Introduction: BIRD Eater | Monster HOUSE
Many moons ago, I made a set of bird houses for my back yard. Each house mounted atop a wooden dowel and secured to a corner fence post. Several avian families became tenants ... none of which paid rent, but the accommodations weren't luxurious and the local squirrels were constantly attempting smash and grabs, so I can't blame them.
In March of 2018, a storm took out a sizable tree ... which in turn took out the fence. One abode remained standing while the other was found intact, but deep underneath the woodland carnage. Having nowhere to mount the dwellings, they were relocated to a nearby Friend's yard to provide shelter for more feathered squatters.
In Summer of 2020, that Friend decided to move and due to nests with live chicks, I was unable to retrieve/remove the houses. I guess I could have evicted them, but cutting bait seemed to be more humane.
In December/January of 2021, I finally erected a new fence ... so it's time to build more affordable housing. Afowlable housing? I've got nothing.
I wanted a fun and different design and the logo from a random YouTube channel was the answer - Small Town Monsters. Maybe it's your cup of tea ... maybe not. I'm a skeptic, but rabbit holes are kind of my thing.
Houses that look like Monsters. Monster Houses. Monster Bird Eating Houses. That's what we're doing.
Step 1: Templates
I reckon a feller could throw the logo in a computer application or 3 and whip up some digital patterns, but that would take me 17 days and 33 nights compared to a few minutes sketching on graph paper.
I ran wall and roof lines, picked three I liked, and transferred them to poster board. I then decided to make 1/4" plywood version in case I ever wanted to use them as templates with a pattern bit and router table (production run scenario). Cuts were made close to the line using a table saw sled and then then dialed in using the OSS.
I then decided to take the time to determine and notate all the applicable angles [Fig.6&7]. I also recorded fence settings for side panel dimensions - could be of use to future me.
I have scanned and attached my templates in the event anyone wants to use them.
Step 2: Fence Board
These houses are made from pressure treated fence boards - because I have a few left over from the afore mentioned fence project.
After 3 months in the basement, they had cupped a bit, so I ran them through the planer. Few quick passes flattened them out, left a smooth surface, and the 1/2" thickness made measurements easier.
You can easily make all the parts for a house with a single board. These three houses took two boards.
Step 3: House Front & Back
Each house profile/template was traced twice onto the fence board [Fig.1] and roughly cut out using the bandsaw [Fig.2]. Truth be told ... this bandsaw has so much drift and vibration that every cut is a rough cut.
A mini compass was used to denote a waste area [Fig.3], which was then used to temporarily pin the profiles pairs together [Fig.4]. The OBS was used to true up all the sides - aka sand to the line [Fig.5&6].
NOTE: Sanding the fronts and back together saves time and ensures the parts are identical, which makes assembly easier.
Pairs were separated, pins pulled, and then 1/2" rabbets cut for the side panels [Fig.7&8]. This isn't necessary, but I find that it makes assembly less frustrating. An element of interlocking/auto-alignment instead of the parts slipping around as you try to hold and nail.
Step 4: House Mouth
Mouths were sketched by hand, bulk of the waste material removed with a Forstner bit, and then shaped with a jigsaw.
I didn't worry about perfectly cutting to the lines - just getting clean angles and no blade chatter.
Step 5: House Eyes
Eye diameter and placement were also shots from the hip. I just used various washers to find a look I liked, marked the centers with an awl, and drilled the holes with Forstner bits.
Step 6: Back Plate
A case could be made that a back plate isn't necessary, but I know that leaving the mouths wide open is a recipe for disaster in regard to the squirrels.
You could use small scrap for each hole or a large piece the same size as the house profile, but I opted to use scrap 2x4. Slices were cut around 5/16" and then flattened/sanded down to 1/4" using the drum sander [Fig.1&2].
The height/roof angle was marked, cut on the bandsaw, and trued up on the OSB [Fig.3-5].
Step 7: Bird Hole
I read that small birds like wrens like holes between 1 1/8" - 1/12". I don't have a 1 1/8" bit, so 1 1/4" was the winner.
The back plate was clamped in place, Forstner bit used to mark center, and holes drilled.
Step 8: House Sides
The house sides are yet another modifiable variable. Heights are a fixed relation to the front/back profile, but width can be whatever you want. I made one house basically square and the others more rectangular.
Since I wanted to keep my grain directions the same for long grain to long grain glue joints, my width was capped at 5 5/8".
For those interested in the exact measurements, I'll include the final dimension and angles for each house in the last step. They are also notated on the templates.
I cut my parts a tad oversized using the miter saw and them moved to the table saw [Fig.1].
My order of operations:
1. Cut the bottom angle on one edge of the panel [Fig.2].
2. Cut the top angle and finished height on the other edge of the panel [Fig.3].
Note: I cut these a bit shorter than the actual sides in order to create a soffit vent.
