August 4, 2021
How to turn a cable spool into a duck house

How to turn a cable spool into a duck house

We’ve had cat castles, stylish crates for dogs, even houses for chooks, and now we have one for ducks too! Do you want a large and spacious house for your ducks? Then this cable spool duck house just might be the one you are looking for!

Cable Spool Duck House with Storage

These days, more and more homeowners are raising chickens in their backyards. If you don’t have a few chickens of your own by now, you probably know someone who does.

In general, however, ducks lay larger eggs. Some breeds of ducks even lay eggs for a consistently long period of time. But they’ll need a good place to nest to lay good eggs.

And this duck house is so easy, so simple, you can build it yourself!

This cable spool duck house is inexpensive if you have access to old and unused cable spools. Aside from the spool, you will also need a number of timber slats that you can have for free or at a very low price by choosing reclaimed timber or old pallets.

Of course, this cable spool house can also be for other types of pets. You can use it as a chicken coop or an outdoor shed for your cat or dog.

Is this going to be your next project?

Click on any image to start the lightbox display. Use your Esc key to close the lightbox.8-)

You’ll need these materials:

  • Spool
  • Wood (reclaimed)
  • Galvanized Drywall screws
  • Filler
  • Paint
  • Varnish
  • Door Hardware (Hinges, Handle, Latch)

And these tools:

  • Circular Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Cordless Drill
  • Hole Saw Drill Bit (two sizes)
  • Chisel (or Screwdriver)
  • Vise Grips
  • Socket Wrench
  • Sander
  • Paint Brush


Cable Spool Duck House

Disassemble spool: Having never played with them before, I was pleasantly surprised at the elegance of the engineering of these spools: an enormously heavy and rugged apparatus held together by only six bolts!

Granted, these are bolts to be reckoned with: 32″ long, steel. They sit spaced between fourteen curved slats an inch and a half thick and about six inches wide, all resting in a recessed slot routed into each of the round sides of the spool, to define the inner “barrel.”

Cable Spool Duck House

So all you need to do to take the spool apart is remove the bolts. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it may very well be, if your spool didn’t have too rough a life before it found its way to you. In that case, all you have to do is sit the spool on its “wheels,” render either the nut or the bolt head stationary with some vice grips or a wrench (and perhaps a friend to wield it, unless you have an enormous wingspan), and loosen from the other end with your socket wrench. The slats will slide out and fall as the bolts loosen. Then all you have to worry about is crushing your toes or fingers or skull or fine china or small pets when the last bolt gives way and the heavy round chunks succumb to gravity. But if only a little rust is present, plan on using a great deal more profanity and other rust-battling measures.

Cable Spool Duck House

Make new bolt holes: At each end of the bolts, there’s a “top hat” washer (but a curved one… perhaps more of a “derby?”) about two inches across, nestled in a deep recess. For this design, we need to move the bolts from the inner slot to the outer edge, which means we need new holes for our washers.

Cable Spool Duck House

I figured out where to drill by drawing lines from the center point of the round, across an existing bolt hole, and out near the edge.

Cable Spool Duck House

I cut a shallow hole using a 2″ hole saw, then a deeper one with the same center point using a 1-1/2″ hole saw.

Cable Spool Duck House

The wood between the hole saw cuts were easily chiseled away (I used a screwdriver, not a chisel – don’t tell, okay?) until the washer had a comfortable place to sit.

Continued Page 2…

Cable Spool Duck House

After the recess was roughly shaped to the contours of the washer, I drilled the hole for the bolt itself. Note: It’s important to do this after you use the hole saw bits, because a hole saw needs wood to “bite,” and would slip around dangerously if you were to drill the bolt hole first.

I repeated this for all six bolts on both sides of the spool, for a total of twelve new holes.

Cable Spool Duck House

Loosely assemble: At this point, I replaced a couple of slats and loosely fit all of the bolts.

What I discovered was:

First, my measurements weren’t perfect, so some of the bolts were a tiny bit misaligned. Not a big deal – that’s why they invented hammers.

Second, the bolts were, in fact, long enough to work even when not sitting in slots. See, in moving the slats to the outside, I was increasing the overall height by about an inch, because I didn’t route out slots for them in their new positions out at the edge. Luckily there’s enough play in the threading and length of the bolts that I didn’t need to route a slot to make it all fit, but that might be worth doing if you have the tools and the inclination.

Careful not to smash my toes or fingers or skull or fine china or small pets, and happy that I wouldn’t have to go back and deepen all of the bolt hole recesses, I dropped the cumbersome assembly down onto its “bottom” for the next steps.

Cable Spool Duck House

Add the boards: I placed the original “load-bearing” boards in groups near the big bolts. When tightened, the bolts “pinch” the boards for a nice strong joint. A few screws keep the boards in place.

Cable Spool Duck House

Various (mostly 1″x4″) slats harvested from palettes filled in the remaining gaps.

Cable Spool Duck House

The door: It had to be big enough to comfortably reach inside the house for cleaning, egg-stealing, and such. And I was so impressed with the sturdiness, I ended up removing a bolt and making the door as wide as the span between the two adjacent bolts.

Cable Spool Duck House

I started by tracing the arc onto some boards…

Cable Spool Duck House

and sticking them together to make an assembly reminiscent of a rocking horse that rocked rather well and made me kind of want to make a rocking horse. But I didn’t.

Cable Spool Duck House

I temporarily hung the rocking-horse-looking frame into place, accidentally putting the hinge on the right side when I meant to make the door open the other way.

Cable Spool Duck House

I took it off and added more slats, so that it started to look like a medieval shield of some kind, and made me kind of want to make a medieval shield. But I didn’t.

In retrospect, I should not have maintained a nice arc; I should have flattened the arc where each slat touches it. That would have made attaching them much easier. You really should do that if you make one of these.

I hung the door and added a handle and a latch.

Cable Spool Duck House

Fill and paint: The sides got a quick sanding and an even quicker coat of varnish. I filled the big internal gaps, painted the inside brown and the top green, and carved out a duck-sized entrance.

Since this house will be placed in a large aviary-like enclosure safe from raccoons and other predatory beasties, and since ducks don’t just sleep all night like chickens, the duck entrance didn’t need a door. So it didn’t get one.

Cable Spool Duck House

It did get a ramp, though – made from palette wood and just sort of parked up against the duck door.

Cable Spool Duck House

And that’s it! The ducks love it, and so does the occasional cat.

Thanks to mcraghead for this great project!

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