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How we constructed the double Swift box

There are several companies that make swift nest boxes that you can buy. However as I have a small workshop and enjoy making things I thought that I would give it a go and make my own.

Double Swift Box

This double swift box was based on a design by Mark Glanville of Bristol Swifts which I used for the sizes and adapted it slightly. I fortunately had some sections of 10mm exterior grade plywood that was left over from a previous project. I could have just screwed the plywood together however I elected to include softwood inside battens that made an internal frame to beef up the construction (maybe I have over engineered it a bit, but then again I like things to last).

Swiftbox Constuction image

After cutting all the pieces to size, the screw holes were drilled and countersunk. The access hole for the swifts in the bottom were cut by drilling three holes in a line using a 28mm forstner bit and then using a chisel to remove the bits between the holes.

Swiftbox Constuction image

With all the main pieces cut out and drilled ready for assembly. I screwed everything together initially and then when I was happy with everything I took it all apart and glued and screwed the box together.

Swiftbox Constuction image

The battens glued and screwed to the base. I could have perhaps not used the battens if the plywood had been slightly thicker but I have a habit of making things to last and the battening made it easier to construct.

Swiftbox Constuction image

Having read about including a bat roost into the back of the swift box I decided to add 3 batten pieces to make the swift box stand away from the wall by 20mm. On the back I routed some 2mm slots to make a bat ladder that the bats can crawl up.

Swift box constuction

Attaching the back to the base of the swift box.

Swift box constuction

The centre partition is fixed in place.

Swift box constuction

The rear top batten and the side battens and the plywood sides are glued in place. Notice that the mounts for the cameras are already attached as is the spigot for the wiring.

Swift box constuction

The front and top battens are glued and screwed in place.

Swift box constuction

Side view showing the wiring spigot.

Swift box construction

In order to make the nest cups I attached the pieces of softwood for the nesting cups to a piece of scrap chipboard and then mounted the lathe mount onto the chip board. If I had attached the lathe mount directly to the softwood there would have been a chance that I would have hit the screws whilst turning.

Swift box construction

The nesting cup size marked out on the softwood by spinning the lathe by hand and using a pencil.

Swift box construction

The finished nesting cup turned on the lathe.

Swift box construction

Whilst I had the lathe out I turned a couple of knobs for the Swift box access door. I turned them from a piece of wild plum tree that used to grow in our garden.

Swift box constuction

In order to help reduce drafts I decided that I would cut the bottom of the access door with a 45º cut. I cut the 45º angle cut for the front opening access panel by using the band-saw table set at 45º degrees.

Swift box construction

The access door complete with the two turned handles.

Swift box construction

Glueing the nesting cups in place. Notice that I have added the bottom piece of the access door, complete with two wooden toggles to keep the access door closed and a baffle behind the access door join to prevent there being a draft gap. This was made from some scrap paxolin that I had in the workshop.

Swift box construction

The IP cameras, wiring and microphones were then installed and notice that the draft partitions have been added near to the entrances. Again this was an addition that Mark Glanville suggested on his page about making Swift nest boxes.

Swift box construction

Focusing the camera lens using the little tool that I made up. Fortunately I have a Mac mini PC in my workshop so I could adjust the focusing live by watching the monitor. You don't need anything quite as sophisticated as the Spyder Lenscal calibrator but as I had one to calibrate my DSLR lenses I thought I might as well use it. A ruler at a 45º angle would do the same job.

view from the camera

Screen shot from the computer monitor of the camera output when focusing.

Swift box construction

The landing strips were made with a couple of pieces of the exterior plywood with a bracket at the back cut to 15º. Then small section hardwood strips were glued on to give some grips.

fastening cams at the top of the access door

I made some fastening cam locks for the top of the access door out of some oak and a small piece of carbon fibre rod. They just help to keep the top of the access door tight to prevent drafts.

Swift box

The double Swift box with the roof screwed on.

