My Little Birdy Neighbours

It was recently my Mom’s birthday – our family isn’t big on presents, going for something either extremely useful, or handmade, it was a bit of a mission trying to think of something that might fit either or both categories.  However, she does enjoy the garden (when it doesn’t involve too much work – as she has a bad back), and also looks after the niece and nephew at times – both of whom are quite fond of animals.  So, when I was wandering around the internet in search of inspiration, and saw an ad for home-made bird-feeders on trade-me, it seemed like a great idea!

I don’t have a full set of woodworking tools, by any stretch of the imagination – but a saw, hammer and a piece of sandpaper would surely be adequate I thought.  They were – but it’s amazing how unstraight one can cut things despite ruled lines and careful measurements!

Anyway – I forged ahead – collecting some precut pinetrim boards from the local Bunnings.  one 60 x 10 x 900 mm and one 135 x 10 x 900mm and a piece of 12mm dowel for good measure.  I also got a can of oil based spray varnish, for finishing it – and making sure that the paint didn’t wash off in the rain.

The roof and end walls I cut out of the wider board – the roof was intended to be about 25cm long and the end walls 20cm.  I then cut the narrower board to make a trough for the seed.  I figured that a ‘v’ shaped trough would be the best option, as it would allow any water to drain out, preventing the seed getting gross and mouldy (although I didn’t count on my general cutting and nailing inaccuracies), so I cut just two pieces also 25cm in length.  I later realised that this was NOT what I should have done, and needed to cut about 5cm off each of these pieces so that the end walls fitted under the roof and there was a short overhang on the roof.  I also cut the dowel to the wrong length (I should have cut all three pieces to be 20cm in length.


I glued the pieces of the roof together with wood glue and left them overnight to dry. I don’t have any workshop equipment, so had to create structures to support the glued elements using books, gladwrap and wood offcuts that we use for the fire to prevent the pieces being kicked or just randomly falling over.

Next, I painted the images on the end walls – little Totoro (my niece, who visits my Mom every Friday, loves Totoro) and one of the Moomin trolls on the other end (she would love the Moomins too – and the picture might spark her interest).  Turned out, I thought I had acrylic paint, but only had watercolours – I went ahead and used them anyway – hoping that the varnish would protect them from the elements.  I’m not super confident with drawing directly onto wood, so I drew the pictures onto paper first – thanks Google for pictures to copy!  I then shaded the back of the picture with a soft pencil (to create a kind of carbon paper) and drew over the outlines again pressing into the wood.  It was also soft enough to get a small dent where the pencil pressed.

I used two layers of white for the base, then black paint for the outlines and a tiny bit of ochre with water for the paper.

I then realised that I needed to cut the corners off the tops of the end pieces, so that the roof could be firmly attached – this was also when I realised that I had cut the trough pieces too long – so back to the steps and the old rusty saw I went.

Trying to glue the trough pieces to the end walls was tricky – I needed to make sure that the nails were going to go into the ends of the trough pieces, so I put the pieces where I thought they should go, then drew a line along the bottom edge and nailed the two nails for each piece through from the wrong side, just far enough to make a hole on the other side of the wood.  I then pulled the nails back out, and nailed them through from the right side, just far enough to poke out into the trough boards which I glued to the end board.  I then propped it up rather precariously to dry (this wasn’t the best idea – as you can see in the picture – the glue did not dry with the piece of wood flush against the end piece, so the connection isn’t as tight or strong as I would like.


For the second piece, I didn’t put the nails through from the right side before gluing, which worked rather better in terms of tightness, but not in terms of placement of the trough pieces, so the trough ended up with a bit of a gap between the pieces.  Given that the seeds are pretty tiny, this is not ideal, as the seeds all pretty much just fell through – so I glued a piece of dowel along the gap (not shown in photographs as this little brain waggle happened just before I delivered it to Mom) – this worked surprisingly well, filling the gap almost perfectly.  The other piece of dowel went on the side (see the X in the image above) so that the birds had something extra to stand on.

I used the same approach to get the roof on, drawing the line, nailing from the wrong side and pulling the nails out and then nailing from the right side, this worked fairly well, and I was pretty happy with the outcome for this – other than the discovery that most of my cuts had been wonky and so the whole thing is slightly skewed (hopefully it won’t affect the birds).

Once it was finished, I used two coats of spray varnish – and voila! Pretty little bird feeder.  It is suspended via a loop of twine, and two cup hooks.  I hung it up at Mom’s today while she was out (unintentionally managed to miss seeing her to give it to her personally) I wonder when she will notice it..


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