22 November 2011

School Daze

Since we returned from vacation I've been working double-time to complete projects that are soon (or past!) due.  The one that's been vexing me the most and causing me to tear out small chunks of hair and cry spontaneously has been the birdhouse project.

Yes, you read that right: 
Bird. House.

Initially, I had a fabulous idea.  Like,
beyond amazing.  My plan had been take a piece of log - what I ended up purchasing was birch - and hollow it out to create a wooden tube with a 4-to-6 inch interior diameter and an inch-thick wall.  The top was to be slanted at 30 degrees, with a square 10 x 10 x 1 roof of natural pine.  The base was to be the same dimensions as the roof, but attached to the house by a hinge and a hook, so it could be unhooked and tipped open at the end of every season to clean it out for the next inhabitants.  If I was feeling really adverturous, I was going to try my hand at installing a small door in the back, which would open to a plexi-glass window so that mid-season, you could peek at the bird family in residence without causing them any distress.  It was all perfectly planned, and would have been fabulous except ...

Do you know how hard it is to hollow out a log?  Yeah, it's hard. 
Really hard.  My good friend (she of the amazing Hallowe'en displays) pulled out all her best tools and we chopped-sawed and reciprocating-sawed and hammered and chiseled and drilled and sanded as best we could but to no avail.  The end result could be described perfectly in two words:


So we tried to tackle it another way, by cutting 12 inches of log into 5 smaller pieces, the better to drill through each section more easily.  The idea here was that once each segment was hollowed out individually, the rings could be glued together to form the foot-long tube I was looking for.  After another hour of chopping and grinding and quite a lot of swearing and laughing, the pieces started to snap off in the vise and we gave up.

Our next idea was to build a framework around which I could hot-glue or nail sticks of varying sizes.  The cap and base would still work in the same way, and the biggest challenge would be to find a way to drill the entrance hole without destroying the sticks in the process, and to fill the gaps between sticks in a way that looked relatively natural but also made the house as weatherproof as possible.

Didn't work.  Sigh.

So off I went to the dollar store to see what materials I could mine from there.  Ordinarily I can find everything and anything I need in the dollar store, and love trolling the aisles for creative ideas.  It really has become one of my favourite places, but not last night.  I don't know if it was the disappointment of not being able to make my initial idea work (which I still stand by and am SURE would have been awesome if only we'd been able to figure it out!  Still, the laughs were good) or if it was my overwhelming feeling of pointlessness with this project that blocked my creative chakra.  Whatever it was, we left more aimless than we were when we walked in, albeit with a bag stuffed full of items with possible-birdhouse-potential.

The end result, after hours of fiddling and super-gluing my fingers to just about everything (including together), here we have it:


Yeah, I know.  Sooooo lame.  I haven't found a way to affixed the top yet nor hang it from a tree, but I'm definitely working on it (I have to hand it in today so I better get a move on!)  Here's how this masterpiece came to be:

1. Purchase a gazillion of these bamboo boxes for two bucks each

2. Slice the bamboo sticks from around the box sides (and stab myself with the screwdriver a few times in the process)

3. Measure off pieces of bamboo wrap to size and glue to each side of a wooden box with fluted sides.  The flutes meant that there was large gaps at each corner, which I filled with smaller pieces of the bamboo, wrapped around each corner and glued to each side.  There are still narrow gaps at the top of these corner pieces, but that's OK.  The house needs ventilation and these are perfect to provide it!  Here's a view from the top, with the first layer of sides and corners attached.

4. The entrance to the house was made by gluing two plain wooden door signs together, then attaching a piece of circular metal to narrow the opening and ensure it's impervious to the attack of other birds.  In this case, the metal ring was adapted from a drain catcher, out of which we pried the wire mesh to leave just the metal cap, and then super-glued it in place.

5. A second layer of bamboo matting was attached to all four sides, for a bit of insulation.  The corner pieces were left as just one layer, for better ventilation.

6. I added some decorative detailing to the front and top by running the bamboo sticks horizontally versus vertically.  The lid is just an inverted plain wooden tray into which bamboo walls are nestled; it's a tight fit and I worry about compression causing the superglue at the base to fail, but I'll cross that bridge if I come to it.  And voila!  There we have it: the most lame (but hopefully effective) cut-and-paste project I've ever done.  I'm not happy with it per se, but it's important to own the process.  Stupid birdhouse.

More school updates to come later this week (hint: I've been busy!!)  Ciao for now!