Build a Bluebird House

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This article is from Issue 52 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A great plan for teaching woodworking

Overall dimensions: 9"w × 71⁄2"d × 11"h

"I enjoy Nature and woodworking. Building the birdhouse let me combine my interests." - Collin Kidd

In this–the magazine’s first installment in teaching woodworking to kids–11 year-old Collin Kidd from Parkersburg, West Virginia, and I make a bluebird house out of decay-resistant cedar. In the process, I introduce him to a variety of tools and show him how to use them safely. I separated the tasks so that the more challenging steps (work done at the tablesaw and jointer, for instance, and shown here in blue) are the ones I performed while Collin did the rest.

Make the parts

1 Start with a 3⁄4" × 8" × 4' cedar board for the house. Mill a 2'-long piece to 1⁄4" thick for the roof.

2 From 3⁄4" cedar, crosscut two pieces for the ends (A) to 101⁄2" long.

3 Stick a couple of small pieces of double-faced tape on one end piece, and stack the second piece on top, making sure the ends and edges are even. Cut out a photocopy of the Bluebird House End Pattern. Spray the back of the pattern with adhesive, and carefully adhere it to the top of the stack.

4 Now, bandsaw along the pattern cutlines to make the ends (A), as shown in Photo A. Sand the edges smooth with a sanding block and 100-grit sandpaper.

5 Use the marks along the edges of the pattern to drill 1⁄16" nail pilot holes through the ends (A) at the drill press. Pilot holes keep the nails from going in crooked and the cedar from splitting. Now, pry the ends apart.

6 Using the pattern, drill a 11⁄2" hole for the door opening. 5" above the top face of the birdhouse bottom with a Forstner bit. Using a 1⁄4" drill bit, drill the ventilation holes in the back end where shown in the pattern.

7 Crosscut a 3⁄4" piece of cedar to 121⁄2" long. Bevel-rip one edge at 35° and the other at 76° to achieve a final width of 63⁄16". (See Figure 1.) Then, crosscut sides (B) to 4" long.

8 Add pieces of masking tape to the front and back ends (A). Now, apply glue to the ends of the sides (B) and tape the pieces (A, B) together ensuring they are flush. Drill pilot holes for nails with a cordless drill, as shown in Photo B. Next, tap nails into the assembly to secure the ends. Set the nail heads.

Cut along the outside edge of the cutline, making sure your fingers are safely away from the blade on both sides.
Guide off the holes drilled earlier in the ends to drill straight pilot holes in the sides.

9 Measure the opening at the bottom, and check it against the Cut List and Bluebird House End Pattern. Now cut the bottom (C) to size, beveling the edges at 14° from 90°.

10 From 1⁄4" stock, rip and crosscut the top roof planks (D) and lower roof planks (E) to size. Bevel the edges of the wider top planks at 45° so they join at the roof peak. Working from a 1⁄2" piece that is 71⁄2" long, rout a 1⁄4" rabbet, 1⁄4"-deep on one edge. Rip the rabbeted edge free, cutting in 1⁄2" to create the roof ridge (F), as shown in Figure 1.

11 Before adding the bottom (C) and roof planks (D, E), install a 3⁄8" bit in your cordless drill and bore the ventilation holes in the sides (B) and the drain holes in the removable bottom where shown in Figure 1.

Glue and nail on the roof planks, starting at the bottom; use a spacer to make sure the planks overhang equally at the front and back ends.

Add the bottom and roof

1 Fit the bottom (C) in place. At the drill press, drill countersunk pilot holes through the ends (A) and into the bottom. You also need to drill clearance holes through the ends, or you will split the wood. Screw the bottom in place with #6 × 11⁄4" brass screws. The bottom is removable so you can clean out the birdhouse as needed.

2 Drill pilot holes 11⁄4" in from the ends of the roof planks (two at each end), and then secure the planks with #17 × 3⁄4" stainless steel brads and glue, as shown in Photo C. Set the nail heads.

3 Fill the set nail holes with an exterior-grade putty. Let dry, and then sand the surfaces smooth. 


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