Now that I live in my grandad’s old house, I find tons of his woodworking projects around. One that we really enjoy is this big bird feeder right outside our dining room. He made it a while back, and it’s a little worse for ware, so I thought it was time to remake my grandad’s design with some fresh materials.
If you’ve ever taken a shop class in school or done a woodworking project as a child, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve made a birdhouse. Wood selection may not have been a priority, probably using cheap pine boards from the home center. Whatever wood choose must be able to withstand the rigors of outdoor use. Costly, exotic woods like teak or ipe are naturally resistant to rot and bugs, while using something like inexpensive, untreated pine wouldn’t last very long outside. So as a happy median, I chose to use cedar to build the bird feeder. Cedar is also a very durable outdoor material that doesn’t require a chemical “pressure treating,” and is much more affordable and accessible than specialized hardwoods.
My research has shown that the cedar bird feeder shouldn’t be finished with anything, unless you wanted to paint it. I thought some spar urethane or protective coating was necessary, but many, many opinions pointed to leaving the cedar bare and letting it resist the weather like it should.
I purchased some cedar 1x4s from the home center to make this bird feeder. My grandad’s design required mostly wide, flat boards to make up the roof, walls, and base, rather than dimensional planks. In order to get those flat panels, the 1x4s had to glue together on the short sides. Typically, pine 1x4s shrink as they dry and original 90 degree cuts end up rounding over. To remove these soft and distinct edges you can use a jointer or a table saw to create a flatter face appropriate for panel making.
Cedar doesn’t shrink in the same way when drying, so these short faces were pretty flat and clean. To join the boards together, I simply used a biscuit jointer to keep the 1x4s aligned during glue-up. I cut and glued the sections that would become the roof, the two walls, and the bird feeder’s fenced-in floor.
I didn’t have any dimensions or plans to go by, I just used my grandad’s existing bird feeder and tried to replicate it as best I could. Using some double-sided tape to keep the wall pieces together, I cut them both with the circular saw to form their final shape. The two roof panels just needed a simple bevel on one edge so when glued together, it matched the pitch of the roof. To find the roof pitch, I simply used the cutoff pieces from the side walls and set my table saw blade to that angle. I then cut a small dado in the sides of each wall panel so that glass walls could slide into place.
The two remaining walls will be made of glass panes so that you can see how much bird seed is left in the feeder. I had some left over pieces of glass, but they were too big for this project and needed to be cut down. I used a hand-held glass cutter with a straightedge to score some nice clean lines on a few sheets of glass. After applying some slight pressure at the edges, the glass snapped along the score lines and the remaining walls were ready to be slid into place. I cut some small spacers out of scrap cedar to stop the glass walls from hitting the base panel. This gap will allow the bird seed to spill out the bottom but create enough of a jam that the seeds will trickle out over time.
Now that the roof is all glued up, the walls have been cut, and the base panel had a small retaining wall added, it was time to assemble the feeder. I attached the wooden walls to the base panel using glue and screws from the underside. I went outside and took down the old bird feeder from its post and removed the old mounting screws. Using some new outdoor decking hardware, I screwed the updated bird feeder’s base onto the post. Once mounted, I slid in the two glass pieces onto the small spacers.
I didn’t want the roof to be permanently fixed, so I connected the roof to the side walls using some hooks and springs. This system will allow me to easily slide the roof on and off again while being strong enough to stay in place during high winds. The bid feeder was fully assembled. The only thing left to do was to add a whole bunch of bird seed and this project was done.
The Birds Sure Like it
It was really rewarding to be able to recreate one of my grandad’s projects. I imagine it looked a lot like his did back when he first made it and I can imagine my kids remaking this one a long time from now. Our family really likes to watch all the different types of birds native to this area and its cool that we can see them using a thing that I made. If you liked this project then get outside and make one too, this is a great novice woodworking project that you can make in an afternoon.
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