Introduction: Build a License Plate Birdhouse

Here's a cool way to re-purpose old license plates, create a decorative and useful home for our little birdie friends. This house only requires 3 plates to make and features an end-of-season easy-clean-out door. You could easily tweak the design, make the back wall from wood and thus only require 2 plates.

Parts Needed:

  • 3 standard steel license plates, (If you don't have a garage full of these, find them in antique stores or ebay)
  • 3 wood screws
  • 1 1/4"x 2.5" bolts and 2 nuts
  • 4 rivets
  • Scrap wood approx 4.5" x 4.5"
  • Wire or rope if you want to hang your birdhouse

Tools Needed:

  • Dremel Variable Speed Rotary Tool
  • Drill (or use the Dremel)
  • Pop Riveter
  • Tin Snips
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Gloves (I've made two of these houses so far and using gloves helps prevent cuts from the many sharp edges)
  • Safety glasses

Step 1: Prepare Your Design and Your Plates

I'm providing a sample sketch-up design for this birdhouse, but it's a pretty basic project and you'll probably want to play with the dimensions. An easy way to do this is to use scrap paper or cardboard to model your design.

Prepare Plate 1, the "Door Plate"

  1. Mark the door hole in the center of one of the plates. For Minnesota plates this corresponds to exactly where a silhouette of the state sits. I drilled 5 holes around the map, one in each corner and one on the center top, then I used the Dremel cutting wheel to "connect the dots". Switch to a grinding wheel on the Dremel to smooth out the curve of the door and remove sharp edges.
  2. Mark the shape of this plate including at least one tab (my design shows 2 tabs but I found it was easier to just have 1 wide tab instead of two)
  3. Cut the shape with tin snips

Prepare Plate 2, the "Back Wall"

  1. Simply trace plate 1 to make the shape of plate 2, you don't really need tabs on this plate.
  2. Cut the snap with tin snips

Bend plates

Bending license plates turned out to be quite easy. Originally I thought a metal brake would be needed to do a reasonable job. We used a combination of the edge of the workbench, a piece of scrap wood and pliers to bend plates for this project. Just place the wood or workbench on the line you want to bend on and use your (preferably gloved) hands. The pliers came in handy for bending the tabs.

  1. Plate 1 and 2 need to be bent into thirds and the tabs need to be bent down
  2. Plate 3 the "Roof" just needs to be bent in the middle at approximately a 90 degree angle

Step 2: Assemble the House

  1. Slip plate 2 (the Back Wall) into plate 1 (the Door Plate)doo
  2. Drill a hole in the side of the plates, we'll pop a rivet in each side to keep the front and back half connected.
  3. Use a pop rivet gun to connect plate 1 to plate 2 (checkout the video below @ minute 14 to see us use the pop riveter)
  4. Drill holes through the roof into the tabs
  5. Use a pop rivet gun to fasten the roof to the tabs (one rivet on each side of the roof is all that is needed)
  6. Cut a piece of scrap wood to fit the bottom of the house
  7. Use 2 screws to attach the wood and 1 screw to serve as a "door pull"
  8. Drill a hole below the door of the birdhouse and fasten a bolt to serve as a perch.
  9. Optionally bend some wire and attach it to the roof, this allows you to hang the birdhouse from your favorite tree.

Congratulations, project complete and one less homeless birdee!

Here's a video that includes shots of this build in progress

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