, and in that span I counted 84 complete cells. That means the overall average cell width is 5.0 mm.
Out of curiosity, I checked the aluminum foundation I have. It is 42.5 cm wide, and there are 81 cells. That comes out to 5.25 mm cell size.

Re: Aluminum Foundation

Posted: September 30th, 2016, 2:50 pm
by Allen Dick
IMO 5.25mm is ideal for the bees I run. Pierco and Acorn both are 5.25 for their standard one piece. Pierco mediums for some reason address larger.

Re: Aluminum Foundation

Posted: November 22nd, 2018, 1:58 pm
by blainenay
Countryboy wrote: September 28th, 2016, 3:08 pm...I had never seen aluminum foundation before.
I had quite a bit of aluminum foundation back in the '60s. The bees seemed reluctant to use it. Sometimes, they'd remove all the wax to put elsewhere, leaving bright, plain aluminum. But, it was easy to sterilize when I had an episode with AFB. I haven't had any aluminum in my operation since the '70s.

Re: Aluminum Foundation

Posted: November 22nd, 2018, 2:48 pm
by Allen Dick
Agreed. It was one of those good ideas that wasn't all that good. Like Duragilt.

Re: Aluminum Foundation

Posted: November 23rd, 2018, 7:34 am
by Retancourt
Did anyone actually experiment with any other kind of alloy as a foundation? Or do you think it just wouldn't work?

Re: Aluminum Foundation

Posted: November 23rd, 2018, 10:59 am
by Allen Dick
I'm sure almost everything has been tried but the are issues with sandwiches. Varying thermal expression and conductivity are several. Additional to heat conductivity issues, sound transmission may be of some importance. Metals are less than ideal but some plastics are close to wax in properties that matter. (Not the plastic in Duracell, t though). As a result we are finding that plastics work well for foundation, and for frames for that matter.

Re: Aluminum Foundation

Posted: November 23rd, 2018, 5:40 pm
by Countryboy
Retancourt wrote: November 23rd, 2018, 7:34 am Did anyone actually experiment with any other kind of alloy as a foundation? Or do you think it just wouldn't work?
Why would they?

Used to, they didn't use foundation. The top bar on frames was a triangle, and bees drew their own combs. Before that, they used skeps and gums and crushed combs and let bees draw their own combs.

It has only been in the past 100 years or so that beekeepers have been pushing bees to use foundation so we can get frames that are all worker brood. Wax foundation really does work well. The drawback to wax foundation is that in hot weather, the wax foundation can sag and you can end up with some funky combs. (Which is why they use wires to help support the wax.)

In WWII, the number of beehives in America peaked, since was was desperately needed for the war efforts. The aluminum combs I saw at the OSU bee museum were from WWII.

In the 1960's plastic started seeing popular usage. I'm not sure the year they came out with plastic foundation for bees.

Wax foundation still works.

No foundation with a comb guide still works, and is cheap, and low labor.

I have been keeping bees 13 or 14 years now. I usually run 75-100 hives. I have never installed a single sheet of wax foundation. I have bought used combs, bought frames with wax foundation already installed, bought plastic foundation, and the rest of my brood combs were empty frames the bees drew out the combs.

All of the combs in my honey supers were drawn comb I bought used, plastic frames in medium supers, or wood frames with no foundation used. My favorite combs in supers are combs with no foundation - the bees draw larger cells for honey storage, and they extract easier.

Here is a good article about foundation by Jim Thompson. 10 years ago he gave a tour of the OSU bee museum that I attended, and he was getting up in years then. The pictures of foundation mills are from the OSU bee museum.