Finch Aviary

Finch aviary built out of construction lumber and 1/4" sheet plywood
A floor-standing cage, an aviary, for my wife's pet finches. She had a single pet store cage, but once her first pair started breeding, and we realized how much she liked that part of keeping birds, we realized she was going to need more space. So I was tasked with creating an aviary of significant size, so they would have more room to fly. I asked for dimensions and we settled on an inside area of 2½' in depth, 4' wide, and 4' high. And it needed large doors in the front for access and cleaning, and smaller doors on one side for feeding and daily access.   

Original design we found on Amazon. My wife wanted something like this, but wider.We looked on Amazon for pre-built large bird cages, but didn't find exactly what we wanted. The closest we found was an attractive model from Trixie, but my wife wanted it to be wider so the finches would have more room to fly. The second consideration was that it needed to be fairly easy to build. Third, and probably most critically, it needed to be built around whatever metal cage grid I could buy in large enough format so that I didn't have to piece together smaller cage grills. And fourth, I wanted to keep the cost down, so I planned to build with plain old construction lumber that I could buy in a big box store.

After watching a bunch of Youtube videos by people who've built bird aviaries, I realized I needed a bit more specific detail. Who knew that there were so many considerations when housing birds. The Youtube bunch had built to house a variety of birds, from parakeets all the way up to giant eagles and owls. Obviously, the materials and constraints change when you're desiging for a parakeet vs. an owl. In many ways, finches are easy. Their beaks are small enough, you don't have to worry about them snapping thinner grill materials, (something you *do* have to worry about for large parrots and raptors.) But finches are also very delicate, and will quickly die if exposed to unfortunate chemicals, like the stuff used to treat pressure-treated lumber, or the zinc used to coat most wire products to prevent rust. Fencing delivered in 5 daysI found the most useful information in a pet finch discussion forum. People have used everything from plastic screen material to those wire shelving units for closets.  Someone there suggested an online fencing company out of New Jersey as a good place to find many options. For this application, the right material turned out to be 1/2" x 1/2" PVC vinyl-coated welded wire mesh. I ordered a 24" by 50' spool. Academy Fence delivered quickly and the stuff is exactly what I needed. Shipping was expensive, but I have enough material for two (or possibly three) of these giant aviaries, and the material itself was a good deal compared to other options. If I know my wife, I'll probably end up building a second one at some point.   

Grid materialOrdering and receiving the grid was the key. Once that was in-hand, I could design around the dimensions of the fencing material and the construction lumber I would buy to size parts. I broke out Sketchup and designed it from the ground up. 

Note: I update from the design in the Sketchup file. This is a large bird cage, but once I cut the legs, I realized the top would actually be just about at my eye level. I decided I wanted to be able to see the birds, too. So I lengthened the legs by 10", moving the entire structure up 10" higher off the ground. I'll probably also reinforce the legs with a shelf near the ground to strenthen them. The longer legs with lots of weight on them, particularly with casters mounted in each leg, make me nervous.

Here's the design as finished in the Sketchup file:

My design for the aviary Structure from the side, showing access doors on the right side

3/28/2016 -- Note, when building around 24" wide fencing material, it may make more sense to make the depth just a bit wider than 24". Ended up cutting one row of the grid material off for the bottom and walls. 

4/3/2016 -- The left wall, as designed, doesn't leave room for the grid to be attached to the wall and then the bottom of the structure to be installed. I ended up installing the grid on the top half and attached the bottom to the bottom half of the bottom piece of that left wall.


Thursday, February 25, 2016 to Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Finished project?: 

Workbench Stretchers

  • Posted on: 23 February 2016
  • By: Jay Oyster

Gluing up stretchersIn the last month, I've made some progress. I had finally picked out the pieces to function as stretchers for my bench, sifting through my dwindling supply of silver maple lumber. I don't have anything really thick, so I made each stretcher by cutting a long piece to function as the tenon on each end, and a shorter piece to thicken the center of each part.  I managed to thickness plane and joint all of this rough lumber back around the New Year, then I glued up my stretchers.

