Introduction: DIY Copper Rain Chain

Picture of DIY Copper Rain Chain

This is a DIY guide to how I made my wonderful wife a rain chain. Rain chains are used in place of gutter downspouts to direct the water downward.  She has been wanting one for some time, but they can be expensive.  Only basic soldering skills and a few tools are required.  

Step 1: Step 1 - Gather Tools & Supplies

Picture of Step 1 - Gather Tools & Supplies

Here is what you will need for this project:

Soldering torch
Acid flux
Roll of 1/4" copper refrigeration tubing (or whatever size you want to use)
3" PVC pipe (or whatever size you want your rings to be)
Angle grinder with cutoff wheel, hacksaw, or tubing cutter
Safety Glasses
Bench Vise
Wood clamp (not pictured)

Step 2: Step 2 - Notch the PVC

Picture of Step 2 - Notch the PVC

Using your grinder cut a notch slightly wider than the copper tubing you plan to use.  This will hold the tube as you wind it around the PVC.

Step 3: Step 3 - Wind the Tube Into a Spiral

Picture of Step 3 - Wind the Tube Into a Spiral

Hold the pipe in the vise and insert the end of the tube in the notch you just made.  Be sure to use the natural bend of the tube to your advantage.  Try to keep a nice tight spiral, it should hold its shape when you take it off the tube. 

Step 4: Step 4 - Cutting the Rings

Picture of Step 4 - Cutting the Rings

Pull the newly created coil off the PVC pipe, bend the piece that was in the cutout notch up, and slide the coil back on the PVC so it is pushing against the vise.  Hold the coil tight against the vise with a clamp.  Carefully cut the coil into rings with your angle grinder.  Don't worry about cutting into the PVC pipe.

Step 5: Step 5 - Soldering the Rings Together

Picture of Step 5 - Soldering the Rings Together

I put the cut rings in the vise to hold the while I soldered them together.  It doesn't take much pressure to hold the rings closed.  I just butt the ends up and soldered them together.  

A couple of soldering tips:
-Solder follows flux, if you have flux dripping down the ring, the solder will follow it!
-Wipe off excess flux while it is still hot, it comes off much easier.
-Give the solder a few seconds to harden otherwise your ring will pop open when you release it from the vise.
-Soldering requires a torch.  Torches are hot.  Don't burn yourself or the house down!!

Step 6: Step 6 - Link the Rings Together

Picture of Step 6 - Link the Rings Together

Now all you have to do is link your rings together to form the chain.  Use your imagination, different size rings, thickness of tubing, or even using the rings to link other objects in the chain.  The only limit is the amount of weight your gutter can hold.  If you are making a heavy pattern it might be necessary to attach the chain to the house.  We put a flowerpot filled with river rocks at the bottom as a catch basin. 

I don't have a good picture of the gutter attachment but here is what I did:
I drilled a hole through a 1/2" piece of copper pipe and passed an oval ring through it to create a toggle.  Their are many different ways to attach them on the internet.  Just chose the one that is most appropriate for the type of gutter you have.


sbryant9 (author)2017-04-14

Sounds easy enuf! Ty! I've thought about winding copper wire around shells but not sure how to connect them. Any ideas?

JeffS24 (author)2015-05-26

craftclarity (author)2014-05-23

I like the look of the copper. Super pretty!

justuff (author)2014-05-14

Use swag chain or security chain for a low cost alternative and it comes in white, brass, bronze and black or whatever you paint it. Sure it is steel usually, But I have seen installations that have been there for years.However, the copper is nice and you could patina it...... We grow a bougainvillea up one of our chains.

jheidbrink (author)2014-05-10

I think it is cool I also like that he has a Tesla coil

Lukethemadman made it! (author)2014-05-08

Just in time for Mother's day, thank you so much for the how to! The PVC wrapping was really clever, never would have thought to make rings that way

ndronet (author)2014-05-08

If you use rain barrels, rain chains are the best way to feed rain water to them because the chain filters out all the debris (ie leaves and other roof debris). With downspouts you have to use screens which get clogged and you lose the rain water.

a rigger (author)2014-05-08

I made one like this some years ago, and have two pieces of advice.

First, instead of cutting the rings with the grinder, I cut them with dikes [Diagonal-side-cutters]. That way the joint was straight and flat, which I thought was easier than soldering round joints. When you roll the joints around they pretty well hide themselves.
Also, if I was to do it again, I would roll the tubing around two tubes of different sizes, making a tear-drop shape. I found that the round rings kicked a lot of water sideways, and would think that by having a smaller end pointed down, more water would end up going straight down the chain.
Oh, and don't be surprised to learn that it takes a whole bunch of copper tubing to get, say, 8 feet of chain. Quick math says that 8' of 3" [round] rings takes some 26' of tubing.

bross11 (author)2014-05-07

it makes an interesting way to have rain falling it can make interesting pattern of rain falling if you want to see a video check this out

Housedog (author)2014-05-03

Maybe in the intro you could describe what a "rain chain" is.

I've never heard of one, and I have no idea what the purpose is.

That would be appreciated - thanks.

Oldbear (author)Housedog2014-05-07

Plus the advantage of sounding cool in a light storm.

tarbucky (author)Housedog2014-05-06

It does say in the description what a rain chain is!

