Introduction: Bowling Ball Garden Water Feature

Picture of Bowling Ball Garden Water Feature

Here is how I made a water feature out of an old bowling ball, a few items I had on hand, a few finds and a few purchases.

Items I used:

-Bowling ball (on hand)
-Tupperware cake cover (on hand)
-12" sewer pipe (found in a dumpster, but you can bury the cake cover in the ground and it will look just as good as those expensive fountains at the garden centers)
-PVC elbow (purchased)
-Plastic tubing (purchased)
-Small electric pump (on hand, Harbor Freight $9.99)
-Aquarium sealer (on hand)
-9" x 9" PVC bell drain (on hand, Lowe's $14.99)
-Decorative stone (purchased)
-Ceramic tile scraps (on hand)
-Concrete block (purchased)
-teflon tape (on hand)
-Duct tape (on hand)
-Chlorine or bromine tablet (on hand)

Tools I used:
-drill bits, various sizes
-Common sense. This instructable uses power tools and water. If you see nothing wrong with carelessly mixing these two components, please turn off your computer NOW!

Step 1: Getting Started

Picture of Getting Started

I found this sewer pipe in a dumpster and painted it to match my house & shed, intending to use it as a planter. How the fountain idea evolved, I won't bore you - unless you insist.

First, level the pipe and use the 1 1/4" bit to drill a hole about 6" above the ground for the pump cord to pass through.

The photo shows duct tape around the cord on the pipe but don't do that yet. You may have to adjust the cord to a workable length inside the pipe.

Step 2: Filling the Pipe

Picture of Filling the Pipe

Put the concrete block inside the pipe making sure it's level.

Placing tile scraps on top of the block was a trial & error procedure. The cake cover sat too deep in the pipe so I added enough layers of tile to raise the rim of the cake cover to about an inch below the top of the pipe. It will be covered with stone later.

You could fill the pipe with stone or gravel, but the block was cheaper, I already had the tile and if the pump has to be replaced, it's easier with the pipe being mostly hollow.

Step 3: Drill, Assemble & Test

Picture of Drill, Assemble & Test

Drill a hole large enough for the tubing to pass through the side of the bell drain.

Saw the corners off the drain so it will fit in the cake cover.

What I would have used if I did not have the bell drain on hand: 4" PVC coupling ($1.98).

Next, drill a 1/4" hole through the bowling ball. Use a bit that's long enough to go all the way through. DON'T try drilling from each side hoping to meet in the middle. What I would do differently: If you look at the bowling ball, there is a pattern in the swirls. I drilled through the thumb hole. If I had drilled through a finger hole, I would have come through the "top" of the pattern. The exit hole chipped a bit but it doesn't matter.

Next, silicone the PVC elbow into the appropriate finger/thumb hole & let it dry overnight.

As far as the tubing goes, I have no idea as to what size I used. I took the pump to Lowe's & picked up the PVC elbow, went to the tubing display and bought 1 foot of what fit in the elbow, and 1 foot of what fit on the pump. The tubes happened to fit together tightly when one was inserted into the other. I wrapped teflon tape around one end of the tube to make a tighter fit into the elbow. DON'T put too much stress on the silicone joint at any time during testing or assembly. If the silicone cracks, you have to clean it off & do that step over.

Time to test, which is easier on a deck or patio. The first photo shows how everything was prepared. The second shows the drain/ball assembled UPSIDE DOWN so you can see how it all goes together. Set the drain/ball in the cake cover, hook up the pump & add water. Plug in & stand back. You can swivel the ball around to get the water shooting straight up. Let it run a few minutes. If water splashes out of the cake cover, UNPLUG THE PUMP and enlarge the hole in the TOP of the bowling ball with a 3/8" drill bit. DON'T drill too deep! Drill in about 1/4" & test again. I had to do this several times to a depth of about an inch. The goal is to stop the splashing while maintaining a good spray height.

Photo 3 shows the chip in the exit hole and the swirl pattern I mentioned above. The bowling ball looks like it was used as a cannon ball but when the water is flowing, it looks highly polished.

