A week into the new month and I am just now getting around to a post – I can see another last minute postapalooza coming toward the end of the month, big sigh. Seems like just when I get ready to sit back in the pool with an umbrella adorned drink someone (or something) drops a cinder block of to-dos in the water deviously tied to my ankle. Written on one side of that block was the words “Your Halloween Party is only 8 weeks away!” and the other side was some bizarre scribbling that looked like “Al yur seeds r belong 2 us” . I am painfully aware of the quickly approaching party date, but the other… no ide…wait, wait – THOSE BASTARDS!!!
Picked up the cinder block, grabbed my umbrella cocktail and leaped out of the pool …okay, maybe not leaped – those blocks can be heavy and awkward .. but I did get out and run to the bird feeder. Sure enough, those devil spawn Raccoons had done it – a frayed wire looking heartbroken having let my precious seed slip from its clutches. Apparently the devil spawn I caught going for my feeders the day before came back with vengeance on its mind.
As if I didn’t have enough to do, now I needed to reconstruct my feeder system. I knew this was going to happen at some point due to a design decision I had made that ended up biting me in the ass – more on that in a bit. The good news is the Feeder 2.0 is done.
To make lemonade out of lemons – or maybe should say soup out of Raccoons, decided it was time to finally document the process and make a post. That is the real reason for the late post this month as I was busy taking pictures during the build and needed to get those collected and uploaded. So, if you are intrigued on how this project went, hope you enjoy the walk-through below. Almost forgot – this design is for a 2 feeder system. If you only want one, then a single wire system with one upper arm is all you would need.
Hit the jump to get to the nitty gritty details of my self-developed feeder stand (rights restricted to non-commercial use only unless permission explicitly granted).
Let’s start with a tool and material list.
Drill and assortment of bits and spade/bore bits
Hacksaw or Chop Saw to the PVC – a hand PVC cutter for the smaller pipe is also handy
Bolt Cutter (or some good pair of side cutters for braided wire)
Optional: 3 Printer
3″ SC40 PVC PIPE – design dependent, but recommend 2 10′
2″ PVC Pipe – design dependent, but recommend 4′
1″ PVC Pipe – design dependent, but recommend 1.5′
3/4″ PVC Pipe – design dependent, but recommend 1.5′
2 x 90 Degree Long Sweep PVC Connectors
2 x 2″ PVC plugs
1 x 3″ PVC Cap
Double Sanitary Tee – all 4 ports 3″
Double Sanitary Reducer Tee – two ports 3″, two ports 2″
2 x 3″ Clean Out Adapters (there is a picture below)
2 x 3″ Sanitary Screw Plugs
1″ to 3/4″ Male Screw PVC Connector (don’t worry, there is a picture of this down below)
2 x 1″ PVC Coupler
1″ to 3/4″ PVC Reducer
2 x 3/4″ 90 Degree PVC Coupler
3/4″ PVC Cap
2 x Eye Bolts size is design dependent
3 x Small Carabiners
Light Duty Galvanized Braided Wire – design dependent, but recommend 50′ – do not pick this up until later
5 x Aluminum Wire Ferrule and Stops that matches the diameter of the galvanized ware
Package of Self-Drilling Screws 1/2″ to 3/4″
Optional: 1/2 Beige PVC Pipe – always forget what this is really used for in the real world, so I just call it the beige pipe – also recommend 2 x Beige PVC Pipe End Caps
Optional: 3D Printed Crank Separator – will explain this later
Optional: Plastic coffee can lid or similar material.
If you were not scared away by the material and tool list, then you are all set for this relatively quick project – Unless constantly stopping to take pictures (and run errands for your spouse) you should be able to get this done in a day as long as there is a hardware store nearby to get the wire when that step comes.
Oh no, I hear our legal team knocking at the door. “You want wa.. why do I n… you are kidding me right?, no seriously, it will be fin… give my readers some credit…stop kicking me..FINE, I’ll do it, now slither back to your offices”. Apparently I need to warn you that this is NOT intended to be a tutorial on the safe use of tools – we are not responsible for any injuries as a result and if you are not comfortable or familiar with required tools, please find someone to help – and definitely don’t to something stupid like try to stop the chop saw blade with your tongue, cuz… well, that is just plain stupid – (knock, knock… ).. Sorry, please immediately disregard any reference to body parts and chop saws.
