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Joe D. Bryant

4491 Stones Crossing Road

 Greenwood, Indiana  46143

If you have any suggestions and/or questions, send them to

For information about purple martins go to:

For information about BoVillas, WhistleGourds, 

and other S&K Manufacturing products or call Toll-Free: 1-800-764-8688

      While at the S&K site, check out joining the forum to meet other purple martin landlords and lovers of birds and nature. 

Chuck Abare's site:          


Joe and Louise Topolosek's Purple Martin Majesty  



Below are the gourd racks that Bob Whitney* and I built for purple martins.  Steps I used for making mine are given directly below the first set of pictures.  After those seven steps, you will see pictures of Bob’s.  Bob’s cost less than $100; mine cost about $125.  I did mine the way I did because I had two Trio Musselman houses to raise.  I originally had one on a telescoping pole, and a neighbor gave me a new one.

If I were making one for just 16 gourds, I would make one like Bob's instead or revise mine to hold only gourds. 

 *    Bob and I went to elementary and high school together.   i.e., we've always been best of friends, but if he gets martins before I get them... 


Any of the gourd racks below can easily be made for less than $50 by using a less-expensive steel pole with only a rope and pulley without a winch. Bob and I used an electric drill with steel-cutting bits that drill the holes quickly and a reciprocating saw to make the notches shown (a hacksaw could be used, but it takes more time).


Below Bob’s pictures are those of Buz Smith’s and Bill Crafton’s many, six-year-old racks.  Special thanks to both of them.  It was they who gave Bob and me much of  the information we needed to start building our own.

First published on the web September 5, 2002.  Revisions and addendums will be added as they occur or arrive.

Click the thumbnail to enlarge the pictures; then click "Back" on your browser to return here.

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Joe and Anne   Views:  from ground,    kitchen table (new),      facing west,       facing east,              facing south,            facing north

Note:  In the picture labeled facing south, the large walnut tree behind the Trio castle has since been cut down.  See: kitchen table (new) above



Disclaimer statement; read this first:  Anyone following any of the steps below does so at their own risk.  i.e., I make no suggestion here on this page that anyone's plan is safe, workable, or the best available, so I take no responsibility for anything that might happen as a result of this web page because:   These steps are given for those who are as inexperienced and filled with trepidation as I was when I began.  I have only tried to point out what I had to figure out as I muddled my way through.  Now that I've actually done it, I'm sure I could put one together in less than a day if I were doing it again; it was actually very easy for Bob and me to do.  i.e., I believe that if I did it, then it's probable that almost anybody can make one, but again, there is no guarantee of any kind that should be construed as being here that I am right about that or about any of the steps below.  Any additional suggestions for any  improvement which anyone wishes to make will be appreciated.  

Note: Some of the following seven steps apply to various gourd racks found in the section "SOME OTHER WAYS OF MAKING GOURD RACKS" at the bottom of this page.  

NOTE:   REVISION   October 19, 2004     It's very hard to put up a 21-foot schedule 40 pipe for anything.  It took Bob's son and his friend (both young and extra strong) and Bob and me to put it up.  If you can weld, you should seriously consider the S&K Easy Lift (E-Z Lift) pole in four-foot sections that anyone can put up by themselves if necessary (Bob helped me). You can also buy a special four-foot top section that holds a white ball/pulley on the top. I have four of them, five sections each, and they stand up to winds a lot better than the 21-foot pole that I used (see the BoVilla page listed above).   Home Depot sells a ten-foot section of pipe that's the next size up that can be cut into a section that will slide up and down the 2 5/8-inch S&K sections. i.e., IF YOU KNOW HOW TO WELD, you don't have to use PVC pipe.  There is no PVC pipe that slides up and down the S&K sections. Other than the aforementioned Home Depot metal pipe, the S&K white blocks and black spacers are all I know of that do. S&K's phone number is 1-800-764-8688.  Dave McClaskey, the owner, will be happy to help you. 



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PVC screw-on cap to hold the perch:  Use white plumber’s tape to make it tight.

