Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 5/12/04

A Book Review by Ned Bulken

Title: Birdhouses

John Kelsey

Published by: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.
387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810
ISBN 1-85648-649-4
Price Softcover: $17.95 (Canada $27.95 )
144 pages

The book is divided into three main sections plus an index: 'Introduction', 'Birdhouse Woodworking' and finally 'The Birdhouse Projects.'

The Introduction sets the tone for the rest of the book, covering various styles and concerns when building birdhouses and nest boxes. Mr. Kelsey discusses where best to site the boxes, as well as how to mount them, and what predators to be concerned with. The photographs throughout are beautiful with vibrant colors, reproduced in vivid true-to-life color. The construction techniques are aimed at the novice woodworker.

In the section entitled Birdhouse Woodworking, Mr. Kelsey discusses material selection, stating the rougher grades work better for our feathered friends, allowing them better purchase when exiting the structures. He also recommends using commonly available barn shakes, wooden roofing shingles, and also recycled materials from dilapidated structures. He then describes the very basic shop benches, which can be used, as well as tools available and their proper usage, from hand tools to clamps, measuring devices and marking techniques. He addresses basic construction techniques, as well as how to correct some common mistakes such as drilling the entry hole too small. Perhaps the best portion of this section is a chart detailing no less than 74 species and the most appropriate size house, entrance size and placement, height of house above ground and habitat for each one. The book was written in England, so the dimensions are listed in both English and Metric measurements.

The Birdhouse Projects section covers 15 distinct designs of birdhouses, ranging from your basic slant roof box mounted on a pole, to a shelf designed for robins, and on up to the classic apartment structure for purple martins plus one bird feeder. Each chapter features a color photograph of the finished project plus a combination cut list and exploded view done in computer generated graphics with detailed dimensions. Following are step-by-step color photos with descriptive paragraphs for each photo, along with occasional advanced techniques as the book progresses.

This book is geared more for the beginning woodworker, however for those more experienced woodworkers it still offers fresh designs. I built two of the projects in one afternoon, a pair of robin nesting shelves and the Modern Birdhouse, which was designed by the architect Malcolm Wells. Each was easy to build with materials I had on hand in the shop. This is a well-written and thoughtful book, with excellent technical data on a wide variety of species combined with easy to follow step-by-step instructions for each project. It teaches basic woodworking skills, with quick and rewarding results from a progressive series of birdhouses and nesting boxes. The photography is very well done, both technically and contextually, the text accompanying each photo is concise and to the point. I would recommend this for anyone with an interest in providing shelter to our feathered friends, who is also looking for a pleasant read with excellent photography.

Ned Bulken

Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge in exchange for thoughtful, honest reviews. Thank You! And you can usually find their titles at a discount from Barnes And Noble

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