Introduction: Birdhouse-Bird Duplex Tall and Thin

Learn how to make a charming contemporary yet classic birdhouse that is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing.  It's great to hang on a tree, use as a bookend, etc.  Maybe some birds will even move in.

I designed this model in my basement workshop and I loved it so much that I've already made three.  Feel free to alter dimensions as you see fit to change things up to your liking.  For simplicity's sake, all cuts are at 45 or 90 degree angles.

It took me around 3 hours start to finish to make my first birdhouse of this design.

I've attached pictures of the finished product, and examples of supplies and tools.  I also built a model in Solidworks for those of you into that kind of thing so those files are attached as well.  The zip folder with the parts and assembly file is attached in this section.

Required Materials:
-1" inch thick pine boards (NOTE: 1" inch is the nominal measurement only, actual thickness is about 3/4" inch)
I was able to make 3 birdhouses using a nominal 1X12X6  foot pine board from Home Depot that cost about $15 

-A 5/16" Wooden Dowel for the perch posts
Usually sold in lengths around 4' feet.  Only about 6" inches are needed

-Paint or Wood Stain
I painted two with regular latex (acrylic) household wall paint from the paint department.  I did the third with wood stain, also found in the paint department.

EITHER wood screws or glue
-Screws should be about an inch long and intended for wood, quantity 15 or more.
-Glue can be any kind of "white" craft or wood glue.  I used a small bottle of regular Elmer's school glue.

Required tools:

Some type of power saw will be extremely helpful for this project and save time, though isn't absolutely necessary.  Consider buying a jigsaw, scroll saw, band saw, as they are incredibly versatile and often less than $50

-Sander with  low grit sandpaper (50-100 grit)
Again, a power sander will save you a considerable amount of time and effort.  I picked up a $9.99 orbital palm sander from Harbor Freight Tools, my favorite place for ridiculously cheap tools.  So far, it's been great.

-Measuring tape or Ruler

-Pen or pencil for marking

-Drill with bits

-EITHER a large drill bit, 
OR a Hole Saw Bit designed for a drill

Optional: Miter saw (powered or otherwise)

Step 1: The Base

First step is the base.  It is just a 3" inch by 3" inch square. 

To draw the cutting lines, make several dots 3 inches in from the edge in each direction, then use something with an edge to draw the line connecting the dots.  Various measuring tools are sold that can measure, find angles, and provide an edge with relative ease.  I find them helpful for this kind of marking.  This general procedure will be used from now on, but will not be listed on every step.

Clamp the board down and use your saw of choice to cut the base out.

Step 2: The Sides

The sides are simply rectangles, 1.5"X10.25"

Make 2 of these.

Step 3: Front and Back

Now for the picket fence shaped front and back.

Cut out a 3"X12" rectangle.  Mark the midpoint (1.5") on one of the 3 inch sides.  Using a protractor or similar tool, measure down 45 degrees from the narrow side.  Draw a line at 45 degrees from the midpoint to the broad edge.  Repeat and create a mirror of this, which should look like a picket.  Cut off the corners.

Make 2 of these.

Step 4: The Roof

Start by cutting out a 3.5"X3.5" square.  Turn the board on its side so its profile is showing.  Measure 45 degrees down from a short side, and draw a line extending from a corner to the broad side.  Repeat this for the other side.  If you drew the line starting with a top corner on one side, you must draw from the bottom corner on the other side.  The resulting shape should be a parallelogram, which is not symmetrical.  If unsure, the two lines you drew should be parallel to each other.  Go ahead and make the cuts on the lines.  The profile should be a parallelogram.

Make 2 of these.

Step 5: The Perches

Cut off a 1.5" length of the dowel.  Do this twice.

Now may also be a good time to locate a 5/16" drill bit.

No diagram for this...

Step 6: Floors

For each bird hole, there is a small floor so that a bird theoretically could build a nest and live there.  

Cut a 1.5"X1.5" square.

Do this twice.

There is no diagram for this, I think you understand by now.

Step 7: Sanding

You can do as much or as little sanding as you want.

Some suggestions:
-Sand surfaces that will be visible on the exterior of the birdhouse; Not only will it look more smooth and refined but it can hide mistakes you made along the way and get rid of abnormalities in the wood.  This will also help the wood to absorb paint and stain.

