Stylish Bluebird House Plans
April 8th, 2022 | View Post


One of the completed and installed birdhouses
My friend's dad found the plans to this particular birdhouse on a handyman site. There is currently a sizable grass-roots effort across the United States to repopulate bluebird populations and these particular birdhouses are specifically designed for doing just that. Something about the shape and the opening is attractive to bluebirds over many other species.

This same friend of mine recently purchased a large piece of property deep in the woods and has been working to attract any number of bird species. I thought it would be fun to construct a few birdhouses for her property, but didn't really have a starting point. So I took these plans and made a number of “fancy” modifications to them just to make them much more aesthetically pleasing and hopefully much more durable in the elements.

The birdhouses are designed with a swivel door so that they can be easily opened and cleaned from time to time. While it’s not entirely necessary to include that functionality, they came out very nicely and the mechanics work well.

Materials Needed

Qty Item Purchase
Price
# Birdhouses
Per Item
Material
Cost
1 2x4 (pressure treated) $6.88 2 $3.44
1 1x12" Pine Common Board $27.36 2 $13.68
1 Everbilt 3/16" steel dowel rod $2.11 6 $0.35
5-pack Schlage interior bathroom key $4.99 5 $1.00
50-pack Uenhoy 5/8" diameter plastic bushing (50-pack) $8.99 12.5 $0.72
1 box 2" GRK #8 White Finishing Screws $16.99 8 $2.12
1 box Spax #8 1.25" multi-purpose screws $13.98 16 $0.87
1 box Spax #10 3" exterior screws (x3) $4.67 5 $0.93
1 box Spax #8 3/4" multi-purpose construction screws (x3) $2.78 12 $0.23
1 box #17 3/4" weatherstrip copper nails $2.10 3 $0.70
1 pack Everbilt Brass #4 5/8" Wood Screws $1.28 4 $0.32
1 roll Rolo 5.5mm Brass Chain $15.99 12 $1.33
1 sheet Zinc Sheet Metal (26 gauge) 18" x 12" $6.83 2 $3.42
1 White polystyrene molding 11/16 x 11/16 x 96" $5.36 2 $2.68
1 box #18 gauge 5/8" stainless wire brads $2.10 8 $0.26
1 can Colored exterior sample paint $4.98 2 $2.49
1 can White exterior paint $4.98 16 $0.31
2 2" foam paintbrush $0.98 1 $0.98
1 roll Painter's Tape $7.48 50 $0.15
1 can Rustoleum Semi-gloss black spray paint $4.98 8 $0.62
1 5" zinc plated 20-gauge tie plate $0.70 1 $0.70

Tools Required

  • Miter saw (ideally with fine tooth sawblade)
  • Jig saw (with wood and metal saws)
  • Drill
  • Various drill bits
  • 60 grit sandpaper
  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • 5/8" hole saw or paddle bit
  • Drill press
  • Wood clamps

Cutting out the Pieces

I won't go into all of the details on how to cut the dimensions of the birdhouse, namely as they're all available in some detail on the original website, but would instead just note that the project is probably easiest with a jigsaw. You can configure a table saw to do the cuts, but I found it much easier just to use the jigsaw and then handle any straightening during the sanding process.

I should note that this is also a perfect project for all of the scrap wood that you might have lying around. While the birdhouses are larger than any others I've built in the past, they still don't require all that much material. There are just three sides and a roof; the entire back and separating pieces inside of the birdhouse are all constructed from a single 2x4.

After you finish cutting out the pieces described in the plans, you should have 7 unique cuts of wood: two sides, a front door (without the door hole), a roof, the top 2x4, the midpoint 2x4, and the birdhouse stem 2x4.


The various pieces of wood for a single birdhouse after making all of the required cuts


A collection the assembled birdhouses

Birdhouse Assembly

The assembly of birdhouse should be pretty straightforward to anybody even nominally capable of doing craft construction projects. The original plans used nails for the construction, but I thought it would be nicer to use GRK finishing screws. These are extremely thin screws and have no kind of visible head on them. This makes them ideal for countersinking (which is of course why they're used for finishing). With a little dab of extra paint over the holes, the birdhouse will appear as if it has been glued together.

