How To: Make a DIY Modern Birdhouse (No Woodworking Required)

How To: Make a DIY Modern Birdhouse (No Woodworking Required)

A few years ago, I made a mid-century inspired birdhouse, modeled after the iconic Case Study houses. I created it using my growing collection of woodworking tools, like a table saw and router table, cutting complex angles, and using joints like rabbets and dadoes. It was fun and challenging, and nearly three years outside later, it's still very strong and holding up wonderfully.

But, of course I know that most folks, even other creative-types and DIYsters, don't have access to all these tools. So, I wondered: is it possible to come up with a modern, handmade birdhouse that doesn't required bunches of power tools and knowledge of complex joinery?

Of course it is. So, here's a DIY mod birdhouse that requires only an electric drill and a few toolbox staples. The whole thing can be made for around $10 in materials, and in just an hour or two.  

Materials and Tools:

  • Cedar 1x6, cut to:
    • (2) 5 1/2" lengths
    • (2) 4" lengths
  • Luan plywood, cut to:
    • (1) 8 1/2 x 8 1/2"
    • (1) 4 x 4"
  • 1/4" hardwood dowel (oak or maple is preferable to poplar)
  •  Outdoor-approved oil-based paint and brushes (I used Rustoleum with an aluminum finish)
  • Electric drill and drill bits:
    • 1/4"
    • 5/16" 
    • 1 3/8" Forstner bit
  • Crescent pliers to cut dowels, or other cutting pliers
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper
  • Optional: 
    • Clamps 
    • Wood filler 
    • Boiled linseed oil 

created at: 04/26/2011

1. Head to the home improvement center and find a nice, straight cedar 1x6" with a pleasing grain and few knots. Dimensional lumber is actually smaller than listed, so a 1x6" is actually 3/4 x 5 1/2". Weird, right? Have a nice associate cut yours to the sizes listed above; you can probably make three or four of these guys with an 8' or 10' length. Then, find a small  sheet of luan (probably 2x4', about $4) in the sheet goods section. Luan is a plywood used to make canoes, so it's certain to be waterproof, important for outside. Have it cut to the sizes above, and on your way out, grab a 1/4" dowel rod, and a 1 3/8" forstner drill bit. (Get a set if you can. You'll pay less per bit, and they're useful for all sorts of things)

created at: 04/26/2011

2. When you get home, chuck in the 1 3/8" Forstner bit, and drill a hole in the center, about 1/3 of the way down from the top, of one of the 5 1/2" pieces. My center point was 1 13/16" from the top, and 2 3/4" from each side.

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created at: 04/26/2011

3. Glue everything together into a square, with the 5 1/2" lengths in the front and rear, and the shorter ones on the side. Include the 4x4" piece of luan on the bottom as a floor.  Be sure to turn the faces so that the end grain faces up, keeping the sides looking nice and clean. If you have clamps, they'll be helpful here; if not, just use some painters tape to hold everything together for the first hour or so. (But, seriously, 12-14" bar clamps are a great DIY investment, and can be had for under $10 each.)

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4. Once everything has dried, find the center line along the face and the back, and drill 1" deep hole 1" from each side with the 5/16" bit. Use a piece of painter's tape to mark the depth on the drill bit. Then, drill matching holes on the back.

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5. Then, drill a 1/4" hole in the roof to accept the dowels at 2 1/2" from the front and side. It's best to drill the back holes about 30-degrees and the front around 40, to welcome the angle of the roof. If this is too overwhelming, don't worry about it. Just drill it at 90-degrees and make the roof flat. Easy peasy.

created at: 04/26/2011

6. Then, cut the dowels into rough, too-long lengths, and assemble everything for a dry fit. You can make the roof sit as far away from the walls as you'd like. Mine is about 1 1/4" in the front, and 1/2" in the back.

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7. Use the pliers or a small saw (if you have one) to cut the dowels flush to the roof, and use some rough grit sandpaper to sand everything flat.

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8. Fill the dowel holes on the roof only with glue and let dry. If you're particular (like me), you can use wood filler to fill in any gaps, but that's totally optional.

We're going to let the roof just float on the body, so that it can be easily removed to clean out any old nests to welcome new birds. So! Be sure not to glue the dowels into the body. They're a 1/16" bigger so everything slides out easily.

created at: 04/26/2011

9. Sand everything smooth, and paint the roof/dowel combo with exterior grade paint. You don't have to finish the body, as cedar is naturally decay-resistant. If you do, be sure to use something that won't hurt the birds, like boiled linseed oil.

10. Lastly, you can install the birdhouse. I chose to mount it on its own stand, using 1/2" black pipe and a floor flange. I installed a 3" x 3" piece of cedar inside to provide a structure to accept the screws. You could also flush mount it to a house using mending plates, or strap it to a tree.

Special note: I put mine in the ground on Thursday evening, and by Saturday morning, a beautiful gold finch was already coming in and out, and there's the beginnings of a nest in there already! Awesome.

For other mod, ornothilogical-leaning projects, check out the complex version of the mod birdhouse and an easy modern bird feeder:

Build Your Own Mid-Century Modern Birdhouse

Make a DIY Modern Bird Feeder


Note: In researching the design for my birdhouse, I found those from Weiler to be very helpful.

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Lokesh on Mar 20, 2013:

Very neately presented...

I must arrange for the items in the list and start trying this....

fine little home on May 20, 2011:

i can't wait to make one! i love this! i hope you don't mind that i posted it on my bloggity blog's DIY day, it's just so great i had to share.


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