The bolt to keep the rack from rotating:  Put two nuts and a washer on both ends of the bolt.  It is important to have the notch in the top cross because when you raise the gourd rack, the notch slides over the bolt and stops the rack from spinning in strong winds.  

Note that the PVC cross is lined with an inch of 2-inch PVC pipe to give the notch strength.

Eyebolt: For safety's sake, Bob and I both replaced the eyebolt that holds the pulley shown in the picture with a ½-x 6-inch, SLW = 2200 pound eyebolt that I bought at True Value Hardware for $7.49.

Remember: The 1½-inch galvanized steel pipe (Schedule 40) is 1½-inches ID (inside diameter) it's OD (outside diameter) is 1.90 inch.

If you use different size pipes, you might want to consider the following:

Steel pipe I.D and O.D.

Sizes (inside)             Outside diameter



















4-1/2 "




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For my design I used seven 2- x 2- x 1½-  x 1½-inch PVC (Schedule 40) crosses.  Each cross is connected/glued with two-inch PVC (Schedule 40) pipe.   The two-inch ends slide over the 1½-inch steel pipe.

REMEMBER:  You need 18 inches between arms to hang gourds; each PVC cross is about six inches.


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This is the bottom end of the 1½-inch galvanized (Schedule 40) steel pole.  It cost about $36.00.  It will slide into the 32-inch length of two-inch ID (inside diameter) galvanized (Schedule 40) steel pipe that has a bolt through the bottom, about three inches up, to keep the main pole from sinking into the dirt below.

Notch it so that it will slide into the two-inch pipe’s bolt; that will determine the direction your gourd rack will be pointing.  Remember to put a mark at the top of the 32-inch pole to show the direction of the bolt at the bottom.

REVISION (Sept. 7, 2002)  I've had to take up my pole and cut off the end notch. If you have need for an exact, permanent direction as I did, the Step 3 described above should  be replaced by leaving off the notch but still keeping the bolt in the buried two-inch piece to stop the main pole from sinking into the ground.  When you set the pole and turn it and the rack to point in the way you want, put a wedged, galvanized, concrete nail (or two) at the top of the two-inch (I.D.) pole to keep the main 1½-inch (I.D.) pole from turning.  To keep out water, remember to caulk all the way around where the two pipes join.      


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Buried two-inch galvanized (Schedule 40) steel pipe, 32 inches long with a bolt put through the bottom: Remember to put a mark on the top of this piece to show the direction of the bolt at the bottom so that the notch in the bottom of the rack’s pole will fit over the bolt in the direction you want the rack to be.  I buried mine 36 inches in case I ever want to move the gourd rack to another spot; then I can cut the grass easily because the 32” pole is 4 inches below ground level.  Be sure that the bottom four inches is in dirt, not concrete, for drainage.  

Use a level to be sure that the 32” pole is PERFECTLY straight before you fill the hole with a 50-pound bag of dry concrete mix.  When you’re absolutely sure, add a bucket of water.  

Use the level to check, check, and double-check again that the 32-inch pole is straight up and down.  To make this easier, you can temporarily extend the two-inch pipe by inserting a short piece of 1½-inch PVC pipe with one or two layers of duct tape wrapped around the bottom. 

Wait 24 hours before you drop the 21-foot pole into the newly cemented two-inch pipe; caulk them together to keep out the rainwater and dirt. I inserted two small nails between them before caulking to tighten the fit. 

REVISION (Sept. 10) ...  I received the following tip from TERRY WASHBURN, see his web site above, (PVC PIPE  IS MUCH CHEAPER THAN THE TWO-INCH GALVANIZED STEEL PIPE.  WISH I HAD KNOWN THIS BEFORE, Joe):   "...if you concrete in a ground socket it can be PVC. I always use PVC ground sockets. You might should say that the bottom of the ground socket should have sand in it rather than dirt. Too many times dirt will act as a plug and keep water standing in the ground socket and in your cold that might be a bad deal. I usually dig about six inches more hole and fill the bottom six inches with sand, then I make sure the bottom of the ground socket goes into the sand for a couple of inches or so but not all the way through the sand."   