Okay, with that out of the way, just a few notes on the materials. I highly recommend the Schedule 40 3″ pipe. There is a thinner option that is like half the price, but this thing sits pretty high and needs to be sturdy to prevent bad swaying etc. Here is a picture of the double sanitary tee reducer – note two ports are “reduced” to 2″. The other sanitary tee you will need has 3″ ports on every side.
There are a couple of options here, but you need to put screw caps on two of the 3″ ports. I recommend this option as they fit inside the 3″ sanitary tee and keep the crank mechanism more compact.
There is one element that dictates the entire design of the crank system and that is the sanitary drain plug – these are the threaded caps that screw into the cleanout adapters and have the square “bump out” on them so you can turn them on and off. It is the diameter of that bump out that determines the rest of the dimensions for the crank element. The ones I found allowed a 3/4″ pipe to fit inside the inner square hole and spin freely. This is probably the most technical part of the project as you need to drill a hole through that cap to allow the 3/4″ to go through and smoothly rotate. Recommend using a bore or spade bit that just slips inside the opening – you may have to sand a bit to allow the pipe to spin easily.
Here is a shot of the pipe going through the newly drilled hole in the cleanout plug.
Next step is to lock in the handle side of the crank. Attach a coupler to the end of the 1″ pipe. Then insert the 1″ to 3/4″ reducer into that 1″ coupler. Now attach your 3/4″ pipe which has been inserted through the cleanout plug to the 3/4″ coupler. Note, the 1″ to 3/4″ reducer will not go into the bump out on the plug thanks to the fins on the end. DO NOT GLUE THESE PIECES!
Go ahead and screw the cap onto one side of the sanitary tee with the four 3″ ports. Arrange the tee as shown with the sweeping curves in the T going up and pick either the left or right side from that orientation. So now you have a 3/4″ pipe on the left (per my orientation) and the 1″ pipe coming out the other side.
This is where the 1″ to 3/4″ Male Screw PVC Connector comes into play. You will see that coupler pictured below. I have NO idea what it is supposed to be used for, but the threaded end should fit perfectly inside the bump out on the other plug – think of it as the compliment to what you just built on the other side, but doesn’t go all the way through the plug.
This is a bit of trial and error here. You want to place the connector on the end of the 1″ pipe so it fits in the bump out perfectly when the two plugs are screwed onto the sanitary tee. I recommend getting it close, but still too long. Put the plug onto the threaded end of the coupler.
From there, measure from the end of the sanitary T to roughly halfway into the threads of the plug. That distance is what you need to cut from the end of the 1″ pipe.
Put the coupler back on the 1″ pipe and test fit the plug on by screwing it onto the sanitary tee – It is okay to be slightly short, but try not to be too long. The shaft should now rotate smoothly inside the T with both the plugs screwed in. Again, DO NOT GLUE on the adapter at this end either.
For reference, this is what you should be looking at now with that shaft rotating smoothly inside the T.
Are we having fun yet? Trust me, you are really past the hard part now. Next we need to finish up the handle side of the crank. You should be able to unscrew the first plug you put in and pull it out of the sanitary tee. What you want to do now is lock the handle side to the plug. Take a 3/4″ 90 degree connector and measure the amount of pipe that it accepts on the inside (note, there is a ridge inside that the pipe stops at. Measure that distance from the outside side of the plug and cut the 3/4 pipe to that length. Place the 90 degree coupler on the newly cut end and it should keep the pipe in place but still be able to freely spin. Cut a length of 3/4″ pipe you want the handle to drop down by plus twice the distance that goes inside the 90 degree connector. Place one end into the 90 degree coupler already on the T and then add a second 90 degree coupler to the other end – make sure the two 90 degree couplers are straight to each other. Cut another piece of 3/4″ pipe for your hand to hold onto – think I made this length slightly longer than the down length. Now place that onto the second 90 degree connector, slide a 1″ PVC coupler onto that 3/4 pipe and then add a 3/4″ cap to the end. I recommend screwing all these pieces together with the self-drilling screws. Don’t forget to put a screw on the other side of the plug that goes through the coupler, the reducer and the 3/4″ pipe – hint, you will want that screw as close to the end of the 1″ coupler as you can get. I took this image too quick as you also need a screw in the other side of the 1″ coupler to hold it to the 1″ pipe.
From there, put an eye bolt on the inside of the down shaft of the crank. This was NOT in my original design and got quite the surprise the first time I used it – will leave this as something to think about until we get later into the project. Reassemble the now completed crank onto the sanitary T.
