Build a nook for your cat
Rather than have an ugly cardboard box laying around, build this nest for your cat that even doubles as a piece of wall art.
Cats love lounging in cozy, warm places around your home. Cats and kids both love small spaces. We’ve always got at least a few cardboard boxes around the house for our two cats, which I’m always tripping over. I thought a better solution would be to make something that was not only fixed to the wall, but something that looked interesting. A cat nest was the perfect combination of human safety and cat friendly; the fact that I could finish it with bright colours was strictly a bonus.
Rather than a square, which would have been a lot easier to build, I opted for the less common pentagon. It’s a shape you rarely see, and one I was drawn to right away. I used 5/8″ Baltic birch plywood for the boxes, and added solid maple edging to the front of the boxes. You could even experiment with making many more pentagonal boxes, or building other flat roosts or vertical polls and steps for your cats to climb.
Our cats are small at about 8 lb each. They fit in the boxes without too much extra room, but a medium or large cat may have trouble. Adding an inch or two to each of the side panels of each box might be a smart move on your part.
Bevelling the Edges
There are a number of ways to bevel sheet good edges, but Brown likes this method best, as it will bevel any edge with only one setup.
All Wrapped Up
With the masking tape holding the parts together, and glue applied to the joints, Brown wraps the parts together and tapes the final edge tight.
Mitre the Headers
The solid wood headers that surround the outside of each box can be mitred at the table saw.
The inside edges of the transitional headers have to be cut on an angle so both of their ends line up with the mating headers. Here, Brown marks the location of one end so he can use a straight edge to connect that point to the inner edge on the other end of the header.
Trim the Waste
With the line drawn, a bandsaw can remove the waste, before using a hand plane to smooth and adjust the edge so it lines up perfectly.
Glue Them Down
Once all the parts are cut to size you can glue and clamp them in place.
Fill Any Gaps
Filler goes a long way to creating smooth, flat faces for the spray paint to adhere to.
A random orbit sander takes care of sanding the outer surfaces of the boxes.
Add a Bold Colour
Final colour choice is a personal preference, but Brown opted for something bold and fun. It will also turn out to be a bit of an art piece in his home.
Chamfer the Edges
To create a smooth, clean transition between the painted surface and the header's raw wood, Brown takes a few passes with his block plane. Any overspray was removed at this point.
The hanging cleat should be glued to one of the sides so the assembly can be hung on the wall once it's done.
Brown applied a couple of clear coats to the inner surfaces of the boxes, as well as the solid headers.
Completed cat nook
Cut the parts to size
I ripped a couple of strips of plywood to 11-1/2″ wide x about 45″ long, then squared one end and crosscut five parts from each strip. If you’re making a larger box you’ll have to start with larger initial pieces.
With all of the pieces identical, you can set up your table saw to bevel the mating edges of the parts. I wrote an entire article on the process of doing this operation in a previous issue. Check out the ‘Online Info’ box at the end of this article for where you can find that article. This technique allows you to bevel each side of these parts with only one setup, making a consistent joint. The bevel will have to be cut at a 36-degree angle to end up with a pentagon.
Wrap it up
Once all of the parts are bevelled, sand the inner faces of the parts, then lay them side-by-side and face down on a flat surface. Align their edges so the points of the bevels are ever so slightly touching each other, stretch masking tape across the joints, and wrap the five parts together to check the fit. Unwrap the parts, leaving the tape in place. Apply glue to the joints and wrap the parts together one final time, before applying masking tape across the final joint. Check the assembly is glued up evenly and allow it to dry. Repeat for the remaining pentagonal boxes, if you’re making more than one.
I ripped two lengths of solid maple to rough width and dressed them to 3/4″ thick to make the solid wood headers. It would have been easier to keep all the headers straight on both sides, but I opted for 1″ wide strips on the top edges of the opening, and 1-3/4″ wide strips on the bottom edges of the opening. The tricky part was the pieces that transitioned between the top and bottom were tapered to meet evenly with both mating pieces. I thought this might help stop my cats from falling out of the nest, and it might also look good.
With the two lengths ripped to 1-3/4″ wide I started on the lower pieces. I cut those joints to 36-degrees, numbered them, and clamped them in place temporarily so I could butt the mating parts against the first part. I ripped the upper parts to their finished width of 1″ before mitering them. I marked the transitional pieces on an angle, removed the waste on a bandsaw and hand planed them so their inside edges met nicely with the mating parts.
During the process of cutting the angles on the header ends I had to shim a few of the parts to make their angles meet better. I guess I didn’t glue up the pentagons perfectly even. I made all the angled cuts with a mitre gauge on my table saw. With a thin strip of wood placed between the workpiece and the mitre gauge I could adjust the angle of the workpiece slightly and fine-tune the cut.
With all of the parts cut and still clamped in place I unclamped one part, applied some glue to the joint and clamped it back in place, before moving on to the other parts. I aimed for a flush fit around the exterior perimeter of the boxes, but erred on the side of leaving a small amount of overhang that could be trimmed and sanded off to create a flush joint.
Flush it up
Once the glue had dried I used a router with a flush trim bit to remove the small amount of overhang a few of the pieces had. I then sanded the parts flush and smoothed all of the surfaces. I added a bit of filler to any small voids in the plywood so the colourful finishes would have a smooth surface to coat.
Add some colour
I left the outer perimeter edges of the solid wood headers crisp and square until after the spray paint was applied. This allowed me to not worry about any small amounts of paint that got onto the face of the headers, as I could use a block plane to bevel the edges and create a clean transition.
With the box positioned with the solid wood headers downward on a flat surface, and newsprint underneath the box, I sprayed the outer faces. I used a piece of scrap to reduce any overspray at the top of the box. I used two light coats of Rustoleum’s Painter’s Touch Ultra Coverage 2X to give the outer surface a bold look, and the coverage was excellent.
Once the finish was dry I chamfered the outer edges of the headers to reduce any sharpness, as well as create a clean transition between the coloured surface and the natural maple.
At this stage I had to make sure the two parts of my cat nest were rotated the correct way, with the thicker headers towards the bottom of each section. This helped me figure out where the hanging cleats should go.
In order to fix this cat nest to the wall I glued on two solid maple cleats to the inner, rear surface of each box. I mitred the ends to fit nicely between the sides. I glued one cleat to the top of the upper box, but glued the second cleat to the edge that would end up directly below the first cleat so two screw clearance holes would be aligned directly above and below each other, and with one wall stud.
Apply a second finish
I used a water-based spray polyurethane to coat the inner surfaces of each box, as well as the solid wood headers.
With the cleats dry I determined where the screw clearance holes needed to go in order to fix the two halves of this project together. I drilled the screw clearance holes in the lower piece so they would be much less visible. I then brought the two halves together and drove home four screws to hold the two halves together.
I used a framing square to locate a pair of holes, one in each hanging cleat. I put one edge of the square against the top edge of the nest, as it was going to be horizontal when the cat nest was in place on the wall.
Unless you have other structures to allow your cats to access this nest, it will have to be placed fairly close to the ground so they can get into it.
All that was left now was to locate a stud, use a few long screws to secure the cat nest to the wall, and get my cats comfortable with getting into the nest. It strangely took a little while, but after a few cat treats were put into the back of each opening they acted accordingly and hopped in.