Step 4: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly

Photo 1 shows the cake cover in place. Again, stacking the tile scraps was trial & error. Just make sure they all lie flat. The higher the ball rests, the better it looks.

What I should NOT have done: Notched out the side of the cake cover for the cord. I could have forced it. Tupperware has a lifetime warranty and if this one ever cracks, I blew it.

Photo 2 shows everything assembled. Fill with water & test again.

Now is the time to cover the hole in the sewer pipe with duct tape, sealing around the cord. I'm hoping that the combo of tape and the hole being 6" above the ground will keep critters out.

Step 5: You're Almost Done!

Picture of You're Almost Done!

Drop in a chlorine or bromine tablet to keep the water clear. Fill with decorative stone, making sure the pump stays as close to the bottom as possible. Plug in & enjoy.

If you have "ugly" stone on hand, fill the bottom with that first. (Hey, I'm thrifty). I still used six bags of the decorative stone, probably the most expensive purchase for this entire project.

Now all I have to do is put a few plants around it & I'll be finished.

The water in the photo looks like it's splashing all over but, believe me, nothing splashes out.

I look forward to your feedback & will try to answer your questions.

Thanks for checking out my first instructable.


mommywoman (author)2014-08-08

Could I use an old birdbath bowl instead of the bell thingy?

Valster (author)mommywoman2014-08-08

Sure! I guess you could use almost anything big enough to hold the pump and the bowling ball support. You'll want to make sure your container is deep enough to hide those parts with decorative stone.

Good luck and post photos!

RelientOwl (author)2010-05-06
That's pretty sweet, but have you ever seen one where a ball is in a rolling motion I believe its created by a jet stream shooting at one of the sides underneath.....I think?
Alejandro81 (author)2010-01-05

That´s a great Instructable. Good work and please add the new pics!!!

Thihabala (author)2009-08-05

please update the photo with LED. Your project is my need...

Valster (author)Thihabala2009-12-03

My apologies for taking so long.  I have no photos of the actual procedure but I managed to do a drawing.  The biggest disappointment is that the night photos are terrible.  With a flash, it looks like the daytime shots.  Without flash, the pix are totally black (LED not bright enough to show).  In a nutshell, I drilled another hole on an angle that intersected with the original hole.  The pump is attached to the new hole and the LED was caulked where the pump used to be.  The light shines straight up to the top and refracts in the water.  Hope this helps.  (So many ideas, so little time)

Valster (author)Thihabala2009-09-05

I'm working on it now. Look for Bowling Ball Garden Water Feature - Part 2.

gabebillings (author)2009-12-02

What a fantastic idea!  I used to go to a gym/rehab clinic place in Cleveland that had one of these in their lobby, but the ball was a granite sphere maybe 3 feet in diameter.  It was awesome, though, because you could grab it and spin it almost as though it was frictionless.  I never thought of trying to build one, though.  I might have to give it a shot next summer.  Nice work!

Valster (author)gabebillings2009-12-03

Thanks!  Post pix when you build it.

squawker (author)2009-07-31

Great work. But I wouldn't go diving into dumpsters for used sewage pipes in the future. :D

Valster (author)squawker2009-09-05

Sorry I wasn't quite clear. It wasn't a used sewer pipe, it was leftover new pipe. Used would be... well, let's just leave it at that.

Daddydano (author)2009-05-26

Hey! Hey! I get to be the first to tell you that, you ROCK! I love the way this all comes together. Good plans, good pics, good job! Very nice instructable!

Valster (author)Daddydano2009-05-26

Most of my friends think the rocks are in my head! Thanks for you kind words. The plants will probably take another two years to fill in and I added an LED light so I'll have to do an update and add new pix.

I_am_Canadian (author)2009-05-16

Great work... I saw a load of these at a garden shop yesternight... their all well over $100!

Valster (author)I_am_Canadian2009-05-26

Thanks! I got my inspiration from those fountains.

firehorse (author)2009-05-16

It's beautiful and I want one too. Was it difficult to drill the bowling ball? Were special bits required? A superpowerful drill?.....