Incidentally, you can use wood glue for the entire process, but there's really no advantage and then have to wait for it to dry. If the goal is merely to hide the screws then either finishing or cabinet screws should do the trick. Either way, it's just a birdhouse so there's really no wrong way.


A rough version of what the door hole looks like after being cut. This one got a little scraped up, but it still works just fine

Cutting the Front Door Hole

I tried cutting the door hole using a variety of methods on my drill press, but the bottom line is that it's just very difficult to use a boring bit for overlapping holes. Not to mention, you'd still need to trim the edges of the hole slightly to get the ovular shape.

With that in mind, I found it best just to use a jigsaw. If you're going to be making several of these birdhouses at once (a I did), then it would probably be easiest to create some kind of template on paper first. This way you can just set the paper atop the door and use a punch or pin to "trace" out the door hole. Whatever method you use, the jigsaw will work best for the cut itself.

The original plans suggest scraping up the inside of the hole so that the birds have something to grip onto when entering the birdhouse. So don't worry about the hole not being perfectly smooth. This is actually to the advantage of the final product.

Painting the Birdhouse

Painting the birdhouse is a pretty simple and fun process. I found it easiest to use foam brushes. They're cheap, effective, and more than large enough for expedient painting. I wound up applying 4 or 5 coats to these birdhouses and sanded them with a high grit paper to give them a smooth-looking surface. Keep in mind that the first two coats are going to absorb pretty heavily into the wood, so you're really just create a base layer. You can apply a primer first if you want to, but I didn't think it was necessary to do this since it was just as easy to add additional coats.

Try not to get any paint on the inside of the birdhouse itself. I used some paper towels and tape to prevent this from happening, but you can also just be careful. It's likely that a little bit of paint will get inside of the door hole opening, but this can just be sanded out later. The airholes require slightly more attention as the plastic bushings won't properly fit if there is a buildup of paint inside of them.


Three of the birdhouses drying in the sun before the next coat


Continuing to add coats of paint to the birdhouses


Playing with one of the airhole bushings
Adding the Airhole Bushings

Once all of the painting is completed, you can finally install the plastic airhole bushings. These certainly aren't necessary, but add a really nice flair to the final product. They're also useful in preventing the airholes from getting warped and rotting out in any kind of way.

You may need to clean up the inside of the holes ever so slightly. I just used a small piece of 60 grit sandpaper to smooth them out. The 5/8" bushings should fit perfectly into the 5/8" holes you drilled. They're a light plastic, so be sure to use a gentle mallet if you encounter any resistance; they will definitely break if you hit them too hard.

Cutting the Trim Pieces

I'm not going to lie, this part is a real pain in the ass. It will absolutely require some kind of miter saw and ideally one with a high-tooth / sharp blade given you'll be cutting polystyrene. There's really no good way to join the two pieces along the front perfectly together at the bottom corners, but you can give the illusion of this with some careful cuts.


Testing one of the trim pieces against the front edge of a birdhouse
Since the birdhouse has been cut using 63 degree and 27 degree angles, you'll want to set the miter saw for 27 degrees. It's probably going to take a little playing with it to see which direction the molding has to be cut. I found it easiest to cut a piece about 20” long, place it along the front edge it’s going to be affixed to, and then use a pencil to draw the angled direction of cut.

The front molding will need to hang down slightly lower than the birdhouse walls so that it can be joined to the base molding.

I won't go into textual details on how to accomplish this, but if you look closely at the picture provided, you should be able to recreate the process. To keep myself humble, I should note that I went through quite a few pieces before I finally settled on a cutting pattern that worked for my tastes.

