This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in April 2015.
Enjoy this Earth Day upcycle for the birds!
Bird watching from your own home is a really special and educational experience. Create this DIY bird feeder using simple bowls, a threaded rod, and inexpensive hardware to make a custom piece. This bird feeder was designed to hang right outside our kitchen window, and promises draw quite a crowd every morning – bluebirds, robins, sparrows, you name it!
Choose two bowls, and a third platter that is slightly wider than your larger bowl – for the platter, which will serve as a canopy to cover the bowls from weather and squirrels, wood, wicker (like I chose), or a coordinating plate are all options. This project is flexible enough that you can choose almost any materials that appeal to your style.
Porcelain, ceramic, glass or melamine will work equally well.
Gather the hardware and tools you need for the job:
1) 1/4″–20 threaded rod. A 3′ length cost only $2.25, and you will only need half of the length for this project.
(1) 3/8″ glass & tile drill bit. The packaging on my $10 bit specifically says that it’s good for ceramic and glass but not porcelain or stone, but I bore through porcelain bowls with it successfully (just pointing this out). Even though your threaded rod is 1/4″-diameter, the 1/4″ glass & tile bit won’t create a hole wide enough for the threads on the rod, which is why I went up a bit size to 3/8″.
A 1/4″ standard bit (used for drilling through my wicker platter, or if your canopy is made of wood)
Corded drill (powerful, and more consistently powerful than cordless tools)
(6) washers – $1
(6) 1/4″ hex nuts – $1
(1) 1/4″ coupling nut – $3
(1) 1/4″ x 4″ J-Bolt – $1
Use the 3/8″ glass & tile bit to bore through the bottom center of both bowls. To help prevent it from shattering, activate the drill slowly to avoid chatter, and line the inside of the bowl with a “X” of tape (whether it did a lot for me, I’m not sure, I’m just following logic to help prevent glass from shattering).
I can’t reiterate enough that this drilling process may take you hours or days – your hands will be cramped and may reverberate for hours. I’m sure it depends entirely on your material and tools, but my bit was brand new (sharp) and it still bore in an astonishingly slow way. In my experience, drilling through glass is considerably quicker.
Allow the weight of the drill to contribute to the pressure on the bit – don’t force it too hard with your own muscles, or you’ll risk shattering the bowl. It’s not quick, but keep with it and you will see gradual progress as the bit gets deeper through the material.
What I’m getting at is, when you bore through the bowl, you’re going to want to throw yourself a party.
The hole will eventually poke through the other side of the bowl, at which time it would be a good idea to remove the tape on the inside of the bowl, and continue to widen the opening by drilling through the opposite side.
The hole will need to be wide enough to fit your 1/4″ threaded rod.
Before you secure the bowl, take a minute with the hack saw to cut the 3′ rod in half. Note that the manufactured product has two “machined” ends which make threading a nut easy; when you saw through the center, you will find that it may be harder to twist a nut on the cut ends because the thread has been disrupted by the sawing. For this reason, you will want to fasten all components of this bird feeder so that the cut end rests at the bottom of the bird feeder (all nuts will have to be rotated slowly down the length of the rod).
One good thing to be said about this project is that the entire product is hand-tightened, therefore is easy to be hand-loosened if necessary.
Assemble the bird feeder by anchoring the larger bowl with a washer and a nut.
Add a washer and nut to the inside of the bowl as well; sandwiching the bowl between the nuts will help keep it tightly in place (not wobbly).
Thread on another nut and washer, twisting the nut to a spot on the rod where you want the second bowl to rest. Add the second, smaller bowl on top of that and anchor it in place.
Use the 1/4″ drill bit to create a hole in the center of your bird feeder canopy. The canopy serves two purposes – it helps to keep squirrels out, and it shelters the feeder to some degree from rain. I like the wicker tray because it’s really lightweight, but a wooden platter or simple upside down plate would be a great idea too.
Use washers and nuts on either side of the canopy to lock it in place on the threaded rod.
You should have a few inches available at the top of the rod. Thread the coupling halfway on to the tip, and then thread the J-Hook into the coupling until the connection is tight.
Hang your finished bird feeder outside to enjoy!
(Note: It photographed easier at eye-level, but for our own pleasure and to help keep squirrels from paying it special attention, this will actually be hung on the house eave outside our kitchen window. The joy!)