Workbench Creations Blog

Workbench Creations

Workbench Creations is the place for conversation and discussion about do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. This DIY blog will feature projects completed by its owner as well as projects completed by other do-it-yourselfers. Workbench Creations is the place where DIYers can discuss ideas, learn about what others have done, and share their expertise.

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DIY Backyard Pond

Posted June 30, 2008 11:05 AM by bhankiii

This is the new pond / fountain I built in our the backyard. The basic concept arose from the three urns that we found at Garden Ridge. The copper balls float around in the water and strike the copper chimes - it's subtle, you can barely hear it on the video, but it's just loud enough in person.

Construction details:

First I had to cut away the decking boards - that was easy enough, using a circular saw (I still have all my fingers!). To make it just a little extra special I chose dimensions based on the Golden Mean - i.e., the ratio between the short side and the long side is the same as the ratio between the long side and the sum of both the long and short sides - roughly 1.6. The Golden Mean was popular in Renaissance art.

The next, and hardest part in terms of labor, was the digging out of the dirt. The pond is about 8 inches deep. except where the urns are. That's about 6 inches deeper, and that hole is large enough to hold the urns, plus the pump and the plumbing. The two shorter urns are actually the same height, so the shorter one is sunk in a hole another four inches deep.

The base of the pond is just black vinyl pond sheeting loosely placed in the hole, starting at the deepest part. The rocks are reclaimed from the flower beds - the previous owners attempt at a grass free yard. I went with them because they also surround the swimming pool.

To make the fountain, I first cut holes on the side of each urn, near the bottom, large enough for the 1 inch plastic pump tubing to enter. I tried a variety of manifolds to connect the three urn tubes to the pump, but none of them worked the way I wanted - hydrodynamics not being my forte - then I hit on the idea of using a black plastic toilet bowl float. I drilled four 1 inch holes in it, spaced 90 degrees around it - one for the inlet from the pump, and three outlets for the urns. The pump tubing has spiral ribbing - for maximum pleasure - and that allowed it to be screwed into the holes with out needing any sealant.

At the top of each urn is a fountain spigot. I made these by soldering a small section of 1/2 copper pipe into a 3/4 to 1/2 inch reducing coupling, which I then glued into the end of the hose. I fixed the spigots in the top of the urns by wrapping some 3/4 inch heavy clear plastic tubing around the spigots and pressing them into the mouth of the urns. This I covered with rocks.

The pump filter is outside the pond, on the left behind the grill in the wide angle shots. I covered the hoses and power cords under the rocks along the house.

I loaded each urn with several inches of gravel to give them some weight to hold up to the water and the force of the fountains.

For the chimes, I used 1" copper plumbing pipe - which is only slightly less expensive than gold these days. The 5 chimes are tuned to a D major scale - which, as you all know, is the natural scale for violins. I thought that would be a suitable choice. When I say the chimes are tuned, I mean they are mathematically correct - the resonant dynamics of bells and chimes is beyond the scope of my pond making ambitions, but I did find many interesting articles about it online. Essentially, once you have the length of the first one - which was really just dumb luck in my case - the lengths of the others can be found from the formula L2 = L1*(sqrt(F1/F2)), where F is frequency and L is length.

To mount the chimes I built "chicken feet" out of 1/2 inch copper pipe - basically a T shaped part that sits on the bottom of the pond, with a riser coming up to hold the pipe. I drilled holes in the chimes at their nodal spots - points 22.4% from either end, where the vibration of the pipe is at a theoretical minimum - thus allowing the chimes to ring, even while though they aren't free hanging. The chimes are mounted just above the surface of the water so that the strikers can hit them.

For the strikers I found 2 inch copper floats. Apparently there is a whole copper float industry out there, and I located a company that would sell me 10 of them. When I originally put them in the pond the waves pushed them all out to the edge, so I got some fishing line and weights and tied each ball to a tether that keeps it anchored in the location that I wanted it to be. The copper floats come threaded with 8-32 screw threads, so that made it easy.

The lights are just 12V pond lights that I found at Home Depot. That's also where I got the rest of the pond equipment.

I bought 4 water lily plants. They are in the water and growing, but you probably can't see them in the video. Eventually they will fill the empty spots and cover the little bit of tubing that's still visible.

The metal goldfish and water lily in the background are from Pier 1.

I emptied my piggy bank and threw all the pennies into the pond to add to the copper effect, and to make it look like it's been there a while.


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