Pat yourself on the back, that was definitely the hardest part of the project other than maybe the installation process. Depending on how long you make this feeder, it can get a bit unwieldy when you try to stand it up. We need to put the crank aside now and focus on getting the top of the feeder completed. We will be using the other sanitary tee with the 2″ reducers on it. Stand the tee up so the 3″ ports are facing up and down. It is very important you have the internal sweeps curving downward – this makes for a smooth angle as the wire goes up and down through the T. Cut two equal pieces of 2″ pipe to fit inside the 2″ ports on the T. The length of the pipe will set how far away the feeders are from the pole. The farther out, the harder it is for critters to get access – make them work for your hard earned seed! Forgot to measure this for you, but I think they are 3′ lengths for mine. Attach a 2″ long sweep 90 degree connector on one end of each 2″ pipe. PVC Cement those on. Now cement the other ends to the 2″ ports on the reducer sanitary T. The 90 degree connectors need to point directly down so put them on first, get them situated perfectly, draw a line on the connector and pipe if needed and then cement those on.
It is optional, but I think adding a perch bar is a nice touch and seems to be highly appreciated by our visiting birds. If you do not want this, simply cut a small piece of 3″ PVC pipe to put in the top portion of the sanitary T and attach the 3″ cap directly. To add the perch, make the pipe longer to allow room to put the 1/2 beige PVC pipe through. Drill a hole to accommodate the pipe through both sides of the 3″ pipe. Make sure the PVC is tight, but still able to push it through the holes. Attach the pipe to the T and add the cap to the other end. Since these are not stress points, I use the self-drilling screws to lock these joints – if something goes wrong with the wires, it is possible you can just unscrew this top piece and hopefully figure out what the issue is.
Time to construct the main pole for the feeder. You can make these dimensions to your preference, but I do find the higher the better – if critters do make it to the top, the leap from there to the ground when they realize you’ve caught them is quite the deterrent for future intrusions. With version 2.0, I also raised the height of the crank unit – discovered those bastard raccoons were leaping up to the crank and hauling themselves up off the ground. From there they would leap up to the feeders as those were hanging too low as well. For reference, my total length from top to bottom is 16′. From the top to the crank is 8.5′ leaving 7.5 feet to the end… I put my base ~2.5 feet into the ground so the crank sits roughly 5′ above the ground. Cut two pieces of 3″ pipe to establish your desired distances.
I would go ahead and put in a companion eye bolt on the main 3″ pipe below the crank assembly. The exact distance down does not matter – as a reference put it just below the bottom of the crank handle. It does need to be on the same side of the handle and as parallel to the down shaft of the handle as much as possible. I used a locking nut on the inside of the pipe just so it wouldn’t wander around.
We are just about ready for a break, but first we need to mock assemble the feeder. Do not cement, but simply insert the bottom 3″ pipe into the crank assembly bottom (again, make sure the internal sweeps are pointed up). Insert the other 3″ pipe into the top crank port and then set the top fixture on that – if you did put the perch bar on, simply pull it through on the top so it lays flat (keep it slightly in the back hole just to make it easier to push back through). Now that it is mock-assembled, you need to measure the distance from the crank to the top, out to one of the arms and then back down (and probably 3 feet past the crank. This is the distance of wire you need to buy times 2 (one for each side). The first time I built this I used coated wire thinking it would be good in bad weather etc. That turned out to be an absolute mistake as the coating started coming off and gummed up the works, especially the part where it comes out of the upper arms. Addressed that this time and went with galvanized uncoated light duty braided wire. For reference, I used a product from Lowes. Keep in mind that it needs to roll up on the middle shaft of the crank so it cannot be too stiff. Time to take a break and run to the store and get your wire – maybe pick up some lunch or at least a tasty shake at your local ice cream parlor.
Assume you made it back home safely and hopefully kept the ice cream dribbles off your shirt. We are in the final phase of the build now. First off, grab the two 2″ PVC plugs. Drill a hole in the bottom of each one that allows the diameter of the wire to easily pass through. I used to worry about wasps etc. getting into it, but they will be deterred by the movement as you raise and lower the feeders. It is more important that the wire can pass through without getting bound up. I recommend placing the holes off center to the edge that is closest to the center pole. Try to match the natural curve of the 2″ 90 degree long swept connectors.