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PERCH: Do not glue this into the top PVC cap on the pole until you have the top end of your 21-foot pole (with only crosses, pulley, and winch with cable attached to it) lying on top of a tall step ladder (just before you AND A FRIEND lift the pole and drop it into the buried two-inch pole in the ground).   Align the direction.  DO NOT ADD ARMS UNTIL THE 21’ POLE IS IN THE GROUND.  Have the perch already painted before you attach it just before setting the pole in the ground; however, do NOT paint any of the racks PVC components, arms, crosses, etc. until you are totally FINISHED gluing them to the crosses on the pole. 


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I saved some money by buying the Dutton-Lainson Brake winch (DLB350) with 350-pound capacity from:
Beesley Int’l, Inc.1-800-559-1232.
The price of the DLB-350 is $38.40 now, Aug. 7, 2007.
They also sell the a very good red pulley for $2.00 (ask about a ½- x 6-inch eyebolt). 

Be sure to get a BRAKE winch (much safer) that has only slightly more capacity than what you need.  

I bought the cable and PVC fittings at Home Depot.


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RECTANGULAR ARMS:  The ones shown were not glued together yet.  Bob and I agree that these are stronger than Bob’s 30” arms (having four braced corners).  If you use them, glue it in TWO sections, left and right; the small side should have two PVC corner ends.

ATTACHING TO POLE:  Level, mark, double check, and glue one side first; then after putting the purple cleaner on other side QUICKLY glue and push all three connecting points into each other (it’s best to have three people, one at each point because the glue sets very quickly).

PAINTING:  When everything is totally finished, paint all of the PVC pipe fittings to protect them from the sun’s ultra-violet light.  Anne, my wife, used a white, Glidden Gripper Aquacrylic Primer/Sealer as an undercoat; then she painted everything but the perches with Glidden’s "Dover Gray" as a second coat, leaving all the perches white.  

See:  for information about PVC pipes and fittings. 

ADDENDUM (from the PMCA forum 1-23-03): If you wish to remove the printed material on PVC pipe for aesthetic reasons, according to Laverne Riha, - Alvin,TX  "Acetone removes the lettering very well and will not mar the surface of the PVC." 

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Bob and his rack          Bob’s as seen from the ground          From the north         From the south

Bob Whitney’s gourd rack with 30” arms will allow for eight more gourds to be put in the middle later.  i.e., it will hold a total of 16 gourds. His uses only six  2- x 2- x 1½-  x 1½-inch PVC (Schedule 40) crosses going left, right, spacer, spacer, left, right to hold the arms.  .  He lives about one mile from me, ten miles southwest of Greenwood, Indiana, on S.R. 135. 

NOTE:  If we were doing Bob's again, we would turn the bottom row of arms another 45 degrees so that they would be in the center of the four arms above them rather than directly below.  


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This is Buz Smith and some of his gourd racks.  It was from him and Bill Crafton (see Bill’s gourd racks below) that Bob and I got the information and ideas to design ours.  Buz has gourd racks, as shown, with 24” arms.  Note Buz's owl guards and the way he has them attached.  Also, all of his gourds have ½-inch ventilation on the back made from 90 degree angle PVC connectors.

Between Buz and Bill, they had over 100 pairs of purple martins in 2002, and they fledge several-hundred, new martins each year.  They live near Morgantown, Indiana, about twenty miles south of Bob and me. 

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 Some of Bill Crafton’s six-year-old PVC gourd racks:  Note that Bill uses 30” arms (two gourds per arm) and the way he cut a rectangle in the top of his pole for inserting the pulley (no need for an eyebolt).  Bill uses many natural gourds with rain guards and ventilation fittings.  






