Woodworking can be a great tool for father-daughter bonding (or father-son bonding, but I have 4 daughters, so this is the world I know). A simple project can be a vehicle for quality time and an opportunity to introduce your child to life-long skills & a maker-spirit. This birdhouse project is a means to that end.
The material cost for this project is minimal. The fence picket and the dowel will cost you about $5. If you want to finish the birdhouse, add another $8 for paint and some caulk. That is it.
Remember, this project is not about a birdhouse. It is about your child. Talk to them throughout the process. Explain everything: where they should stand in relation to the wood they are sawing, watching the cut line as they saw, tool safety, etc. Let them make choices about the project: what part to cut next, paint color, etc. Enjoy the time with them, and make it fun.
Measure Once, Cut Twice
The cut-list is self-explanatory. Here are a few tips:
- A speed square will help you mark lines that are 90-degrees and 45-degrees to the edges.
- Mark each piece, on-at-a-time. Don’t mark the next piece until you have cut the one you are working on.
- Cut the pieces with a handsaw. A miter-saw would be faster, but teaching your child hand-tool skills is important.
- The side pieces can have a 45-degree edge to mate up to the roof, but this is optional.
- The roof pieces should have a 45-degree edge to join up with the other roof piece at the pinnacle of the roof.
- Double-check the length of the “bottom” piece. It should equal the width of a side piece and the depth of the front and back facade pieces.
- Once all the pieces are cut, you can optionally clean up all the edges with a block plane to create tighter glue joints.
- Drilling out the 2-3/8 inch doorway is the most dangerous part of this project. If you can use a bit brace, do so. Otherwise, have your kid step back while you drill out that hole.
- Make mistakes. There is extra wood, and it can be a good teaching opportunity. Measure once and cut twice to show why this is a bad life strategy.
Glue It & Screw It
Pre-drilling holes with a countersink bit makes the assembly go a lot smoother. You can use a screwdriver to drive the screws, but a cordless drill/driver is about as safe a power tool as there is. Teach them how to use it.
Apply glue to an edge, and let your child use their finger to smear it around for full coverage. Have a rag or a paper towel nearby for clean-up, but let them get a bit messy. They’ll love it.
When inserting the perch, it might be a tight fit. Sand down the dowel a little bit, and let your kid use a rubber mallet to pound it into place.
To add some life to the birdhouse, caulk along the seam at the pinnacle of the roof. This will help it to shed water when it rains.
We applied a few coats of indoor/outdoor spray paint, in a light color as a base. My daughter then painted whatever she wanted with her paints and brushes. It was prettier with just a solid base coat, but she has even more ownership in it now.
We then installed a few screw-hooks on the roof and hung it from a tree branch with a light-weight chain. Throw some bird seed inside the birdhouse, and your child will be thrilled when they see the first bird going in and out the front door.