Yesterday, I told you a little bit about how I ended up here.  In this post, I work with Beth of Beth’s DIY Workshop to build a birdhouse from scrap cedar.  This birdhouse being my gift in a White Elephant Gift Exchange for this year’s Baltimore Bloggers Holiday Party hosted by One Project Closer.

Inside Beth's DIY Workshop


This is What I We Did: Building a Birdhouse Building Moxie Style

So … the birdhouse. I toke this stack or rough milled cedar scrap (white cedar, I believe).  It had been cut, a few years ago, from the arches of our cedar fence (there is a great tutorial there one day).  I also grabbed some leftover cedar shakes (from my previous house) and headed up to Beth’s.

These Cedar Shakes and Scrap Cedar to become a Birdhouse

This birdhouse, which has survived the renovations around the homestead … so far, and is still mounted to our shed, acted as inspiration.  After thinking for awhile about roof design, it occurred to me I wouldn’t have to deal with roof framing, or funky cuts, if I just built a box and just flipped it on … a diagonal.

a red four square birdhouse on a shed for inspiration

* At Beth’s, I started by squaring the ends up, creating equal lengths.  For this, I used the shop’s sliding compound miter saw.

clean cutting the ends of cedar scrap

* We then took the ¾ inch boards (around 11” inch in length) and ran them through the table planer. Taking a 1/16th of an inch off of each side, this gave us 5/8th inch stock to work with. Running these across the table planer was much nicer than running through my budget table saw at home, and was way more accurate … I assure you.  (As with most of the tools in the shop, Beth demonstrated and I finished.  The only exception to this really – the dress press a little ways below, which Beth worked for me.)

Beth running cedar through table planer

* Taking the now planed boards, we ran them across the table saw with a dado set installed.  We were making rabbets (notches) that were half the depth of the board (in this case 5/16”) – ½” from the edge.  The idea being that when glued and lapped – two boards each making a side, could be nailed.  Again, I have a dado kit at home, but I assure you this was much faster on Beth’s rig.  With setup, this step, too, took about 15 minutes.

setting up dado blade

making notch cuts using a dado kit

cedar with notches cut

While we didn’t review plans, I was fortunate that Beth actually had a birdhouse, okay two, hanging in her shop. One was built, she told me, from a set of plans provided by the Sierra Club. Using that birdhouse, we determined both an appropriate depth for the birdhouse, plus the preferred size for the birdhouse front door. One and half inches in diameter.

one and half inch size for birdhouse hole

* From there, we gang cut, in two passes, four boards at a time on the sliding miter saw.  This yielded 16 planed and notched boards 5 1/2” long.

cutting notched boards on sliding miter saw

cut boards ready to assemble

* Now, it was simply a matter of gluing and nailing this stock to create a box. (A class that Beth actually teaches at the Workshop.)  We assembled all the sides using a pin nailer (like a pneumatic brad nailer only shooting smaller nails). Again, I don’t have one at home.  They were a little long and we had to flip these boards over to snip off the ends poking through.  No biggie, as we caught ourselves saying, well, a few times – “It’s only a birdhouse.” (Note the “split” in the pair of boards we used as a nailing surface.  This kept the too long nails from nailing into anything.)

glued pin nailed notched boards

top view of box weave

* We then assembled the box: gluing and weaving at each corner to make a perfectly square box.  Here we used 1 ½” 16 gauge brad nails.  Done in a jiffy.

brad nailing the box

completed box

* Next, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the front.  We in the end decided to run both sides of two longer pieces across the dado blades.  This created two tees.  These boards would act as the center “slats” for the front and the back of the birdhouse.  Note: You could do this kind of notching on a table saw fitted with a standard blade, but here, it is just slightly more efficient with the dado blade.

I decided to set these boards vertically, diagonal to my diagonal box.  I cut one end to a point by opposing two 45s at a center point.  I then placed it (pictured: Beth doing one) lining up the point with the corner that I chose to eventually hide up under the roof.  We scribed the bottom ends and made those cuts.

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tee with point marked off

Beth scribing the finish cut

* Once (face) nailed into place, I used my remaining 5 1/2” pieces for “ears.” This revealed perhaps the one major flaw in my process and design here.  These boards ended up being both a little too short and also exposed a joint (at the top) which water could maybe get into.  Again – “Only a birdhouse” and they will be protected under eaves.

For the ears on the front, I scribed these too and made careful cuts … I mean – as not to saw off a finger.  For the back, I made the impromptu decision not to cut the ears to the shape of the box.  These ears I thought would make for good mounting surfaces if the new owner chooses to mount it flush somewhere.  (This birdhouse could also be hung from a tree with a stainless eye-hook and some aluminum wire or something.  Really it could be installed, in any number of other ways, fastened to something or hung.)

gluing ears and leaving something to mount

completed box with front and back attached

* From here, we needed both the birdhouse doorway and a hole for a dowel, which would accommodate a little perch. These holes we set roughly on center.  We cut doorway hold on Beth’s drill press using a 1 ½ inch Forstner bit (Beth driving).  Just below that we cut a 3/8” hole and found an old pool cue – placing it briefly on the stationary belt sander and cutting it to about 2 ½ inches long.  This was then simply glued firmly into the hole.  In this case, again, I do not have a dress press at home (and especially not one that is as sweet as Beth’s old school Craftsman).  A drill press certainly makes as neat a hole as I could have made at home with my drill (understatement).

1 and 1/2 inch hole for bird doorway

old school craftsman drill press

cut sanded glued pool cue as a perch

* Now time for the roof, and admittedly the least amount of thought went into this.  I found four equally sized shakes and laid them, butted tightly together, onto the roof essentially determining what the overhang at the front would be.  I then cut the four shake shingles on the shallow side.  When cutting to length, I left about 1 ½ inch extra as to create equal overhangs all the way around the roof.

sizing up the overhang

first course of shakes nailed into place

* In the final steps, my sugar was starting to dip.  And as I still planned to tour Beth’s upstairs, this revealed perhaps my few flaws in execution.  I then cut the thick side of previously used shingles; two to 2 inches and two to 1 5/8”.  I did this to account for overlapping or weaving.  I then glued the back side of each and the edges of these and slapped them together to create a sorta ridge shingle. I split these when I set them so that they would not fall directly over the seam at the first course of shingles and also to create a more effective overhang at the front.

I then filled in with slightly longer slivers (cut from another shingle) to provide both a stagger and coverage at the seam and to give the roof a slight visual variation.

creating the ridge shingle

* Here, I was a little sloppy with the glue and some squeezed out leaving a little staining on the roof… “Only a Birdhouse.”  In the final minutes, a grabbed a scrap piece of Poplar in the shop and trimmed out the exposed edge of the roof.

poplar trim

* And there it is.  Building Moxie‘s Birdhouse #1.

completed cedar birdhouse


There is something simply sublime about working with cedar.  The smell is just glorious and cedar makes for a near-perfect exterior wood.  While I think most would be tempted to treat it … in this application, I think I’d want to check how to see what the prevailing knowledge is.  How do birds feel about stain and/or paint?  For now, and as a gift – it remains as is.

All that in a few hours at a local DIY Workshop.  It was fun: it was fun doing a creative project (for once), it was fun using tools other than my own, and it was fun DIYing with someone one else. …

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cedar birdhouse by Building Moxie

Thanks to Beth, thanks to you and thanks, well, to the birds. Have a super day all. ~jb