Attaching the Trim Pieces

Attaching the trim pieces is actually a pretty fun step. I decided to go with the copper nails for durability in the elements, but also because I happened to like the aesthetic of making them visible along the edges. I used my nail gun and air compressor for the first version, but found it difficult to purchase 3/4" brad nails at my local store. After experimenting with a few different materials, I found that the copper heads provided a good contrast against the black.

You can really do this part any which way you like, but I did meticulously measure out the sides and then affix the nails at even intervals. Again, this is entirely for the aesthetic of it. So long as the trim is properly affixed to the underlying wood, it'll work just fine.

Adding the Door Lynch Pin and Chain


Holding one of the lynch pins against the left side of the door. I wound up placing all of them on the right side of the birdhouses
I tried a variety of different locking pins and lynch pins for the front door, but none of them really accomplished what I was hoping to find. My Schlage keypadded door came with a special tool for opening the door in an emergency. I noticed that it was the perfect size for a lynch pin and found that I was able to order additional ones directly from the manufacturer on Amazon.

Use a 3/32 bit and drill the lynch pin hole so that it aligns with the bottom of the bird hole entrance. Be sure to align the drill on the side so that it's as centered as possible in the front door.

Once the hole has been drilled and you've tested the lynch pin, use about 4-5 inches of the brass 5.5mm chain and one of the #4 brass wood screws. The brass chain is malleable and should be easy to affix onto the side of the door. The lynch pin can just be slid into one of links of the chain and will rest in the looped part.

This part isn't entirely necessary, but given that the birdhouses should be cleaned at least once per year and the fact that the lynch pin is so small, it just seemed like a better way to ensure it doesn't get lost during cleaning.


Experimenting with the brass chain

Creating the Mount Points


Affixing the tie plate to the back of the birdhouse
Starting on the front side of the birdhouse, place a mark in the dead center of the 2x4 about 2" from the very bottom of the 2x4. Place another mark in the dead center of the 2x4 where the base of the house walls end. Using a 3/16” drill bit, drill holes through. These will be used for the mounting screws along the stem.

Flip the birdhouse over and place the tie plate at the very top so that just one row of holes is exposed above the birdhouse itself. Use a sufficient number of the Spax #8 3/4" construction screws to affix the tie plate to the back of the birdhouse. We'll use the center hole on the top row as a means to secure the top of the birdhouse to a tree. You can skip this step if you're planning to mount the birdhouse to a pole.

Affixing to a Tree


The ladder leading up to the mount point for the purple birdhouse
Insert a 3" #10 Spax Construction screw into each of the two holes on the stem. I found it best to get them started so that it was easy to screw them into the tree when I was hanging by the ladder. The two screws along the stem are likely more than enough to affix the birdhouse to a tree, but it's best to use the exposed tie plate as a final mounting hole.

The screws should be more than long enough to seal against the tree with a significant bit of pressure.

Best Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Recipe
March 28th, 2022 | View Post


Make sure that the starter is super bubbly
Having made dozens of near perfect sourdoughs at this point and having experimented with a variety of my own recipes for the perfect cinnamon raisin variety, I believe I have found the one that I'll stick with. It should be noted right off the bat that because cinnamon naturally inhibits the work of yeast in the proofing dough, many recipes call for adding additional yeast into the dough. I've actually found that this is unnecessary and merely requires letting the dough proof a bit longer than it normally might. Given the temperature of my own house, most sourdough will proof for me in about 8 hours time. This one takes closer to 12 hours, but comes out perfect every time.

I've also experimented with combinations of flour (between white, whole wheat, and rye) and have actually found that just using 100% bread flour works the best.

Build your starter however you normally do, but just make sure that the starter is super gaseous before you actually use it for the bread. It should float like a cork when you mix it with water.

The Recipe

In a large wooden mixing bowl add:

  • 520g white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
  • 110g raisins (no need to pre-soak them)
  • 40g raw sugar

Mix the dry ingredients before you add the starter so that they're evenly distributed.

