Finished product with seed.
So, spurred on by the heady rush of less-than-complete-failure from previous woodworking projects, I decided once again that I had too much money/blood/self esteem, and set out on a new woody endeavor. Like every time before, I started out with a simple idea. We have birds. We have bird food. We do not have an effective means to transmit the food to the birds.
Please sir, may I have some more?
The simple solution would be to build one of the time-honored old-timey bird feeders. The sort everyone made in cub scouts or shop class. It was good enough for my pappy, and damn it, it's good enough for me. Except for the part where it's not.
Every boy scout from prehistory on made one of these. 99% of them promptly fell apart the moment a bird landed on them.Photo courtesy of Mybackyardplans.com
Every time I start down the path of a new wood project, you can almost pinpoint the moment where simple gets chucked over for ludicrously complicated. It's the precise moment when my brain sees something shiny and says “I can do that!”. In this case, it was a plan from Lowes which, oddly enough, involved buying a lot of expensive materials from Lowes. To be fair, I was also lured in by their one minute, “how easy is this?” video. That video is a damn dirty lie.
Easy to make! ...for Bob Villa.
So I threw over the tried and true but slightly boring bird feeder for the shiny, acrylic, trendy, super sexy....bird feeder. I may need to get out of the garage more. But now was no time to exercise judgment or perspective, there were power tools to cackle maniacally over.
It started fairly easily. The base is composed of cedar 1X2s. The only tricky bit here was getting them exactly the same length on my less than stellar mitre saw, and spacing them out at 1/16th inch. Building this little lattice gave me a disproportionate feeling of accomplishment.
I'd never worked with cedar before, which isn't saying much because all I've ever used is pine/whitewood. I know a marvelous world of woods lies out there waiting to be explored. However, it also comes with less than marvelous prices. Cedar is actually pretty cheap. If you can live with it not being finished on one side (left rough), then it's pretty good stuff. Once I added the end pieces, I gave it a coat of Thompson's Water Seal. Cedar is weather and rot resistant already, but this brought out some darker color and gave it a little more protection. Even this early in the process, I was fairly sure I did not want to have to make this thing twice.
End pieces added
Water Seal brushed on
The next step was to build the “spreader” which would sit under the bird seed and make sure it distibuted to the openings in the feeder. This was the first of many steps that gave me the sneaking suspicion Lowes engineered this thing to use as much wood/as many parts as possible, since I'm pretty sure gravity would have accomplished the same thing. But a plan's a plani, so I dutifully built and installed the spreader. I spent a lot of time hand sanding and staining the wood. Any rational person would have realized “hey, no one's actually going to see that wood...”. I hope by now I have established that rationality has no place in my woodworking processii.
Spreader and other pieces cut and finished
Spreader assembled and installed.
With the base done, it was time to start on the sides. Again, I spent a lot of time picking out the best looking pieces of wood I could find to create the sides. And, again, it occurred to me later that these beautifully sanded and finished pieces will be permanently obscured by the siding. I was so busy picking out the perfect pieces, I inadvertently cut both sides on the same angle (they need to be mirror opposites.) I cursed and went to cut new side pieces....and promptly cut them at the wrong angle again. Eventually I got the sides done, and nailed on the “siding”.
So pretty....so wrong.
Side trim cut and stained
Trim installed right over that pretty wood.
With the wood work done, it was time to install the acrylic. I had never worked with acrylic before, but it seems like it's pretty much a staple of bird feeder technology, so I figured, how hard could it be? A large pile of shattered and discarded acrylic pieces in the corner of my project desk attests to that answer. You can't just MAKE acrylic into what you want, you have to coax it...convince it that it's in its best interests to be what you want it to be. It's temperamental stuff. Finally, though, after signing over my paycheck to Lowes and fantastically shattering the heck out of several pieces, I got the inserts cut and installed them on the sides.
Cutting side panes
Matching panes to sides
Installed side pane
It may have just been lack of oxygen from cedar dust coated lungs, or blood loss from acrylic shards, but at this point I was feeling fairly satisfied with progress. Now came the moment when all the pieces got put together. This is usually the moment in my projects where that previous feeling disappates rapidly and the frantic sanding and recutting to fit begins. Also, desperate desperate tears and please for deific intervention.
Side units get attached to the base
Acrylic panels get attached to the front and back as windows using fancy screws and the acrylic top is fitted.
Top gets screwed into the middle supports of the side.
While the corner posts are screwed into the base, the middle supports on each side are just held between the siding and the acrylic panel, letting it slide up and down so you can remove the roof. Clever in concept, horrendously hard to get the fit right in execution.
½ inch pipe flange added to bottom so this could be mounted on a pipe. And make Lowes more money.
Finally everything was squared away, and the final product was a (mostly) functioning bird feeder. All that's left is to mount it on a galvanized pole in the yard and fill it with seed. Then just sit back and watch birds actively ignore it. I am both worried and morbidly intrigued that the birds may crash fatally into the transparent topiii. I guess worse comes to worst, if it fails at feeding the small feeder birds who crash into it, it can always be repurposed as a vulture feeder...
iExcept when it's a recipe, which if you've read this blog before, you know is really taken as more of a suggestion.
iiiThe actual plan from Lowes involved sandwiching two incredibly expensive pieces of Lexan toegther and then spray painting it black. First of all, Lexan? The stuff they make bulletproof windows out of? Do we really need our bird feeder to be safe from stray sniper fire? And two sheets of it? And then you buy spray paint to paint that beautifully clear Lexan black? I'm pretty sure it would be cheaper to hire a guy to just stand there and hand feed birds.