Thursday, April 29, 2010

These are for the birds

Spring is here so I built a few birdhouses. Actually I built one new one and refurbished two others, all with scrap wood. Admittedly, they are not much to look at, but they meet all the latest recommended birdhouse dimensions and include all the latest recommended features. I’m not sure the birds care how the outside of their houses look.

There are some interesting things to consider when building a birdhouse. For instance, the size of the entrance hole and height above the floor of the birdhouse is very important to appeal to the right species of bird. Also, the popular perch stick is just below the entrance hole is not needed, nor recommended. It provides a place for predators to sit and wait. Another feature to prevent hungry squirrels from chewing through the hole area is to reinforce the hole with a ¾” thick block of wood, making the entrance passage longer. All the specifications and suggestions you will need are on the internet. If you are interested, go to the following websites: or

After I finished hanging the birdhouses on nearby trees, I got to thinking maybe birdhouses are an opportunity to get creative. As long as all the proper dimensions and features are included, and the birds don’t really care what the house looks like, why not carve something on the front. Perhaps a wood spirit or something humorous. Here’s a challenge: Design a clever birdhouse and send me a photo of it. I’ll publish the best ones on the blog.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"A Reverence for Wood" by Eric Sloane

What books do you keep on the nightstand near your bed or on the shelf next to your favorite chair? Those books (and magazines) probably say a lot about who you are and what is important to you. The subtitle of this blog, “a reverence for wood”, was not chosen casually. One of the five or six favorite books on my nightstand is “A Reverence for Wood” by Eric Sloane, originally published in 1965. Actually, the book I have is called “Sketches of America Past” and combines two other Sloane books, “Diary of an Early American Boy” and “A Museum of Early American Tools” along with “A Reverence for Wood”, in a single bound edition.

I first read “A Reverence for Wood” back in the early 1970’s and remember being totally captivated by it. I have re-read it many times since then. It’s my kind of book, lots of interesting illustrations, all by Eric Sloane himself. It is also a historical book about “the old ways” of making practical things out of wood. It shows that our ancestors had close relationship and intimate understanding of wood that, for the most part, has been lost by our present generation. It is a book about history and the ingenuity of the early American pioneers. It has definitely been an influence on my life and my pursuit of woodcraft.

I was not going to post this entry on my blog since I couldn’t imagine my blog visitors, most of who are interested in woodworking, as not having already read “A Reverence for Wood”. It is practically required reading for anyone interested in wood. But then I thought perhaps there are people out there, especially visitors from other parts of the world, who may never have heard of the book. But even if you have read the book before, it is worth getting a copy and going through it again. Every time I open it, it gives me a new incentive to go make something out of wood.

Have you read “A Reverence for Wood”? What are your thoughts about the book, or other books by Eric Sloane?