Introduction: Modern Nestbox
This project was initially created by my education in using a table saw.
After buying the saw, I realised I had to learn to use it. You can read the books, and watch all the Youtube videos, but at some point you have to cut some wood. Birdboxes gave me a good excuse to learn the basic techniques of the saw, including ripping, cross, square, and angled cuts (bevels). As a side note, I also improved my methods of clamping up on angled surfaces. My method is far from the only way to solve this problem, and screws will make your assembly far easier and quicker, I prefer not to have visible fixings unless absolutely necessary, this means my projects are occasionally unnecessarily complex, but it's your project, adapt it as you see fit.
Sorry in advance, but this project makes heavy use of a table saw, if you don't have one this isn't the Instructable for you.
Wood - I used plywood, but almost any will do.
Glue - Waterproof, but whatever you prefer.
Wood stain - Optional , whatever you prefer.
Hanging hardware - Depending on your method.
Hinges/closure hardware - If you want your box to open
Table saw - Rip fence, mitre fence (and if you have it, crosscut sled), a good sharp plywood suitable blade will make your life easier further down the road.
Clamps - Preferably many and varied.
Steel rulers/Tape measure - A tape measure is adequate, I get better results with rulers.
Squares - I use combination, speed, and engineering squares depending on the specific task, but it you have only one square make it a combination.
Paper - For planning.
Angle Box - It is entirely possible to complete this project without this, it makes setting the blade angles for the bevels considerably easier.
Step 1: Planning
Prior planning and preparation prevent poor performance.
First off, decide how big you want your box to be. This will come down to materials available, or your choice.
I based my plans on the RSPB's bird box plans, they know more about birds than me, so no point reinventing the wheel. Their plans give a box 150mm wide, 120mm deep, and 200mm high, with a 32mm entrance hole, but I'm building a triangular box, so used their sizes as a guideline.
The importance of planning is obvious, and working the methods out in advance helps prevent you wasting wood during construction. This project is very forgiving, and the only accurate cutting required is generating a maximum of two identical components, this is very easily achievable using the table saw.
My plans are above, I have used "unit" sizes , which can be multiplied to give any scale you wish. They are also forgiving, but we'll cover that in the sawing section.
Step 2: Selecting (or Generating) Stock
Have a look around your workspace (or timber supplier) and find enough wood. This will depend on your plans, but somewhere around 1meter of length will be enough.
If you're working in ply, one small side of your board will be enough.
Mark up your sections, to help identify them.
Step 3: Saw Set Up Mk.1
PLAY SAFE! - Saws of all kinds are dangerous, table saws especially so.
Please be careful when playing with sharp things, this includes ear and eye protection, and USE PUSH STICKS!
I don't want to lecture, or reiterate the risks, but be aware of your surroundings, your fingers, and the potential flightpath of the material. Kickback is a risk, the spinning saw is a risk, tripping and falling is a risk, mitigate them wherever possible.
Due to poor planning on my part, the riving knife of my saw is removed intermittently in the photos. This is to allow the use of the crosscut sled. Please be assured, it was replaced in the saw whenever the sled was not in use, as they're important pieces of safety equipment, and help reduce the chance of kickback. Blade guards should also be used, but the photos are unclear with mine fitted, so has been removed for the photos.
For the initial cuts, we need our blade perpendicular (90degree) from the table. Check this with your square/angle box, and be meticulous. This design works best if all the angles are sharp, all the edges are straight, and the colour transitions are neat. This means doing things multiple times, and being tedious with measurements. Sorry in advance.
Step 4: Long Cuts
The first operation is to make a plank.
If you're doing this will multiple small pieces, no problem, just put them through to make them all the same width. The width is the point of this step, we need them all to be the same. I'm assuming at least one of your edges is straight, if it isn't, you need to generate one. This straight side will be your reference edge, marks it as such.
Set your rip (parallel) fence to your desired width, in this case, around 150mm. If you're using ply, and working off a factory edge, set the fence a few millimetres oversize, this will allow you to tidy up the factory edge by passing it back through the saw.
Pass the strip through the saw, ensuring safety, and constant pressure against the fence. If it slips, or goes wrong, just move the fence in the minimal amount to correct the problem, and try again.