Valster (author)firehorse2009-05-26

Sorry I took so long to reply. I used a regular, long drill bit (12" I think) and my 18v cordless drill. I started drilling in the 'thumb' hole. It was very easy and took about a minute. I removed the bit every few inches to clear the dust out of the hole. When the bit came out of the other side, the ball chipped. If I do it again, I'll put masking tape on the opposite side to try to make a clean exit hole. It's not a big chip and only shows when the pump is off so it really doesn't matter unless you're really picky (like me).

artist without a medium (author)2009-04-20

I love it. Will be sharing with my hubby . He laughed when I bought home a free bowling ball I found at work and stuck it in my flower bed( I figured it would be similar to a gazing ball) .. I bet he'll end up making us one of these.

Stockvillain (author)2008-03-04

Pretty slick. It's got a nice "found art" feel and a very Zen presentation. As for the Loctite, yep, that stuff'll stick just about anything to anything. Good job.

Mr. Rig It (author)2007-09-08

That's pretty cool and a great use of materials. There is someing very similar in Disneyworld, except its unbelelvably huge and you can rotate the ball in its holder. I bet you had a heck of a time drilling a hole in that ball.It is even the same color as theone in Disneyworld. Suggestion: You could tile or even creat a mosaic on the pipe. You can use "Loctite powergrab" and it won't have a problem holding your material on. Good job, I like it.

Valster (author)Mr. Rig It2007-09-09

I saw the one at DW and it's really impressive. The sphere has to be perfectly round and the water pressure under it just right to make it work. Maybe an undrilled bowling ball would work, but it's just too complicated for me to figure out. Drilling the ball was really easy. Using a power drill and a long 1/4 inch bit took me less than a minute. I did think about the tile (God knows I have enough tile scraps in my shed) but I had already painted the pipe and wasn't sure the tile would stick. What do you think about sanding the base with coarse paper to give the adhesive a rough surface to grab? I never heard of Loctite Powergrab. Do you apply it like caulk or spread it on like thinset? Thanks.

Mr. Rig It (author)Valster2007-09-09

The "Loctite Powergrab" is in a caulking tube in the adhesives section in Home Depot. It cost about $2.50. You don't need much, it is unbelievably strong. You apply it like caulking, you would only need a very small dab with your tiles. They have it available in caulking gun size or squeeze tube.
Here is a link Loctite
I don't think you would have to sand your paint at all for it to stick,. As long as the paint that you used isn't going to peal you should be fine.

How did they make that ball at DW so huge and perfectly round? I know how they make small ones but that thing is huge it must have taken a huge machine.

Anyway good luck with your projects and i will keep my eye out for anymore of your "getto fancy" projects:)

Mr. Rig It (author)2007-09-08

Andrew, it would help a lot if you also found soemthing positive in your review. Calling someones project "getto" and not stating the reason is not a review its an insult wheather intional or not. From some of your other reivews it is obvious you like this page and the ideas that come out of it. Why not help others out with providing constuctive postitive suggestions. You will go a lot farther doing so and you will gain respect in this community. Wish you well Andrew.

gomiboy (author)2007-09-07

What a great idea! I've got a bowling ball that would be perfect for this, and will have to keep an eye out for other parts that will work for the stand and catch-basin. Good work!

chefmichel (author)2007-09-07

I love it, it is very Zen. Add some lights and you'll have a great time on cool summer nights. Great instructable.

oinkoinkzoopals (author)2007-09-06

is teflon tape actually teflon like frying pans

Yes, it is. But since it doesn't stick to anything, how do you plan to use it like a frying pan? Not even superglue will work.

no i ment like the material frying pans are made of in case if you didnt understand no offence

Valster (author)oinkoinkzoopals2007-09-06

If nothing sticks to teflon, how do they stick teflon to the frying pan?

zachninme (author)Valster2007-09-07

The use mechanical, rather than chemical means. Thats why it always flakes off. ;-) And oink -- Yes, it is. (author)2007-09-06

Nice job. I would suggest breaking step 3 into a few more pieces and add pics or diagrams to help the dialog. Even crude drawings would be of assistance.

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