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Building for birds: Reclaimed barn wood keeping math teacher busy

8th grade math teacher Rob Staudacher poses for a photo in his workshop attached to his garage in Cedar Rapids on Thursd
8th grade math teacher Rob Staudacher poses for a photo in his workshop attached to his garage in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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Typically Rob Staudacher, 56, of Cedar Rapids, would be spending his days teaching eighth grade math to his students in the Center Point-Urbana school district.

But since school is not currently in session, Staudacher has turned his attention to his hobby.

“I stink at sitting still,” he joked. “I knew when schools closed for four weeks that I’d have a lot of time on my hands. The woodworking keeps my hands and mind busy and helps me keep my sanity.”

These days he’s focused on building birdhouses.

“I’ve been creating many crafts with barn boards for more than ten years,” he said, noting that most of the projects he creates can be used indoors or as outdoor decorations. “Most of my wood comes from salvage projects. When it was time to replace our backyard fence, I knew I wanted to keep as much of the wood as possible to create projects.”

Each birdhouse Staudacher creates varies in style and detail.

“Rarely do I have plans for any of my projects,” he said, adding that he gets inspiration by just poking around Google. “I typically draw up some general plans, but find that I deviate from them oftentimes. I like to find projects that look attainable, but that will also challenge my thinking.”

“And unless requested, most of my projects are ‘one timers,’” he added. “I don’t like repeating things I’ve already built.”

Staudacher said that most of his projects, whether birdhouses or other items like mirrors and bottle crates, typically take about a day to create.

“I’m a miser when it comes to wood and a lot of my time goes into finding the right piece of wood for a project.”

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He said he’s also started using his lathe more and finds a lot of satisfaction in making segmented bowls.

“These take more time, but they are fun to create.”

As of right now, Staudacher doesn’t see his hobby turning into much more than a way to keep busy outside of the classroom. “I really only hope to bring in enough money to buy more wood and keep my tools in working order,” he said, noting that most of the projects he creates end up in his sister-in-law’s shop at Staudacher Farms in Yorkville, Illinois. It’s a great partnership, Staudacher said, as he just appreciates making the projects, not pricing and selling them.

While the bird houses are a newer endeavor, Staudacher said he’s always been crafty. “I’ve been doing woodwork projects all of my adult life. Right now, this is my ‘main’ hobby, but I am a DIYer by nature. When I discovered YouTube videos several years ago, I found out that there weren’t many home jobs that intimidate me anymore.”

And as Staudacher hopes his students are doing, he’s getting to work on a little bit of math, too.

“I like being able to use my math skills to help solve problems that arise along the way,” he said. “I also enjoy seeing the end product after a day’s worth of work.”

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