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How to Make a Bird Feeder

East Linton Tool Library volunteer, Brian Suttie, teaches us how to make a bird feeder from stuff we have lying around the house!

I have to confess that I've never built a bird feeder before, but surely it can't be that difficult?

First thing I did was to look online and see what designs were available. I quickly decided that an automatic feeder, i.e. one that distributes feed by itself rather than continually needing to be topped up was a good idea.

I saw a few designs using an old wine bottle to hold and distribute the feed, so my first port of call was the recycling boxes.

It didn't take me long to settle on a white wine bottle that was slightly shorter and wider than the reds I had access to. The other advantage of a white wine bottle is the fact that it's easier to see through so you can see how much feed is left.

Next I went hunting for some suitable wood to make the feeder out of. The only thing I had lying about was some 18mm exterior plywood. Probably a bit too thick, but would certainly do the job.

Tools needed for the project - all available from East Linton Tool Library (check out our inventory here)

  • Hand Saw

  • Coping saw

  • Jigsaw

  • Combi Drill and Drill Bit Set

  • Screwdriver

  • Hammer

The first job was to cut out the various parts that I needed.

I cut all the pieces out using a hand saw, with the exception of the side panels for which I used a jigsaw to get a nice curved edge, and the top for which I needed a coping saw to cut a round hole.

For the sides, I cut one side out first, then flipped it over and traced round it to make a second side. Note that the tops of the sides need to be cut at 45 degrees to make the roof fit. This is a bit tricky but not impossible with a hand saw. Just make sure you have a way of holding the piece secure while you cut it.

The parts needed are :

Back - 120mm by 380mm. (May have to be tweaked to fit the particular size of wine bottle you have).

To get the pointed top with a 90 degree angle I measured halfway across - 60mm, then marked a centre point. Then measured down 60mm on each side and marked those points. Joining up the points gave me the cutting lines I needed.

Top - 120mm by 120mm with a 90mm diameter hole for the bottle base. I used a coping saw to cut this out. First you need to drill a hole to fit the blade through, then work your way round to cut the hole.

I did realise that cutting the hole out of a smaller piece of wood would be tricky so thankfully thought to cut out the hole before cutting down the timber.

Base - 120mm by 120mm The base needs to have some drainage holes in it so that the bird feed doesn't end up sitting in a puddle if it rains. But don't make the drainage holes too big, or the feed will fall through them.

I saw various suggestions for using some wire mesh or such, but having access to a 3D printer I just printed off a suitable shallow box to go on the base. I've left this free so that it can be removed for cleaning.

Roof - Note that the two sides are different to allow for an overlap.

The difference should be the thickness of the material you're using. I made them 150mm deep to give some rain cover.

Piece 1: 150mm by 120mm.

Piece 2: 150mm by 138mm.

The final two pieces are to hold a rod to retain the bottle. These were each 85mm by 60mm. For the rod I used a bit of 12mm dowel that I had lying around. Not having a 12mm drill bit to hand I used a smaller bit and drilled a series of holes. One small square of ply (25mm by 25mm) was glued on to use as a handle, I decided it looked better to have a similar square on the other side for symmetry although it actually doesn't do anything.

To join the parts together I used a mixture of screws and nails. Do remember to drill pilot holes whichever you use in order to prevent the wood splitting, and any screw hopes should be countersunk so that the screw heads can be hidden. I also glued all the edges for strength.

Tip: Whilst it's very easy to reach for a Combi drill and screwdriver bit, I always prefer using a manual screwdriver for such assembly jobs as you get a much better feel for when screws are tightening properly.

Don't worry if your cuts aren't precisely accurate, mine certainly weren't, but the next stage, filling and sanding allows you to get away with quite a lot.

Tip: When filling holes always overfill and then sand off the surplus when dry - if you underfill you tend to end up with small dips and you can see where every screw or nail is.

Tip: When sanding always start with a coarse sheet, then work your way down to something much finer. Sandpaper always has a number on it, the smaller numbers are coarser, so 80 is coarser than 120 for example.

Once everything is sanded and dried, you are ready for painting. Again I wanted to use what I had lying around so used some white primer, then some white satin paint.

I took particular care when painting the roof - this should probably be covered in some felt or something more waterproof. I'll maybe get round to that the next time I have some felt to hand. For the moment some paint and marker lines for tiles will have to do. After decorating the bird feeder I gave it a couple of coats of clear lacquer to protect it a bit further, hopefully.

The final piece of the jigsaw is that you need something to raise the bottle neck up slightly so that the bird feed can come out. You could use a bit of wire or something for this, but again as I have a 3D printer I used that to make a little bottle top with a hole.

I have posted the 3D parts on Thingiverse should anyone want to print their own

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