-Sand meeting edges to make them flatter.  By reshaping the edges through sanding, imperfections from sawing can be removed to allow the pieces to fit together better.

Step 8: Putting It Together

There are two routes to assembling the house, gluing, and screwing.

Reasons to choose screwing:
1. The pieces weren't cut just right and the faces don't match up perfectly
2. You want the project done same day
3. You want something that is indestructible to the material's limits

Screwing can overcome a significant amount of error in the fitting of the pieces.  Though you can get the project done same day, screwing takes more labor time than gluing.

Reasons to choose gluing:
1. Fairly good strength
2. Less overall labor time
3. No screw holes in your piece

That being said, you will need to have the patience to wait for the project to dry, multiple times.  I'm usually impatient and want things done same day, but after using the glue method this time I found that it worked well and in the end what's another day or two of waiting, especially when it ends up being less time working.

Step 9: Assembly Order / Tips

For gluing, I followed the following procedure:

Stage 1:

-Lay the back picket down.
-Run a bead of glue on each of the side panels' edges, then set them down on the back picket.
-Run a bead of glue on each floor, then slide them in between the two sides, forming the cross members of 2 "H's." I arbitrarily placed them 2" and 6" inches from the base of the assembly.
-Run a bead of glue on the top edge of everything.  Put the front on, sandwitching everything.
-Clamp the assembly  to a flat surface, with the jaws of the clamp pressing down on the front picket.
-Let dry for at least 2 hours.

Stage 2:
-Run a bead of glue around the bottom edges of the birdhouse.
-Press on the square that comprises the base.
-Turn the birdhouse upright, and run a bead of glue on the top edges of the front and back pickets.
-Press on the 2 roof pieces, ensuring they match up at the peak, and also have equal overhang over the front and back pickets.
-Let dry at least two hours.

For Screwing:

You can follow really any order since nothing has to wait to dry, although the order listed for gluing would work well.

-Use your judgement for screw placement.
-Always put a screw in corners and at midpoints.
-Drill a pilot hole with a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the screw; this will make screws go in easier and truer.
-Using a drill to drive screws in can really save a lot of time and effort.

Step 10: The Holes

It may seem odd that I left drilling the holes until after the assembly.  I did this because larger diameter holes need to be cut through the sides as well as the front picket in order to look normal. (The sides would block the back side of larger diameter holes if the holes were only cut through the front picket.)

I used a hole saw (pictured) which is essentially a circular shaped saw blade run off a drill.  You could also use a large diameter drill bit.

If you went by my recommendation to place the floors 2" and 6" from the bottom, then you'll need to put the LOWER EDGE of the bird holes 4" and 8" from the bottom of the square base.  (The square base wasn't included in the distance measurement previously).    The center of the picket is 1.5" from either vertical edge.

I say lower edge because people may be using different diameter hole saws  which would call for different center points.  

I used a 2.25 diameter hole saw on the ones I made, but the hole could be between 1" and 2.5" diameter.  I cleaned up the edges of my holes with a rounded file.  

As for the perches, I just drilled a 5/16" hole slightly below each bird hole to put the dowels in.  Just put a dab of glue on the end of the dowels when you insert them.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

Now to put some finishing touches on the outside.

Latex Paint:

-I've found that it takes 2 coats to look good.
-Each coat dries in 45 minutes.
-Paint has the advantage of gracing over blemishes nicely
-Amazing variety of colors
-Has a thick look and feel to it; brush strokes will create a grain
-Available with a variety of finishes such as glossy, matte, etc, and tends to come out kind of waxy
-Latex paint is water soluble when wet so wash your hands and brushes off in the sink immediately after
-Virtually zero odor

Wood Stain:

-Has a really rustic, natural, antique look to it.
-Deepens color of wood, keeps wood grain visible.
-Somewhat limited selection of colors; most are natural looking
-Potent smell while working
-Apply it with a cloth or brush, let it soak in for 15 minutes, then wipe the remaining liquid off.
-Takes several hours to dry.
-People often put a polyurethane or enamel clear coat on after to give their piece a glossy, finished appearance.
-Oil based and will stain skin and clothing.

The two yellow birdhouses in the pictures are done with latex, and the brown one is stained with a clear enamel coating.  I like the look of both styles.

Congrats, you're done

Thanks for using this guide, please submit pictures of your creations!


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