Swift box construction

The Roof was removed to paint the interior as per Mark Glanville's suggestion on his swift website where he found that Swifts preferred the dark painted boxes. I painted the inside of my swift box with black emulsion. I didn't need a lot so I bought 3 tester pots from Wickes. As you can see I have also added the landing strips, speaker and the wiring ready for glueing the top back on.

swift box construction

The roof was glued and screwed back on and a quick coat of black emulsion paint was added to the underside of the roof.

The final swift box

The Double Swift Nest box finally ready for putting up on the side of the house.

How we mounted the swift box on the side of our house

I had been concerned about how I was to going to mount and fit the Swift box on to the side of our house, particularly when I weighed it and it weighed in at 10.2kg ( I didn't think of weight when I decided to use a batten construction. Technically under health and safety you shouldn't work off ladders as ladders should only be used for access. Ideally the best thing and safest is to hire a 'Cherry picker' but as at the time we were on the Coronavirus lock down that wasn't an easy option. I decided that it was going to be a bit too heavy to carry up the ladder and certainly too heavy to try and hold in place to mark the holes for the rawplugs! Having given it some thought I decided that I would have to hoist the box up on a rope and use a batten to support the weight of the box whilst I fixed it in place. This seemed the safest way in the absence of a 'Cherry picker'.

fixing batten

The photo above showing the fixing batten I made up. The small plywood pieces held on with small coach bolts and wing nuts are there to be fixed in front of the side fixing plates. The batten will be screwed to the wall first and act as a temporary support to take the weight of the swift box whilst I drill holes in the brickwork. It will be removed when the swift box is finally screwed into place.

The Swift box ready for fitting

The Swift box ready for fitting. I bolted a U bolt into the centre of the roof to give a secure tying in point for the rope when it is hoisted in place. I removed the front access panel to reduce the weigh, to give a place for the wiring loom to be out of the way when hoisting and to make it easier to handle the box at height.

The batten and hoisting roop in place.

The batten was screwed in place on the brickwork, being quite light in weigh it was easy to install and get it to be level. I deliberately drilled the fixing holes in the mortar so that after removing the batten I could knock the rawplugs into the brickwork and cover the holes with a bit of mortar to neaten everything up. To act as a hoisting point I drilled and screwed in a screw eye into the brickwork just to the right of where the nest box was to be situated.

The Swift box in place.

Photo showing the Swift nest box in place. If I were to do it again I could have done with a small pulley on the screw eye as there was too much friction to haul it up. However what I did was lift it initially from the ground with my wife Frank hauling in the slack. I then climbed the ladder and every so often as I climbed one rung at a time I lifted the nest box up a bit with Frank taking in the slack until we had it at the top. When I was at the top of the ladder it was obvious that I couldn't have lifted it up the ladder and manhandled it in place. It would have been just too heavy and unsafe. With the nest box on the end of the rope it was easy to get it in position.

The batten worked great and with Frank on the end of the rope I knew that the nest box wouldn't go anywhere. I could then position it easily by sliding it on the batten until in lined up with a centre mark that I had made on the Swift nest box and the batten. I then made marks on the batten where the ends of the fixing plates would be so that I could locate it back in the same position after I had drilled the fixing holes. With the fixing screws in place I whacked these with a hammer to give me 2 nice impressions in the brickwork. Having moved the ladder to the left side of the nest box I then marked the fixing holes on the left side of the nest box. With the fixing holes marked I then slid the nest box to the right, drilled the two fixing holes with a cordless hammer drill and popped the rawplugs in. Once these were drilled and had rawplugs in them I moved the ladder to the right side of the nest box. I then slid the box to the left and drilled the fixing holes on the right side of the nest box. I then slid the nest box back to its centre position matching up the centre marks and the marks I had made where the end of the fixing plates should be. I could then screw the nest box in place. Once the screws were in tight I could undo the hoisting rope and unscrew the batten. If I were to make another nest box one thing I would do is make the fixing plates on the sides much wider to make it easier to use a cordless drill to screw the screws in.

Once the nest box was on the wall all I had to do was to drill a hole in the soffit to take the wiring and cut a piece of flexible conduit to size. This was then slid over the wiring and the wiring then push into the roof space through the soffit.

The Swift Nestbox in place.

The Swift Nestbox fixed in place. You can see the gap at the back for the bats to crawl up.