Introduction: Teaching Kids Woodworking With a Bird Feeder

About: I have been working with wood since I could stumble into the shop with my dad. About a year ago I moved into a house with no space for a full shop so I decided to take up all hand tool wood working. That start…

A bird feeder, what better present to make for mom this Mother's Day with the kids. This is a simple project that can be completed in an afternoon with the kids helping out and learning about different tools in the shop. Using a very basic set of chisel, hand plane, drill and saw anyone can make a bird feeder. Not only will mom love something that the kids made, but the kids will have a fun time in the shop and learn about tools. If this is something you want to make with your kids, you can also pick up the plans for free here.

Also, if you want more details on the build you can find the video here.

It's well worth it watching the faces of the kids as they get to play with tools in daddy’s shop.

Supplies needed



Eye Screws:


Cedar: 1” X 8” X 8’ from your local home center

Deks Olje D1:

Deks Olje D2:

Tools needed

#4 Hand plane:

Panel saw:

Marking knife:


Drill Bit Set:

Chisel Set:

Step 1: Cut the Lumber to Length

This is a good time to introduce the kids to a hand saw. Some kids will pick up a saw and go to town with minimal instructions, some kids will want you to help guide them, and some kids just want their hand on the saw while you run it. For most of the cross-cuts, I find it easier to put it in a bench vice and let the kids cut down the line you drew. Two boards will need to be ripped cut. I find it is easier to do at a saw bench or even an old shop chair. This is a good opportunity to teach the kids about sawing a different orientation. I addition, you will learn how to saw better because you'll have to hold it in an odd way to get around the kids. After boards are cut, they can be smoothed out and removed all of the saw marks. This step is a great time to teach the kids about hand planes and how they work very easily on cedar.

Step 2: Attaching the Sides to the Bottom

For this build, you will be using dowels in all the joinery. These dowels are fairly strong and are extremely easy to install. All you have to do is drill a hole and then insert a dowel with glue and you're done. For attaching the sides to the bottom, I used three dowels along the bottom edge. The kids can use the brace to drive in the bit and have fun of pounding a dowel down into the side with a little bit of 5-minute epoxy. After the glue has dried, you can flush cut off the dowel and smooth it off with a plane.

Step 3: Cutting the Grooves for the Glass

I find it easier to cut the grooves with a grooving plane before installing the sides to the bottom as we did in the last step. However, in the video, I forgot that and decided it would be a good opportunity to teach the kids how to cut the grooves without using a plow plane as most people do not have one. While cutting a groove with a chisel may seem scary, it can be easily done. First, start by marking out where the grooves need to go. They are a 1/4 inch wide and 1/4 inch deep and 1 1/2 inches in from the outside. Use a chisel to cut the stop cut at the end of the groove, next use a larger chisel to start cutting in the sides of the groove. Once the sides have been cut a little bit deeper, you can come in with a 1/4 inch chisel and remove the waste in between those cut marks. Repeat the process, cutting down a little deeper on the sides and a little deeper on the end until the groove is down to the depth of 1/4 inch.

Step 4: Attaching the Rails to the Front and Back

The rails are attached to the front and back similarly to how the sides are connected to the bottom. I used 1 dowel at either end through the rail into the side panels and then 4 dowels through the rail into the bottom panel for a total of 5 dowels per side. When finished, use a bit of 5-minute epoxy at each of the dowel joints.

Step 5: Finishing the Wood

Before installing the hardware and plexiglass, I chose to finish the wood. On my last bird feeder, I used boiled linseed oil and paste wax because the kids could enjoy putting it on with their hands and not worry about chemicals. However, in this case I wanted the bird feeder to last a lot longer so I used a marine varnish. I chose Deks Olje because it is a very high-quality long-lasting system that will keep the wood looking good for years and years to come. First, I used D1 which soaks into the wood and leaves a matte finish. This keeps the wood itself from rotting as it soaks deep down into the surface. Next, I used a D2, I suggest applying four to six layers on top. This product is a film surface furnish that will protect the wood from scratches and dents over the years.

Step 6: Installing the Plexiglass

I purchased ¼ in thick plexiglass in a 2ft x 3ft sheet. Since, this was more than I needed I had to cut it down to the exact measurements of my bird feeder. My measurements were 21 and a half inch by 6 and 1/2 in tall (21 ½ x 6 ½). I would suggest measuring the grooves on yours so that you can make sure it fits. Cutting plexiglass is rather easy. Just score the plexiglass with a knife making sure to score on both sides deeply and then snap it off on the edge of the bench. If there are any jagged edges after cutting they can be trimmed up with a plane.

Step 7: Attaching the Hardware

For the hardware, I chose a pair of hinges to go on the end that allow the lid to lifted up. I chose a heavyweight chain that is far more than I need because I like the thick, yet functional look of it. The chain is attached to both sides with eye screws. I choose stainless steel eye screws because they will stand up much better being in direct contact with the wood. Once the hardware is on, that the bird house is done and ready to give to Mom.

Step 8: Giving It to Mom

This is probably the most exciting step where you get to see the kids eyes light up as they give a gift to Mom. As a dad, the real fun in this project was the time in the shop with the kids getting the chance to teach them tools. Letting them learn the fun of working in the shop and making something with their own hands is invaluable. Whether or not the birds actually eat any food out of the bird feeder, the memories have been made and will last for a lifetime.

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