Note: If you want an overhanging roof, factor this into your stock selection and cutting.
Step 5: Short Cuts
Whilst we have our blade perpendicular to the table, we'll do our short cuts.
The dimensions of this will be determined by our plans, and are best cut on a crosscut sled, but can be cut with a mitre gauge. As with the width, absolute dimensions are not important, we just need the two sides to be the same. I don't tend to cut the roof at this stage, you'll see why later.
This can be done using a measuring device, and a good eye, but its easier using a stop block. Fix it onto your fence, butt the wood up against it, and it will be the same length.
Note: This step could be omitted and the short cuts could be done with the blade at 45degrees, as I'll do with the roof. Although my method is wasteful of time and materials, it reduces the chances of inaccuracy later.
Step 6: Saw Set Up Mk.2
Time to angle the saw blade to 45degrees.
Don't trust the measurements on your saw, confirm the blade angle using the head of a combination square, or an angle box.
Mitres are unforgiving, and accuracy in setting the angle is key to getting the sharp, even mitre joints you want.
Step 7: Bevels
Now we have our blade at 45, we need to set the mitre gauge, to bevel our side pieces.
This is easy, line the wood up so the outside of the blade is very slightly inside the wood, this ensures the bevel will be 45degrees, and edge to edge. If it isn't, you'll get a step on the tip of the joint.
My mitre gauge has an integral flip down stop, which made this bit easy. If yours does not, you'll need to either clamp a stop block onto your gauge, or be careful with measurements.
CUT BOTH PIECES ON ONE SIDE ONLY WITHOUT MOVING FENCE POSITION - This ensures both will remain the same size at the end.
Once both pieces have one bevelled edge, move the stop inward, turn the pieces (bevel edge to fence), line up and cut as you did before.
Once these pieces are both cut, they will be identical. They are undersized compared to our plan sizes but they are the same, and consequently the hypotenuse angle will remain 45degrees.
Step 8: Roof Size (and Cutting)
In the plans, the roof width was marked as ≥ (greater than or equal to). The roof being the same width as the sides is the easiest option, as the box can be made from a single plank. If you want it overhanging, then chose the amount of overhang you wish, and factor this into the long cuts you did earlier.
Offer up the two sides, and measure along their hypotenuse, to get your minimum roof length.
As we have the saw at 45, and the bevels are opposing, cut the roof to the desired length, and the angles will be same. This step is measurement forgiving, providing that measurement is oversize. You can centre the walls on the roof during roof fixing, and even out the end overhangs.
Step 9: Clamp Up
We have 3 of our 5 components cut, well done you!
At this point, gather your clamps, spacer blocks, and assorted accessories, and practice clamping the exterior up.
The particulars of this will depend up what clamps you have. It can be done with bar or strap clamps alone, but this won't be easy. Experiment to find what works with your available clamps, and consider using clamping blocks. It is far nicer to work the clamping set up out without the ticking clock of drying glue.
Once you've found a way that works, move along!
Step 10: Glue UP Mk.1
First, glue the right angle.
Get a scraper, wet cloth, and tissue paper.
Place all the clamps, and spacer blocks within easy reach,
Spread the glue thinly on both surfaces, removing excess onto the tissue paper using the scraper.
Offer the pieces up to each other, and slide them against each other, This ensures 100% surface coverage, and will help joint strength.
Clamp up, and check the joint is square, and the edges align. Adjust clamps accordingly. Scrape the joint edges, and wipe away squeeze out with a damp cloth.
Leave the thing alone until the glue dries completely.
Step 11: Front and Back
Now we get to the front and back, helpfully marked ? in our previous diagram. This is because they are a function of how inaccurate we have been on our previous cuts. We could easily calculate these during the planning, but leaving them to the end and measuring from the sides is easier than being super accurate with our cuts.
Then measure the internal lengths of the sides (corner to inside bevel), to give you the lengths of the front and back.
Cut these triangles as accurately as possible, but very slightly oversize. They can be taken to final size once they're on the corner, and it keeps all your edges neat.
Add your entrance, either drill a hole, or cut the corner off. The particulars of this size depend upon the birds you want to attract, find out and choose appropriately.
