The pet accessories I have found in stores make for poor decor. I wanted to create a perch that would look nice as a desk ornament but still be bird-safe. Grapewood (or aged grape vine) is an easy to find wood that naturally comes in interesting shapes.
All the grapewood really needs is a nice base to accent it visually, hold it stable and of course catch droppings (do birds really need to poop so much?). Steel is a long lasting, durable material that the birds can't chew on, making it perfect for the base.
I hope you enjoy my Instructable and let me know what you think in the comments.
Links to bird safe woods: http://www.mdvaden.com/bird_page.shtml
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
- Metal chop saw [Porter Cable 14in saw]
- Note: this chop saw has a grinding disk made to cut metal; standard miter saws have metal blades that will get ruined if you try and cut metal with them - you can also use an angle grinder to cut the steel
- Table saw or miter saw
- Power drill
- Philips bit
- 11/64 metal drill bit [Dewalt]
- 3/8 metal drill bit [Dewalt]
- 1/8 (metal or wood) drill bit
- 80 grit flap disk
- Cutting wheel (if you don't use a chop saw)
- Metal cutting blade [Bosch]
- Welding equipment [oxygen/acetylene torch + necessary accessories + safety equipment]
- Wood clamps
- Assorted metal clamps
- Tape measure
- L square
- Speed square
- 1x Grapewood [Pier 1, http://www.nettletonhollow.com/, maybe Michaels]
- 4ft bar 1/2" plain steel square stock [Home Depot] (depending on the size of the base you may need more)
- 1ft bar 1" wide 1/8" thick plain steel bar stock [Home Depot] (a wider base may will more bar stock)
- 18"x14" of 22 gauge sheet steel [Home Depot] (larger bases will need more sheet steel)
- 1x Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel Satin Black Spray Paint [Home Depot]
- 1x Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Clear Satin Protective Enamel Spray Paint [Home Depot]
- 2x 1.5in wood screws [Home Depot]
- 8x 1/8in x 1/8in rivets [Home Depot] (larger bases will need more rivets)
- 1x 1/4 x 1/8in rivets [Home Depot]
- Painters tape [Home Depot]
- Welding rod [Welding supply store]
- Felt furniture pads [Home Depot]
- Acetone [Home Depot]
Step 2: Planning + Grapewood
Every perch will be different. Although I can give you general guidelines for building your own perch, the exact dimensions and design come down to you and the piece of grapewood that you use.
I purchased a large piece of grapewood from Pier 1, similar to the one in the picture. The piece was too large and oddly shaped to use for a single perch. So I decided to cut it down and make three. Each perch is a different size and shape so I designed the bases to mirror each perch. The bases extend under all parts of the perch with some extra margin in order to catch droppings and general mess from the birds.
The first step is to look at your grapewood and pick out sections that could make interesting perches. Look at the wood in many different ways. As you can see in the pictures, some perches have the main shaft of the wood turned sideways, while others have it perpendicular to the base. Try and come up with something that is visually interesting and gives the bird a high place to roost. Most medium to small parrots are very light, so you can cantilever the perch using two screws and countersinking (as I do in this Instructable) and it will be very sturdy. For large birds, you may need to add an extra screw or two or use a piece of wood that is supported in multiple places (third picture).
Once you come up with some ideas, draw lines where you want to make cuts. Use a miter saw, or if needed a table saw, to cut on the lines. Orient the wood how you would want to attach it to the base. Use a tape measure to measure out the general rectangular footprint of the perch, making sure to leave a little extra margin at the edges. This is not an exact science, but the base should be larger than the footprint of the perch. Take note of the measurements. This will be the size of the base.
Step 3: Base: Square Stock + Bar Stock
On the square stock, measure out the the sides of the base. I like to layout the dimensions with tick marks first (leaving 1/8" spacing between pieces for the chop saw) then use the speed square to mark the 45 degree lines for my cuts. Mark where you will place the bar stock, keeping in mind that this is where the base of the perch will sit. On the bar stock, measure out a right angled piece that will span the interior of your base (should be the width of the base minus 1").
A few notes about the miter cuts:
- Pay careful attention when marking the lines - it's very easy to accidentally get two miters in the same direction which will make the piece unusable
- This type of chop saw isn't particularly precise - expect to fix the cuts a little with your angle grinder or while you are welding
- Don't try to make thin cuts with the chop saw - the blade will slip off the edge of the metal and you will just end up with a gnarly grind mark
Once all the pieces are cut, you will need to use the angle grinder to shave off the excess metal from the cuts. This is also a good opportunity to adjust any cuts and get the angles nice and tight. Lay it out to make sure everything fits before moving on to welding.
If your cuts are good, the welding should be pretty straightforward. First build the outside of the base. Make sure to clamp everything down onto a flat surface. Lay down a tack on each side then finish with a bead. After the base is complete, weld the bar stock into the base. I orient the base face up so that you can clamp down the bar stock to be flush with the bottom of the base. These welds will be shown and are difficult to grind down so take time to make them presentable.
Once you are done welding, use the angle grinder to grind down the welds. When you are done, the base should be nice and clean with smooth edges all around.
