How to Build a Japanese Pagoda Birdhouse

Written by debbie dragon
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Looking for a fun and challenging project to help pass these drab winter months? If you are a woodworking hobbyist, give yourself a real challenge and build an elegant Japanese pagoda birdhouse. The term "pagoda" refers to a tiered tower with multiple eaves--a style of architecture common in Asia and associated with Buddhist tradition. Japanese pagoda birdhouses mimic this architecture style and have multiple levels and eaves.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Plywood sheeting ½ inch thick
  • Measuring tape
  • Marking pencil
  • Electric saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Small bottle or other round object
  • Strong, weatherproof wood glue
  • Two lengths of 4' dowel
  • Router
  • Hammer
  • Decorative roof features
  • Non-toxic weatherproof paint and brushes

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  1. 1

    Study pictures of Japanese pagoda buildings and birdhouses to be found among the resources listed for this article, to orient yourself with this type of architecture.

  2. 2

    Measure 2" x 16" square, and 9" x 12" square pieces of plywood, then mark and cut them using the electric saw. The two large pieces will be the base of each level of the birdhouse, and eight of the 12" pieces will form the walls of two nesting boxes. Cut the remaining 12" piece diagonally into four triangles, which will serve as the roof.

  3. 3

    Select four 12" pieces for the front and back of the two nesting boxes. Measure 4 inches from the bottom of each front piece, mark with the pen, then draw a circle on the mark using the bottle or other round object. Cut around the circle with a jigsaw, making a hole 2 inches in diameter. This is the entrance and should only be on one side of each nesting box.

  4. 4

    Cut another smaller hole just above each entrance, and a similar sized hole at the same height, on each back wall. Push a small length of dowel through the two small holes to create a perch. Repeat this step on the other nesting box. Glue each set of four sides together to form a box. You should now have two nesting boxes.

  5. 5

    Take the four triangular pieces remaining, measure 2" up from the base of each, and draw a line from one side to the other. Using a router, create a slot along this line. You should now have four triangular pieces of timber with a router line 2" up from the base of each. Choose one nesting box to be the top level. Place the top of each wall of this nesting box into a corresponding router line. Tap lightly with a hammer so the roof and walls fit snugly together.

  6. 6

    Mark the centre of both remaining large pieces of plywood. Stand the nesting boxes upright and centre them on each mark, then glue onto each base. Place the entire top level onto the top of the other nesting box and glue securely. You should have a two-level pagoda.

  7. 7

    Measure and cut four pieces of dowel and glue over the roof joins. This creates the raised look typical of the Japanese pagoda. Measure and cut four pieces of dowel and glue along the roof edging. Attach a small decorative feature to each corner of the roof. Choose from the range at your hardware store. Attach a larger, matching decorative feature for the apex of the triangle.

  8. 8

    Paint the exterior with weatherproof paint. Place the birdhouse in the garden, either securely attached in a tree or on a display pole fixed into the ground.

Tips and warnings

  • Decorate both base edges with leftover dowel for added elegance. Similar touches to those on the roof will create a visual link.
  • Birds prefer natural wood indoors, so there is no need to paint inside.
  • Wear safety glasses when using a router or jigsaw. Keep youngsters away when cutting wood pieces.

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