In a measuring cup (or similar container) stir:

  • 90g starter
  • 385g water

Use a fork to mix 90g of your starter in 385g of water. Then pour the mixture into the bowl. Stir it up like you normally would for any other sourdough until it has a good doughy consistency. If it seems overly dry, add another tablespoon of water before starting the proofing process.


The dry mixture before stirring it up

Proofing and Folding

I use two initial folds 15 minutes apart and then two final post-proof folds.

Once the dough has been made, let it sit for 15 minutes and be sure to cover it with a damp cloth. After 15 minutes, do your initial folding, being sure to turn the bowl 90 degrees before each of the 4 folds. Once done, cover it with the damp cloth and let it sit another 15 minutes. After another 15 minutes passes (30 minutes from start), repeat the same folding process. Again, cover with a damp cloth and now let it sit for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, the dough should have risen to a satisfactory level and with any luck, you'll even find some gas bubbles trapped at the top of the dough. Perform the post-proofing folding the first time and replace the dough back into the mixing bowl. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and after this fold, place it into a metal bowl lined with parchment paper.


The final product
Sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, and white flour atop the dough and place it in the refrigerator for an hour. While it's cooling, set your oven to bake at 500 degrees and place your dutch oven inside. After an hour, remove the dough from the fridge and use your lame to make the top cut. Remove the dutch oven from the oven, move the chilled dough into the dutch oven (I always add plenty of parchment paper so that I can just pick it up like handles) and place it into the dutch oven. Put the dutch oven back into your oven with the lid on.

Bake for 21 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid. Bake for another 11 minutes.

The St. Louis Treehouse
Story circa February 17th, 2022 | View Post

This is by far my most favorite construction project I've ever worked on. It wasn't especially difficult nor did it take a lot of time. But the joy that came from this project is memorable to me.

Our room in the Iowa house was built with a loft in it. The room wasn't especially suited for a loft, but the owner of the house decided to build one in each room nevertheless. It did create more space and fit the overall quirkiness of the house. It was built by hand, mostly using 2x4s and some pine planks. There was a wooden ladder that we had to climb to get in and out of the bed. It was also fashioned out of 2x4s and literally just balanced against the opening in the loft bottom.


The page of plans I drew up before heading off to gather building materials.
The room had two giant windows in it and given Jordan's nightshift schedule, it was extremely difficult for her to get any good sleep in there during the day.

I drew up some plans one evening, purchased everything I needed at The Home Depot, and got to work on a solution.

I had already ordered some blackout curtains and so I framed out the top of the loft in the same fashion one would frame out a wall. I didn't want to anchor the studs into the wall to ensure I didn't destroy the plaster, and so instead fashioned a base plate from a 2x4 and then ran my vertical support columns off of that. While it had limited anchor points, it seemed to be sound. Normally I'd run a column every 16 inches (per modern building specs), but since it wasn't specifically intended to be structural and to save on a little wood, I ran the columns every 20 inches instead. Once the new wall was framed out, I cut up the blackout curtains and stretched them over the 2x4 studs like a canvas. The canvas was attached to the 2x4 frame using staples. I specifically wanted to ensure that it was easy to break through in the event that we ever needed to escape the room quickly. Regardless, the result was immediately noticeable. The room was entirely dark.

I ran the wiring into the bed area as necessary, setup various lights, and topped everything off with remote controlled switches. The entire area was sealed in with the blackout curtains. I wrapped them around the top portion of the window that also bled into the sleeping area. I purchased a standard VESA mount at the store and mounted our TV inside of the loft off of one of the vertical 2x4 columns. Of course we had a small bag of remote controls on our bedside.


A photo taken from halfway up the ladder where you can see the "upstairs" and "downstairs"
Finally, there was a hole where the ladder was designed to allow us to climb up into the loft.

This let a good deal of light through and so it needed to be fixed. I fashioned up a small hatch door, attached it to a counter-weighted pulley system, and voila, our treehouse was born.

