Years ago, my husband brought home a stack of metal spools used
to store MIG wire. He sewed wire cloth onto the spool in a somewhat
rudimentary fashion, and called it a bird feeder. A raccoon demolished
it, the spool was chunked into a pile, and that was the end of that.
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself with a backyard that had
become a bird oasis. It seemed like a good time to drag out the old
feeder and give it an overhaul.
The result is a large feeder that is very durable, can be painted, easily
filled, will feed many birds at once, and will also last a very long time.
Step 1: Supplies and Tools Needed...
Gather the following materials for your feeder:
1 large metal spool (mine is a 12" spool)
These spools are typically used to hold MIG welding wire, but can also
be used to hold other wire. Check with local welding supply stores. Any
welder should be able to steer you toward a pile of these spools, free of
1 roll of hardware cloth
You will need enough cloth to cover the front, back, and circumference
of the edge of the spool. A 10' x 3' roll will cover almost nine 12" spools.
1 roll of galvanized steel wire (I used 24 gauge, with a 10 pound work load)
A short length of chain that can be shortened, used to hang the feeder
The following tools are necessary, if not very helpful:
Sheet metal scissors
Felt-tip pen such as a Sharpie
Durable hand protection, such as leather gloves
A tool with a tiny hook on it, such as a small latch-hook or crochet hook
Step 2: Lay Out and Cut the Screen...
Unroll the wire fabric on a flat surface.
You may wish to use gloves at this time, to protect
your hands from scratches
caused by the wire.
Place the empty MIG spool on the wire, then trace around the outer edge
in order to draw the size you will need to sew the fabric to the spool.
Repeat, making two circles.
Place the spool on its side, at a straight edge of the fabric. Using the Sharpie,
mark the width that will be required.
Holding the fabric against the spool, roll the spool and the wire in a complete
wheel rotation in order to determine the length. You can also simply use a tape
measure. It all works, right? Be sure to leave a gap in the side length in order to
fill the feeder. Keep in mind, the gap should be small, to avoid birds getting stuck
inside the feeder. You might also consider closing the gap, then creating a hole
that is large enough for a funnel tip to fit into, for filling.
Once you have drawn the two circles, and one long rectangle, use the sheet metal
scissors to cut out the shapes.
Step 3: Align and Secure the Top and Side With Temporary Ties...
Place the spool on a flat work surface. Lay one of the wire mesh
circles on top of it, and secure the circle to the spool with temporary
ties. You may use small pieces of wire, trash / bread ties, etc.
Align the side wire to the side of the spool, using temporary ties to secure it.
You may wish to combine a tie to secure both pieces of wire in the same place.
It is not necessary to make multiple ties, but do make certain the pieces will not
move around while you are stitching the edges.
Step 4: Stitch the Begin Stitching the Top and Side to the Spool...
Using a length of wire, secure it to the spool by twisting, or even
wrapping it around the spool wire a few times. You may then begin
stitching, just as if you were sewing clothing with a whip stitch.
It is not necessary to place a stitch into every single 1/4" space, but
do sew the stitches close enough so bird food will not fall out.
Pull the wire taut, using needle-nosed pliers, to save your fingers.
I found it easier to not use gloves during the stitching process.
You will not be using a needle to sew in the traditional sense, but rather
will rely on the stiffness of the wire to act as the needle. It is difficult to
guide the wire exactly where you want it to sew, which is where the
hook tool will come in handy, to pull it through the 1/4" squares.
Don't use a piece of wire that is excessively long, as it will tangle, bend
and get in the way. No more than a yard's length is easier to work with
than a lengthy amount.
Stitch through the top screen, go through the spool, then exit the
outer mesh. Repeat this process all the way around the spool. If
you encounter sharp bits of wire edge, you can crimp them down
with a tool, or press them with a gloved hand. Don't worry about
imperfections, as they can be hidden by spray paint.
Also keep in mind, you should press or trim any sharp edges of the
wire, to avoid harming our feathered friends.
See the next step for additional stitching tips.
Step 5: Stitching Tips...
Needle-nosed pliers will save your fingers, especially after
all the stitching that will be necessary.
If you run out of wire, simply wrap a strand around the spool,
or twist it onto the previous wire, and continue stitching.
Not all of the holes will be complete. No need to worry, simply
stitch into the nearest hole that is secure.
These little sticky-outties are dangerous for both humans and birds.
Be sure to either fold them down, and include them in the stitching,
or snip them off, making certain to press the sharp edges down with a tool.
Occasionally, all that yanking on the wire, and a crimp now and then, will
cause the wire to break. Simply wind the remainder onto the spool, add
a new piece of wire, then continue.
There are several options to end a short piece of wire, including this one.
Just run the remaining length along the spool, then stitch over the tail of the
Step 6: Stitch the Other Side to the Wheel...
You're halfway finished at this point. Flip the spool over, place the
remaining piece of wire on top, and begin stitching in the same manner
used for the other half. I find it is easiest to complete this project when
working at waist level, especially in a brightly lit area.
Step 7: Add a Chain...
Once you have completed the stitching process, be sure to crimp down
any sharp edges.
You may now add a way to hang the feeder. I just dug through an old junk
drawer, and found a short length of chain. Using two pair of pliers, open a
link on one end of the chain, then secure it to the wire of the spool, and close
the link. Select the length of chain you desire, open the end link, secure to the
spool, and close the chain.
You could also use string, rope, or other hanging material, though it would be best
to select something that is durable, and able to withstand the elements of nature.
Step 8: Paint It Pretty, Let It Dry...
Once your feeder is complete, and hanging, you may want to give it
a good mist of spray paint. This will not only protect the feeder, but will reduce
the sharpness of any wires you may have missed. Gotta protect those little
birdy feet, you know.
It is easiest to suspend the feeder while painting, so you can access all of
the angles at one time. Be sure to let the paint dry thoroughly before adding
Step 9: Fill the Feeder With Bird Seed, and Wait...
This particular MIG wire spool is rather large, and as a result, holds
a lot of bird food. If you have quite a bird population as we do, don't
worry about the food mildewing, but if you only have a few visitors, try
to find a smaller spool, then you can hang many of them.
Step 10: What to Feed to Which Birds...
In our area, the Cardinal population is quite large, so we tend to fill the
feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, though there are other choices.
Just be certain the seeds are not too small, such as Nyjer / Niger Thistle
(Guizotia abyssinica) seed, or too large, such as striped sunflower.
We have many other visitors to the feeders, including:
Occasional Indigo Bunting
Be sure to hang a Thistle sock near your feeder, to attract the
Purple and Golden Finch.