On the inside, of the front piece, add something to allow birds to move up and down. This can be cuts into the wood, or pieces stuck on. Anything that tiny birds can climb to the entrance with.
The tip of the saw can do this using a crosscut sled, but please don't try this without using one, as it can be very dangerous. Handcuts take longer, but are safer.
Step 12: Glue Up Mk.2
The front and back need gluing in.
Do the same as we did with the corner joint from a glue point of view.
Now is the time to recess the front and back to accommodate any fixing hardware (if necessary) or just because you think it looks nice. I've chosen a 5mm recess front and back, because my completed hanging hardware is 5mm thick, so the box will hang flush against the surface. If you're screwing the box in place, make the back flush.
Clamp it up. This is considerably easier using clamping blocks, these can be cut from off cuts, and what's important is the angles, not the length. The holes have been drilled in the centre to allow off angle (non-square) clamping, but in this case it produces parallel surfaces so we can push the triangles into place.
Leave it to dry.
Step 13: The Roof
If you want to stain the roof, do this whilst the other parts are being glued.
Measure from the edges of the roof, and centre the right angle onto the roof piece. Mark one of the sides with a lines, and put a screw in roughly half the wood thickness in from this line. This hole will be hidden on the finished piece.
To hang it, drive a screw on a section of the roof that will be hidden at the end, and tie it to a piece of string.
Follow the instructions on the tin, wear gloves, don't overload the piece (2 thin coats are better than 1 thick one), and if possible hang the piece from a string, it makes painting far easier. If you cannot hang it, paint one side, wait for it to dry, then rotate and repeat.
Paint it, leave it, don't touch it until it's dry.
Step 14: Raising the Roof
If you want your box to be openable, which I do, we need to fix some hinges.
If you don't, simply glue the roof into position, using the clamping blocks to help.
If you really want to go to town on the project, you could recess the hinge boxes, to minimise the amount of hinge you can see, but we'll leave recessing hinges for another day.
To fit the hinges, line up the roof with the edges, clamp everything to keep it in position, and mount your hinges using appropriate screws. Depending on the closure mechanism you're using, will depend how you mount it. I'm using a simple hook, so another two screws and you're done.
Step 15: Tidy Up Time
Now comes the tricky bit.
If you have done everything perfectly, there should be no gaps, no splintering, and no excess glue.
Thats rarely how it goes.
Now is the time to carefully fill, sand, refill, re-sand, plane, scrape, and finish the rough sections.
You can be as careful (or not) as you want with this step. If it doesn't matter to you, then move on, if you want it perfect, dig in for the long haul.
You can protect the stained sections, during sanding using good quality masking tape, but you still have to be careful.
Step 16: Apply an Exterior Finish (If Necessary)
If you're using "real" wood or marine ply, you can skip this step.
Birds don't like a lot of the wood finishes, so don't finish the inside of the box with anything.
The exterior, and particularly the cross sections in plywood will delaminate if they stay wet, so these need protecting.
Apply your finish of choice, following your preferred method, or the manufacturers instructions.
Spar varnish, or spray polyurethane are my finishes of choice for outside pieces.
Step 17: On the Subject of Hanging Hardware
The specifics of this will vary depending upon your choice of hardware.
I have used picture hooks, cabinet mounting brackets, gallows brackets, and a simple screw through the back.
Depending what you have available, and where you want the box to hang will change what hanging hardware you use. Measure and think about this step during planning, as it'll make your life easier later on.
I have chosen to use cabinet mounting brackets for mine, and have built a 5mm recess into the design to allow it hang flush with the surface. The mounting of this is a case of drawing a line parallel to the base, and screwing the bracket square onto this line.
Step 18: Hang It!
Now you've done the hard work, comes the end.
After looking at it for awhile, and congratulating yourself on a job well done, you've got to put it out for the birds.
Go and have a cup of tea, you've earned it!
Step 19: Optional Extras
Thanks for taking the time to read my Instructable, its very much appreciated.
The options for customising these boxes are many and varied. The entrances can be changed depending on the birds you want to attract, the materials can be changed, or deliberately contrasted, stains and finishes can be altered.
Find what you like, and enjoy the making!
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