Housedog (author)tarbucky2014-05-06

That would be because Tony added it after I asked him what it was.

If you bothered to read all the comments, before offering your helpful advice, you would have figured that out.

wikkit (author)Housedog2014-05-06

Mostly it just slows down the falling water, so that it doesn't cut a hole in the ground and splatter out as it would without the chain or downspout. Downspouts have the advantage that they can also move the water away from the building, though.

JCK (author)2014-05-07

You pass the chain up thru the opening for the down spout then use the straight piece to hold it in? Your picture doesn't appear to show the attachment.

adkhar (author)2014-05-07

Awesome.I want one of these.thanks for sharing.

Ace918 (author)2014-05-06

Perhaps you might want to show us how to link the rings together before you solder them. Just a thought.

thebeatonpath (author)2014-05-06

I love it! I've seen several instructions on the web, but yours is very good. We have problems with squirrels climbing up inside our downspouts and I've been eyeing rain chains for a while now.

hammer9876 (author)thebeatonpath2014-05-06

If your intent is to keep squirrels from climbing, they will climb rain chains as easily as downspouts.

thebeatonpath (author)hammer98762014-05-06

Yes, but they won't chew through the current bottom plastic gutter guards to get up which is just as well with me. Apparently our attic was a squirrel motel for years before we purchased the home and we discovered it a year after we bought it. Trapped and relocated over 22 squirrels that year (TN state law prohibited killing them at the time) and repaired the hole they had chewed at a gutter corner to get into the attic. Years past, nothing, and now they have started running through the gutters again, so I don't want them getting any ideas. Plus watching a squirrel trying to climb up an unsteady rain chain seems pretty amusing entertainment.

Tinker_001 (author)2014-05-06

That's awesome!! Now I just have to think of some way to electracize it to prevent copper thieves in my area making off with it.

itsjust4mi (author)2014-05-06

Love it. Thanks for posting. I've been wanted one for years too, but now, may be my hubby n I can make it for our new home.o

tpatten-scheinost (author)2014-05-04

this is beautiful and i am hoping to get someone, anyone( ? ) to make one, two, or four for me. could you ask your very lucky wife if i can borrow you for just a day? ( )

You can have me for life ....

lelliott11 (author)2014-05-06

I would love to have a rain chain. We have an 18" overhang on our back deck which requires the downspout to hang out in space (very ugly, IMHO). A rain chain would be a lovely alternative and add some visual interest to our porch. I have price them in catalogs and you are correct, they are expensive. This looks like a simple and less expensive alternative. I will have to add this project to my husband's honey-do list.

Askalon (author)2014-05-06

Can a flaring tool be used on this size pipe? No soldering required, just friction.

khearn (author)2014-05-06

Shouldn't you link them before soldering? If you solder them all into rings, how do you link the closed rings?

chrwei (author)khearn2014-05-06

yes, link them as you are soldering. I don't know why that's not mentioned.

mhfleenor (author)2014-05-06

Cool idea! I can imagine other uses for the copper tube chain, such as a plant hanger or anywhere a less decorative chain is already being used. During soldering of the joints, I wonder if keeping the joint at the bottom, or at least lower than the rest of the ring, might reduce the tendency for the solder to flow away from the joint and onto other parts of the ring. Thanks for the instructable. Good job!

chrwei (author)mhfleenor2014-05-06

that would help a little bit, but solder will flow wherever there is heat, despite gravity.

1hotpilot (author)2014-05-06

The purpose of Gutters & downspouts is to move water away from a house's foundation, which theoretically increases its long term value. Extra splashback onto the siding can cause early rot, extra water at the corner can add more foundation settlement. Your artistry is pleasing to the eye & possibly ear but you may be degrading the house's value as a secondary consequence. Many architectural water-scapes are redone later to rid the area of excess humidity & microbial growth. Careful planning will avoid unintended results.

silversofttail (author)2014-05-06

Do you link the rings together before soldering them? If not, how do you link them together? Thanks for this instructable. I always wanted rain chains.

tcoles (author)2014-05-06

When I solder rings like this I use a amall dowel inside the copper pipe to line them up for soldering.

Ninzerbean (author)2014-05-06

Great 'ible, great photos, so easy to follow, thanks for sharing!

acuchetto (author)2014-05-04

Very cool.

TONY3696 (author)2014-05-03

Thanks Housedog, I put a brief description in the intro.

Housedog (author)TONY36962014-05-03

Thanks Tony!

That truly didn't occur to me.

I am intrigued, and shall investigate further, cause it looks cool!

TONY3696 (author)2014-05-03

They don't make noise like a wind chime, but they do make more "water falling" noise as the water runs down them.

SGutshall (author)2014-05-03

at first I thought it was like a wind chime but for rain but this is much more useful.

Does it make noise?

pdrg (author)2014-05-03

Also never heard of a rain chain - is it instead of a downpipe from the gutter?

Soldering tip by the way, you can also use a good hot air gun to heat the work and flow the solder if you don't have a blowtorch or are out of gas.

Maxine26 (author)2014-05-01

is that monsters inc you are watching in one of those pictures :)

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