Introduction: Why Birds Couldn't Have the Same House Than You?

With my kids we decided to build houses for birds, but we also decided to forget traditional bird houses. The purpose was to build a scale model of our own house. And because the result was really satisfying, we decided to offer the scale models of friends and family houses as Christmas gifts!

To make it short, it's a 3 steps process:

  • Take pictures
  • build a 3D model
  • cut and assembly

For the second step, we'll use Sketchup, and for the third one, we'll use a laser cut. We personally used an Epilog Fusion 60W in a local Fablab.

Let start with a simple case: our mobilhome! Form is rather simple, but we'll include the terrace and the picnic table.

Step 1: Take Pictures

Simple step! The purpose is to take pictures with various angles in order to ease the design of the 3D model. We'll use a fantastic feature of sketchup to process the 3D model so don't hesitate to take large angles pictures.

Step 2: Build the 3D Model

I'll divide this step into to 2 small steps:

  1. Real sized 3D model
  2. Scale model

1- Real sized model

In Sketchup, the first step is to setup the basic blocks with the overall dimensions.

Then, we'll use this fantastic feature offered by Sketchup I was speaking about: the "import picture as a texture".

You can follow some tutorials as the ones hereafter.

Overall concept is to put a picture on the corresponding face of the block, even if the picture has a perspective view, and to use the "Position" feature".

On the pictures of this step, you can see the original picture, the projected picture on a mobilhome block model, and finally, the result of the full scale model. As you can see, picture allows you to draw the windows, doors, and other details of the house and to finish your scale model.

2- Scale model

Now that you have your full scale form, you can shrink it into your wanted scale model size. For me, I decided to finish with a 27 cm long mobilhome (out from a 10 meters full sized mobilhome). But you can do whatever you want.

As soon as your model is shrinked, it's time to design the "panels". What I call the "panels" are the pieces of wood you'll finally cut and assembly. You need here to know what kind of wood you'll use, especially the thickness. In my case, it will be a 5mm Plywood.

Each panel must then be extruded with the correct thickness. It is the most strategic step ;-) because you need to imagine here how all the panels will be assembled.

You can (and I encourage you to do so) use some kind of tenon and mortise joints. If your material is 5mm, you tenons can consist in 5x5 mm squares

Step 3: Finishing the 3D Model

You have now a 3D scale model.

One good trick is to isolate each panel one by one to control that you always have a mortise in front of a tenon!

To do so, you can use a parameter in the "Model Info" / "Components" area: you can here hide of reveal the rest of the model when you enter a group. This is really helpfull to hide the rest of the model in such a verification phase.

Then, purpose is to prepare the panels. I used to do it through a sketchup extension called FlightOfIdeas, but it seems to have disappears. Another option is to:

  • declare each panel as a component
  • duplicate each panel and put each copy on the ground
  • use a parallel top view of the area where all the panels are put on the ground
  • export this view as a eps 2D graphic file

By doing so you can still modify the panels on the 3D model, and it will update the corresponding copy.

Step 4: Cutting and Assembly

You have your vector file with the panels in the correct dimensions. You can now proceed in the cutting phase! I personally used an EPILOG Fusion 60W that is available in a local fablab in my home town.

For the assembly, I simply used some white glue for wood, knowing that tenons and mortises do already keep the panels well assembled together! I finished the model with some outside varnish.

You're done!

Step 5: Bonus

We made a lot more models for the family, the friends... And we also did not assembly some of them in order to offer it as puzzles!

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