3. Square up one side of the panel using the small parts crosscut sled [Fig.4].
4. Cut the panel to final width [Fig.5].
Note: You could use the sled for the final cut - maybe stack the parts or use a stop block. I opted to cut against the fence using a solid push block.
Step 9: Assembly - Walls
Since these are technically prototypes and I don't know all my measurements from the onset, I decided to assemble the walls before moving onto the roof.
I started by attaching the back plate to the fronts (inside face) using wood glue and 1/2" pin nails (23g) [Fig.1&2].
Next I attached the sides to the back - wood glue and 1" pin nails (23g) [Fig.3&4].
Lastly, I attached the front [Fig.5].
Step 10: House Roof
My roof stock was cut and planed separately, so they are close to 5/8" thick instead of 1/2" like the rest of the house components [Fig.1&2].
Grain direction is up to you, but the width of the house might push you in one direction over another.
For width, I added an inch to the house width - 1/2" overhang on each end [Fig. 3].
For length, I cut the peak angles, eyeballed/marked, and cut to fit.
Note: I used the overlap method, so my sides are different lengths [Fig.5&6]. If you want the top joint to be a miter, you can cut them the same length.
Note 2: You can change the look with the angle on the bottom edge. Two of the houses I left squared off, but for the tall/gray house, I cut the edge level.
The roof peak was glued and pin nailed. I used the actual house to assist with alignment [Fig.7&8].
Step 11: House Bottom
I decided to try a friction/gravity fit for the bottoms, so that I'm able to clean out the houses each season. If that becomes a problem, I can always add a screw or two.
I just cut these to fit with multiple passes.
1. Cut the front to back length [Fig.1].
2. Cut the angle on one side edge.
2. Cut the angle on the other edge sneaking up on the final width [Fig.2-4].
Step 12: House Paint
You could leave the houses raw and let them weather out to a silver/gray. You could oil or poly them, which will slow the weathering, but not stop it. Stain them, dye them .. whatever you want. I chose spray paint because it's fast, easy, and I had some.
I painted the roofs flat black. I didn't paint the full underside because it'll never been seen and I didn't want to impede glue adhesion [Fig.2&3].
House shells got pigment. I had green, but wasn't feeling it. I also had Orange, but I passed for now ... might circle back on it [Fig.3&4].
One the spray paint cured, I filled in the eyes and mouth with black acrylic paint, which I applied via brush [Fig.5].
Step 13: Assembly - Roof
If you're leaving the houses natural or painting with a brush, you could assemble prior to finishing. I painted first to avoid unwanted overspray.
Little bit of glue and 1" pin nails was all it took.
Step 14: Mounting Board
For mounting the houses on the fence, I'm trying a back board idea. 12 1/2" long x 3 1/4" wide. The top 2.5" is rabbeted with a chamfer on the top edge for water shedding.
The board attaches to the back of the house with two 1" screws.
They could just as easily be screwed directly to the fence or a tree from the inside. Or add an eye screw or eye hook for hanging, which wouldn't work around here due to high winds.
Step 15: Installation
My fence is board on board, so two offset layers.
The mounting board fits between two inner layer boards and tuck down behind the top horizontal 2x4. The house gets additional bottom support from the outer board it sits upon. One screw attaches the mounting board to the fence board just to keep it from swaying in the wind.
Step 16: Glamour Shots
Overall, I like the design because it's fun and if nothing else, the houses make a fun decoration. Side widths can be changed to increase the square footage, facial features changed, colors, etc.
Will birds actually use the houses or will they be scared? I have no idea, but we'll find out. My Mother says, "No way!"
Will the squirrels try to break in? I'm hoping that since the houses don't have perches and cantilever from the fence, it will pose too much of a challenge, but they'll probably just hang off the roofs.
I do plan on making a few more non monsterfied houses for the back yard. Some lighter/brighter colors like yellow and orange.
Dimensions [Width x Height]
Blue House/Template 1
Sides: 4 5/8" x 3 5/16" - 12.5° Bottom Angle | 37° Top Angle
Bottom: 3 15/16" x 3 5/8" - 12.5° Angles
Roof Panels: 6 1/2" x 5 9/16" [Long Side] - 6 1/2" x 5" [Short Side] - 12.5° Peak Angles
Gray House/Template 2
Sides: 4 1/4" x 4 9/16" - 10° Bottom Angle | 45° Top Angle
Bottom: 3 9/16" x 3 9/16" - 10° Angles
Roof Panels: 5 5/8" x 7 9/16" [Long Side] - 5 5/8" x 6 15/16" [Short Side] - 29° Peak Angles
Red House/Template 3
Sides: 5" x 3 5/16" - 12.5° Bottom Angle | 35° Top Angle
Bottom: 4 5/16" x 3 5/8" - 12.5° Angles
Roof Panels: 6 1/4" x 5 1/2" [Long Side] - 6 1/4" x 4 15/16" [Short Side] - 9° Peak Angles
Runner Up in the