It provided the dark quarters Jordan needed for sleeping and was probably about the most enjoyable little escape you could find in a home. To make it feel a little bit larger, I purchased a bunch of rectangular mirrors from Lowe's and had them fastened to the walls within the treehouse. This gave the illusion that the treehouse went on for infinity and beyond and made all of the colored lights look especially cool. Jordan had also purchased me a few different lights, one for Christmas and one just because. I fashioned these into the area and the illusion was complete. We had tons of fun up there for the few months it existed.

As the lease was coming up, the treehouse needed to be taken down. I didn't help with this process and instead Jordan took it apart by herself.


Purchasing the mirrors we needed for the treehouse walls


Jordan and I in the finished treehouse

Updating the Database
February 12th, 2022 | View Post

As a small technical note for my blog, I've been busy writing a ton of code to fix some of the issues that have recently come up. I'd been working on this over the past several months, but took a bit of a break in January while tending to other things. I've written about this rather extensively before, but most of the problems stem from Apple stupidly reorganizing the way they store photos within the iPhoto app.

While they used to keep a tight directory structure on your photos disk (making it extremely easy to RSync to one's personal server), they are now using some kind of hex-based directory structure and simply add all of the photos into these folders using $0 through $F (eg: ~/0/, ~/1/, ... ~/F/). Worse still is that they include the photos in the directories seemingly at random.

This makes it extremely difficult to find your new files and move them where they need to go. Yes, you can use the export feature, but this is SUCH a slow process and makes absolutely no sense for storing your own photos on your own system. It's absolutely bonkers that they've adopted this new structure.

Of course this is all in line with Apple taking the blue ribbon for "most evil tech company". They're quite clearly doing this to make it more and more difficult for people to use software outside of the Apple realm thus ensuring that people stick with iPhoto (and much more insidiously, their Cloud services). I've been writing about this for nearly 20 years now and this is just the latest example of it.

This required me writing code that would look at the MD5 checksum for every single file and then compare those to the files that I already had on my server. The ones that were missing were copied into one of the new directories and processed.

I still have a ton of photos needing to be sorted, but it's coming along in my spare time.

Clearing Claire's Land
February 8th, 2022 | View Post


The Husqvarna Chainsaw and accessories I purchased
My dear friend Claire purchased a sizable piece of property in the general Asheville, North Carolina area about a year ago. I had been wanting to visit her for awhile and unfortunately wound up canceling a few potential visits with her towards the end of 2021. So I thought I'd make the drive out her way and spend a few days with her. A few days turned into a week and a week turned into three weeks. It's a beautiful area.

Since I always love having a good project that I can work on - this is generally how I thrive the most - I asked her if there was anything at her house that she needed done. She explained to me how she wanted to clear out all of the smaller trees in the forest next to her house so that it was walkable and so that the larger trees would continue to thrive. Unfortunately, she mentioned how she only had a small electric chainsaw.

Since I hadn't gotten her any kind of house-warming present, I drove over to the local Tractor Supply Company and purchased her a nice 14" Husqvarna Chainsaw. I also had to pickup a gas can, some oil, and a few chains.

I'd basically spend the mornings cutting down trees with the chainsaw, lopping off the smaller branches, and then either cutting the trunk into firewood logs or dragging the trunk (in the case of smaller trees) up the hillside to our giant pile.


Cutting down one of the trees in the forest

Over the course of about 3 weeks, I wound up cutting down somewhere between 250 and 300 trees. I referred to this as "chainsaw therapy". We had a massive snowstorm come through sometime during my visit with her. This cut into my morning therapy sessions, but as soon as the snow cleared, I got right back to it.


The massive firewood pile that I wound up creating for Claire.

In cutting down all of the trees, I wound up creating five massive brush piles. While this is to be expected, we still needed to get rid of them. Her friends Geoff and Ashleigh came over one afternoon just as I had started burning off some of the brush. Everybody wound up chipping in and helped me drag literally thousands of branches to our massive brush fire.

