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 …



Cunning little vixen

A prototype fox is now hanging around the deer, and I’m rather concerned about his interest in this prototype mini deer.

My wife, Jane, developed the little deer and that’s what inspired me to try a fox, which has been mooted for some little time.  Recent visitors to the bodgery will have noted that the fox is now a gang of two, and the new recruit has a meaner, hungrier, sharper-nosed look, and looks fleeter of foot.

These should get round the stock problems such as “Can’t fit it in the car/Can’t carry it to the car/Not enough room in the garden for it, now the car has swallowed up most of it etc, etc.

Another deer course today with much auger wielding, shaving making, antler trimming, fun and as a bonus … mallet swinging (note these Bobby-socks feet!)

Squealing of the rounder plane

And of course the usual amount of sitting about drinking tea and eating soup and rolls.

By the way the “Twig Nook” name plate is now on its way to Wales, where it looks like sparking a house re-naming!