Sunday, September 26, 2010

Making a see-through window bird feeder

After looking online and through numerous stores for a clear see-through bird feeder I can attach on the outside of my second story window, that didn't cost an arm and a leg, I completely gave up and decided to make my own.

After making a couple rough versions, and making a few mistakes, I think I've got a good one that's worthy of sharing, so here it goes:

Tools required:

*1 sheet of 11x14 (or similar sized sheet) plexiglass. .093m works great- anything thicker is not necessary. ($3.57 at Home Depot)
* four small suction cups ($1.50)
*hot glue gun and glue
* A drill. Preferably a roto-tool or dremmel with a plastic cutting rotary bit (not required, but cool addition to the feeder)
*epoxy glue - I used a 2-part mix that set up in 5 minutes.
*Utility knife with new blade

Take the .093 mil sheet of plastic and draw your layout. I used a temporary vis-a-vis marker, knowing I'd be making adjustments. The cuts are coloured coded to show you the layout better.

The layout above shows the basic dimensions. There is a base/floor piece (dark blue) an orange front piece, a yellow back, two angled sides (green and pink) and an aqua roof.

The first thing I cut was the sides (the pink and green sections above). The cool thing about this project is that the measurements don't need to be all set up in advance; they are adjustable as you go along.

The one key thing is that your side pieces (pink and green) be the exact same size and shape, cut off from one side of the sheet of plastic, and be about 1/3 the width of the sheet. Cut this piece first.

With the .093 m sheet, I used a straight edge, used a new blade in my utility knife, pressing hard into the plastic, scoring it about 15 times. Then I turned the sheet over, made a couple of passes on the other side just for luck, then snapped the piece off with my hands.

BTW: I tried this with a thicker piece of plastic and it muffed up the whole thing, cracking way off the line. I would NOT use anything thicker than .093.

Once the side piece is cut, you need to use the width of it to determine the size of the base (or floor) of the feeder. Turn the side piece sideways and use it to make and then cut the base (dark blue) piece.

Then cut an angle across the center of the side piece (to separate the pink piece from the green piece). It is important to measure carefully here so that the angles are the same for each piece once they are cut.

e.g. on a 14"x 4" long piece, draw a line from a mark made at 8" from the bottom of the left side of the plastic piece to a mark made 6"from the bottom on the other, so that the diagonal will be the same on each piece. Since these will both be set on the left and right sides, they need to be equal in size to hold the base and the roof together. (6+8=14; both pieces will match.)

Then cut the roof. It should be bigger than the base, and be slightly larger than the length of the diagonal you cut for the two side pieces.

Here I used the two angled pieces to make my marks, and used a straightedge to make my line and my cut with the utility knife.

Once the base is cut and the roof is cut, the only thing left to determine is how deep you want your feeder to be.

After a few tries, I've noted that a 4" feeder is just too deep. It freaks out the birds to have to get inside it. I settled on 1 3/4" deep and the finches and chickadees seem to like it.

So of the remaining plastic, cut off a strip to go across the front of the feeder any where from 1-2".

The remaining piece will be the back piece.

Reassembled, you get the gist of what we're about to make. They are labeled above, from top left down to bottom left: Roof, front, backing, base (with holes marked out for drainage) and on the right are the 2 side pieces.

After everything is cut out, remove the plastic coating from each side.

The next thing to consider is what size of birds you want to invite to dinner.

If you do not have a dremmel or rotary tool that can cut through plastic, you can skip this part.

I originally thought I wanted bigger holes cut ion the sides to that the birds could have access on three sides instead of just one.

DH suggested I keep the size down in order to keep the bigger birds from pushing out the titmice, chickadees and finches. Blue jays and Cardinals can be pushy.

So I reduced the side of the openings to small rectangles.

It's important to make sure that if you're cutting holes in the side pieces that the bottom edge of the cut hole be the same height as the front panel. In my case, the lowest edge of the cut hole is 1 3/4" from the bottom edge.

I took these outside, because they make such a plastic shardy-mess, and did the cutting there. I also drilled holes in the base piece for drainage.

Do not skip the drain holes. If you do, after the first rain you'll get some sprouts instead of birds.

Then the assembly:

I heated up the glue gun and ran a thin line across the back of the base, then attached the back piece at a 90 degree angle, using the corner of a side piece to make sure I had a good 90 degree angle as the glue set.

Then I attached the front piece, and then glued in the sides.

Then I glued the roof on the top, one side at a time-- no need to try to do both at the same time, just make sure that when you put the first edge into the glue that the other side lines up on the roof line. The glue will stay flexible for a while. Then glue the other side once the first side has set.

Then glue on the suction cups. DO NOT use the glue gun for this. I did that on my first feeder and as soon as the sun hit it after a chilly morning, the glue popped out of the suction cups and the feeder fell to its demise.

Use a 2 part flexible epoxy and glue those suckers on good.

Then, given 'em all a good lick, fill it with bird food (Black oil sunflower is a winner) and stick it to the outside of your window.

And the birdwatching and entertainment ensues.... all kinds of entertainment. :-)

Here you can see the first feeder I made. Not as impressive and not as sturdy, also missing a roof. Hence the newer model.

Also note my biggest fan. A real admirer of my work.

One recommendation I got from the guy at the local hardware store was to cover the lower window with window tinting or mirror tinting so that the birds can't see inside at all. I like the idea, but half the fun is watching the excitement of the cat-bird interaction.

After a while the birds realize he can't get them, and he resorts to merely 'chirping' at them in soulful desire and angst.

I'm gonna make more.
Maybe as gifts....


Unknown said...

HI! Sebastian has been asking me about Guiness and we decided to look up your website. He is still as beautiful as ever! Sebastian got a kick out of seeing him in the window by the bird feeders. Anyway, we just recently moved and while packing I was able to find his rabies tag and information from his neuter. If you like that information, we could mail it to you? Sebastian was wondering if you kept his name, or what his new name is, and how he is doing? He sure looks happy!

-Sarah and Sebastian C.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That looks awesome! Thanks for posting. I too have been looking and was not impressed with the prices of these things. I will be giving this a try :-) Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Super cool DIY ty for sharing! I want one and want to make as a gift for a bird lover I know.

Anonymous said...

I made this, and it turned out great! I'm curious to see if it will withstand the heat in the next month and how it weathers over the winter. Thanks for the instructions!

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