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This is a lively tabletop decoration with animated birds in a simulated pine tree.  The drinking birds are a type of heat engine--normally their heads go into a cup of water and the evaporative cooling creates a temperature difference between the body and head.  In this project, we warm the body with a resistor to create the temperature difference necessary for operation. The top bird has an LED on his hat--what would a tree be without a lighted topper?

CAUTION:  The resistors get very warm, children or pets should not touch them.  Actually, no body should touch them.  You probably don't want your cat or toddler grabbing the birds either.




Parts list:
Six drinking birds    scientificsonline.com
Six 3 watt, 12 ohm resistors   P12W-3BK-ND  digikey.com
Twelve volt, one amp power supply   T1027-P6P-ND  digikey.com
16 inch by 28 inch (1/2 inch thick) plywood
Two 1" x 4" x 12" boards
#22 stranded wire, about 10 feet (multiple colors would be nice)
Krylon green paint (3 oz. can will work)
#1216 battery
LED
Drill and bit that will fit in an 8 inch space (Craftsman 11576 Drill/Driver)

Step 1:

Cut the plywood according to the template.

Step 2:

Pre drill holes near the bottom outer edges of the tree.

Step 3:

Pre drill holes in the 1" x 4" x 12" boards--matching the holes you just drilled in the tree.

Step 4:

Attach the boards to the tree.

Step 5:

The assembly should look like this.

Step 6:

Find a good spot and (using Krylon paint) paint the tree the color of your choice.

Step 7:

Remove the drinking bird body from the feet.

Step 8:

Drill 1/16 inch holes in the legs, just above the cross support.

Step 9:

Find the front two "bumps" on the bottom of the feet.  Mark two dots 1/4 inch behind the "bumps."  The reason for choosing 1/4 inch is that by doing so, we will end up fastening screws into the center of the 1/2 inch thick plywood.

Step 10:

Drill holes (I used 1/8 inch to match my #4 screws) through the marks made in the last step.  Insert the resistor between the legs.

Step 11:

Place the base in an opening and mark the screw positions.

Step 12:

The marked screw positions should be in the center of the plywood.

Step 13:

As mentioned in the introduction, now you need a drill (and bit) that are less than 8 inches long.  Otherwise, you can't drill straight pilot holes into the plywood.

Step 14:

Fasten the base of the bird to the tree.

Step 15:

Insert the bird's body into the base. Repeat these steps until all six birds are mounted.

Step 16:

Bend the resistor (or slide the bird up or down) until the resistor just clears the bird's body in the resting position.

Step 17:

Everybody should be in place and free to move.

Step 18:

Solder a piece of #22 stranded wire between bird #1 and bird #2.

Step 19:

Solder a wire between bird #2 and bird #3.

Step 20:

Cut a small piece of Velcror .

Step 21:

Solder a piece of wire between bird #3 and bird #4.  Attach one side of the Velcror to the narrow channel of the tree as shown below.

Step 22:

Secure the wire with the other half of the tape.

Step 23:

The wire should be flat and hidden from the front.

Step 24:

Solder a wire between bird #4 and bird #5.

Step 25:

Solder and secure a wire between bird #5 and bird #6.

Step 26:

Solder a wire from bird #6 to bird #1 (the places where no wire is yet attached).  Secure the upper part of the wire in the existing tape.

Step 27:

You may need to add a piece of tape to secure the wire about halfway down the tree.

Step 28:

Secure the wire near bird #1.

Step 29:

Add a wire to the left side of bird #3.  This wire will cross the tree and extend about 15 inches behind the tree.

Step 30:

Attach another wire to the right side of bird #1.  This wire will extend behind the tree about 15 inches.

Step 31:

Secure the wires (from bird #3 and bird #1) as they exit the tree.

Step 32:

Slide an LED onto a #1216 battery (long LED lead goes to + side of battery).

Step 33:

Cut the excess wire from the LED.  With packing tape, secure the LED to the battery (making sure the LED is illuminated).

Step 34:

Tape the LED assembly to the top of bird #6's hat.  This must be carefully balanced, or the bird will not return to the upright position after a "bob."

Step 35:

The light should be shining toward the front!

Step 36:

Attach the 12 volt, one amp power supply (DC or AC--doesn't matter) to the two wires which extend beyond the tree.

Schematic is shown below--each 3 watt resistor is subject to about 1.5 watts of energy in this configuration.
Awesome! i just ran into this and cant believe its been up here for almost two years and not one comment. i don't have the room or patience to build one but its still cool. good instructions and great photos of the build. 5 stars.
Thanks! I've always enjoyed the bobbing birds--they make people smile.

About This Instructable

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Bio: I am an author and a maker. My current project is Santa's Shop. I'm working on a science fiction type book--more later. @EngineerRigsby
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