Introduction: Log Cabin Birdhouse - to Scale!

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My Mom's birthday is in mid- April. My daughter and I wanted to make her something that she would like, and out of wood. I came up with the idea of a log cabin birdhouse. She could enjoy it every time she looked out her back windows, and it would create some extra activity/entertainment for her. I thought it would also be a bit more challenging to build it to scale(1:12), partially as a way for my daughter to Practice Math. ~ : D

Step 1: The Design and Techniques


We have a book called the "Story of the Great American West" which is just a fountain of information. Inside were several pages about how some log cabins were built. That and my days of playing with Lyin' Lincoln Logs gave me all the engineering knowledge I needed. ; )

I knew I needed notches, but where, and how deep? I also needed to consider holes for birds, but also insulation against the elements. Birdhouses need to be cleaned out annually, so I needed a way to get into the house easily. Read on to discover how I interpreted all of this!

Step 2: Oak Dowels

So many! I think we ended up using (7) 3' dowels. We used a good pull saw to cut them. At first we tried lining several up and masking off where they would be cut. It ended up just being easier to cut each one individually.

They were 36 1/4", and cutting them into 12" for the fronts/backs and 9" for the sides produced no waste. We cut out and chiseled square notches on the 12" ones and rounded grooves for the 9" ones. Then we sanded them smooth with files.

We only grooved out the tops, not tops and bottoms of the logs. It would have been too many dowels to achieve the scale height, and we just lined the inside of the house with sealed cork sheets to insulate the gaps.

Step 3: Platform

We used a quality piece of sheet wood for the base, 3/4" I believe. I wanted the platform large enough to allow for a front porch, and enough on the sides and back for visual balance.

We then drilled 4 holes in the corners to allow for the threaded rods to feed through, which would lock the logs to the platform and each other.

We sanded the edges and sealed the entire thing with some fancy linseed oil/beeswax polish from Lin.(Darbin Orvar)

Step 4: Threaded Rod

I used threaded rod, 10-32, to lock all the logs together.

I tediously drilled holes through all the log ends, using blue tape to reduce splintering/blowout.

A cap nut for the bottom, underneath the platform, then alternately feeding the logs through, then later tightening everything up with 4 wing nuts.

Step 5: Division

I wanted 2 compartments, and I also needed to be able to remove the roof for annual cleaning. This is what I came up with:

I cut two slots for the 1 x 3's that would fit into them. I drilled holes and inserted mini dowels into them, and corresponding holes into the (2) 1 x 3"s. Because the composite shims(for the roof, next step) are flexible, I'm able to wiggle the roof back off and on.

The posts are for the front porch. I drilled up through the bottom of the platform and dowels, through the sides, and lashed around for a nice, tight fit.

I then tightened the wing nuts and trimmed the front rods. I left the back ones at their length to feed through the roof(to help lock everything square-ish).

I cut out walls of cork with a size of hole for smaller birds, then painted them with 2 coats of sealer.

Step 6: Roof

I found these composite shims at Home Depot and thought they'd be perfect. I really liked the shuttered look and the fact that I could bend them for folds at the top of the roof. I used 2 packages of 12. They claim to be weatherproof, so we'll see how they hold up to New England winters!

Eight across would fit perfectly so I started at the center left, pre-drilled and screwed them in, one screw in the front and two screws in the back. I guess I could have used black screws, but these old slotted screws that were just the right length(3/8" and 3/4") were just waiting for the perfect project and here it was. The outside fronts of the shims I cut away small divots to fit around the porch posts.

Step 7: The Chimney

I have 350 lbs of red clay. I have a kiln. So we made our own bricks. This may sound crazy. Sometimes we do crazy things. It seemed normal at the time.

We figured the size they would be following the 1/12 scale and I think we came pretty close! We used straws to make the mortar holes. It didn't take the two of us more than an hour and a half. They aren't all exactly the same, of course. That just adds to the rustic charm. ; )

Looking at the photo, it appears that we made about 200 bricks, plus or minus 30. We dried them on the wood stove for a week, then put them in the kiln for a 3/4 firing cycle. It was tedious putting them all in. I didn't want them to warp as they fired so I needed them all stacked nicely.

Step 8: Laying the Brick

I would have loved to have actually made a chimney like they really are, but that wasn't realistic. I had dreams of having a small opening at the bottom where I could just slide a tea light candle into to produce a smoking chimney. But that wasn't happening so I had to opt for a more sensible approach.


I drew out lines on a 1 x 3 piece of wood, the width of a simple ruler and then glued the bricks down with E6000. I placed them on the lines and between them. I waited several hours between faces. I let it dry overnight before proceeding with the mortaring.

Step 9: Mortar and Mod

I thought it was going to be a disaster, but it actually worked out kinda cool. I used less grout than I thought, then wiped everything with a sponge until I had the finish I wanted. I let it dry for a couple of hours and sealed it up with a thick coat of Mod Podge outdoor sealant. Yup, good 'ole Mod Podge.

I drilled two holes through the platform and up into the 1 x 3 and inserted two long screws into the chimney. I also anchored it halfway up around one of the threaded rods. My friend said it reminded him of the old chimneys in CA, for the earthquake-proofing. Yay for authenticity!

Step 10: Finishing Details

I made a nest bowl out of the same clay as the chimney bricks, for the birdies to have fresh water. I put a wash of charcoal paint on it.

I found a scrap piece of old-looking wood that was perfect for the door. I painted a few striation lines, added a clothes hasp for the handle and glued to the house.

I had a bunch of small branches leftover from our Martin and Rebecca wooden dolls project, cut them up and glued them together for a cute and realistic-looking firewood pile(for my non-smoking chimney).

Lastly, I stuck Velcro pads down in front of the door for a welcome mat. I expect to have to change those out often as the birds will be continuously wiping their feet on them.

Step 11: Happy Birthday Nana!

We gave this to her earlier today. She loved it!

I may put it up on the pole tomorrow or next weekend.

I'll post more pics when I do that, and when she gets her first feathered tenants.

Happy Spring!

I entered this into the Pets and Animal contests. We would love a vote from you if you think this 'ible and project deserves one..


~ Cynthia & Malena

Step 12: Ready for Tenants!

April 13, 2015 update:

Just mounted the house on the pole!

I used a 2" flange which I first screwed onto the pole. I made a template of the flange holes on a piece of paper, then drilled the four holes into the house platform. I then brought the house up the ladder and installed some beefy 3/4" screws to lock everything together.

Beautiful day out there, 70 degrees with still some residual snow on the ground! : )

July update:

Both sides of house have nests built in them! Also, my Mom said the birds love the chimney top as a perch point to call out to all their homies.

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