Have you ever wondered how many unused satellite dishes are floating around aimlessly out there? After being disconnected, they seem to have no apparent function other than occupying valuable storage space and being mostly ugly? The object of this exercise is to offer a simple way to make an environmentally friendly use of one of the thousands of satellite dishes that have found their way into the landfills, attics and garages of those who have had their service disconnected.
The satellite companies typically require the user to return the receiver but to leave the dish and its hardware behind. For those who have access to the removal of this unsightly hardware, here is a garden friendly way to put it to use as a free, rugged, and weather resistant birdbath. Keep in mind that if you plan to install it on a tree you will have to fiddle around a bit to find a level spot to secure it and you may even need to use wooden blocks or shims in extreme cases. The idea is to keep it reasonably level to allow water to seek its own level in a more or less uniform way.
Step 1: Sneak Preview of the Finished Project
Will the first bird lusting for a bath please speak up!
To arrive at this last stage in the project please press on to the next step!
Step 2: Tools and Stuff
You will need a few standard tools and at least one can of spray paint of your choosing. I chose to use camouflage base flat enamel because it is going to be bolted to a lovely pine tree in my back yard and I wanted it to blend in with its surroundings and be most visible only to the birds. The inside of the dish may be coated with swimming pool paint to reduce algae buildup, but this is optional. It need only be a non-toxic paint. The dish will need to be cleaned regularly in any case.
Step 3: Lag Bolts, Washers, Etc.
You will need at least 5 of these two-inch long 1/4 inch lag bolts with washers as shown. If, like me, you plan to bolt it to a nice large tree, these bolts should work just fine and will not harm the tree. Non-corrosive steel/galvanized or stainless steel would be your best choice. NOTE: Do not use any other material, especially copper, because it can damage the tree. Otherwise it is all up to your own best judgment. Hex head bolts are the easiest to install using either a socket wrench or a rechargeable drill and socket. You may want to drill shallow pilot holes first to make the task easier and to be more gentle with the tree.
Step 4: Removing the Mounting Post
Working on the assembled unit is awkward as long as the mounting post in place. Temporarily removing the mounting post allows easier access for working on the dish mechanism. Loosen both bolts as shown just enough to allow the mounting post to slide out of its housing. Set it aside and begin the next step.
Step 5: Removing Adjustment Bolts, Etc.
Remove each of the two adjustment bolts located on either side of the housing.
This allows the dish angle to be changed for initial approximate straight up positioning.
The pivot bolt will need to be slightly loosened to adjust the angle and then re-tightened. This adjustment is only temporary and will be more accurately achieved once the assembly is mounted to final surface.
Note: There are also two adjustment bolts located at the bottom of the mounting post. These can also be removed and the nearby pivot bolt loosened slightly to allow temporary adjustment later in the procedure.
Step 6: Removing the LNB Device
The LNB feed device needs to be removed. Incidentally this is the only part of the assembly that cannot readily be used in this particular project. A pair of standard pliers and a 3/8 socket will work best for this removal task. Set the LNB device aside and hope that you can find a place to either recycle it, sell it on eBay, or locate someone who needs it. They typically sell on eBay for an average of about $12.00 depending, of course, on the type of device you have.
Step 7: All the Components
The entire assembly is shown here in its various parts.
Step 8: Aligning the Mounting Post
Re-install and align the mounting post with the approximate center of the feed bracket assembly before tightening it. This can easily be re-adjusted when mounted on the final surface.
Step 9: Loosening the Pivot Bolts
You can also loosen the pivot bolt on the bottom of the mounting post and remove its two adjustment bolts. Again, this can all be re-adjusted when the assembly is mounted to the final surface.
Step 10: The Upright Configuration
It is easier to more or less align everything in the upright configuration, as it will be look on the final surface mounting, but all adjustments can be changed later as needed.
Step 11: Sealing Against Leaks
This step may or may not be necessary, since the dish is going to be painted and any water leaks should be sealed by the paint job. However, I decided to include this step since I performed it on my own installation and it is relatively easy.
First, find some good quality silicone sealant. RTV compound is a quality type, but there are many others. When you loosen each nut hold it firmly against the dish with one hand to allow room for the silicone to be squeezed under the flat side of the bolt with the other hand holding the tube of sealer. Ensure that the flat side of the bolt is flush with the dish before beginning to tighten the nut. You can hold the bolt in place with a screw driver blade pressing on the flat side while the nut is being tightened.
Proceed to the next nut and perform the same procedure. I found that this is either a two handed or a two person operation and may require a bit of patience. Wipe off all excessive sealer using a damp rag. NOTE: Silicone sealer can be an irritant, so be careful when handling it. Allow to dry overnight.
Step 12: Details on Sealing the Special Bolts
Note that each of the four bolts has a flat head, which conforms to the inside surface of the dish. The bolt is unique in that it is square and fits into a square hole in the surface of the dish. It is easy to place the bolt in the incorrect position when tightening it.
It must be seated inside the square hole before tightening. It can then be tightened and another bolt loosened using the same procedure as mentioned in the previous step.
Step 13: A Completed Seal
Here is an example of a completed seal. It will soon be covered with paint, but it is best to level off the silicone as much as possible before it sets.
Step 14: Ready for the Paint Job
The pine tree in the background is going to be the recipient of this birdbath. The temp gauge will have to go! At this stage you should have the spray paint ready, along with rags and a bit of paint thinner for cleanup. I used an old blue tarp as a table covering, but a painter's drop cloth would work out just as well or better.
Step 15: The Finished Item
Here is the final camo paint job. Notice the total absence of any paint on the tarp. I'd like to thank Adobe PhotoShop for this little miracle!
Step 16: The Final Step
Here is the final installation without help from PhotoShop. At least not on the birdbath nor the tree but I did clean up the door on my old shed a wee bit. NOTE: Speaking of cleaning up, be sure and remove all of the hardware if and when you ever plan to relocate.
Good luck with this fun project!