Introduction: Copper Rain Chain

Picture of Copper Rain Chain

This is a copper rain chain I made for my wife, she convinced me to enter it into the Etsy Sewuseful contest. And here's the link to it on Etsy copper rain chain

I guess I should mention what a rain chain is, it's an alternate to a downspout, it guides the water and breaks up the flow, they originated in Asia.

Step 1: You Will Need

Picture of You Will Need

1/4" soft copper tubing 3.5 times as long as you'd like the finished chain
2" pvc pipe
diagonal cutters
lead free solder
blow torch
heavy leather gloves

Step 2: Coiling the Copper

Picture of Coiling the Copper

In this first step you'll only need the copper tubing and the pvc. Grip the end of the copper tubing and the pvc tightly in one hand, now start wrapping the copper around the pvc while pulling on the copper to prevent kinking. You should end up witha nice coil that looks like it belongs on a still ;-)

Step 3: Separating the Rings

Picture of Separating  the Rings

Take the pair of diagonal cutters and snip the coil into rings. That was easy.

Step 4: Making the Chain

Picture of Making the Chain

First we need to adjust the rings. Carefully adjust them unto the two end line up, if your snipping was consistent you're ready to solder, if not, then pliers can be used for less delicate adjusting.

Step 5: But Don't Solder Yet!!

Picture of But Don't Solder Yet!!

You need to link the rings before soldering. Now that they're linked brush each joint with a little soldering flux, heat it in the torch and flow in some lead free solder.

PS this is where you need the gloves, copper in an excellent conductor of heat.

Step 6: Hanging

Picture of Hanging

Hanging is simplicity itself, remove old down spout, feed the topmost copper ring up through the hole and insert a spare piece of straight copper to span the downspout through the topmost ring. Now wait for rain, with our drought I simulated it with the hose. ;-)


scafool (author)2008-11-22

So, how does it sound?

jeanniel1 (author)scafool2016-02-07

The Japanese used these as the sounds from the water falling on the rings made little tinkling sounds. They also designed some with bell-like shapes so they did make a "ding" when water hit. Of course, in a torrential downpour, not much can be heard anyway!

treehugger1028 (author)2008-04-07

well the only problem i see is that its copper =(.
it will disappear in a week

What? - you mean someone will steal it?... copper contains no iron so doesn't rust. why are all your copper water pipes still there? ;-)

still there? Duh... 'cause they are in the house !

MacCupcake (author)2015-06-10

I've been searching all over and I cannot find an answer... does the chain have to be copper? If so, why? If not, what is the advantage of copper over another metal (or even plastic)?

This is a great 'ible and I really want to do this!

Nope you're free to use what you like, but, copper is pretty, easy to work with and easy to solder, and corrodes in such lovely fashion.

Redstormx1 (author)2012-03-11

wish you used tube cutters . the flat cuts look bad ,

MacCupcake (author)Redstormx12015-06-10

If you hadn't pointed out the fact that they had flat cuts, I'd never have seen it.

Spin180Pro (author)2015-02-15

Love it!

Spin180Pro (author)2015-02-15

Love it!

matametal (author)2007-07-01

I have seen these in magazines. Your rain chain inspired me to make one from "dollar store" stainless strainers and chain. Will post later with pictures.

RinsletRose (author)matametal2014-03-14

do you have pics?

mcooper (author)matametal2009-04-28

I would love to see pics.

tkemery (author)matametal2008-02-12

Do you have pictures or instructions of how you did this?

8_8_8_8_8_8_8_8 (author)2013-05-15

Great instructable. I did not like the "flat" edges created by snipping with the diagonal cutters used in your step 3. Some users suggested using a tube cutter but found that the tube cutter would not work with the copper coiled around the pvc. At step 3 I left the copper coil on the pvc and used a hacksaw for a straight cut through the whole coil instead of using the diagonal cutters. This will take a little more elbow grease & patience, but is a simple solution so that the cut edges hold their circular shape and will be flush when soldered. Again, great instructable. Thank you.

dilysalu (author)2008-05-25

I have friends who have a menace with the downspout: during the spring and summer the downspout does"OK" but during the fall and winter to spring thaw and freeze the downspout becomes a frozen waterfall including the deck and steps in the area (up to 6" thick of ice). Can the rain chain correct this situation? Everyone is talking about the coper stealing and the water what about the frozen side of this? Does anyone have any experiences in winter like and frozen-thaw situations for the rain chain?

