Bird Feeder
Photo by Roger Yip

How to build a beautiful birdhouse

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Flying feathered guests are not picky; you can feed them from almost anything that holds seed. However, the human eye often looks for something pleasing, and this copper-roofed feeder looks equally good in a Victorian garden or a suburban backyard. The fresh copper colour of the roof 
panels disappears over time, replaced by a soft green patina as the metal oxidizes in the elements. 
The feeder’s central seed silo is filled through the opening covered by the finial on top of the roof, and 
the structure can be dismantled from below for seasonal cleaning or repair.

Most of the assembly was done with a 23-gauge pin nailer. This small, quiet, air-powered tool allows you to hold pieces together with one hand, and fasten them with one shot from the other. Fastener holes are so small, they’re almost invisible, and the nailer causes less installation strain on small structural pieces than multiple hammer blows. A hammer and finishing nails work; however, they do require more time, care and predrilling.

Tools and Materials

Tools and materials

Instructions

Base 

Cut the octagon base from a single piece of wood or glue several pieces together using weatherproof glue. I created my base from eight triangles of equal size. This arrangement has the advantage of hiding all end-grain. If the joints at the centre of the base are not perfectly tight, it doesn’t matter. This part of the base will be covered, both top and bottom. 

Pyramid and posts

At the centre of the bird feeder is a silo with acrylic sides that holds the seed and doles it out slowly. You load up the silo by lifting the finial that caps the project and pouring seed into the hole.

Now is the time to build the small 1″-tall x 2″-wide x 2″-long pyramid that sits at the bottom of the silo and spreads seed evenly out of the holes as it’s eaten. Make the pyramid by sawing facets on the end of a 2×2 that is long enough to hold safely while working at the mitre saw or tablesaw, then cut the pyramid free.

Next, cut the four silo posts to length. Each post receives two 
1/8″-wide x 1/8″-deep grooves to allow the acrylic sides to slide in. Cut these grooves using a thin-kerf blade on your tablesaw.

Follow this step by cutting the eight outer support posts to length. These posts need to be shaped to match the angled corners of the octagon. I used my jointer for this job, with the fence set to 22 1/2° from square. I counted the number of jointer passes required on one side, so that I could be sure of removing exactly the same amount of wood on all seven other posts. Use pushsticks when running these pieces over the jointer.

Before attaching the posts and the pyramid, mark all of the part locations and drill countersunk holes up from the bottom of the base. I drove #6 x 1 1/4″-long brass screws up into the pyramid and the posts’ ends. 

Tie it together

At this stage, your project will have an octagonal base with 12 posts sticking straight up—four silo posts and eight outer posts. It’s time to add more stability to the outer posts by fastening the 3/8″-thick outer post plates. Cut these pieces to length, and then attach them to the top ends of the outer posts. Each end of a plate straddles a post and is fastened with glue and an air-driven pin nail. Four silo top rails stabilize the silo posts. The acrylic silo sides are slid into place later.

The bottom 1/4″-thick outer rails hold seed within the feeding area, and also provide diners with a perch along the base. To get smooth joints, I mitred four rails to fit post point to post point and pin-nailed them in place at every other opening. The second batch of four rails overlaps the first set, completing the octagonal ring. (See plans.) Mark and cut mitres, then fasten the pieces in place with glue and pin nails.

Break out the paint

The best time to paint is before the copper and acrylic are added. Coat the structure with the exterior-grade paint of your choice. Since there is no more glue used in the main part of the project, you should paint the roof battens now, before they are attached.

Working with acrylic

Before you start the roof, cut and insert the acrylic silo sides between their respective posts. You’ll find acrylic sheets in the window section of your home-improvement store. I used 0.050″-thick material, but you’re fine with any thickness less than 1/8″. Thicker material is harder to cut and requires wider grooves.

Rather than sawing the acrylic, I scored and snapped off the pieces I needed. Leave the protective film on for now as it makes marking with a pen much easier. Multiple passes with a utility knife ensure a clean break. Simply snap along the line. Be sure to wear safety glasses as you work since snapping acrylic sometimes sends pieces flying.

To cut the semicircles at the bottoms of the silo sides, I marked the desired radius (5/8″ in my case) and used a 1 1/4″ spindle-sanding drum to create it. The radius needs to be an appropriate size for the seeds you plan on feeding to the birds. Make the semicircle too big and those little millet seeds will flow out in minutes. Too small, and sunflower seeds plug up the works. Chuck the sanding spindle in a drillpress and grind the semicircle down to the radius line. Finish up by peeling off the protective film from the acrylic and using a knife or fine file to remove any burrs. The acrylic sides are ready to slide into place.

 To download a detailed plan of the birdhouse, click here