Making bird tables

SAMSUNG CSCAt this time of year I sell a few bird feeding tables, rather bizarrely called ‘bird houses’ by some. I thought I’d go through how I make them.

First I make the gables with the chain saw:

SAMSUNG CSCThese are from an outside slab of oak.  There is bark and sapwood on there, I reckon this will encourage insect life for the birds.  There’s plenty of heartwood to take the mortices.  Then the table itself, this one is beech, again from a slab, but there is no sappy wood on beech.  I make the 1 inch mortices with an auger.

SAMSUNG CSCThese augers are excellent, ex War Department with the distinguishing arrow marked on the shank.  They must have been stockpiled for tens of years as they come fully wrapped and protected with a waxy film that the instructions tell you to remove with a pointed stick.  Mine are 1953 vintage – the year of my birth.  I turn the handles myself in a variety of lengths, longer ones giving more leverage, and short ones for confined spaces.

Next the pillars to support the gables and roof are cut to length and tenoned.  I’ve used silver birch on this one.  I think they should last OK as they are kept dry under the roof.  I first get them down to near 1 inch with the draw knife, and then use the rounder plane.

SAMSUNG CSCI’d normally do this with the Veritas 1 inch tenon cutter, but I’d neglected to recharge the drill batteries so I just finished then off with the tenoner by hand – it leaves neater shoulders than the rounder.

SAMSUNG CSCI use a V-block in the horse to nip the columns which prevents damage to the bark (thanks David).  Do you like the multiple reducers to get the T-bar onto the hex drive?  Works though but.

Start assembly now, in with the columns.


SAMSUNG CSCThen the gables, this is a bit fiddly as the column positions need to be marked from where the column tops land – round wood can be a bit curvaceous (which adds to the charm, I think).

SAMSUNG CSCYesterday was a new style day.  The customer wanted to be able to hang feeders from a stick so I pierced the gable to take one.

SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCI wanted the stick to run through both gables so I needed to align through the first hole into the second gable, could have done with a slightly longer auger, but managed anyway.


On with riven oak roof shingles, pre-drilled and nailed with galvanised nails.

SAMSUNG CSCThen I split some round wood for edgings, having first nailed through into the tenons.   Drill through the table to fix onto the 6 foot pole with 4 inch coach screws (not forgetting to washer them). That’s about the bird table finished, do try this at home.  All you need is to make a couple of shepherd’s chairs to produce the waste for materials 😉

Sorry about the dull pictures, the weather was dull too!

Rounder plane

A rounder plane makes the tenon part of a round mortice and tenon joint.  ‘Tenon’ a fifteenth century French/Latin word meaning holding on, same root as ‘tenant’ one who holds land.  ‘Mortice’ Norman word, origin obscure, but used since the 14th century, meaning essentially a hole that takes a tenon to form a secure joint.

Anyway, a rounder plane is a bit like a pencil sharpener.  The blade is set at a tangent to a hole into which you insert the stick upon the end of which you would like to make a tenon.  The infeed of the hole is conical, the end of the hole is a cylinder of the desired finished diameter. Very simple.  No idea when these things came to be made, but they are very handy when you don’t want to use the lathe e.g because the rest of the blank is very irregular, and would not turn well, like the leg of one of my deer:

(These are old ones, I prefer to choose leg branches with ‘knees’ in now)

So, making a rounder plane, first turn your blank:

This is just two handles and a thick bit for the cutting business where the blade will be mounted.

Then thin the middle down with flats:

Bore a hole of the appropriate finished diameter This one is one inch):

Sorry about the lack of focus; it’s getting rather gloomy in my workshop at this time of year, no direct sunlight for a couple of months.

Then the infeed, where the stick starts its journey into becoming a tenon, is opened up into a cone (I used my knife):

Funny, if you’d asked me, without looking at the plane, I’d have said the hole was in the middle, but, of course, it’s offset to give more meat where the blade is mounted.

Then a couple of saw cuts at accurate angles to finish the blank:

Now I think you can see how the stick blank is gradually cut down to a cylinder.  The blade will be mounted on the left-hand flat.  Just need the blade and fixings … I have this idea … If your stick is thicker than the entrance hole, you’ll be needing some work with the draw knife.

Been making this too:

And mending clogs:

New heels with beech wedges to take up the wear.  Just need the glue to set and then trim.

To be continued …



High Head Green Gathering

Last weekend Jane and I went to High Head Green Gathering. We thought it would be different. It was!

Not having been to any of these green festivals before we didn’t really know what to expect. Essentially this one was a music festival based on a farm with woodland. No generators, just solar power. Crafts as a side-show (me and a blacksmith, a timber framer). A healing section (don’t know much about this – there was Yoga). Food stalls – The Pizza Slut was fired on hand saw cut wood burning ovens. Very interesting and very different experience for us.

Lots of smoak:

And fire:

We made some of it, here is Red Boy, a Vietnamese charcoal burning stove we bought in France a while ago, burning my charcoal it gets very hot:

(I’m not sure what that steel ruler is doing on the floor!)

We also found our Kelly kettle fitted it perfectly:

The new Dutch oven fitted it well too (sorry no photo) and we cooked a great all-in-one chicken casserole on Sat’di night, and fried b*con for Sunday lunch sandwiches. It’ll be bread next time too. We used the old boy so much it’s now needing a repair to the tin outside skin, luckily I have some olive oil tin left over from the blacksmithing lessons.

There was also fire at night, with lots of luminous balloons, glow sticks, nightlights behind white umbrellas and a bit of a fire dance:

Unfortunately there was a bit of audience participation too, but no injuries; “I can jump through those too … “:

I also did a bit of work with the festival goers’ children:

The shave horse and draw knife were very popular. I found that children’s arm joints are more flexible than mine which will not bring the blade in far enough to injure. So I rapidly made up a slab of ash on a necklace as a “Tummy Tector”, to avoid “spoiling your T-shirt”! They also enjoyed splitting billets.

It was a bit like the sixties that I seem to have missed out on somehow in my long lost teenage: