Introduction: Mason Jar Log Bird Feeder
Grand Prize in the
Mason Jar Challenge
I made one of these log bird feeders many years ago. I wanted it to look like a lantern, but it is not lighted, so it is just a bird feeder. Maybe next time the roof will have solar panels for lights?
This Mason Jar Contest jogged my memory, so I decided to make another one and write my first instructable. Better late than never. One day left......
The first bird feeder I made lasted for about 10 years before the wood weathered and just fell apart. I love the rustic look of it, super cheap to make, easy to fill. The more weathered it gets, the more the birds love it.
This bird feeder is meant for tiny birds, like Chickadees and Finches. You can fill it with regular bird seed (the small yellow seeds) or sunflower seeds. This will not work for thistle seed.
If you don't have a round log to build with, you can improvise with any old scrap wood. See the last step of this instructable for alternative wood suggestions.
Thank you, Instructables, for having such a cool program!
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- Saw: If you don't have a bandsaw, you can use a regular hand saw or a chain saw.
- Drill Press or Electric Drill: For drilling rope holes and seed cups.
- Drill Bit (large): Bit should be a little larger than whatever rope you use so the roof can slide up easily.
- Drill Bit (small) or Punch: For drilling holes in metal ring. You could also use a punch.
- Forstner or Spade Bit: To be used to drill the little cups that the seed falls into. The bigger the better. We used 1-1/4" forstner bit.
- Hot Glue Gun: For securing the knots and hook.
- Wire Cutter: For cutting the wire
- Pliers: For shaping the wire
- Log: We used a 9" diameter black ash log. You can go larger, but I wouldn't go smaller in diameter.
- Wide Mouth Quart Mason Jar with metal ring.
- Screws: You will need (4) four small brass screws to secure the jar ring to base.
- Sanding pad and/or sandpaper: To sand off base and roof slightly, but not necessary.
- Spar Varnish: To be applied to roof only. You can either spray some on, or paint it onto the roof. Spar varnish has UV protection and is perfect for wood that will be outside. Apply several coats.
- Mineral Oil: This will be applied to the base and must be bird-friendly. Food grade works best.
- Rope: I used jute because of its rustic appearance. You can use clothesline, poly cord or chain.
- Wire or Coat Hanger: Heavy gauge wire to make the hook or loop on top. You can also use a coat hanger.
- Paper: One sheet of paper to make template for rope holes in top and bottom.
- Pencil: To mark on wood for drilling. You can also use a magic marker like I did, but it is harder to sand off.
USE ALL NORMAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AND COMMON SENSE!
Step 2: Cutting the Log
Cutting a log cross-grain can be dangerous if you do not clamp down the log. If you are using a band saw or chain saw, you must make sure the log is secure so it doesn't roll. A regular hand saw is much less dangerous, but it will take more effort to cut through the log.
Use a regular vice or clamp to hold your log while cutting, but most likely the log will be too large to fit into a regular workbench vice or clamp. You can use a ratchet strap to hold the log down to another piece of wood, sawhorse, or to a table with the end of the log extending past the edge. The cut will come out more accurate, and you won't damage your blade. You can use either a basic ratchet strap, or make a strap clamp out of scraps of wood and a ratchet. I made a woodworking plan on how to build your own ratchet strap clamp. Rustic Woodworking has a free strap clamp woodworking plan so you can build your own.
The log used for this project was about 9" in diameter. The base log is just a simple flat cut, about 2" thick. I should have used a larger log, but I had to get this project done and already had a 9" black ash log in the shop ready to go.
I cut the roof log about 4" thick to allow for the roof peak. I tilted the table on my bandsaw to the maximum tilt, which is about 45-degrees. I eye-balled the cut for the roof, and just ran it through, making two cuts for the peak of the roof. Tilting the bandsaw table was much easier than trying to hold the log at the 45° angle. I just winged it. The birds will never know......
It is not necessary to have a peaked roof. You can also have a flat roof, which will make this project a lot easier, especially if you don't have a bandsaw. Just make another log slice about the same thickness as the base log. It will look just fine, and the rest of the project will be easier. See the last step for other alternatives.
Step 3: Template for Rope Holes
Take a piece of paper and trace around the base log. Cut out the paper circle and fold into quarters. Cut a notch in the edge of the quarter-fold as shown about an inch from the edge. Unfold and lay out onto log base.
Using the notches as a guide, use a pencil or marker to make a mark through each of the notches onto the base log. These will be your marks for drilling the holes for the rope to go through. They should be equally placed. Be sure that the mason jar will fit between the marks.
For the roof, make your marks on the bottom of the wood, being sure that the marks are positioned at the thinnest parts of the roof (not through the peak), trying to get them as equal as possible. The holes will be drilled all the way through and quite visible on top, so do your best to position them correctly. Mine are slightly off, but it still worked.
If you did not make a peak on your roof, you do not have to worry about this. Just place the template onto the flat roof the same way as you did for the base. Everything will work fine.
Step 4: Seed Cups
Use a ruler and connect the dots on the base log. This will give you the center.
Note: The center of a log is not the same as the center of the grain, so do not go by the wood grain. Find the actual center of the log or the feeder might not hang straight.
Place the metal jar ring in the center of the log and trace around it. I used a magic marker for this so it would show up in the photos, however marker is difficult to sand off. Instead, use a soft lead carpenters pencil to make your marks. They don't show up as much, and are easier to sand off.
Find a round object that is about the same size as the forstner or spade bit you will be using to drill the seed cups, or do your best to draw a circle. (around 1-1/4" diameter) The main point is to find the center of the seed cup so you know where to align the forstner/spade bit. Center the round object on the ring mark and between the quarter lines. You can also use a protractor, or better yet just put a mark (dot) for the center of the seed cup to line up the forstner/spade bit. Seeing the actual circle helps to visualize the final outcome.
The key for positioning the seed cups is to allow just enough seeds to flow into the cup, and to allow enough of the cup on the outside for the birds to get the seeds. Dead center seems to work best.
- Center the seed cup on the metal ring mark.
- On this feeder I put more of the seed cup on the outside of the metal ring. This did not allow enough room for black oil seeds to freely fall down from the jar into the seed cup. This might be ok if you are using small seeds, but doesn't work very well for large black oil seeds. Centering the seed cup would give more room for the seeds to fall without jamming up. The little birds actually reach under the jar to get the seeds.
- Make larger seed cups.
- This will allow larger bird seed to fall freely, and still have plenty of the "outside" cup for the birds to feed from.
- Make two large seed cups instead of four smaller ones.
Step 5: Drill Holes
I used a drill press to drill the rope holes and the seed cups. If you don't have a drill press you can use an electric drill.
Use a drill bit that is slightly larger than the rope you will be using. The roof must be able to freely slide up and down on the rope to refill the feeder.
BASE: Going by your marks from the paper template, drill the rope holes into the base. Simple.
ROOF: Drilling the rope holes through the roof is a little trickier. For a peaked roof, you will need to turn it upside down and drill from the bottom of the roof up through the top. I simply set the roof, upside down, on top of my drill press clamp and held it with my hands while drilling the holes. The clamp was not big enough to hold the log. It is very important that after you flip the roof upside down that the flat part (actual bottom) be as level as possible. If it is not, the rope holes will not come at the right spots on the top (of the roof) and it won't look right. If you don't have a drill press, you can strap the roof down on its side to a bench or table and use an electric drill. Line your drill up so that you drill as straight as possible. Even if you are off a little, the birds won't notice. Trust me. The whole point here is to get it hanging straight.
Clamp the feeder base to a drill press to hold base steady. If you don't have a drill press, have someone help to hold the log so it doesn't move while drilling. Using a forstner bit or spade bit, drill the seed cups approximately 3/4" to 1" deep.
Put the drill bit back into the chuck and drill a drain hole in the center of each seed cup. It won't drain all of the water, but it will help. Birds hate soggy, moldy seeds. Give it a little drainage. Be sure to scrape or brush out the seed cups when you refill the feeder so the drain hole isn't plugged up.
Step 6: Protect the Wood
Wood, when left outside to endure the sun, rain and snow, needs protection.
BASE: To protect the the base, use only Food Grade Mineral oil. We don't want any harsh chemicals or varnish on the base for the birds to peck on, or for the seeds to absorb. Mineral Oil will help to repel water and protect the wood and is not harmful to birds.
ROOF: I sprayed the top of the roof with Spar varnish. Spar varnish has UV protection, expands and contracts with temperature changes instead of cracking like typical varnishes, and is specifically designed for outdoor projects. This will greatly prolong the life of the feeder. Since the logs are cut cross-grain wood, the wood will absorb every drop of water if it is not coated with something, and will quickly weather and crack. You can either spray it on or paint it on. If you don't want to use varnish, at least oil it well to repel water, and reapply every year or so.
Step 7: Attach Ring to Base
Center the ring onto the base. Drill or punch four small holes in ring. Also punch a small pilot hole into the wood to make it easier to get the screws started. Using four small brass screws, screw the ring onto the base. Brass doesn't rust. Regular steel screws will eventually rust and pull out of the wood.
Step 8: Adding the Rope & Hanger
Cut four equal lengths of rope a little longer than you will need. I think mine were about 3', but could have gotten by with 2-1/2'. Be sure to cut them long enough so the roof can slide up a few inches to remove the jar when filling. Tie a knot at one end of each rope. Use a hot glue gun to put a few dabs of hot glue in the knot to keep it from loosening. Trim the bottom ends to equal length and fray the rope if desired to make a tassel.
- Feed the ropes up through the base and up through the roof. The knots go on the bottom.
- Screw the mason jar onto the ring.
- Grab the tops of all four ropes and suspend feeder. Adjust so that the feeder hangs straight. Hold ropes tight.
- Take a small piece of wire to use as a temporary staple to hold the ropes together at the "level" position. Press wire with pliers to hold ropes tight so they won't slip while we wrap the rest of the wire for the hook. If the ropes are not held tight at this point, one or two may pull out slightly and the feeder might not hang level.
- Cut a piece of heavy gauge wire or coat hanger about a foot long. Fold in half.
- Use a wood dowel, tool handle, or something to make a loop in the center, and twist the rest of the wire together to add strength.
- Use pliers to bend the bottom ends of the wire so they don't pull out over time. Seeds, wind and snow all add stress and weight on the hook.
- Position this wire in the center of the four ropes, with the loop on top.
- Take another piece of wire and start wrapping the four ropes and wire hanger together. I added hot glue during this process to help keep the ropes in place while wrapping as I wanted the wire to be in the center of the ropes.
- Wrap wire around rope for about an inch, or how long you want it.
- Take a utility knife or razor blade to cut off the remaining rope at top of wire wrap.
- Apply hot glue to the cut ends of the rope. This will help shed water and to secure the hook. Jute is a natural rope and will weather over time just like the wood.
Step 9: Notes
TO PERCH OR NOT TO PERCH:
Although not necessary, you can also add a perch to the feeder base by drilling a hole into the side and inserting a wooden dowel or stick.
I like feeding and watching the Chickadees. They do not need a perch. They easily can hold onto the jute rope and the wood base, which is why I did not add a perch. They fly in, grab one seed, and leave.
By adding a perch, you might attract birds that can't hold on easily, like Blue Jays and Starlings. Those bigger birds will quickly steal all of the seeds if they have a perch to sit on. A perch will also make it easier for squirrels to hold onto.
Birds like clean feeders. When you are refilling the mason jar, brush out the seed cups and make sure that the drain holes are not plugged. You might also want to add more mineral oil to the base every year or so to help repel water and to protect the wood.
NO LOGS, NO PROBLEM:
Not everyone has access to logs. You can still build this bird feeder using regular square wood, like a chunk of 2x8. You may need to glue some wood together to get a large enough piece. Just make the base and roof whatever size you want and follow the rest of the directions. You can cut the wood into a circle, hexagon, or leave it square. Cedar would be an ideal type of wood for something like this, as it is naturally rot resistant.
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