Stretchers laid out for mortisesMarking the mortises from the tenons on the legsWith all four stretchers glued and once again jointed square, I laid out the entire undercarriage of the workbench for the first time. I Used the tenons to mark the mortises on the legs. As in the original Christopher Schwarz design, I'm trying to make all of the outer surfaces of the bench fit on the same plane, so the legs and edges of the bench will all serve as bracing surfaces for work.  Having that shared plane for the outer surfaces of the stretchers and legs made it easy to layout and mark the mortises. I just placed both pieces on a flat surface and traced around the tenen end. 

Stretchers glued up and placed for mortise layout

Fixing Door Sag

  • Posted on: 23 February 2016
  • By: Jay Oyster

One thing I've noticed as I've used my wall hanging tool cabinet is that the doors have started to sag. The cabinet box is 3/4" birch plywood, and the doors include face moldings as decoration. That, and the fact that each door holds a full complement of tools means that the doors are very heavy. Even the full length piano hinges i used to attach each door to the frame are not enough to keep the doors vertical. Plus, I suspect that the weight may even bow out the sides of the box.

Tool cabinet door support I had counted on the magnets mounted in the top frame would hold the doors vertical, but that has turned tou to not be enough. In fact, the right door has been sagging enough lately that I can't even get the magnet to engage the steel attach plate. 

Door support block shown from above, screwed from top

Review: CAGLumber - Gainesville, Georgia

  • Posted on: 9 February 2016
  • By: Jay Oyster

CAGLumber is not easy to find on the Old Cornelia Highway, just outside of Gainesville, GeorgiaI realized last month that I'm short of material for both of my current active projects. I need several long thin pieces of quarter-sawn sycamore for the jewelry cabinet project, to build the doors. And I need a thick, wide piece of maple to fashion the leg vice for the workbench project. Since moving to Georgia, I haven't needed to buy any lumber. So, aside from the usual suspects in the retail woodworking stores, and their lumber selection is sparse, and expensive, I didn't really know where to go. The trick, you see, is the sycamore. Most lumber stores, even the full, professionally stocked ones, often don't carry sycamore. It's not a terribly popular wood, even among woodworkers. After a hunt at Woodfinder, I located exactly one lumber store within a hundred miles that claims to stock sycamore. CAGLumber is about 70 miles outside the Northeast perimeter of Atlanta, up on the other side of Gainesville, GA. I have no affiliation with this business, and no other knowledge about them, aside from the experience I'm about to convey. 

Map to CAGLumber relative to AtlantaTheir website made them look like a small, Mom and Pop type of operation, but they did list quarter-sawn sycamore as something they have in stock. The other part of this that was important was that it looks like the website had been updated within the last few months. That's not always the case with small lumber suppliers, and you never know until you call if they're still in business. The site listed their hours as weekday only, but they did mention that they will open on Saturdays if you call ahead. I called and spoke to a very helpful gentleman, and his attitude was basically, 'Sure, I can be here on Saturday. I live in my house right here and if you call me right before you come over, I can walk over to the shop.' And he assured me they did in fact have a nice selection of quarter-sawn sycamore in stock and some very nice thick pieces of maple. I said Thank you, and planned a trip for that Saturday. 

Christmas Gift - Lie-Nielsen Rabbet Block Plane with Nicker

  • Posted on: 3 January 2016
  • By: Jay Oyster

Adriana got me one woodworking gift for Christmas this year, but it was a really good and useful one. I had been asking for a hand plane that I could use in corners. She splurged and got me the specific one I had hoped for, a Lie-Nielsen Rabbet Block Plane with Nicker, Number 1-60-1-2R-N. Boy, what a mouthful. But it's a beauty, and for the price, it works just as you would expect. I did touch up the sharpness out of the box, but I really didn't need to. 