#1  Chuck Abare's Wooden Gourd Rack     

#2  Galvanized Pipe Hanger and Threaded Rod Gourd Racks

#3  Satellite Dish Gourd Rack  



Info taken from the The Purple Martin Clubhouse 

Joe Bryant - Jan 24, 2003 

David and Mike, now I’m thinking that if the galvanized pipe holders and threaded rods were fitted on a 3-4 foot piece of two-inch inside diameter (i.d.) and that were slid over a 21 foot pipe [1 ½-inch i.d. pipe (outside diameter 1.9 inches)] a pulley could could then be added to the top of the 1 ½ i.d. pipe, and a cable w/winch could be used to raise and lower the short piece of 2-inch i.d. pipe and gourds.   Joe



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Posted By: Mike “Bluesman” Brown – Ky

Date Posted: Jan 22, 2003


The two 5\16 threaded rods come in three foot lengths and they are less than two dollars a rod. All you do is drill two 5\16 holes thru your pole 90 degrees apart, run the rods thru and lock them down with nuts and washers on either side of the pole. The gourds are hung in between two 5\16 washers that are in between two 5\16 nylon lock nuts. I will try and get a more closeup shot this weekend for you. If you have a rope and pulley lowering system this will not work. If you just have a telescoping pole it works great. Hang the gourds like this and you will not have to worry about

reinforcing your trio house.


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Posted By: David Ditman - VA

Date Posted: Jan 23, 2003


        I used threaded rod from the local hardware store, I believe it was 5/16. I cut them in half and attached them to the pole with galvanized pipe hangers. I did wrap the rods with white electrical tape to protect the birds feet. I don’t actually know if that was necesary   but I did it for looks as well. It is important, though however you attach them to the pole to use galvanized threaded rods or they will rust.


Terry Woodside-AR - Jan 23, 2003   Viewers

David, I’m not familiar with Galvanized Pipe hangers. How do they work? Like Bluesman, I used  two sections of all-thread through the pipe for my first 4-gourd rack. These pipe hangers seem very interesting. Thanks for the info.


David Ditman - VA - Jan 24, 2003   Viewers

Galvanized pipe hangers come in varous sizes and some are plain steel, some galvanized.  You can find them in the plumbing section of your local home improvement store. Basically they are two semi-circular pieces of steel that are hinged at one side and have a locking screw on the other side. It has a threaded socket on the side that the threaded rod fits into.  They are used in alot of comercial applications of running larger water pipes. Another neat thing with pipe hangers is they are moveable and you can change perch positions.


Mike “Bluesman” Brown - Ky - Jan 24, 2003   Viewers

Absolutely Bad to the Bone David!  I think I will try this. I have seen and used these pipe hangers for years but the light never went off to use them for this. Nice job!! My dad wants to hang gourds from two more of his houses(He is becoming more of a gourdhead than me grin...) I am going to do it like this. I like the way you slide them into different heights and positions. You could make up an entire gourd rack using the hangers too. Hmmm.. Another idea. Thanks David my man!



Some of John Lane's gourds on his Satellite Dish Gourd Rack


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Eyebolt for lifting        Satellite lowered        Putting on gourds    View from ground (note the pulley at the top of the pole)


The following is from The Purple Martin Forum.  

Satellite Dish Gourd Rack (used with pole, pulley, and winch)

From:  Seven Springs,NC    Date: 1/24/03

John Lane's first message (same day)

I have just installed a second gourd rack. It is an old satellite tv dish turned upside down. It looks like a huge umbrella. The dish is alumium,light weight,& most folks will give them away to be moved. I removed the wire mesh to lower wind resistance. Tools needed- jig saw with metal blade. Supplies- 2 eyebolts, pole, winch, pulley, & cable. Approximate cost 75.00. John

Second message   Hi Joe, I cut a hole in the two center plates of the dish to slide over the pole of your choice. I used 2 in. galvinized. Drill a hole thru both plates to accept the eye bolt of your choice. Drill another hole at the top of the pole, insert another eye bolt, hang your pulley or sheeve from this bolt. Attach cable or wire rope to eye bolt on dish, over sleeve, & back down to winch. The plates on the dish I used came off by removing four bolts. After cutting plates slide these over pole before installing top eye bolt. The dish frame consisted of four sections also bolted together, separate into 2 sections. After standing pole with cable installed, separate the 2 plates, bolt frame back together. Hope this helps you understand what I did.  Feel free to e-mail any further questions. John



Updated August 12, 2007