Bird Food


So… I finally succeeded in casting an AK 47 out of suet and birdseed, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the results. Here is the chronicle of my adventure.

I’m not quite sure how long I have had the idea for this project, but I think it came about sometime in late winter/early spring. More concretely, I remember coming up with the idea to cast an AK 47 out of suet/birdseed a few days before I actually heard about Charles Kraft and his Porcelain War Museum series. I was reading an article published by Jen Graves published in The Stranger about the 25 Greatest Works Ever Made in Seattle, and I remember thinking to myself at first: “Damnit Charles Kraft. You/I stole your/mine idea.. kind everyone will think I got the idea from Charles Kraft.” Well, it didn’t really come from him. Anyway, I thought of writing to him to see exactly how he cast his AK 47, because I didn’t have a clue how to do it, but after thinking about it I decided not to inquire. Considering he was working with porcelain I’m sure his mold was quite complex and expensive. I needed something more simple, and cheap.


These are the molds I used. I measured the rough dimensions of the AK 47 and built a bottom and a top mold to fit. I used a 1:1:1 mix of plaster of paris, water, and sand. I wanted to keep the gun clean, so I put it inside a giant plastic bag. After I cast the negative and removed the gun from the plaster, I wasn’t terribly happy with the results. I wasn’t going for detail, considering the final product would be cast out of beef fat and birdseed, but I needed a little more detail than the result of the AK 47 in the plastic bag. The next day I used blue painter’s tape and vaseline to cover up any large openings or holes on the gun, said my prayers, and set the gun directly in fresh plaster.

The second molding attempt turned out fantastic. I set the gun deep enough that the top mold would be fairly minor. I also figured I could work with a rough shape from the top mold. So, I placed the gun back in the bottom half of the mold, and covered it with plastic wrap (hoping for a little more detail than the plastic bag lent).

For the top half of the mold I strung copper wire in, out and all across the mold box, and also looped a few handles on to this wire frame. I set it on top of the bottom half of the mold, aligned it with the register marks, and proceeded to pour the plaster (again, saying my prayers). What I was worried about this time was the fact that I barely poured enough plaster to cover up the wire supports that I had thread through the mold box. I ended up letting it set for quite a while so the plaster could gain strength, and it lifted like a charm. The detail wasn’t too bad, and I now had my top and bottom mold.

The next step was rendering the suet. I had a blog post a while back about the first batch of suet that I rendered. For anyone that missed that post, suet is the fat from around a cow’s kidneys. It is more firm than other fat from the cow. It is often melted and mixed with birdseed (and other types of bird food) to feed birds during the winter when they need more fat to stay warm. Rendering the fat is basically cooking it on a low heat until you have pure fat; no remaining pieces of meat or even water. If there is water or meat in the fat than it will go rancid much easier. In the end, I ended up rendering about 5 lbs of suet that I bought from a local butcher. The best way that I found to tell that there was no water or meat left in the fat was to cook it until there were no more bubbles coming up in the pot. If there are no bubbles coming up, than the water and other tidbits have been completely cooked out of the fat. I repeated this three times to assure “freshness,” having found that the purer the fat the stiffer it becomes when in a solid form.

After I finished rendering the fat I poured it all into a big bowl and started scooping a mixture of wild birdseed. I had read several recipes online that all recommended different ratios of birdseed to fat and I ended up going for a ratio of about 1:1. I let the mixture cool, stirring it periodically until it came to a consistency that would allow me to spoon and press it into the mold and not have the fat run out.

Prior to mixing the suet/birdseed, I constructed an armature out of twisted strands of insulated copper wire. I stripped smaller segments of wire, and wrapped them around the already twisted strands to achieve something similar to barbed wire. Once the suet mixture was ready, I poured it in the mold.

Sometime while preparing for all of this I realized that I didn’t need to use the top part of the mold, because when the final sculpture is displayed viewers won’t be able to see the bottom or parts of the sides of the gun. With this I only poured suet in the bottom part of the mold, but built up enough suet to reinforce the gun and add some bulk. I covered up the gun in plastic to prevent critters from getting at it, and let it cool over night.

Now, the next day was incredibly hot and I had the intention of getting up early to remove the gun while it was still solid. I figured that if it heated up enough during the day the gun would get gooey and be impossible to remove from the mold. Well, I didn’t end up waking up early enough, so I let the gun sit in the mold for another day and night, and woke up early the next morning the remove it. When I uncovered the plastic from the mold I wasn’t too excited to see birdseed, an armature, and no fat.

The previous day was incredibly hot, and having my mold wrapped in plastic made it even more so. The fat had completely melted and dripped out through the plaster, and also where I had accidentally broke the mold in half… (Yeah… I was trying to move it a few weeks prior and the mold cracked in half, so I set it back down and left it where I poured it.. still useable). I wasn’t quite sure if I had enough suet/birdseed left over, so I salvaged any fat that was remaining in the mold, and mixed it with what I hadn’t used originally, along with a few additional scoops of birdseed to compensate.

During the first pour I had attached wire loops to the armature that I could use to lift the gun out of the mold, with the intention of trimming the loops after I was finished. For the second half, as a precaution from the plaster, I used aluminum foil to coat the mold and left enough foil on the outer edges to help lift the gun out. I poured the second batch of suet/birdseed in the late evening, let it cool, and removed the gun sometime around midnight before I went to bed. It worked like a charm.

Lastly, remember that peculiar tree with those peculiar eggs? Well, they hatched.


I snapped this quick photo the day before momma took them on their first flight. One of them flew inside of my parked car and landed between the front passenger seat and the door. It didn’t have a clue how to get out, so the mom flew in after it. I was alerted that there were birds in my car, and went to investigate. I opened the door for the mom to fly out, but I still heard another bird chirping. That’s when I opened the passenger side door to find the hatchling. It flew a short distance to the passenger side floor, took a crap, and then flew out of the car eventually following its mom in to the woods.

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