Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Grampa birdhouse, 2018 edition

I read from Chris Schwarz years ago that in woodworking book publishing, bird houses books are among the top sellers, since...forever it seems.
Obviously a popular subject, let's take a hint...

Its been a long, long time since I made  a birdhouse, but I saw a picture of a whimsical one that I like.
so this is what we would do next as a project.
Google birdhouse with faces
A bit more involved than cutting shape with the scroll saw but why not.

So first lesson for them, how to square a board on four sides given only a piece of firewood and a dull hand plane...Kidding :-)

So I suppose, I should built one first and see how I am going to approached it with them.

I don't have a plan of course, just a picture of something that catch my eye, because it is screaming Grampa !!!! :-)

A quick doodle, a few key measurements and notes

A quick check of my left over side piece of  my 1st plane till
Should give me a few pieces, but need more

Brought a plank and my scrap pieces to the wood shop

Uses a stop for cutting all my pieces to ensure squareness
then similarly uses a stop to cut my roof angles

Perfect fit in just a few seconds of electrons munching

Back home with my piles of parts. 
Have  enough to make my first one, a  few left over parts to make two mores.
Will need more parts but had to come back home early

And before you knew it, it was time to drive the oldest to a slumber birthday party then take the youngest to the Kingston Steer BBQ and the bounce kingdom and the petting farm and etc, I was able to resume after supper

The youngest awaiting impatiently in line to get in.

First thing first, I reset the scroll saw to the leg vise position in order to set up the mitre saw.
I chose the NOBEX instead of my usual Stanley's and al because I am thinking this one should be less tiring to use. A 24 to 28 inch backsaw mitre saw is a tad heavy for the little ones, trust me!!!

Both saw stations set up

Similar set up as used at the Wood shop, we can cut both part of the roof angle
 on the mitre saw by hand, just as easily and with similar results.

First I thought I should try drilling the hole, with a brace.
I came up with a hole of  one and a half (1-1/2 in), at that size my choices are limited to hole saws or Forstner bits

Setting up a modern hex shank Forstner bit was no problem for the brace, it locked strong and true.
But it proved pretty hard to use.  For one thing, at this size in my set, it has a saw tooth edge and because of the rather short and stubby centering pin, it want to dance all over, wherever the saw tooth grips, making a mess. A smooth rim bit would had been a better choice in this case. As were the Forstner bits made for braces, incidentally...

A regular hex shank Forstner bit fit good in a two jaw alligator brace

You need heavy down pressure to stop it from skating around, 
but then it is hard to turn and the saw tooth make a mess

So obviously, not a great idea for the kids.  Need a Plan B...
Next obvious choice, although it does says on the bit boxes; To be used only in a Drill Press, was to chuck it to my cordless drill.  A tad tricky to start, because of the previous mess left behind, but managed to recover.  Would have to come up with a Plan C for them to make the hole. Hopefully I can set up my Post drill soon, that should do it.
Meanwhile need a back up plan in my pocket (an old enduring military thinghy :-)

Using the Makita cordless.
Done, a bit of blow out on the other side, but rather minimal.
Slowed right down at the end

After that it was time for the various face features, think Mr. Potato's Head.
Change the mustache, eye brow and etc and you have a new face. I want them to make some of their own creation, so I'll have them draw them then cut them mostly myself, cause...Squirrel...

Cutting a piece off long enough for nose(s).
I used a D-7 crosscut saw on the saw bench

Then to liberate off one nose from that piece, I used the NOBEX Miter saw.
That they should be able to do at least once??

Then it's off to the scroll saw to cut the side shape out

quick work with a sharp shop knife .
Round off all the extremities and sides except the top which connect to the eye brow piece

Then draw and cut the eyebrow.
I would had been so much more proficient on a bandsaw, regardless of blade size...

I am starting to realized that this thing is not as easy to master as I first thought for the little ones.. 
It required a lot of coordination hand & eyes, feeding a piece, following a line while holding it down and cranking with your other hand. No room for squirrels (or beers) in this equation... :-)

You can ease the workload on them by providing the cranking power yourself.
I think I will try cutting the next one using either my coping  or fret saw

But that is as far as I got today...

Until the next time, keep your sticks on the ice. Heh!

Bob, the builder


  1. Bob,

    LMAO, it ain't easy being a gramp.


  2. Large holes can be done with small contiguous holes, chiseling/sawing between the holes and using a rasp.
    Paul Sellers (who trained his own kids) says a spoke-shave is a great beginner's tool (for the eyebrow maybe; although a rasp would also work).
    It is certainly a fun project and a great way to initiate kids to woodworking (objective No 1).

    If kids expect birds to use it, I am not sure birds would like a hole near the bottom and the perch above the hole.
    Hole size must be adapted to the targeted bird specie.

    If you look at pictures on the blog "wisdom of the hands"
    Kids are proud of making something by they own, even if it looks crude. Don't put the bar too high to start or you risk loosing they attention.

  3. Yes, Ken, being a Grampa requires multitasking...on the fly :-)
    We had them for the last two weeks, today peace and quietness returns and we can relax :-)

    Grampa Bob

  4. Hi Sylvain
    You are right the hole size determine which types of bird species will set up home. And yes, I realized as a I was drilling, that the hole is indeed near the bottom, once I put the floor piece in.
    I will admit giving Zero attention to actual birds needs, I just want to make something whimsical with them using what ever scrap I have on hand. That was what dictated my approximate dimensions.

    The biggest challenges as you said, is to not set the bar too high to discouraged them. That's why I nixed my first idea of making them 4 square a board from a piece of firewood :-)

    It is interesting to try to make it doable, hence why I am doing some of the steps for them. No points making them cut by hands all these pieces... Squirrels!
    And I want them to make it their own creation by drawing their own Mr Potato's accoutrements :-)

    Bob, who is used to train 20's something kids to fix aircrafts, this requires a slightly different approach and thank God, no airworthiness requirements, Phewww :-)

  5. Hi Bob - another great project!

    Suggestion for 'Plan C' (boring the large entrance hole): an expansive bit, e.g. Russell-Jennings No. 71 or a Millers Falls No. 47. The former can handle up to 3in dia holes. They're not too difficult to use in pine with a decent sized brace...

    Best Regards,


  6. Thanks Rich, never taught of that one. I just so happens to have a few expansive bits in my collection, will give that a try

    Thanks for the hint