Introduction: Making Yard Birds From PVC Pipe
I started making these birds from PVC pipe about eight years ago. It started when I purchased several patterns while wintering in Florida. A gentleman there was making them with great abandon and selling them at the local flea market. He did well enough to fund his travel back up north to his fishing camp for the summer. I was looking for something different I could undertake as a hobby and this seemed to fit the bill as I had not seen anyone else doing this craft in the area where we recently moved.
My first attempts at this were, to say the least, somewhat crude. However, as I kept at it I discovered some of the secrets and got more proficient. When I returned home I kept at it with PVC that I had purchased in the U.S. I did not really have any expectations of selling any, but, I completed a few and set them out front of the house. To my surprise people walking by, liked them and wondered if I could make some for them. Thus began my small garage industry. Later that first year I was contacted by the organizers of the Christmas Craft Show at Presqu'ile Provincial Park to see if I would be interested in submitting some samples of my work for adjudication. You see, in order to display work in this prestigious show one has to have the work judged and accepted. So I took several of my birds to the adjudication and, not only was it accepted, a judge purchased one of the samples. That year I took a large quantity of my birds to the show and they sold them all. I also produce several sets over the summer for sale in the Lighthouse Store in the park.
After that I settled into a pattern of purchasing PVC pipe in the spring and working at them over the summer when I was not sailing or golfing. Occasionally I sell them out of the garage or off the front step and all that was left would go to the craft show. The result being that I would have a garage I could put the car back in by the time the really cold weather set in.
The first experiment I made was to produce a smaller pattern in order to create a mother and baby on a single block. This worked for all the different larger bird types. At some point I also started making my own bases from cement/sand mix because I could not find any of the size I wanted.
Over the years I experimented with different designs. For instance, the Great Egret happened when I was walking in the park and saw one standing in the marsh. I thought it was interesting and something that would fit the 4 inch pipe I was using. I looked up several pictures on the web and developed a pattern that reflected the bird I has seen on the marsh. The result was a success.
This past year I was offered some cedar that a friend had cut from his woodlot which gave me a new idea. I had seen others who had created patterns on wood but they were usually on a smaller size scale. By putting three blocks together I was able to create a solid base. Then it just became a matter of adjusting the bends to create the illusion of the mother bird with a fish in it's beak and a baby begging for it while a second baby looks down for it's own (could just as easily be both looking up). This became an instant hit. I sold several from the front step. I had two ready to go to the craft show this fall when the furnace service repairman was scheduled to visit. He purchased both of them right out of the garage. I got my furnace serviced and made a net profit on the transaction!
I plan to continue making bird crafts for the park. Profits from the sales are used to support their educational programs during the summer.
You can reach me at email@example.com
I am open for discussions on the topic and appreciate any comments. If I can answer your questions that will be a bonus.
1. Tools Required
Jigsaw (variable speed works best)
Saw bits (18 – 24 points/inch) (A blade with less points/inch can be used but the cut will be rougher requiring more filing and sanding)
Heat gun (variable settings) (Some have used hot water for this)
Files (course and fine)
Fine sandpaper (100 - 150 grit)
Work bench (Black & Decker Workmate works well for holding the pipe while cutting)
Bristol Board or other heavy paper (for templates)
Large bucket or tub for water (To cool the bend after heating)
Pencil HB or softer (To mark pattern on the PVC pipe)
2 Safety Equipment
Ear Protection (Jig saws are noisy)
Safety glasses (PVC can send out chips while cutting)
Gloves (Bending heated PVC can be a warming experience)
PVC pipe, 2, 3 and 4 inch Schedule 40. Available from Home Depot in 10 foot lengths (U.S.) and other major hardware stores and plumbing supply companies. Note: To remove writing from pipe using a palm sander with 150 grit sandpaper seems to work well.
Spray paint; Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch Slate Blue, Real Orange, Flat Black. (Note: you can use a small brush and paint the flat black portions, if desired) Paints available at Home Depot and other hardware stores
Cleaning agent (Spray 9, GooGone or equivalent)
Glue – Amazing Goop seems to work well
Eyes – ANIMAL EYES 6mm HALF ROUND BLACK (available at most craft stores such as Michaels) and ANIMAL EYES 9mm AMBER (haven’t found them locally but available from many on line stores such as http://www.craftking.com)
Material for a base such as; wood or patio stones.
August 14, 2015: Finally figured how to get back in to update. I have added a couple of new pictures. Usually I forget to take the pictures before the finished birds are gone. The pelican I designed as several people had asked for that pattern. I had to make one to be sure what the final product would look like. The second picture of birds of different sizes came about when I was contacted and provided a picture. The lady had a friend who purchased these but could not get any more. So, I took the picture and created the designs necessary to make the family.