My new toy, the LIe-Nielsen Rabbet block planeIt's a gorgeous tool and along with my two other LN hand planes, will no doubt last my lifetime and probably those of my sons. Here, some tool pron. . . 

As with all of Lie-Nielsen tools, they're traditionalists. Unlike Lee Valley, they don't seem to feel the need to improve on the classics. It's got an impressive heft, and it's wicked sharp. The blade is a custom shape with flanges on each side to extend out into the rabbet corners at each edge. The nickers are round blades screwed into each side of the blade. As shipped, they come with a flattened section facing down so  you're not apt to cut yourself when first handling it. One of the only criticisms I could really come up with for this tool is that it is a bit tricky to loosen the screw and tighten it down in a way that the sharp edge is down.

Case Back Installation

  • Posted on: 2 January 2016
  • By: Jay Oyster

After the holidays, I managed to grab just a bit of time before heading back to work to accomplish some work on my jewelry armoire project. At this point, I've got only two projects in progress, my two big dinosaurs. The jewelry armoire is now up on a dolly so I can work on all sides. My Roubo workbench parts are glowering at me from a corner of the shop. She'll have to wait. (I've decided the workbench is a 'she'.)

I took a gift I received from my beautiful wife for Christmas as an excuse to put the back on the armoire case. I know that doing the back is usually left until the end, but I wanted to use my new Lie Nielen rabbet block plane to cut the edge rabbets on the shiplapped back panels. When I went to pull the lumber for the back, I realize that, as usual with a project that hangs around too long, the poplar lumber originally earmarked for the job had been used for something else. So I started by going to Home Depot and buying some clean poplar. (Quick and expensive, but no more delays.) I thickness planed the plank down to 1/2" and then sized three pieces for the back.

Shiplapped case back installed

Review: Snappy 25 Piece Countersink and Hex Drill Bit Set

  • Posted on: 28 December 2015
  • By: Jay Oyster

Snappy Countersink and Driver bit set

Review of the Snappy 25 Piece Countersink Drill and Driver Set as purchased from WoodCraft. Reviewed on December 28th, 2015.

One of my wife's Christmas gifts to me this year was this Snappy 25 Piece drill bit set. Originally, I had put the Rockler 10 piece (approximately) countersink set on an Amazon wish list, but when she talked to the local Rockler, they were amazed at the price listed on my wish list, which had been something like $30, and they said they were all sold out, "Not surprising, really, at that price." And Rockler didn't have anything that matched that in stock, so she went to the Alpharetta WoodCraft. They pointed her to the Snappy set.

Woodcraft lists this set on their website at $80. It is 100% American made and assembled, and my wife knows I am willing to pay a premium to support American manufacturers, so she got it. She tells me she got a much better price than that in the week before Christmas. With only a couple of fairly minor nitpics, I really like this set and decided I should formally review it so others might decide to get it as well. I feel it is worth the money.

What you get -- In the plastic packaging, you get a set of five counter-sink drill bits in the standard American sizes, two countersink stop collars, seven drill bits in 1/4" hex shank adapters, six driver bits, a couple of allen wrenches, a nylon carrying case, and best of all a Snappy 1/4" hex quick change chuck. Overall, the set seems to be machined very well. All of the pieces have a good heft to them, especially the chuck. 

The Bane of Work Life in 2015 - Organizational Standards

  • Posted on: 18 November 2015
  • By: Jay Oyster

Working in corporate America, one is surrounded every day by the endless jargon of endless variants of organizational standards theory. In the manufacturing world, it was all ISO 9000. In the IT world, everything is all about ITIL. And everywhere you go, you see the religion of Jack Welch, the high holy Six Sigma. And there are sub-variants for particular areas of operation. Project management has Agile and Scrum. Purchasing has LEAN. Every department has a well-branded theory these days.

Do you know what the point is of all of this? It's really quite simple. It's to get people to do what they would have done anyway if anybody had any common sense.