This is going to be a simple project to make inexpensive christmas presents
On a difficulty scale I would say this is an easy adult project. Due to fire and potential broken glass I would probably not have the kids try this unassisted.
1 Gather parts
- 1 Quart Narrow Mouth, Mason Jar
- Solid Copper Wire (12 or 14 gauge)
- Galvanized Chick Feeder Base, available at farm & home stores for about $4, or $8 form amazon
- Stranded Copper Wire (optional)
2 Gather tools
- Safety Glasses
- ABC Fire Extinguisher (if electric soldering tool or AB Fire Extinguisher if using a torch,)
- Butane Torch
- Lead Free Silver Solder, or just plain lead free tin solder.
- Paste Rosin if not rosin core.
- Third Hands,
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Wire Stripper
- Wire Cutter. (my multi tool is an electricians tool so the pliers, cutter, and stripper are all in the same jaw.)
- Emory Cloth
- Knife Sharpening Rod/or wood Dowel for making chain links. (omitted if using paracord or twine)
- SAFETY GLASSES
I prefer to give and receive handmade gifts for Christmas. I don't know if it is sort of a personal rebellion against consumerism and marketing around the holidays, or if it is the feeling that a loved one took time out of their busy day to make something bespoke for me.
Where we live there aren't too many shopping malls so to take the kids to see Santa we usually have to head to a Large sports retailer about an hour away. This is brilliant marketing on their part as they usually offer activities for the kids to do while they wait for their turn in line, and I get the opportunity to get inspiration from their gift section.
I came across a bird feeder that I was kind of digging, it was a mason jar with a lip for a simple wire hanger with a galvanized chick feeder base screwed into the inverted jar. Then i saw the price $35.... THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS? GEEZ THAT IS A LOT OF MONEY, The Farm & Home store sells the bases for less than $4.... The lightbulb lit up and inspiration struck, The kiddo's grandparents are getting birdfeeders.
Waiting in line I had visions of wire wrapping dancing in my head and trying to figure out how to drill in glass. I decided against drilling holes for safety reasons. The way my jars were made the center of the bottom was too close to a mould line and the jars would shatter.
So on to plan B. I was looking at the egg whisk in my kitchen utensil rack and the lightbulb went off again. A wire cage to hold the jar and the base just screws to the bottom. BRILLIANT!
Skills required, One should be able to observe save tool handling procedures.
If you have ever sweat copper pipe you should be able to braze the wire cage together. The key is to get the wire as close together as possible before applying heat, then solder then remove the heat.
We are going to be working with Glass (Can break), Fire (Butane torch), Molten Metal (400+ degree molten silver/tin), Pressurized flammable gas (Butane) and cutting tools. You can and will hurt yourself if you are not careful. This is not something to jerk around with, if you burn down your house or go blind you have been warned.
Yeah I did this at the kitchen table but your Wife/Girlfriend/Mom/Partner may not be as accommodating so make sure that the other residents of the household are cool with where your building these. Or go outside....
- Wear Safety Glasses
- DO NOT directly heat glass (the thermal shock can crack and break it)
- WEAR SAFETY GLASSES. skin heals, scars are cool but ya gotta see to admire.
- Keep an ABC fire extinguisher handy ABC = Wood/Flammable Liquids/Electrical
- SAFETY GLASSES!!!! WEAR THEM!!!
Step 1: Brazing a Ring for the Jar Hanger.
1 Strip the insulation off the copper wire.
Stripping wire is going to be the time consuming part of this project. For each feeder you choose to make you are going to need to strip 2 pieces of wire in 18" lengths and one piece of 12 inch length along with however much you want for a chain if you choose to go that route.
2 Form a ring
I used the jar lid sealing ring for a form I made sure to overlap my wind to make the ring larger then the jar opening Before cutting the wire test fit it over the jar mouth
3 Get to brazing
Once you are happy with the fit of the ring over the jar mouth. Cut the extra wire off and but the 2 ends together. I used a bit of emory cloth to brighten up the copper and dobbed a bit of rosin on the joint area so that my solder would flow better.
Apply heat to the joint area, you will notice the copper chainging colors as heat flows through it after it has heated for a second or two. back off your torch and touch some solder to the joint if your solder does not begin to flow bring the flame closer to the joint. If the solder balls up with out flowing between the ring ends you are heating the solder and not the copper to be joined.
Allow the copper and solder joint to cool and you can then test the joint with a tug. Hopefully your joint is solid if not it will pop and you get to start the process over.
If you cannot get a solid solder joint one option is to twist the wires together, however I was not happy with the result and soldered the rings.
Step 2: The Rest of the Basket.
- Strip the insulation off of and cut 2 lengths of copper wire between 17 and 18 inches in length.
- Form J hooks on each end, by bending about an inch - inch and a half back on itself.
- Grasp both lengths of wire with the hooks lined up center the wires on the base of the jar and use the jar as your form as you bend them into a U shape.
- At this point I test fit the ring into the open hooks and ensured that my length was correct lengthening or shortening my J hooks as needed to get the ring to sit relatively even on the Jar with as little slack in the wire as possible before tightening the hooks into eyelets. .
- After you are happy with the fit remove the cage from the jar and wrap the hooks around the wire ring to form eyelets.
- Trim the excess wire from your new eyes and put the cage back on the jar it back on the jar.
Step 3: Make the Hang Chain.
The process I used to braze the links into a chain is the same one I described in the larger ring step earlier. Just being a smaller part they heat up quicker. Or you can use Twine or other cordage. I like the copper look and went with making a chain.
I didn't really use any special tools at this point I started off making a coil around my sharpening rod then used the clippers to cut rings out of the coil like one would for making chainmaille. Keep your clipper along the same point in the coil and you will wind up with evenly sized rings. They are of a large enough size that I was able to open them by twisting the gap larger by hand then twisting them closed so that the butt ends met to solder closed.
I then mounted my chain in my third hands and started closing the individual links. Make sure you use pliers to adjust any links as neighboring links will be hot from heating its neighbor.
- Strip more insulation
- Form rings by wrapping the wire around a mandrel ( in my case the sharpening rod from my kitchen knife block.)
- Clip the rings
- Assemble the rings into a chain
- Braze the links closed.
- Attach the chain to the wire cage using the final link.
- (optional) If you want to reenforce the X where the 2 pieces of wire cross you may want to twist a few smaller strands of wire around both axis it will add a bit of friction to the 2 wires and prevent them from deforming.
The key is to keep the flame away from the jar, If the jar heats and cools unevenly then it is possible that it will break due to thermal shock. That is bad as you may wind up with shrapnel and flying glass.
Step 4: Filling for Presentation
The jar of the bird feeder holds about a lb of seed. As it is gravity fed, if you were to fill it without a inner seal the seed would fill the base, and make a mess in the box. I am just including this step to highlight how I am presenting them. Filling is pretty self explanatory but the inner seal may not be thought of.
- To fill unscrew the jar from the feeder base and turn the mouth upright.
- Pour in seed using a funnel or paper cone.
- Place a narrow mouth sealing lid on the jar mouth
- While the jar is mouth side up screw on the feeder base.
Now you can wrap and present the feeder without seed going everywhere. I would must likely hang this from a hook due to the short length of chain, If you choose to hang yours from a tree feel free to make the chain longer to suit your needs or use a length of twine.
I have no idea how resistant or not this design is to squirrels and rain I figured I like squirrels too and wont get upset if they are fed along with the birdies.