Feeding and Nesting in Style

The variety of birds feeding in my yard during the winter — chickadees, finches, sparrows, blackbirds, starlings and woodpeckers –is amazing. The birds mingle together fairly peacefully, but the starlings are rather bossy when it’s feeding time. I’ve learned if I use more feeders, the smaller, less aggressive birds can get more to eat. So I designed a gazebo-style feeder. Then, thinking about spring, I made a matching bird-house.

If you plan to paint the birdhouse or bird feeder, you can use any material in your scrap box, but if you intend to stain them or leave them unfinished, use redwood, cedar or cypress.

The rooflines make the structures unique. Making the angled cuts on the roof panels is easiest to do with a band saw or scroll saw, but you can use a table saw or a radial arm saw. I used 1/2-in. stock for some pieces and 3/4-in. stock for other parts, which reflected what was in my scrap bin. You can use 1/2- or 3/4-in. solid material for any of the pieces. I don’t recommend using plywood for either project because it tends to warp and delaminate.

Start by cutting the stock to size. Bevel the sides of the roof panels 30 degrees. Miter the sides, top and roof supports 60 degrees (see drawings, above and on p. 24). If you plan to hang the structures, drill a 1/4-in.-dia. hole in the center of each roof support and a 1/8-in.-dia. hole in the center of each top.

Before you begin assembling the basic structure, check the fit of the roof panels by temporarily attaching them to the top. Fasten the roof support to one roof panel with a small finishing nail so that a mitered edge fits flush with the beveled edge of the roof panel. Next, set the top on a piece of 1/2-in.-thick scrap that is slightly smaller than the top; then put the roof panels in place around the top. Use small plastic bags filled with sand to keep the roof panels from slipping out of position. Check that the roof panels fit the top properly. If they don’t, change the thickness of the scrap piece to raise or lower the top as necessary. Also check that the roof panels fit correctly at the peak. If not, lower the roof support slightly. When you’re satisfied with the fit of the roof panels, remove each of them one at a time, marking them where they join the top.

You can shingle the roof using ready-made dollhouse shingles if you like, but making your own shingles is not difficult. You’ll need a band saw with a 1/4-in. blade or a scroll saw to cut the shingles. Begin with 3/4- or 1-in.-thick cedar about 24 in. long and cut it lengthwise into 1/16- to 3/32-in.-thick strips.

Take a stack of strips about 1 in. high and drive a 1-in. brad near the end of the stack to keep the strips aligned. Using a fence on your band saw, cut the strips into 1-1/2-in. lengths. To bevel the comers of the shingles, align a 2-in. stack and grip it tightly between your thumb and forefinger; then grind the comers on one end of the stack using a belt or disc sander.

To attach the shingles, mark the centerline on a roof panel; then draw horizontal lines 1 in. apart starting at the bottom of the panel. Glue a 3/32- x 1/4-in. edge strip along the bottom of the panel. Apply a bead of yellow glue to the edge strip and to the roof panel just below the first horizontal line. Place a shingle on the edge strip next to the centerline with the top of the shingle on the horizontal line. Continue to add shingles to complete the first bottom course. Leave about 1/32 in. clearance between shingles.

Stagger the shingles on the subsequent courses so that they cover the spaces between shingles on the previous courses. Let the shingles overlap the edge of the panels; then when the glue is dry, trim the shingles with a band saw or utility knife.

Before you assemble the birdhouse, use a hole saw to drill a 2-in.-dia. hole in one of the side pieces. Glue and nail a perch about 1 in. below the hole. The perch will be inside the birdhouse.

Join the sides of the birdhouse together with glue. A web clamp or an elastic band will hold them in place while the glue dries. Attach the top and bottom to the sides with no. 8 x 1-in. flathead wood screws.

To assemble the bird feeder, mark and drill 3/8-in.-dia. through-holes in the top and bottom; then assemble them with the dowels. Apply yellow glue to the ends of the dowels and drive them into the holes so they’re flush with the edges of the boards.

After you’ve assembled the structures, attach the roof panels to each top and roof support with glue and 1-1/2-in. finishing nails. An air-powered brad nailer works best, but you can use regular finishing nails. If you do so, drill a 3/32-in.-dia. clearance hole through the roof panels; then hammer carefully to avoid breaking the shingles.

If you’re going to hang the structures, cut about 12 in. from a wire clothes hanger, form a coil in one end and thread it through the hole in the roof support and the top; then make a 90-degree bend in the end. Insert the wire before you assemble all the roof panels. If you place the structures on a pole, insert a ball and dowel in a 5/16-in.-dia. hole in the top.