Electing to upcycle: My Biden birdhouse
I was given a Biden/Harris 2020 election sign to display in front of my cottage last year, but after the election (and inauguration) was over, I couldn’t bring myself to just toss the sign in the rubbish. That meant seeking out upcycling solutions, which led me to the perfect project: A Biden birdhouse!
First, some background: As an American immigrant in Scotland, I wanted to show my support for my native elections, in part because the US President really does have a global impact. But election funding laws prohibit campaigns from “selling” and shipping their election materials overseas. (Fair enough.) And so, I took to Twitter to ask for ideas or solutions. A Scottish immigrant living in Washington State (my home state) saw the tweet and reached out to help. And in a couple of weeks, I had a lovely sign displayed in front of my cottage. (And a new Twitter friend that I’ll buy a beer for when I’m next home.)
I proudly displayed the sign until after the inauguration on 20 January 2021. After I removed the sign (covered in a sheet of ice) I placed it in the bathtub to drip-dry with the plans to make a birdhouse in February. But Isolation Life means that I have become unproductive with things like this, so the sign just sat there waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
However, I did begin planning in February. That is when I took to Google to find the best set of instructions, which I found on Instructables. I made three templates for the project. The first two templates were for prototypes at 50% scale and the third was the full size for the final cutting template.
The first prototype was on a scrap of junk mail so that I could assess the dimensions. I also wanted to ensure that the word “Biden” was intact for the main body of the house, so this allowed me to shuffle the template accordingly. This also made me realise that a slight overhang for the pitched roof would be nice. Importantly, sharing this prototype on Facebook meant feedback about the size of the entry, something I hadn’t thought about*.
I created a second prototype template on a plain sheet of paper that was too crinkled for anything else. I added a sketch of the sign to this template so that I could ensure I was making my cut lines in the right place. For this template, I noted the measurements of each element so that I could transfer those to the final template. This step also helped me decide the final placement of each element (body, roof, base) on the sign.
Once I was happy with the measurements and layout, I began working on the final template. This template was a full-scale mock-up on a large piece of flipchart paper. I then cut each piece out so that I could use them as my final cutting guides (rather than drawing more lines).
Cutting the sign was a challenge. I was using a Stanley knife as my primary tool and had to start slowly and very carefully. This is because the sign was corrugated plastic, and the knife slipped often when dragging it across the corrugates. The solution was to make short scoring lines (1-2 inches at a time) that needed to be scored 2-3 times before moving onto the next section. Once I had a 6-8 inch second scored, I went back over the larger section with deeper cuts until I hit the plywood cutting surface below.
After I cut the three pieces, I created an entry hole of 2.25 centimetres (.89 inch) which is the best size for nesting blue tits**. I then used some old scissors to make holes for securing the roof and base to the main body, and for closing the main body. I used old twist-ties for securing everything together.
It took me about 4 hours to complete the birdhouse, although some of that time was spent checking messages as I had two “big” things that required me to be in regular communications whilst I was crafting. (The crafting was a distraction from the big things***.) I think that I could probably do this in 2 hours if I repeated the process. Less, if I have better tools for cutting the sign, which was the time-consuming part.
Because it took so long to finish this project, in part because of the “lockdown malaise“ I have felt in the past few months, it’s too late for birds nesting this year. But I will put it up now in case there are birds in need of a winter roost. I just have to decide where best to place this wonderful new home for some wonderful wildlife.
* Part of the reason for the first prototype was as a teaching aid for my Human-Computer Interaction students. Having the feedback from my FB friends added to that, as I was able to provide an example of how feedback from others can/will help to shape the final design – regardless of if it’s a birdhouse or a bit of software.
** I made the hole for blue tits so that my non-Biden-backing friends can laugh Biden attracting a load of tits. (You’re welcome.)
*** The big things are no big deal. One is very happy news about someone else and the other is just noise that I have to deal with that but that isn’t really about me.