Step 4: Base: Sheet Steel
Place the finished frame on your piece of sheet steel. If possible, I like to align it to a corner to minimize the amount of cutting needed. Use a sharpie to trace the outline of the base on the sheet steel. Don't worry if you mark the base with the sharpie. You will clean that off in one of the next steps anyways.
Once the outline is traced out, get ready to use your jigsaw to cut the steel. I like to use a guide by clamping a piece of straight wood parallel to my line. You can also freehand it if you prefer. Either way you will be using a grinder to line everything up later.
After the steel is cut to size, line it up on the bottom of the base (so that the bar stock lies flat to the sheet steel). The sheet steel should overlap all the edges enough so that you can rivet each side. Clamp down the sheet steel to the base and your table top. Use the 11/64 metal bit to drill through the sheet steel and square stock in the first corner of the piece. You only need to drill through the bottom of the square stock - don't drill all the way through both sides.
After you drill the first corner, place one of the 1/8in long rivets in the hole and fasten it. I like to do one corner first to make sure everything stays aligned. From then on you can just move around the base, repeating the process for each corner. Make sure the sheet steel is flat before you start drilling otherwise you can cause some bumps in the bottom surface. Depending on the size of the base you probably need to add more rivets along the sides. For smaller bases I do one on each side and one on each corner (8 total). For larger bases I do two on each side and one on each corner (12 total).
Once the base is secure, flip it over and find the center (X and Y) of the bar stock. Use the 11/64 bit to drill through the bar stock and sheet steel below. Once the hole is made, flip the piece back over and use the 1/4in rivet to fasten this section. This holds the middle of the sheet steel so it doesn't sag.
Finally, use the angle grinder to clean up the edges of the sheet steel. While the base is up just run the angle grinder along the edges of the base until the sheet steel is flush with the base.
Step 5: Attaching the Grapewood
Get your piece of grapewood and line it up to where and how you want it to sit on the base. Do your best to mark two holes to secure the grapewood onto the bar stock. Using the 11/64 bit, drill two holes. Flip the piece and use a 3/8 bit to create counter-sinks for the wood screws. Go slowly so you don't accidentally drill all the way through the bar stock.
For the next part you might need a friend to help hold the piece. Hold the grapewood onto the base in the position that you want. Using the 1/8in bit, drill through one hole in the base into the wood. Then secure the wood with a wood screw. If all went well, the wood will already be pretty tightly in place. Now drill into the wood through the second hole and secure that one as well.
From here you need to asses if your piece needs another screw or not. I've been able to get away with only two screws on all of mine, but some may need a third.
Step 6: Finishing + Painting
Before you move onto finishing, make sure you like how everything sits. Sometimes I need to counter-sink my holes a tad deeper or adjust the position of the perch. Once you are happy, disassemble the perch and put it aside.
Use the angle grinder, go along the sides of the base (top and outside of the square stock) to give it a nice shiny grind look. Feel free to actually sand it smooth with finer grits, but I usually stop at 80 and opt for the "grinded" look.
Acetone helps clean off any leftover debris and oils from your hands and helps to whisk away any moisture on the steel. This is important to give the paint a good surface to bond to and to prevent as much rusting as possible. Go somewhere with good ventilation and clean the entire piece with acetone. I use lint free rags to wipe it down. I also wear gloves since acetone can be pretty nasty stuff.
Use 1" wide blue painters tape to tape off the two edges that you just ground down (the shiny top and outside edges). The 1" tape works nicely since it perfectly overlaps both edges and leaves a nice clean line all around. Afterwords you are ready to paint.
I setup a space outside with plenty of room for overspray. Read the instructions on the can for specifics about the spray paint you are using. Generally, I like to hold the can 12-18 inches away from my piece. I keep the can moving, not allowing paint to build up in one spot (causing a run). The paint will slowly cover the entire piece with a nice even coat. This method does cause considerable overspray, but the end result is pretty great. Check your paint for drying and recoat times. I try to do one to two coats of black depending on whether on not I feel that it needs a second coat. Since the top is taped off, I usually flip my piece and do the entire thing in one go. That way I don't have to wait as long.
Once the black paint is dried, remove the tape. You should be left with a nice clean silver area. Following same procedure as the black paint, I coat the entire piece in a clear coat. This step is important as it prevents moisture from getting through to the steel and causing rust. I usually do two coats of clear coat to ensure protection. Set aside to dry.
Once the base is dry, reassemble the perch and add four felt footies to the bottom to prevent it from scratching your table tops. Thats it. You're done!
Step 7: Potential Improvements + Conclusion
I hope everyone enjoyed my Instructable. Please leave comments and questions below and I will do my best to respond. I also wanted to leave a couple notes about improvements that you could make if you are feeling ambitious.
- Use filler of some kind to round out the inside corners (between the sheet steel and square stock) to make it easier to clean - in the current form lots of small particles can get stuck here and it is tough to get them out
- Raise the bar stock/perch so a piece of paper can slide straight under - makes it easier to put paper under to catch droppings
- Make the base a standard size like 8.5x11in or the size of your local newspaper - makes it easier to fill with paper
- Make the base out of plate stainless steel - no need for painting, clear coats or even welding but it is more expensive and you need the tools to get through the stainless