If you want hours of quiet entertainment, build yourself a bird feeder, fill it with seeds, then watch the feathery fliers swarm. Hang it outside your kitchen or living room window, and enjoy your chirping friends all year long. Especially as the cold months approach, your backyard visitors will be happy to have the free buffer. It’s a great way to learn about birds too. A field guide of your region’s avian species will help you figure out who’s coming to lunch. Before you know it, you’ll be putting names to the faces of your new friends.
Lay out and cut the parts - Using a combination square and a compass, lay out the feeder’s six individual pieces on a 2-foot-long 1x6 cedar: three 3½-inch squares, one 4½-inch square, and two 3¼-inch-diameter circles. Clamp the cedar to a worktable. Using a jigsaw, cut out the circles and squares. Cut the four 4-inch-long perches from the ¼-inch dowel. Using a random-orbit sander or sanding block with 120-grit paper, sand the pieces so that they are smooth and free of splinters. (Make sure the dust bag is on the back of the sander.) To parents: A jigsaw can send dust and splinters flying. Be sure everyone is wearing safety glasses before you cut.
Make the top - Glue two 3½-inch blocks together, and secure them with 4d nails. Then glue and nail one of the circles on top of the blocks. Mix the epoxy, and spread it on one side of the square. Set the square into the copper post cap. Let it set for 20 minutes.
Build the base - Turn the 4½-inch square on edge, and hold it steady with a bar clamp. Drill a ¼-inch hole about ½ inch deep into the center of the square’s edge. Repeat until you have a hole on each edge. Glue 4-inch-long perches into the holes. Glue and nail the other circle onto the square with the perches. On the square side of the circle/square pair, drill a ¾-inch-deep hole into the center with a ½-inch spade bit. Exchange the spade bit for a ¼-inch bit, and drill all the way through the pair. The bigger hole will help hold the hanging wire in place. Hey, kids! Here’s a trick to find the center of the square: Just draw a diagonal line from each corner to the opposite corner to make an X on the face of the square. The place where the lines intersect is the center.
Wire the base - Cut a piece of vinyl-covered wire about 3 feet long. Feed the wire through the hole in the base. Using a pair of pliers, fold over the wire’s tip on the square side of the base to make a little knot. Pull the knotted end back into the larger hole until it stops at the circle. Make sure it’s all the way in the hole and doesn’t stick out of the square. Glue and nail the last 3½-inch square over the hole to cover it.
Make a hole for the wire in the top - Put a bar clamp around the base of the post cap so that you can hold it steady. With a finish nail, make a little dent in the point of the copper peak. Then carefully drill a ¼-inch hole through the peak and out of the center of the attached circle.
Make the seed holder - Using a pair of scissors, cut the ends off a 1-liter soda bottle to make a cylinder.
Assemble the feeder - Brace the soda-bottle cylinder on a scrap of wood clamped to a worktable. Drill four evenly spaced ¼-inch holes 1½ inches from the cylinder’s edge. Feed the wire attached to the base through the cylinder. Fit the cylinder over the circle on the base, positioning the feeding holes above the perches. Nail the cylinder to the base with blued tacks. Thread the wire through the top by going through the circle first, then out through the copper peak. Fit the top into the cylinder. To hold the top on, slide a rubber grommet onto the top of the wire, and push it tight against the copper peak. This is your assembled bird feeder.
Fill the feeder with seed - Pull the grommet along the wire to loosen the top, pull the top out of the cylinder, then fill the cylinder with seed. Fit the top back on, pull the wire taut, and slide the rubber grommet tight against the peak again.
Make a hook for the feeder - Choose a tree to hang your feeder from and a limb that’s easy to reach. The limb should be healthy and thick enough to support the weight of a full feeder—plus a couple of birds. Twist an eye screw into the limb. Slide a screwdriver through the eye, and use it to turn the screw until it’s in all the way.
Hang the feeder - Thread the top end of the bird feeder’s wire through the eye screw on the tree. Twist the wire around itself to keep it from slipping out. Then sit back and wait for your visitors to drop in for lunch!