Make it Wild – Bird boxes!

YuKonstruct and Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust‘s November Make it Wild Workshop was about making bird boxes for Yukon’s small cavity nesting birds–swallows, bluebirds and chickadees. The participants learned about local bird populations, tips to avoid squirrels, and how to pick a good spot to mount a bird box. Most of our participants were new to both YuKonstruct and the birding community – thanks for coming out!

This workshop was very popular and was sold out almost immediately. Because there was so much interest, we are providing Marty’s bird box plans here so that you can come into YuKonstruct and make one yourself!

Thanks to our biologist presenters and instructors for this excellent workshop: Katie Aitken and Marty Mossop!


  • Find a hollow log or one that’s rotten in the middle.
  • Cut about a 1 foot section. One end should be angled a bit, so that the roof will shed water.
  • Hollow out the entire log. A hammer and chisel (or even a big screwdriver) works well. An auger drill bit is best if the wood is hard. The diameter of the inside should be at least 10cm (4”) for chickadees, 13cm (5”) for swallows and bluebirds.
  • Drill the entrance hole with a hole saw. It should be about an inch below the top of the log. The diameter of the hole needs to match the size of bird (big enough for the bird to get in/out but not big enough for predators to gain access).  Range is 1-3/8” for chickadees, 1-3/8” to 1-1/2” for swallows, and 1-1/2” to 1-9/16” for bluebirds.
  • Nail/screw on a plywood top and bottom, to cover the open ends of the log. Screws allow the roof to be easily removed for cleaning etc. (although cleaning isn’t necessary).
  • Fill the bottom of the box with an inch or two of woodchips/sawdust.  The birds will bring in any other nest material that they need.  There should be several inches between the entrance hole and the top of the sawdust.
  • If desired, put wire mesh (1/2″ hardware cloth) or metal plating around the entrance hole to stop squirrels from making it bigger
  • Nail/screw a piece of lumber, a bit longer than the log, to the back for attaching to a tree, post, wall, etc.
  • It’s best to mount the box on a metal pole so that predators such as cats/squirrels/chipmunks/mice can’t get to it.  Another option would be the side of a building that has smooth siding that a predator can’t climb.  Avoid larger trees and fence posts as those are easy for predators to climb.
  • If you have outdoor cats, please consider not putting out a box (or a bird feeder).
Home sweet home: Mountain chickadee nestlings in a bird box!

More resources!

Nest box plans (also have information on avoiding predators, box placement, etc.):

Nest box monitoring/reporting:

Make it Wild!

YuKonstruct has partnered with the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust to host a series of workshops called Make it Wild! 

When you take part in Make it Wild!  you will build, craft, and create projects that give you hands-on opportunities to restore or protect fish, wildlife and their habitat. In addition to creating an awesome project, we will bring in experts to teach you more about the animal you have created your project for, as well as how to be a more involved steward of Yukon fish and wildlife.

We are kicking off the series with our Bat House Workshop on April 14th. Keep your eyes peeled for workshops almost every month of the year including: bird box building, fishing tackle, smokers, window decals and more!

Check our events page ( for all Make it Wildworkshops.

Thanks Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust for helping us to host Make it Wild!

Member’s Project: A Telescope Built From Scratch

Why don’t you just buy one?

That’s a question I’ve heard countless times, and when it comes to building a telescope, you really have to think about it twice. After all, buying a decent telescope is quite easy and relatively cheap. You can get a good view at the moon, the planets and some galaxies for a few hundred dollars including shipping to Whitehorse. On the other hand, building a telescope is an arduous task; you have to find the materials, build your own tools and spend hundreds of hours around a polishing stand. it also involves a lot of patience and precision. At first sight, anyone sensible would take 15 minutes to place an order on-line and wait for the telescope to arrive. Well, call me crazy… I chose the DIY option.

glass blank
The starting point: a blank of borosilicate glass

As a maker, I always favor building over buying, even if it costs more money for the final product. You simply can’t buy the pleasure and knowledge that you gain by building something yourself.

Silicon Carbide seeping through the tiles during rough grinding

Making the mirror of the telescope is the most time consuming part but also the most interesting. First, you need to order a circular piece of glass with a low coefficient of expansion (pyrex, zerodur, borosilicate, etc). Then you need to build a circular tool out of waterproof plaster, cover it with tiles and rub it against the glass with silicon carbide in between. Using finer grit will slowly make the concave surface smoother. Once you’ve reached the desired sagitta, you can polish the surface using a different tool; this one is covered with pitch and the polishing agent is cerium oxide. When you have a nice polished surface, you need to transform that spherical surface into a paraboloid. This is where the time consuming part begins. During that step you will remove a minute amount of glass to approach the perfect theoretical shape. If you complete that step successfully, your mirror will have a surface so regular that if you were to stretch it to the size of a football field, the highest default would only be a thousand of an inch high. Of course, to control the surface with such precision, you need to build a special instrument which takes even more time and material.

mirror on pitch
Polishing the mirror on pitch

When you’ve reach that step, it’s already been a few month since you began the project. However, if you managed to reach the desired precision, you most likely have a better mirror than most commercial mirrors.

Once the mirror is complete, it is sent for aluminizing. During this operation, a thin coat of aluminium is evaporated onto the surface of the mirror; this requires a vacuum pump and a high voltage source. As much as I would like to do it myself, I reckon it is not really worth building an entire vacuum chamber for a single mirror.

The mirror back from aluminization

The focal length is measured on the finished mirror.  We will use this measurement to design the tube of the telescope. I wanted to use something nicer than plywood so I went for red cedar trims that I resawed to get 1/4″ boards. These boards where assembled together using bird’s mouth joinery to form an hexadecagonal tube (16 sides). Some baffles were laser cut on YuKonstruct’s Epilog laser cutter; these will prevent internal light reflection. The tube was then painted black inside and coated with several coats of spar varnish to make it dew proof.

Building the 16 sided tube

The last step consists of putting everything together. A hole is drilled on the side with a hole saw to accommodate the focuser; a cell is built for the primary mirror and a support is made to hold the elliptical mirror in place. I went with a curved vane for the ease of build and for the fact that it will limit diffraction spikes around bright stars.

wooden telescope 25
Curved vane, focuser and mirrors in place

As I was busy building other things, it took about a year to complete the instrument. On the first afternoon after completion, I tried to locate Jupiter in the evening sky; it took about 5 minutes to spot it with the naked eye because the sun was still shining bright above the horizon. Once I found it, I aligned the scope and focused on the planet. As a first observation, I didn’t know what to expect. Well…turns out I saw details on Jupiter that I never saw before on other instruments.

I am now really eager to try it on deep sky objects on a dark winter sky. Next project: make a proper stand for the instrument.


first light
First light on Venus and Jupiter


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