Web Extra: Build a Birdhouse with Hand Tools

Author Photo
By Tom Larson | Mar 13, 2008

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Step 2. Position a carpenters square so that the 6” mark is above one of the centerlines, and the 8” mark is above the other centerline, and draw one side of the roof angle. Flip the square and draw the other side of the roof angle
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Step 1. Select a piece of branch about 10” long and 6” to 8” in diameter. Draw a line through the center of one end. Draw a parallel line through the center of the other end.
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The cut roof angles are shown. This is a good time to drill the entrance hole, typically directly under the peak of the roof. A 1” hole is good for wrens.
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Step 3. Cut the roof angles.
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Step 4. Draw two lines about 1 1/2” from, and parallel to, the center line. Draw two lines at right angles to the centerline and about 3/4” from the edges of the piece.
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Step 5. Drill eight 1/8” pilot holes (the black marks indicate their location), four to fasten together the outer pieces and four to hold the bottom piece in place. These pilot holes should be about 1/2” from the bottom. Next saw a slab from one side of the piece.
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Step 7. Mark lines at right angles to the bottom, and saw a slab off one side. (Here I made the cut with a ripsaw.)
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Step 8. Saw a slab off the other side.
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Step 6. Rotate the piece, secure it, and saw a slab from the other side of the piece. (Here screws are driven through the sawhorse into the nest box.)
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Step 9. Saw about 1” off the bottom of the center piece.
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Step 11. Drive appropriate-length screws into the pilot holes drilled earlier. (In this box, 1 5/8” and 2” screws were used.)
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Step 10. Put the pieces together as they were before sawing them apart.
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The pieces of the nest box, minus the roof. The upper part of the center section is not used in the finished box. (The rubber bands and wood block hold a piece of bark I glued on after it broke off.)
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The lower section screwed together.
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Step 12. Saw another piece of branch (about 8” long and 6” to 8” diameter) in half lengthwise. Saw about 1” slabs from either side of the resulting halves. (Note that the bark has come off the slab being sawn. It was glued back on later.)
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Step 13. Position one of the roof slabs where it will be in the finished house and mark for the angle cut. Position the other slab and mark it.
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Step 14. Saw the angles on the roof slabs.
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The finished box.
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Step 15. Drive three 1 5/8” screws into 1/8” pilot holes at the peak and one 1 5/8” screw into each slab positioned where they will fasten the slabs to the body of the box. Add a perch, and the box is ready for use.

For the “Fit for a Wren” article (read the original version here), I used a bandsaw to open up the cavity in the billets and to create the roof and bottom of this birdhouse. However, you can also make this birdhouse with hand tools.

Using a commonly available 28-inch bow saw, it took about an hour and a half to saw out the pieces for this nest box. As a test, I made one of the cuts with a hand ripsaw. It cut slower but made a neater cut and could certainly be used instead of the bow saw.

I used a marker for the layout only because the heavy lines show up clearly in photos. You should use a marking instrument (such as a scribe) with a finer point.

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