mocristy (author)dilysalu2012-01-10

The rain chain is better suited for freeze/thaw situations than the standard downspout. The chain will allow for faster thawing and faster movement of the water. Also, the chain can be anchored slightly away from the house to prevent ice buildup on the steps.

destructopop (author)2011-06-25

Since it's copper, won't it get a patina? I ask because I can only imagine that will be BEAUTIFUL in a garden... I hope you'll share photos in the future. :)

Mincot (author)2009-09-07

This looks absolutely fantastic! I've seen these with stars, bells, and saucers as well. Soldering it with higher-temp compatible copper solder should be no trouble if you have a propane torch. Has anyone tried the "Just for Copper" cold solder that you can get at Ace Hardware and other places? It doesn't work for small applications (think soldered jewellery chain) but it might for this. I'm going to try one for the back yard, out of sight. My only question: how do you keep it from developing legs and walking away on its own if you put it in the front of your house? In my neighborhood that much copper would be a target for midnight acquisitions, for sure.

adamvan2000 (author)Mincot2010-09-30

Attach it to a car battery out of sight? :OD


rcblev (author)2010-04-19

good rain chain source here.  they also have a great tutorial as well on how to make a rain chain. 

ysabet (author)2009-04-30

One thing you can do with a rain-chain is stake it into the ground at a slight slant away from where the water would normally plummet down to; most of the water will follow the chain, so you can stake it a little sideways to a garden plot and use it for watering a space that your eves keep from catching enough rain. Works pretty well, actually.

Nice instructable! And these suckers cost a freaking *fortune* if you buy 'em, so I think I'll make one. Thanks!

Fretka (author)ysabet2010-02-23

 love your profile pic...  ;)

gunnerjake81 (author)2010-02-03

awesome. I've seen this done with steel chain,(looks good) but this adds just that little bit extra. nice work!

roslekh (author)2009-09-10
I purchase a Copper Tulip Rain Chain from Rain Chains World and I love it!

Dr.Bill (author)2009-04-12

We use these in the pacific.

craftyone (author)2008-11-25

I love the chain!! I don't have any gutters or downspouts. Any ideas on how to install one without gutter or downspout? Thanks

nimitz (author)2008-10-12

I was pondering making these for the house and just came across a slightly different idea. Use copper nails:<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href=""></a><br/><br/>You could clip the ends of the nails before bending them. I figure each 6" nails make about 2" rings or so which would mean you'd need about 30 or so nails for a 60" chain. <br/><br/>From the above link that works out to something like $30 or so each chain . I haven't worked out how that compares to tubing but it might be cheaper depending on the length needed.<br/>

Rob K (author)2008-03-26

Here is my version it is not on a gutter tough. 1/2 inch 16 gauge rings. Copper and stainless steel. They are hardened copper and stainless, a pain to bend with pliers. The green patina was just water, salt and vinager sprayed on it.

microfarm (author)Rob K2008-09-18

Just beautiful!

markvid (author)2008-09-09

Hi. You suggested to use lead-free solder. Does that mean tin (Sn) solder? If you connect copper and, for example, tin and put them in water with ions (rain water is acid), this will create an electro-chemical cell, causing one of the two metals to corrode. In the case of Cu-Sn, tin will corrode.
Check the Standard Reduction Potentials. In water, copper will reduce all metals below it in the table. This means that your solder would eventually corrode and become kind of useless... I can't tell how long this will take though.
By the way, this is why you shouldn't link copper water pipes with iron or lead ones: iron or lead will corrode in the years, even with drinkable water.
I suggest you could make the chain without even soldering it, since it doesn't have to support weight; otherwise you might want to melt copper (>1000°C) and solder with copper itself.


I used the "silver solder" sold for plumbing, a tin silver bismuth copper alloy. If it's designed to keep copper plumbing together~shrug~ I imagine it's adequate for this application.

Oh well in this case i think it is. Thanks. Marco

timmy1234s (author)2008-08-31

sorry but just looked at the introduction and it says that this is made out of copper. Wont the copper rust really fast do to the acceleration of oxidation on the copper caused by the rain?

