Christmas Gift | Birdhouse Ornament

For Christmas this year, I wanted to do something fun. I love making gifts for people, it gives you a sense of pride and purpose. I’m not the type of person that can do projects with no purpose, so gifts are a really great way to give me something unique and fun to do and maybe even learn a few new skills along the way. I had made a birdhouse for Ann’s grandmother previously so, inspired by that, I decided to make a Christmas tree ornament.


The first step is to figure out what I want this thing to look like. A simple gable roof design seemed classic and appropriate. Rounding the sides made it feel a bit more wimsical and felt nicer to me than straight sides (super technical, I learned that in architecture school). Proportion is also key here, don’t want it to look too tall or too wide and the size of the roof lines has to right for the body. After arriving at a sketch I was happy with, I drew it to scale on a bit of graph paper to use as a shop drawing.

The next step is to see what materials I already have. Little projects like this are a great way to utilize scraps, and any chance you can use what you have is one you should take. Looks I have white oak, walnut, purple heart and maple. This project calls for something classic, like white oak and walnut.

To the shop! (lol I called it a shop)


measure twice, handsaw once

After laying out the design on a piece of white oak, I chopped it on the miter saw to a manageable size. The holes need to clean so I used a drill press with a 1″ forstner bit for the larger hole. The smaller hole was made with a 1/4″ brad point bit. Both looked clean and I was happy. This is when I realized two things…

hmm, cutting that roof angle with any kind of saw (that I own) would be a good amount of sketchy


welp, I hate the divot left by the forstner bit in the larger hole, definitely doing something about that, how about a bird, yup doing a bird, totally doing a bird in the birdhouse

So naturally, I decide to use a gun. The pasty, white gun attached to my shoulder, holding a handsaw. I don’t own a miter box, so I had to clamp it in a vice. Due to the angle, I had to grip it on the very end. To keep the other end of my vice from going further (to keep nice, flat pressure on the piece), I used another piece of oak and some wood shims.

The saw is a japanese style saw (the teeth cut on the pull stroke rather than the push), which I find a bit more user friendly than the western saw. Make no mistake though, I am not a hand saw expert. I think this was my second time using it, and to be honest I find myself looking for excuses to use it again. Once you cut with a good quality handsaw, you find it has a fulfilling quality to it.

sanding like a millenial

Not too bad. Will just need clean up on the belt sander. Here is the one I have. It works pretty well for quick jobs that don’t require a high level of precision. Hand sanding with an abrasive paper flat on a dead flat surface will also work great…but the sander was looking at me and I got lazy and you would too so #nojudgementplease. The sides are a different story since theres no joinery or glueing involved, so sand away on the power sander; which I did.

the bird needs somewhere to perch

I had a walnut and a white oak dowel to choose from, and walnut made the cut, just looked better. Cut the roof panels and mitered them. At this point, I did hand sand everything to 220 grit. Some of the inside corners will be hard to get at once its glued up, so I wanted to get them now.

There was a flat base piece on the original sketch, which I made a piece of white oak for. But after fabricating it, the base didn’t feel right. I liked it much better without it; sorry bird no place for your friends to loiter.

bird is the word

After glueing up, I started on my little birdie. Not sure why, but I think it was my favorite part. The base shape was cut out with a hand saw. I mostly used different grits of sand paper to shape it. It was modeled after a goldfinch, since that is one of Ann’s grandmother’s favorite to watch in her yard.

After the glue dried, the whole thing was sanded to 220 grit.

Notice both sides of the roof are from the same piece of wood, so the grain continues across the roof. I can’t not do this…

That is not a large brush, this was small.

I repainted the bird a few times. Just had to get to a decent point and be done with it. Turned out well I thought.

finishing touches

The top got a brass screw hook to hang it on a tree branch. In order to give a hollow illusion, the inside of the larger hole was painted flat black. The whole thing (except the painted part) got 2 coats of danish oil.

Where edge of the hole meets the bird was going to be a problem visually. I knew the bird wouldn’t match the hole sides perfectly and I had to hide it somehow. Maybe some nest pieces. Those branches in the front yard will do.

I will definitely be making more ornaments in my future, this was super fun.

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