While we didn't burn off everything (namely as we'd have needed a few more hours and we had a birthday party to plan for), we got three of the giant brush piles entirely removed.


Geoff helping me to burn off some of the extra brush


Standing in front of the ember pile the next morning

Finally, and just before I wound up leaving, there was another giant snowfall. It was spectacular seeing the snow cover the area that I had just cleared out. It entirely changed the look and feel of her property. I'm going to head back there in a few weeks and work on cutting out some hiking paths. I'm told I need to get there before all of the giant forest spiders start coming back out. I'm not a fan of spiders.


The cleared forest after the snowfall

Why PropB Won't Fix our Homeless Camps
April 17th, 2021 | View Post

If you're wondering how to vote on Austin's PropB this May, I can't help you with that. But if you're wanting to get a deeper perspective as to why the homeless camps have continued to run as they have, then look no further.

Newly Created Albums


Recent Posts
Preparing the New Site
Walnut and Maple Art Easel
3-Layer Instrumental Jam
Herman Sourdough
Crafting Rachel's Easel Legs
Opening Up a Fresh Durian
Stylish Bluebird House Plans
Best Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Recipe
The St. Louis Treehouse
Updating the Database


Blog Archives
Recent Posts
June 2022 ( 2 )
May 2022 ( 2 )
April 2022 ( 3 )
March 2022
February 2022 ( 3 )
April 2021 ( 2 )
August 2019
September 2018
September 2017
August 2017 ( 10 )
July 2017 ( 5 )
December 2016
November 2016
November 2015
October 2015
March 2015 ( 3 )
January 2015
October 2014
September 2014 ( 4 )
August 2014 ( 6 )
July 2014 ( 7 )
June 2014 ( 8 )
May 2014 ( 3 )
April 2014 ( 2 )
February 2014
January 2014 ( 4 )
December 2013 ( 4 )
November 2013 ( 2 )
September 2013
August 2013 ( 3 )
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013 ( 2 )
March 2013 ( 2 )
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012 ( 4 )
October 2012 ( 2 )
September 2012 ( 4 )
August 2012
July 2012 ( 8 )
June 2012
May 2012 ( 6 )
April 2012 ( 7 )
March 2012 ( 4 )
February 2012 ( 5 )
January 2012 ( 4 )
December 2011 ( 5 )
November 2011 ( 2 )
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011 ( 5 )
July 2011 ( 6 )
June 2011 ( 2 )
May 2011 ( 3 )
April 2011 ( 3 )
March 2011 ( 2 )
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010 ( 2 )
November 2010 ( 2 )
September 2010
August 2010
June 2010
March 2010
February 2010 ( 3 )
November 2009
June 2009
May 2009 ( 3 )
April 2009
March 2009 ( 2 )
February 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
May 2008 ( 2 )
March 2008
January 2008
December 2007
July 2007 ( 2 )
June 2007 ( 2 )
May 2007
December 2006
October 2006 ( 3 )
July 2006
May 2006 ( 2 )
April 2006
December 2005
October 2005
September 2005 ( 5 )
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005 ( 3 )
May 2005
April 2005
December 2004
November 2004 ( 6 )
May 2004
February 2004 ( 3 )
January 2004
December 2003 ( 9 )
November 2003 ( 5 )
August 2003
July 2003 ( 15 )
June 2003
September 2002
August 2002
May 2002
April 2002
December 2001 ( 2 )
July 2001
April 2001 ( 3 )
February 2001 ( 5 )
November 2000
September 2000
May 2000 ( 2 )
March 2000 ( 2 )
December 1999
November 1999 ( 3 )
October 1999 ( 5 )
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999 ( 8 )
June 1999 ( 2 )
May 1999 ( 3 )
April 1999
March 1999
December 1998
November 1998 ( 2 )
October 1998 ( 3 )
September 1998
July 1998 ( 2 )
June 1998
April 1998
March 1998
November 1997
October 1997 ( 2 )
June 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
November 1995
September 1995 ( 2 )
July 1994
Complete Listing