Introduction: Build an Insect Hotel From Pallets
An insect hotel is as the name suggests a place for travelling insects, solitary bees etc to use as a temporary home. By having one in your garden you will be actively supporting biodiversity in your area, not to mention giving the plants you grow a pollination power up. These things are usually cheap enough to buy, however they are even cheaper if you make your own from pallets and infinitely more satisfying. This build method I am going to show you is very simple as the depth of the house is the same as the width of one pallet plank. Don't worry if that doesn't make sense, read on and it shall all become clear.
If you read all this and it seems like too much work for you, don't worry because you can just buy one from my Etsy Shop
Step 1: Make the Body of the House
Before we get started I am going to assume you have already dismantled a pallet and have a selection of pieces of pallet wood ready to use. I'm not going to discuss stripping pallets here, instead have a read of this, I'm also going to assume you know how to spot and avoid using pallets treated with Bromide preservative, read around the topic if you are not sure.
Also this project will be much quicker and easier if you have access to a chop saw, especially when it comes to cutting the garden canes later. Don't worry if you don't though, everything can be cut with a tenon saw and a steady hand.
Taking a piece of pallet wood, cut out a trapezoid shape by measuring 12cm along one edge of the wood and drawing a 45 degree line upwards from that point. Cut along that line to create a trapezoid with a flat base where the short side is 12cm and the long side is something like 16 or 17cm depending on the width of your pallet wood.
Using the offcut wood you are going to make a second identical trapezoid by holding the two pieces of wood together at the diagonal cut end and marking where you need to cut at the straight end. Make this cut and you have two identical pieces. Wood glue these together at the long edge and clamp until the glue goes off. You now have the back of your house.
Next you need a base which is a length of pallet wood twice as long as it is wide, the easiest way to measure this is to use the back of the house as a guide. Glue this piece so it sits on top of the back of the house as it lies on its back and clamp into place.
Next you need to make two sidewalls and these will need to be cut with a 45 degree bevel through the wood to accomodate the sloping roof, look at the pictures if this doesn't make sense. The easiest way is to take a piece of wood, hold it in place where the sidewall goes, and mark with a pencil where the sloping part of the roof crosses your wood and that is the position and angle you need to cut. Again much easier with a chop saw but a saw and mitre block will work at a pinch. Once these are cut, glue and clamp them into place. In the photo you see I wrapped a ratchet strap around as the glue set because my base board wasn't quite true and this helped pull it into shape.
Step 2: Make the Roof
The roof needs to overhang the house slightly so I cut out four pieces of wood a couple of cm longer than the width of the wood. I bevelled one end of two of the pieces and glued them together and set them in mitre clamps which are the red clamps in the photo. I then glued the other two pieces onto either end and clamped them in to form the roof.
It isn't strictly necessary to make the roof with a mitred joint in the middle. You could just cut one piece slightly shorter and glue at 90 degrees if you don't have a chop saw and mitre clamps, I just do it this way because I think its a nicer finish.
Step 3: Make the Middle Thing
I used a piece of pallet bearer for this but you can use any chunky bit of wood you have handy, 3x2 works well here.
Cut a length of wood equal to the width of your pallet boards and drill random holes three quarters of the way through from one end with a 10mm bit. Glue this piece exactly in the centre of your house with the holes facing out. Clamp into place and let the glue dry.
Step 4: Paint and Fit the Roof
Once all the glue is nice and set, give the house and the roof a sanding, you don't need to go too smooth, just enough to take off the worst roughness of the wood. Next paint the house and the roof separately in the colours of your choice. I opted for a black roof and stone house, just make sure the paint you use is suitable for outdoor use.
When the paint is dry you can go ahead and glue the roof to the house. Because of the shape of it I found it easier to wrap a ratchet strap around the whole thing rather than use clamps to hold it together while the glue dried.
Step 5: Cut and Fit the Garden Canes
The final step is to add the garden canes. These all need to be cut to the same length which is the width of one pallet board and by far the easiest way to do this is to clamp a block of wood to your chop saw in such a way that you can push a handful of canes up against it and the blade will cut them all exactly the same length. Please be aware this uses a lot more canes than you expect. I used about 10 canes 6ft in length so 60ft of cane altogether on this one house.
Once your canes are cut, grab a handful and lay them out flat, squirt some woodglue on and bundle them together and place in your house. Repeat until your house is full. NB you should wear gloves for this or expect your hands to get very sticky.
Finally if these are new canes you sometimes find soft material inside instead of them being hollow. Simply give each cane end a poke with a screwdriver to open up the holes.
If you have made it to the end and are now the proud owner of a gleaming insect hotel then well done you. If not and it seems like a bit too much work its not too late to buy one from my Etsy Shop
Step 6: Materials and Tools
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