Building houses no ‘bird’en for Bronk

A Red Oak man is using his hobby to create unique birdhouses for the area’s bird population.
Tom Bronk, who lives on East Washington Avenue, said he’s been implementing his carpentry skills into the houses for nearly two decades.
“I’ve been building since 2004 when my sister passed away. It’ll be 20 years this year. The first birdhouse I made is still on a pole here in my yard. As time went on, I started making them differently. I build the birdhouses wall-to-wall, make guide holes for the nails, and around the outside I put slats of wood that I’ve cut flat. It makes the birdhouse stronger and more secure,” Bronk said. “Some have windows, and the windows are made with waterproof plastic. Some have doors, and one even has a clock face on it. I use plywood for the center parts of the birdhouses for separation. I put it inside to keep it out of the elements because if the water hits it will expand.”
Bronk added that the wood for the birdhouses he makes is all repurposed, be that from donations or wood he finds. Bronk felt that with so much wood being disposed of, it made sense to take it and turn it into something that could be used.
“Beau Boeye is remodeling his building on the square, and he gave me a big load of lumber. I also visit the riverfront once in awhile, and I’ve found two by fours, and at one point, they left a big four foot by eight foot piece of plywood that I kept and used for constructing birdhouses,” commented Bronk. “I get lumber from whoever wants to give me some. One of the residents who lives across the way gave me a whole bunch of wood. Sometimes I even use the wood from window frames.”
Bronk said there’s no set time frame he uses to construct one of his birdhouse projects.
“It depends on the size, and depends on how detailed I want to make it and what I want to do. I’m actually in the process of starting a new project. My workshop is filled with a lot of lumber, and everything in here I intend to use in making birdhouses. I’ve been constructing these so long that I’m actually on my third table saw,” commented Bronk.
For Bronk, he said he’s been doing birdhouse projects for so long as a way to keep busy.
“It’s something to do, and something I enjoy. I learned a lot from my dad. My father was a steam fitter. He did plumbing, electricity, and carpentry. I learned so much stuff from him,” stated Bronk.
Bronk said keeping busy is what he finds most rewarding about the job, as it helps with his health.
“I’ve got my work bench high so I don’t have to bend over to help my back. I’m diabetic, so I really want to keep busy. I’m totally retired now as of December of 2023,” Bronk explained.
While the work is rewarding, Bronk said he does have a few battle scars from all the years of making birdhouses.
“One time I used my drill to make a hole, and I went to take the bit off and it was a little ways into my hand. I also have a scar from when I was cutting a four by four. I had the blade real high, and in the process I caught the top of my finger. Ironically, it didn’t even hurt until they put the needles in my finger to numb it to put the stitches in. I’ve been taking good care of myself since then.”
In addition to selling the birdhouses around Red Oak and the surrounding area, Bronk said the birdhouses have made their way across the U.S.
“I’ve sent some birdhouses to Utah; Denver, Colo.; and Illinois. My brother used to live in Denver, and now he’s in Hannibal, Mo., and he’s planning on making a trip up here to get some more. He said he doesn’t have any birds, so I told him if he puts a birdhouse up he’ll have some,” said Bronk.
Bronk added he’s learned from birdhouses he’s made in the past to make the new ones even better.
“I keep track so I can redo them better and make them tighter. I use hot glue to put the pieces on, then I drill my holes, put a center punch hole in or a counter sink hole in, and then I put my nails in there. I use corrugated nails so there should be no reason for them to come out,” advised Bronk.
The majority of the birdhouses Bronk has made are for sparrows, which are prevalent in the county, as well as some birdhouses for wrens. Sometimes, Bronk said the wrens will overtake a nest.
“What a wren will do is, it will take over a sparrow’s nest, and take care of the eggs in there, which I find pretty amazing,” Brink stated. 
While the sparrows are dominant in the area, Bronk said he’s personally seen a lot of wildlife at his house.
“We counted how many animals that have come through here since we put the bird feeders up. We’ve counted 26 different animals. I’ve had deer over here, I’ve had possums and I’ve had raccoons. One night I came outside and there were seven deer at my feeders,” Bronk commented.
The wood is treated, but Bronk said if someone wants to paint the birdhouse, they can. Bronk said some of his buyers had painted the birdhouses and he liked the look.
Bronk made it clear that he’s not looking to make a huge profit out of selling the birdhouses.
“I’d like to get some birdhouses sold so I can buy some new materials. I go through a lot of nails, and they get pretty expensive. I want to be able to buy what I need and keep going. I’ve got my workshop, and my music, and this is something that’s really fun for me to do. I have the materials, and I have the knowledge.”
Also, Bronk said that he is available to help area 4-H kids with projects for static exhibits, and that he helped make a bird house for a 4-H student in the past.
Bronk said he’s got plenty of birdhouses available to anyone who wants one, and they’ll get a great deal.
“They can call me at 621-2838. Just give me a holler, and then they can stop by and take a look at them. The only thing is I don’t do special orders. When I put a birdhouse together, I do what feels natural. I’ve sold a lot of them, but I’m ready to sell some more and make room for some new ones. I charge $20 for one birdhouse, and then they get two more birdhouses free.”
Bronk can also be reached for questions at his email,

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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