Chaucer's Box

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Project by Dave Rutan posted 02-21-2015 12:00 AM 1575 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

[EDIT] my daughter has just posted a video tribute about Chaucer. It’s available here: [Link to video]

Chaucer (Woodworking Below)

Chaucer was our pet cockatiel. My wife rescued him from a well meaning student who found him in a tree outside their house. (This is in northern New Jersey, so that’s not normal.) Probably he had escaped from his owner and managed to survive until he was discovered. Unfortunately, the family that had him knew nothing about pet birds. They kept his cage in the basement away from people with no toys. Additionally, he was poked and prodded by the children who would pull his feathers.

Perhaps because of this abuse Chaucer wasn’t the brightest bird. While many cockatiels must be padlocked into their cages because they figure out how to escape, Chaucer had to live in a cage with a large front door because he couldn’t figure out how to find his cage door.

He was probably somewhat young when we found him. After a few months in our care, he learned that he could trust us and began perching on my wife’s finger or shoulder. About the only thing one could say against him is that he did have a shrill whistle. Chaucer got along well with our parakeet at the time, well, at least he didn’t try to eat him.

Time passed. Chaucer started showing his age, beginning to move more carefully, perhaps from arthritis in his feet. He was not a sickly bird, but these last few years he began showing some eccentricity, periodically spending much of his day under his papers. He was 23 and we were beginning to wonder if we’d return home one day and find him um, well, expired on his floor.

My daughter’s parakeet seemed to enjoy watching Chaucer. The parakeet is technically his nephew. Every morning he’d pop out of his cage and climb all around his Uncle Chaucer’s cage. He’d play with him, egging Chaucer on and then running away. Sometimes he’d just stay on the top of Chaucer’s cage and watch him.

During the last few weeks my wife noticed that Chaucer had not eaten much of his food. Birds leave the empty seed hulls behind when they eat. Then he did this weird coughing sound. He was no better two days later, so I took him to the vet. (Yes, there are vets for birds!) The vet said he had some sort of breathing issue and prescribed an antibiotic. He died in the car on the way home.


This is the first bird we have lost while I’ve been a woodworker, so I wanted to make him a nice box out of wood. Previously expired birds have been interred in cardboard boxes. I took some of my drawer wood and cut it.

I used simple but joints, but I disguised them with kerfs on the table saw. I didn’t like the plainness of the lid, so I added some ornamentation, repeating the kerf motif. I also chamfered the edges of the lid and base.

The wood I used for the lid and base was from a drawer front and had a rabbet on the back. I just incorporated that into the design. I think it adds lightness to the base and lid.

I didn’t feel like going out and buying hinges, so I made the hinges from a 1/8 inch brass rod and a few blocks of wood, cut off from making the sides. The latch is just a piece of wood glued to the inside of the lid. A screw will pass through from the outside and will engage the inside piece. We’re not expecting grave robbers.

There is no finish put on the box, but I think the grain looks sort of interesting. I’m not sure what the wood is. It may be oak. Something about the grain and wood color says oak to me.

The interior is 6×10 x 4 inches. I couldn’t make it narrower because he died in a U shape. The cloth you see is a section of the blanket which we used to cover his cage at night. It’s old and full of holes, so we won’t be re-using it for anything.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

5 comments so far

View Northwest29's profile


1688 posts in 3093 days

#1 posted 02-21-2015 02:49 AM

You have a good heart, sorry to hear of your loss. A very nicely done final resting place.

-- Ron, Eugene, OR, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View CFrye's profile


10822 posts in 2442 days

#2 posted 02-21-2015 07:24 AM

Nicely done, Dave. You all gave Chaucer a good home, and now a final resting place. Sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing.

-- God bless, Candy

View JimInNM's profile


324 posts in 1819 days

#3 posted 02-21-2015 03:52 PM

So sorry for your loss, pets become so interlinked in our lifestyle it’s like we’re dealing with another person. A very nice final tribute to your friend.

-- JimInNM........Space Case

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1786 posts in 2791 days

#4 posted 02-22-2015 07:17 PM

Thank you all. We just placed him in the box this afternoon. He’ll reside in our freezer until the ground thaws.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1786 posts in 2791 days

#5 posted 08-12-2015 12:09 AM

FYI We interred Chaucer on Thursday, August 6, 2015. My wife was rehabbing the flower bed we put him in.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

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