Take your wire and cut it into two equal pieces. Take one end of the wire, feed it through the connector (opposite side that gets inserted into the long swept connector), feed it through the 2″ pipe, bring it out of the sanitary reducer tee, and pull it down to the crank.
Probably should have had you do this earlier, but take the crank and stand it up as if it was sitting on the pole. With a marker put a line in the center of the shaft and then place a dot on the outside of that center line cheated slightly to the edge of the opening.
Now unscrew the handle side of the crank and pull out the shaft. Drill a hole at each of the dots that allows the wire to pass through – this can be closer to the exact diameter of the wire. As an optional feature, if you have a 3D printer you can model and print out a divider to help keep the wires separated as they are wound up. You can also just cut a plastic coffee can lid roughly 2.5″ in diameter and a hole slightly smaller than the 1″ diameter pipe and push that on to the center point.
It is very important you do not allow the wires to twist in the 3″ top pipe and that you remember which wire is on the left and which is on the right. That is the same order you want to attach them to center shaft. Take the connector on the other end of the shaft off and feed the farthest wire through the farthest hole and out the end. Create a loop in the wire and hammer in a ferrule to hold it in place. Pull the other end of the wire so it feeds back through the pipe and locks against the hole. Now put your divider on if you are using that (I do recommend it). Now repeat the wire installation process on the nearest side.
Carefully insert the shaft back into the crank case making sure not to tangle the wires, you want those straight all the way to the top. Screw the plug back in to put a wrap on the primary elements of the build – just need to tie up some loose ends before taking it out and impressing your neighbors. Went ahead and took a picture of the top of the crank so you get a feel for how the crank mechanism works. With weight on the wire, it will roll up nice like the right side.
Now, glue up the 3″ pipes connected to the crank. DO NOT get cement on the wires – put the glue on the outside of the pipe and then insert it into the crank. Make sure the eye bolt on the down pipe is still aligned to the eye bolt on the crank handle. Next cement to top sanitary tee to the 3″ pipe. Same rules apply – do not get cement on the wires, make sure there are no tangles in the wire and for aesthetics I make sure the sanitary tees were aligned so the upper arms match the crank shaft (see picture above). I do not glue in the 2″ plugs just in case the wire gets unexpectedly tangled – dry push those onto the long swept 90 degree connectors as tight as you can.
You may have noticed the carabiners were already on in the shot above. Simply take the ends of the wire, put it through one side of a ferrule and make a loop by putting it back through the other side. Hammer the ferrule to permanently lock the loop in place and put it on one of the carabiners. Repeat the process for the other side.
One last final step before this guide comes to an end. Take a leftover piece of wire or even a piece of string and make a fixed loop on one end (knot it or use the ferrule again if using wire). Using the distance from the eye bolt you put on the bottom 3″ pole to the eye bolt on the crank handle, put another loop on the other end. Put one end of the wire/rope through the 3″ pipe eye bolt and then through the loop on the other end to tie it. Now put a carabiner on the other end.
The build is done! Now that is what I call making the most out of a day. I am not going to cover how to install this into the ground. Everyone has their preferred way and some are more permanent that others etc, etc. Personally, I have a larger pipe embedded in the ground roughly 2.5 feet deep with a 3″ coupler attached at the top. The middle ridge on the coupler was sanded off allowing me to slide the 3″ pipe of the feeder directly through it allowing me full support to keep it upright while also allowing me to pull it out and work on it (or in this case completely replace it) without having to get out cement etc. Whichever way you do it, just know that you might want some help when you go to stand this upright, it can be a bit heavy and unwieldy – Linda was conveniently nowhere to be found when this time came hehehe.
Simply make sure there is a way to attach your feeders to the wires and you are good to go. Do not start using the crank until there is weight on the wire. That will keep the wires taunt and minimize any tangles. Once they cranked up (or down), simply attach the small cable you made last to the pole and to the handle.
I almost left the mystery of the last cable so you could have a similar hilarious experience when I made my first feeder. Cranked it up, for some stupid reason forgot all my gravity lessons in my physics class and watched while the crank spun freely causing the feeders to hit the ground. Duh! I looked around, made sure no one saw what happened and then laughed at myself. Life just isn’t as fun if you are not learning something new every day.
Hope you enjoyed this project post – definitely took longer to write this up than it did to build the feeder ha. Take care, now I have to get back to all the Halloween prop building projects.