Monday, April 29, 2013

Make it Monday: $2 Birdhouses

Erika asked me to make birdhouses with the kids last year, yes, last year. I, being a Maker and woodworker, loved the idea. Yet I still managed to forget about the request for a little while. Then one day it was brought up again and I hopped to it. I immediately turned to my favorite DIY site,, for ideas. One of the first returns on my search was the $2 Birdhouse posted by CheapChuck. A simple birdhouse that didn't cost much, but still did what we wanted. I knew instantly what birdhouse we were making.

The basis for this birdhouse, or our building material is simple. You need one, yes one, five to six foot long dog-eared cedar fence picket. Small disclaimer: in the instructable the house is referred to as a $2 house but my local Home Depot charges $2.25 for the picket, but I still think it is a cheap build. They do sell a $1.18 pine picket, but that one is treated. Not very bird friendly. Plus cedar is a good outdoor, low maintenance building material. Anything else you need you can probably find in your workroom. I did.

So last year I went and got three, we have three kids old enough to make houses, cedar pickets. I spent a few minutes one evening cutting out all the pieces. You need two peaked, end wall panels, two side wall panels and two roof panels. The floor panel you wait to cut out until you put the rest together so that you can measure what you need.

I also trimmed one of the roof panels for each house along its width equal to the thickness of the board. This allows for a symmetrical look to the finished roof.
Cutting it all out really wasn't difficult. Getting around to putting the houses together, now that's a different story. We didn't get around to making them last year before the birds nested. So I intended to get them together for this years nesting. Still not entirely sure if I managed that, but they're together none the less.

To construct these I used exterior wood glue, 18 gauge brad nailer, hammer, drill with 3/32", 1/4" and 1 1/4" bits. I have to admit, I had to buy exterior wood glue since all I generally use is interior, but that is not much cost added to the project. When it came time I covered the kitchen table with newspaper, and ran my air hose in from the porch. I called the kids in and we began assembling birdhouses.
We started by assembling the four walls. A peaked wall goes at either end with the rectangular walls between them. Apply glue to the edge of the rectangle wall, align with the peaked piece, and give it a couple of nails from the gun. If you are going classic with a hammer and nails I recommend pre-drilling the holes so as not to split any wood.

There was no problem getting the kids to help with the gluing process, they're used to that. But the nail gun brought fear to their eyes. It's new to them and loud, none of them like how loud my tools are. I do appreciate their fear of the tools though. It will help them learn to respect how dangerous they can be and the proper way of using them.
From the walls you move to the roof, putting on the piece you trimmed first. Apply your glue on one side of your peaked walls. Align the edge of the roof piece with the other peak surface to create an even surface for the other, wider piece to sit on. Nail again.
And this is when the battery in the camera died. Not too many more pictures were taken. I apologize for that. I plan to make another house with a clear rear wall. At that time I'll take more pictures of the process. We're hoping that we can mount that house someplace close to a window so we can observe what is happening inside.

Once that side of the roof is secured you can apply glue for the other side. Make sure you put plenty along the top ridge so that it will create somewhat of a seal from rain when it dries. Place the piece and nail again. Once the roof is in place you can work on your entrance. I drilled a 1 1/4" hole center on the front in line with the bottom of the roof. Make sure to sand both sides of the entrance so has to help avoid a splintered bird. Before you drill that hole though, mark the spot for a perch two inches below the center of the entrance. I used a 1/4" drill and inserted a sanded 1/4" dowel roughly three inches long.

Now for the bottom. This will also be your entrance to clean the house out once the occupants leave. Yes, just like human renters, these users do not clean up after themselves. Cut you base leaving yourself about an 1/8" around the perimeter, 1/4" smaller than what the house measures. On one end cut or sand a 45 degree angle off the bottom so the panel can hinge out for cleaning.
Pre-drill holes for a standard nail, I used a 6d 2" nail on either side as my hinge. A 3/32" bit made a hole just the right size so I could simply push the nail in with almost no hammer use. On the other end of the base I drilled a hole the size of which I do not remember and insert a standard coarse thread drywall screw to hold the floor up. When it comes time to clean the home I will remove this screw and swing the bottom out and allow the contents to empty.
Yes the kids did help me with this project in between trips to the living room to slide on a big cardboard box they had been playing with. I still get a little nervous having them run power tools so I do a lot of that for them, but I try to get their hands on the tool while I am doing it.
What they had fun with was painting them. I was not at home for this process, but it was something they can do mostly on their own. So with no one hindering what they had to do, they went wild painting them however they felt.
Well, our kids had fun making our "$2" birdhouses, and if I manage to get them up in time some birds will enjoy them. How about you, want to give your kids, or yourself, a good time and a couple of birds someplace cozy to stay for a while?

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1 comment:

  1. They always love when they get to help daddy build something. <3