No, copper patinas, as opposed to rusting, so in essence the corrosion that forms, forms a seal preventing further corrosion. All that's happened over the last year is the copper has darkened slightly. Eventually, hopefully, it will turn that lovely green color of the statue of liberty.

CinTin (author)2008-08-31

Couldn't you just leave the copper wire as a spiral instead of cutting to make links? That way you wouldn't have to worry about cutting it. After you wrap the wire around the tube, stretch to the desired length so you could see the spiral. I think I'm going to try it. Thanks for the great idea!

Tool Using Animal (author)CinTin2008-08-31

Yes, however we get rather severe weather around here and I assumed it would get bent in no time.

smj56 (author)2008-07-16

Thanks for this idea. I have been looking for an idea for a small copper fountain for my back yard. thanks

pauprint (author)2008-07-10

I just wanted to say I thought you did a fantastic job on your tutorial and really appreciate it. I've been wanting to do one of these since the first time I saw them. Thanks so much for your time and work.

w8n4abreak (author)2008-06-05

I use a cheap bandsaw ($35 used) with a blade made for soft metal ($6) to cut copper. It's very handy for cutting large guage wire, tubing and sheet goods. Oh yeah, and as far as toxicity of copper goes, it's been used for decades for roof flashing, roof material, siding and even the Statue of Liberty. I wouldn't worry about toxins from a rain chain.

svogel (author)2008-05-14

I just made a chain last night. For my prototype, I bought a 10-foot coil of 1/4" soft copper at Home Depot for just under $7.00. When I wrapped the tubing around the PVC, the tubing didn't even seem like it wanted to kink. Also, I did not have enough strength or a sharp enough cutter to cut through the tubing, so I pinched the tubing with the cutter, and just bent it back-and-forth at the seam until it broke. This worked just fine. I ended up with a 3-foot long chain from 10-feet of tubing. My math says I'll get a 9-foot chain for $21.00; much cheaper than buying one. I'm going back to Home Depot for more tubing! Excellent Instructable!!

kaytracy (author)2007-07-07

you can always use a gentle hammer strike to make ovals, reducing the diameter of the circle, and lengthening the chain, to use less copper. One could also use the hammer and pliers for twist or curl on the ends to make a bit more decorative, heat makes copper soft, bending and striking makes it hard. k

stripmind (author)kaytracy2008-04-22

or you can make a more regular oval, or a rounded rectangle, by wrapping the coils around something other than a pipe. perhaps using half-round or molding attached to a 1x2 could produce interesting (and slightly more economical) shapes. n [] u

csblev (author)2008-02-20

I have made rain chains this way, except I can recommend an improvement on this listed method: instead of using cutters, you can use a circular saw with a fine finishing wood blade (yes, that's right, a wood blade for copper--it makes a much smoother cut and does not crimp the tubing), it will wear out relatively quickly, but you can make a few chains before it does. You will also want to clamp and tape the uncut coiled copper roll to a saw horse or some other stabilizing structure so they won't fly everywhere. And wear protective eye wear! Since making the loop design listed here, I have since bought a few fancier designs (beyond the scope of my abilities) from this rain chain source But try the circular saw--it makes all the difference!

Vater Araignee (author)csblev2008-04-20

I'd rather use a reciprocating saw with a fine metal cutting blade in it, but to each is own.

mce128 (author)2008-03-17

That is really cool, but would be dangerous during a hurricane... it would be easy for that to take out a window or few and once the wind gets in, it's all over for that house :( Great for anyone not in a coastal region though!

dranno73 (author)mce1282008-03-18

Houses dont stand up to hurricane force winds. I wouldnt worry about this breaking the windows, worry about signs and trees.

mce128 (author)dranno732008-03-18

Really? That's interesting since my house is still standing, and many people I know who were directly hit by Charlie while it was still a cat3 (about mid-state) houses are still standing.

dranno73 (author)mce1282008-03-19

I didnt mean it that way. Just that to worry wether something will break your window in a hurricane would be the least of my worries.

About This Instructable




Bio: Working my dream job in the Telecom industry, so chances are, i'll never have time to respond to comments or messages, nothing personal.
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