Fit for a Wren

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The original birdhouse in the author's yard. Next Step
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Step 1 Cut a reasonably straight 6-inch diameter branch to about 6 inches in length. I used American black walnut because I have plenty on hand and it is one of my favorite species. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 2 Make three marks that divide the circumference of the branch into thirds. Drill three pilot holes (1/8th inch diameter for a 2-inch deck screw) about 2 inches deep and 1/2 inch from the bottom. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 3 Drill a 1-inch diameter entrance hole about 11/2 inches deep into the branch. Locate the hole approximately three inches from the bottom. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 5 Cut a 1-inch slice off the bottom end of the branch’s center section for the house’s bottom. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 4 Draw a 4-inch circle on one end of the billet and carefully saw out the center and remove it. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 6 Locate the 1-inch slice in its original position inside the hollowed-out section and drive 2-inch screws into the pilot holes you drilled in Step 2. Previous StepNext Step
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 Step 7 Mark the top directly above the entrance hole – make a second mark directly across from it. Set the saw’s miter gauge to 45 degrees and cut one side of the roof angle. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 8 Rotate the piece 180 degrees and saw the other side of the roof angle. The body of the birdhouse with both roof angles cut. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 9 Select another piece of branch not more than 6 inches in diameter and 6 inches long. Saw this piece in half lengthwise. Previous StepNext Step
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The body of the birdhouse with both roof angles cut.Previous StepNext Step
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Step 10 Saw about 1/2 inch off the edge of each half. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 11 Cut a slab about 1-inch thick from each half. Previous StepNext Step
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The finished birdhouse. Previous Step
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Step 13 Fasten the roof pieces together at the top with two screws (drill pilot holes if you are concerned that the wood will split). Fasten the lower part of each roof piece to the bottom with one screw. Drill a small hole beneath the entrance for the perch (size dependant on the perch material) and insert a small dowel (or suitably sized twig). You can glue the perch, but if the fit is tight, you needn’t bother. Previous StepNext Step
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Step 12 Cut 45-degree miters on both ends of both roof slabs. Previous StepNext Step 

About four years ago, my wife and I decided to try to attract more birds to our backyard. We already had quite a few feeding stations and figured that increasing the number of suitable nesting sites might bring in a few more feathered friends. I wasn’t really interested in putting together typical birdhouses, so I decided to design my own. Knowing that some house-nesting species, when left to their own devices, will use hollow branches and tree trunks to raise a family, I made substitutes for these natural nesting places with material I always seem to have plenty of – short pieces of tree limbs (at least 6 inches in diameter) that are just too nice to burn for fuel. The design is as variable as it is simple and creates artificially hollowed tree branches.

For this project, I used a band saw to open up the cavity in the billets and to create the roof and bottom of the house. Other tools can be used to make the nest box’s top and bottom, but hollowing out the center will be difficult without a band saw. You can use a bow saw to cut out the branch’s insides – it took me about an hour that way and required significantly more assembly (see the handsaw version of this project). Drilling out the middle might seem like a good idea, but it’s virtually impossible to effectively remove all that end-grain wood with a drill bit. If your shop is equipped with a wood-turning lathe, and you have sufficient skill, you can use it to remove the branch centers – but the band saw is still easier. The beauty of this project is that it doesn’t take a trip to the lumberyard for materials and no matter how many of these nest boxes you make, no two will be exactly the same.

My first hollow-branch nest box is still perched on the porch rail where I installed it years ago. It’s a little weathered from exposure to South Dakota’s extremes, but that box serves its purpose well by attracting wrens to the yard every spring. Click here to follow the steps to create your own version.

Tom Larson, a retired school counselor, began woodworking as a boy on long summer afternoons in the shop on the farm where he grew up. Lathe-turned bowls and vases are now his specialty, but he also designs and creates fine furniture as well as a variety of garden and landscape items.